AIM SHOW + TELL: A-Frame Canvas Card Wall

From 2014-2016 I chronicled my crafty endeavors on the site Adventures-in-Making. I’ve selected a few of those DIY’s, Recipes, and other posts to share on the site.

One of the best things about having “a summer off” is that I am slowly getting to the projects that have been stacking up, with the help and company of Safety Husband. As you’re probably aware, my hubby is a big woodworker and enjoys DIY projects. When he starts a job, he wants it to be done properly so he won’t start doing some of the projects if we don’t have the right materials. A few of the things he wanted, like a router table, seemed silly at first but then he explained the many router table uses and I understood why a woodworker would want one. Despite not being able to do all the projects I wanted to so, it still feels great to make forward progress, but it is INSANE how much I expected to have done in a couple of weeks.

This weekend I finally got to a pressing project, and built an a-frame portable card wall out of two canvases and some scrap wood. There are a million options when it comes to displaying cards, but I wanted something light-weight with a little character, and I think this project absolutely fit the bill.

Safety Husband makes a great arm model. Safety goggles not shown, but surely present.

Since these canvases were big (~30″ x 48″) they were reinforced on the back, so our first step was knocking those bars out. Fortunately they came out pretty easily with a couple of smacks from a mallet.

We decided to use some trim leftover from the shop, and ripped it (on a table saw) to be the same depth as the canvas. That left us a scrap that made a perfect lip for the front of the card rails. We cut the trim to fit inside the frame of the canvas.

Once all 10 card rail pieces and lips were cut, I glued and clamped them together and left them overnight to dry. Once they were dry, I used a semi-gloss white spray paint to cover all the green painted sides (all that would be visible from the front of the display.)

I made a mark along my frame every 9 inches to allow for enough room for the cards, and the occasional journal.

The shelf pieces ended up being a tight fit in the frame of the canvas, so I decided that wood glue would be enough to hold up the light weight of the cards. I put glue on the ends to mount into the frame. I also put glue along the long back of the rails to attach to the canvas and keep cards from falling behind the shelves.

I then gently put the rails in place, using a piece of scrap wood and a mallet to tap some of the tighter pieces in.

I used painters tape to secure shelves in that were more likely to shift around. Most were held in place by friction and perfectly measured cuts.

When the glue had set, I finished by attaching the two canvases together with old door hinges. (The best hardware has a little character.)

I love the simple but rustic look of the a frame, and I adore how light weight and durable it is. It will soon find a home in a local store, and I’m excited to see how it looks.

I always get a sense of satisfaction when I finish a project like this, when I get over all the “What if I…” ideas and just get it done. This one is especially rewarding because I only used materials leftover from the shop and previous projects.


What are you working on?

AIM BIZ: Tips for Selling the Unique

From 2014-2016 I chronicled my crafty endeavors on the site Adventures-in-Making. I’ve selected a few of those DIY’s, Recipes, and other posts to share on the site.


After posting about “Pricing the Precious” we got emails and comments asking great questions about other aspects of creative business. It’s one of my favorite parts about the blog, because it gives me the opportunity to think about the challenges that other artists face. I can only ever give advice based on what I’ve witnessed, but if we all share our experiences, it can only make us more happy and more successful. So! If you ever have a question or comment after reading one of our posts, please make sure to share with us.

In the day-to-day running of the shop I get to meet all sorts of working artists. Mostly I feature artists who are creating the same, or similar, items over and over- but that’s just the kind of store So, There is. Selling and producing one-of-a-kind goods, art, or goods that require a lot of individual production time definitely has its own challenges. It can seem especially daunting to try to recoup money for your time when the time you spend on your art seems endless. Some artists opt to sell their artwork using online stores like eBay or Amazon because the chances of people seeing the artwork are much greater whereas others have quite a specific niche so tend to sell on their own site or from a store. Amazon is a great way to market artwork if you enjoy working from home because you don’t need to own or rent a physical store if you don’t want to. This nine university review provides plenty of information about how to begin using Amazon as your main point of sale but of course, Amazon doesn’t work for everyone so sometimes a store works better.

Selling art has never been easy, but I hope the tips below give you a chance you look at your business from a different point of view. If you don’t already, right now is the time to…

Outline your goals

I am the most hesitant business planner ever. I hate writing down all the plans that are there in my head already, but I do it anyway. It’s extremely important to be in-tune with your own plans for the future of your business. Take some time to figure out what success for your business would look like. Do you want to be a well-known artisan who makes products from your studio? Do you want to turn your creations into a mega-business with lots of people working under you? You also need to think of ways you can make your business run a little more smoothly. For example, you might consider finding a Neat receipt replacement to help with managing your documents. There are lots of things you can do to save time and it’s helpful to get these set up as soon as you’re open for business!

