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Thursday, December 1, 2011

One Year of Silvermouse

The photo that started it all. Taken October 17, 2007
Good ol' Mouse. He's done pretty well for a twenty-three year old bookmark! He's gone from being a plaything that suffered quite a bit of abuse (he did a lot of flying through the air and then smashing into the concrete during his early years) to an artist's model that is treated with a great deal of care (when he is not being stuck in ant piles or suffering other indignities). He's traveled to California, Arizona, and all over my house and yard in Washington state. He's made friends with cats, dogs, horses, and a variety of insects. Mouse has appeared in four different photo books that I made as special gifts, at least 65 people will receive Christmas cards bearing his visage this year, and his portraits now hang on the walls of friends, family, and even strangers! I never would have guessed all this would happen back when I was a kid or even when I started photographing him for fun back in 2007.

Mouse, meet Mastercard.
Today represents a special milestone. I officially opened my Etsy store selling Mouse photographs one year ago today, on December 1st, 2010. Observers may note that according to Etsy, the silvermouse store opened in August of 2010, but that's the date when I committed to opening a shop; there were many things to be done before I started to sell! I was determined to make my enterprise as official as possible, so there were business licenses to acquire, business cards to design and print, business bank accounts to open, a business credit card to sign up for (it features one of my favorite photos of Mouse hanging out with a bunch of beautiful red heavenly bamboo berries), photo labs to research, prices to set, and then, of course, photos to choose and listings to write!

My original shop banner
It's been a grand experiment. I was pleased by the attention my shop received right from the beginning, even before it was "officially" open. For one thing, Mouse found his way into an average of fifteen Etsy treasuries a month. (You can view Mouse in his most recent treasury here.) I've enjoyed expanding the store from just a few photos to a business that offers more than 75 items, including photographs, postcards, and note cards. I now have a Facebook page dedicated to my work as an artist, I've started to sell to strangers (though the bulk of my sales come from people I know), and I recently passed the $1,000 in sales mark, which is a very fun milestone! Below is a rundown of some Etsy store highlights:

"Among the Pawns" has been a huge success. The listing for the 5x7 version has received 250 views, which is the most for any item in my shop. The 8x10 version, though it receives fewer views, has been my biggest seller. It just so happens that it's one of my favorite photos, too! I came across this beautiful wooden chess set while house-sitting a certain good-looking collie and for me this photo captures both the whimsical and wistful qualities that Mouse can evoke. I'm glad that others seem to agree! You can see the 8x10 listing here.

Mouse and his kiwis (and a lime, for good measure), having made it into 11 treasuries, is one the most "treasured" items I have for sale. The second most treasured item is also the one that has the second highest number of views. I personally think the image is sort of ho-hum, but people really seem to love the picture of Mouse on top of some colored pencils, which is the photo that fronts the Saturated Colors and Mouse Postcard Pack.

A very special and unexpected benefit of opening this Etsy store is that I'm now part of an Etsy group made up of artists who either suffer from disabilities themselves or care for those with disabilities. It's turned out to be a wonderful support network. I love my Createability Team!

For some reason, people have difficulty
imaging how awesome a 16x20 Mouse
photo might look in their bathroom.
So what does the future hold for Mouse? They all say that an Etsy store really takes off after its first year, so hopefully I'll see Mouse building beyond his current customer base that mostly consists of people who already know me. The fact remains that he'll always be a bit of a niche item. Without seeing how cool the photos look in person, I could see how people might think the pictures look a bit precious or weird. But part of the truth is that I have been neglecting the Mouse store in favor of building up my Etsy macro store, which has broader appeal, over the last few months. Also, the recent switch by Etsy for search results to be based on relevancy versus recency has led to a bit of a drop in views. Once the holidays are over, I intend to go through the store and work on the way my listings are tagged and written to make sure they show up well in search results.

But I have other plans for Mouse, too. If I ever start feeling better, there's always the ABC book to work on and the completed colors manuscript to mail out again. My current literary priority involving Mouse is actually a little story featuring his new friend Meece. I have a whole children's book planned out featuring these two adorable mice and it's going to be my next major project in the new year!

Meece and Mouse

I would call this year of selling Mouse merchandise a great success. It's been a wonderful project to keep me engaged and excited while coping with the migraines. I've found that I really enjoy the business side of things, like calculating how to price items and researching the best places to buy cards or packing supplies, and I intend to expand my promotional reach in the next year. Although I sometimes regret getting into the habit of writing such ornate listings descriptions because if I'm not in a writing mode (something that can happen for weeks or months at a time with the migraines), I'm unable to put up new listings, it has been a great outlet for writing and I do get a kick out of writing good copy! (If you don't typically click on the items, I suggest that you do just to read the descriptions!) And then let's get back to the most basic, coolest part of it all: I'm selling my art!

I keep this photo of Mouse up to his ears in chocolate chips on my bookcase.
The Mouse himself lives on my desk he's not working.
So hurray for one year of Mouse sales! I hope the next year is every bit as interesting and rewarding as this one has been.

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