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Running a small biz by yourself

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Want to know what it's like? I took Monday off to spend with a friend in SF for her birthday but missed my flight back home on Tuesday. I watched them close the plane door on me. The next flight out was delayed so I didn't make it home until after 5 pm. I immediately went into the office to run all the orders that had accumulated over my 3 day holiday and found that my phone line and Internet were down. There had been a huge wind storm while I was gone so even getting someone to come check it out took two days. I ended up downloading my orders using my neighbors (thank you Elaine!) very iffy wifi and then printing my shipping labels across the street at Pinkys (big thanks to Joel & John.)
Also, trying to manage a new redo of my website after consulting with a usability expert. There are school conferences this week. There are overnight orders. There are developers needing some feedback, there are meetings and of course band practice and maybe even a hook up (if I get lucky) with a very handsome and sweet fellow. There is a dye job that went bad and I am trying to save it by mottling the dusty rose with some fire red dye.
BTW, best tool that is never listed is a pair of nylons to use with the soda ash and the dye to prevent clumping. How did I do it before I started straining with nylons?
There's waiting 6 hours for the Century Link repair man who turns out to be a wonderful help. He lets me know the neighbor's trees (the slum landlord) have grown into my phone cable but he reconnected it AND cleared away the offending branches.
There's jamming with a potential new group but finding out it's actually just one beer drinking, roll my own cigs, gun toting guitarist. Kind of scary being all alone down there in my basement but his one song was excellent. No more inviting musicians from craigslist into my home without meeting them first.
BTW, this is the week without my kids. It's 5x as crazy when I'm a single mom.
Here comes Halloween.

The Lonely Doll

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Dare Wright of the children's book The Lonely Doll emailed me today letting me know that I had infringed on the copyright because I named a design of a vintage doll head "The Lonely Doll" and in the description I had said it reminded me of one of my favorite (not a light read) children's story's "The Lonely Doll."

I get copyright infringement. It's when you take someone's work and sell it as your own to make money. Like the guy at http://www.sandboxthreads.com who came to my site and directly lifted the art for my rocker baby shirt and did not change even one line.  The guy took it down after I sent a cease and desist and I was pretty pissed off. I mean I paid an artist to render it for me. I'd put advertising $ into it. And, couldn't he just draw his own version for god's sake? He has lifted tons of art work from Chris at Reckonwordwide. According to Chris, he has licensed none of it to him and is not getting a penny from him. While, for the same designs I actually pay Chris a royalty.

So I get it.

But, my vintage doll head looks nothing like the Lonely Doll from the book. Here's mine.


Here is the doll from the book:
And, I don't know. I would imagine that it would only be a bit of positive advertising for them because people reading the description would perhaps want to check out this intriguing children's book.
I think I love it because I learned to read in Germany and those Germans are all about edgy tales for children.
It is such an amazing book that it has even garnered a NY Times article about how disturbing it is.

So, pick up the book and buy my vintage doll head which has nothing to do with the Lonely Doll.

On using children as your personal billboards

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It was 2003. I'd just had my first child nearly a year after I'd met her father. If you do the calculations it becomes apparent that she was unplanned. I was in Vancouver, BC presenting a poster on the research from my master's thesis on a scale I'd helped develop measuring emotional regulation (mentioned so you can see how far babywit is from my original starting point.) While checking out the city, her father dragged me into a Bang-On shop. Bang-On is the modern equivalent of the old time transfer shops you'd see in the malls except Bang-On offered mega cool images on ultra hip well-fitted t-shirts.

In the very corner of the shop I found a couple of blank baby t-shirts hanging from a rack. I looked up at the dizzying array of transfers covering the walls, I looked down at the blank baby t-shirt in my hand, I peered at the face of my sleeping 4 month old baby tied to the front of me and BAM there it was. "JIM, can you believe this? Do you get this? I can put ANY image I want on a baby shirt!" I went crazy and bought all my friends with babies some baby shirts. The shop only carried one size of baby shirts so everyone ended up with the 18-24 month. I bought Angus on a black baby t-shirt, Bowie, Blondie, Sonic Youth on Pink, Ramones on Black, The Smiths and I was laughing out loud the entire time imagining their faces when I gave them their shirts. I also imagined the faces of people who saw these babies on the streets wearing these crazy shirts. (Remember it was 2003. There wasn't a Ramones shirt for babies for sale anywhere yet.)

The blank t-shirts themselves without the transfers were also blowing my mind. The labels in the shirts said American Apparel and I hadn't seen a t-shirt fit quite like this anywhere else. I asked the clerk where this brand came from. LA?! in the USA? They were made in the US?

I bought a bunch of blank ones (ironically enough I prefer blank t-shirts to those with images) for myself. That was in August of 2003. By the end of September I had built out a website, opened up wholesale accounts with both Bang-on and American Apparel and in the first month I was in the black. Crazy, huh?

Not really, when you think about it.

What we do as social creatures is make social. We try to communicate with others. We are happier in groups. Function at a higher level. Make better decisions. Human brains are geared up for social interaction. Our brains automatically categorize and assign everything we see into groupings in order to make sense of our world, to identify dangers, allies and resources.