Take that picture of your perfect future, and work backwards to clarify the steps you need to take to bring your business to that point. You may need to make some compromises to get things started. Always keep that end-goal in mind, especially as you…

Adapt your line

Sometimes it seems to me the difference between “artist” and “artistic business person” is as simple as having the ability to step away from the things you are making and evaluating the success of each item. It’s harder for those of us who are really emotionally involved with our work, but unless you’re experiencing unbridled success, it’s absolutely necessary.

These mugs are offered with custom hand signs, so customers can have their own initials on a mug from the playful potter.
These mugs from the playful potter. are offered with custom hand sign decals.

Think about adding pieces to your selection.

I had some great advice from a gallery owner when I was setting the shop up. She said that I should make sure to include a few expensive pieces in the store, even if I felt I would never sell them. They might encourage the sale of a lower priced piece by the same artists, or they might just sell themselves.

The same is true for your line. If you take some time to make quicker, lower priced goods to fill our your selection, you will appeal to an audience who doesn’t feel they have as much money to spend. You get a sale that contributes to your company, and you are establishing a fan base. Those people will share your goods with their friends- and eventually someone will find your great work of art a necessity in their life.

There are lots of benefits from having a wide range of prices in your line. You’ll appeal to more customers, and you’ll be able to customize your line when applying to art shows and sales. Think about adding prints of your pieces to your line, selling patterns and kits, or smaller accessories.

Look for ways to reduce your costs.

Try to think of ways you can reduce your personal costs in time, supply, and overhead. Can you order supplies in bulk? Can you go to a wholesale B2B site like DHgate to get access to cheaper prices? Then you can use Get Your Coupon Codes ( to get even more off your purchase. Take a production line approach so that you can get pieces made more quickly and efficiently? (That is, do the same small task over and over again before moving to the next task. You’ll save time by not having to change you tools/setup/attention as frequently.) Sometimes the steps you take to reduce your costs will make you feel like you’re more a production person, and less of an artist– but might be necessary nonetheless.

Make your items even more special to your audience.

Sometimes all it takes is a quirk to get your line the attention it deserves. Take some time to think about if there is something you could change to make your goods so special that no one will want to walk away from them. (Or as I say to customers at the store “When you dream about it, give me a call so I can put it on hold for you.”) Think about popular trends, and other things that will catch some eyes. Can you use repurposed materials to appeal to the environmentally conscious? Can you up your packaging game? Can you offer a custom monogram or other custom motif that customers will love?

Reevaluate less popular and more expensive designs.

Over the years I’ve had to drop items from my selection that were too time-consuming and not popular enough. I don’t consider any of these things failures- because for me it’s the inventing and making that I enjoy. I try to take some time to figure out what the make-or-break details are, absorb the knowledge, and move on to my next big idea. I know artists who have decided to turn their whole business in a different direction because their line wasn’t as successful as they wanted it to be. Sometimes you have to stop embroidering hand sewn bags, and focus on your popular illustration style.

Try not to be discouraged by decisions like this. There’s a lot of luck involved in businesses like ours, and sometimes it’s just that you haven’t found the right audience (are you ahead of your time?)

Find the right Audience

Advertising, sales, and networking are extremely important in selling your work. As much as we want to, we can’t sit back on our haunches and wait for people to discover our online shop. We all know this– so we do everything we can think of to get a new group of customers to find us, and fall in love. Social media and the various associated platforms can be great business tools if used correctly. YouTube, for example, is ideal for pushing video content out to a potential audience. Building that audience, however, is often difficult. Many trying to establish themselves on the platform may turn to a service like Get Fans ( in order to grow their viewing figures, audience, and boost their rankings organically.


Go to your niche customer.

Sometimes your most successful sales spot is not the easiest. Take some time to think about your product, who loves your product, and where those people are. Are they at the weekly farmers market? Are they at conventions? In tourist spots? Do they go to stores? Shop online? This is a great time to talk to your friends and get their honest opinions about where you should go. (Be wary of suggestions that are self-serving; like school craft sales and the like.) Go where your ideal customer is. Try out as many things as you can stand to- and give yourself permission to have a couple of misses before you get a hit.

Teach what you love!

Sometimes the best way to prove the value of your products is to show people everything that goes into them. Think about teaching a class, or demonstrating your work. You give your well-crafted items more value by demonstrating the skill it takes to get them right, and customers connect with them because they “saw it being made.”

Donate to raffles and auctions when you can.

You can reach a whole other audience by donating to charities and fund-raising auctions. You get the double value of reaching a new audience, and showing that you care about _____. This is a great way to move an item you love, but hasn’t sold for what it should- or a chance to advertise that class you’re going to teach (above.) You can also write-off most charitable contributions, and you know that your piece is going to someone who will love it, and supporting a good cause.

Set Emotion Aside (for a minute)

Sometimes it just isn’t working, even though we’re amazing at what we do. We’re in pricing battles the big-box stores. We’re the only ones doing the work. And we’re also expected to find our audience and sell to it?

Try to look at your line and history and think of what you would tell a stranger. Maybe it’s time to shift your focus. Maybe it’s not worth selling at wholesale to stores. Maybe it’s time to open your own store! But don’t ever give up…

If you love what you do, usually it’s worth doing for the joy- even if it’s not going to make you a millionaire.

AIM BIZ: Pricing the Precious

BIZ: Pricing the Precious #handmade #business #adventuresinmkg

From 2014-2016 I chronicled my crafty endeavors on the site Adventures-in-Making. I’ve selected a few of those DIY’s, Recipes, and other posts to share on the site.

Pricing is such a tricky thing. I often work with artists to try to find the right price for products, and even my experience is limited to research and what I see in my own store. I’ve listed a couple of great resources that go into all the things you need to think about when setting a price on a product, but I just want to talk about one thing.

After you do all the calculations (figure out what you need to make, double it to get a retail price, and balance that with what the market will bear) you might end up with a small range of prices. The bottom one (say $15) would mean you have to work a little harder for a little less. The top one (say $22) would give you a nice little cushion, and make you feel like what you’re doing is really valued by your customers. What do you do?

Even when it comes to handmade goods, customers have a clear idea of what they should be paying for something. Often that figure is a little unrealistic because of big box stores, cheap labor, and (let’s be honest) flimsy options. We’re all working to turn that around– but the reality is if they can buy it from Target for $11, they will be more likely to buy yours at $15 than at $22.

In fact, they might buy your product like mad. You might sell hundreds.

Here’s the rub. You will be the one to make those hundreds of things. And if you are up late at night grumbling the words “fifteen dollars” under your breath as you work your fingers to the bone, you aren’t a happy little maker. Are you?

So here are some things you should think about when you’re finalizing your prices.

Consider the Lower Price if…

You are happy when you’re making it.
Can you sit idly in front of the TV, listen to music, work at the park? Do you feel satisfied while you’re crafting those little guys? If so, I would err on the side of the low rate. Making a hundred of something you love (and will still love after the hundreds go out to new homes) is a pretty great thing.

Your materials are abundant, easy to use, and non-toxic.
If you can easily get your materials, don’t see any trouble getting them in the future, and working with them doesn’t make you sick continuing to do so as you get more and more successful shouldn’t be a problem.

This product is the foundation of your business.
If the success of this one product is going to make or break your business, I think it’s smart to aim for selling a ton of them. If you’re making decent margins with them, then that means more money for you to try new things. Also, this one product might be the success that gets you in the door with stores and customers who will then take a chance on those other products.

You’re emotionally and artistically satisfied.
I know I already addressed this; but really, it’s a big deal!

There is enough variation in your product to keep your brain working.
If you’ve come up with a product that can be different from piece to piece, it will give you more freedom to continue growing as an artist. They may be very basic tweaks (different colors, different designs), but variety is the spice of life!

Your products are really just a copy of an original design and have a limited amount of work involved.
If the majority of your effort and material cost went into the first design and now you can just automate the production of the item, go for the lower price. If you sell a million, you’ll have made more towards your original design…. and your work will be EVERYWHERE!

Digitally printed cards are a great example of items that can be produced easily again and again, once they have been designed.
Digitally printed cards can be produced easily again and again.

Think about charging the Higher Price if…

Your materials are rare, or difficult to acquire.
If you think you might possibly run out of your materials in the future, it’s worth considering. (A couple of the things I make use vintage papers that I will eventually have to try to replace. That means time and money on my part, and I eventually might not be able to find those things at all.)

If you are wearing out the tools that you are using.
If you will need to replace or repair tools on a regular basis, that’s something to consider in your pricing structure. Charge the higher rate, especially if it’s an expensive tool.

It’s a niche item.
If you will sell fewer of your items because they have more of a limited audience, charge a little more. Eventually they might pick up in the right crowd, but until then you want to make sure you’re covering your costs.

It’s one of those things that scarcity actually adds value to.
If you are only ever going to make one of these like this, then give it a precious price. People will likely use that price to reassure themselves that what they are buying is a one-of-a-kind item.

You have to keep a lot of material on hand, order in bulk, or make other costly investments.
This is usually considered as part of your material cost, or as part of your overhead- but it’s worth thinking of again. If you have to buy your items in large quantities, you want to make back enough to cover that cost as quickly as possible so you’re not sitting on a lot of debt. Even if it’s not actual debt, those materials were purchased with money taken from your company- and until they are made into products and sold, they have basically no value. (Also, your roommate might not be too happy with how much space they are taking up.)

It’s hard work.
I know, I know, all creation is a combination of expression and hard work­­– but some work is harder than others. If you’re exhausted at the end of each production shift, take that into consideration.

This thing is precious to you, and difficult to part with.
If you put your heart and soul into each item you make, and it matters to you that they go to “a good home” please use the higher price. Then you know the person who bought it will love it, and the extra pocket money doesn’t hurt.

When the vintage maps are gone, so are the notebooks.
When the vintage maps are gone, so are the notebooks.

Try to use these to think about pricing in the bigger picture.

The goal is not to make a complicated subject more complicated, but rather to help you figure out why you’re unhappy with one price or the other. Hopefully this will be another tool to cement a great starting price that ensures you’re successful and satisfied. Cause that’s what we want.

Other Resources

Craft, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Turning Your Creative Hobby into a Successful Business by Meg Mateo Ilasco

Some Thoughts on Product Pricing“, at OH My Handmade Goodness.

(If you have a go-to resource for creative business, please let us know in the comments!)

AIM BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 1)

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 1) #business #handmade #advice or first steps to get your work in stores (and make people like you.)

From 2014-2016 I chronicled my crafty endeavors on the site Adventures-in-Making. I’ve selected a few of those DIY’s, Recipes, and other posts to share on the site.

Our brick and mortar shop has been open less than a year, but I feel like I’ve already seen everything under the sun. The advice below is directed mainly at approaching stores for consignment placing, but many of the elements can (and should) be applied to any type of interaction. It all comes down to starting with a great relationship.

Most stores will have much of the information you need right there on their websites. Take some time to look around, find out who the owner is, what their submission policy is, and the general feel of the place. It shouldn’t take too long, but I would recommend taking notes, and maybe keeping a spreadsheet or list with notes (you can also keep track of who you talked to, when.)

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 1) #business #handmade #advice


If you’re approaching a [local] store without visiting it first, you’re missing a big opportunity. Visiting the store gives you a chance to see the general style of goods that the store owner is drawn to, which means you can send a targeted email with photos that you know they’ll love. It also gives you a chance to size up the owner, and see if it’s someone you’d want to partner with (more on this later.) You can do all this without even talking to the shop owner, if you feel shy or if the shop is busy.

There are a few things I think everyone should do when they visit a shop they are interested in selling products at. The first and most important step…

BIZ: How to get your work in stores (Pt 1) #business #handmade #advice

Take a look around.

When you go to the store, give yourself plenty of time to look around. Pick a day when you have a babysitter, some time to kill, and maybe a friend to shop with. Really spend some time taking in the store and its goods.

It isn’t absolutely necessary to buy something, but if you have the interest and the funds, pick something out. Whatever you do, take the time to absorb the feel of the store, the kind of products it carries, what its specialty is. If you make something exactly like a product they already have, you should keep that in mind. Don’t let it stop you from talking to them, but be aware that you might have to wait a little while to have product in their store.

Don’t forget to give yourself time to get an instinct. Do you feel comfortable? Does the store seem organized? Do the people working there seem polite and happy? You will be entrusting them with your beloved goods, and with your brand’s reputation. If it seems like a fly-by-night operation, let it go for now, and apply if you feel differently later.

If you have a hard time approaching the store owner, I think that it’s fine to skip that on your first trip. Feel free to reference your trip when you contact them later.

But if you’re up to it, and the shopkeeper is free…

Talk to them.

You might not be talking to the person who makes the decision, but there’s a good chance whatever you say will make it back to them. I like it when people express interest in my store. Ask about certain items, artists, etc. Once you’ve broken the ice, and introduced yourself…

Ask about their submission and vendor policies.

“How do you find your artists?”
“What kind of things are you looking for?”
“What are your terms? Do you take goods on consignment, or buy them wholesale?”
“That all sounds amazing, how do I sign up?”
You probably know all the answers to these questions, from the research you did on their website, but it’s worth asking anyway.

Listen, and do what they say.

Most likely they have a policy of only meeting artists by appointment; which means even if you are wearing your product, you should arrange to apply the right way. This sets the best tone to your interaction. As with most things in life, if you show respect and kindness, you will probably get it right back.

Then, when you have all these details flying around in your head…


Check out the second part of this series for my hints at making the best impression when submitting work.