The negative side to all this categorization is the massive generalization necessitated by the heaping amounts of information coming in. It helps with processing speed but can also cause us to skip over the subtle nuances that might lead us into a much deeper level of engagement with the world around us. Generalization is necessary when processing billions of pieces of information so how do we know when to pause for a moment?

We don't really know. But, we do have the ability to send out signals to those around us to help with this categorization. So we do. As humans who are social animals, we also send out signals to those around us. Signals about ourselves. Markers that we hope others around us will pick up on. Points of allure that might allow the receiver to correctly interpret us even if all our other physical traits fall into the various stereotypes our society has created. Our society makes sure we are aware what these stereotypes are from a fairly early age. Language, family, media, school all provide points of inputs that form and reinforce stereotypes. Even as small children we quickly become aware, even if only at an unconscious level of our societal stereotypes. An overweight 40 year old black female has a different group of associations attributed to her than a slim blonde 22 year old white female vs a thin 80 year Indian female. Visual cues are the first in the line of mental absorption followed by aural cues. How we look, how we sound...this is how we are judged. Many of our extremities are given to us at birth and they are unchangeable. Colors including hair, eyes, skin. Height, body type, shoe size, vocal range. But, there are also external cues that are alterable.

You didn't think I'd ever get to the part about using your children as billboards, did you? I wanted you to understand exactly what position I think the t-shirt holds in our society and why the t-shirt may hold more influence than all other fashion cues. Think about it. Fashion costs money. But, what piece of fashion remains constant between all seasons, classes and sexes whose strength of messaging is least dependent upon the amount spent on the item? Shoes? No. Pants? No. Hats? A very small maybe on the baseball hats but only for the male. Socks? Can't really see em. Stockings? Female only. Scarves? No. Coats? No. We can move on from fashion into the resources we own. Cars, houses, boats, bikes. Same answer there. No.

The strength of the medium of the t-shirt as a cultural messenger is all too often overlooked. It is THE fairest messenger out there. In each t-shirt you slip over your head, you are handing a message out to the people around you to help them place you. And get this, anyone...from the homeless teen on the street to the richest female in the world, has access to the exact same t-shirt. I admit that the same t-shirt on a homeless teen can mean something completely different on a wealthy socialite but we all have fairly equal access to the t-shirt object.

Over the past decade what I have heard from my angry fans (and I refer to them as fans for anyone who engages in a dialogue is somehow a fan) is a hostility that my t-shirts somehow allow parents to turn their children into billboards to spread their stereotypes, their personal messages. That my customers are using their children and it is a nonconsensual hostile takeover. I have also heard that my t-shirts take away a child's innocence, destroying their very childhood. This was mostly during the Bush era when my most popular t-shirt was the President Poopyhead shirt.

I think the extreme hostility I encountered was due to the power of the t-shirt as messenger.
I understand this reaction. Those who were angry did not think our children should be used as political messengers. They are too innocent and much too young to understand.

But, in any fervent political atmosphere our children know.

I understand the anger of our children being brought into your political arguments. As being used as part of the categorization of good vs. evil.

I understand the horror at the thought that children are being brainwashed with ideas of hatred, of having them develop a solidarity towards an ideal they cannot yet conceptualize. Of being asked, coerced, trained to draw lines, to stereotype, to categorize.

The bigger horror is that our children are constantly being inundated with this information. They are already being used as billboards for the millions of unconscious messages our society pushes out. Disney, Barbies, dolls with giant eyes, dead monster hyde dolls, video games, lego ninjas, angry birds. What the upset folks don't recognize is that their children, their babies are already being preprogrammed by our society.

I am not calling all lefties to insert messaging onto their babies as a way to mitigate the waves of consumeristic messaging prevalent in most activities we participate in. By selling my shirts, I am not condoning any sort of hostile black and white good vs evil billboard sort of warfare. I acknowledge that the t-shirts I make are indeed intended as a messaging system. It is in recognizing and becoming conscious of what messages we are trying to disseminate to our children and to those around us that our shirts become more than a mere billboard but enter into a realm of mental expansion...and conversation. You are offering your child a tool to express who they are. By interacting with the public with their messages they are receiving feedback. They are learning and cultivating their individuality. I consider my t-shirts the beginnings of conversations. A lot of conversations. Between family members, friends, people in your community you might never have spoken to before, strangers, lovers.

When I started this business my daughter was 4 months old. She turned 10 yesterday and the shirts she chooses to wear are truly an extension of how she sees herself. I have heard her explain to people what the meaning of her shirts are. I am so proud of her independent thoughts. I am honored when she says with such pride"And my mommy made this for me."













Yankers more exciting than ever

Monday, December 03, 2012

after the 8th revision and my patternmaker having a baby now to fit them to, she came back with 'it's perfect'. ah sweet perfection. now to roll it out.

pinterest and skimlinks

Thursday, February 09, 2012

it was discovered that pinterest had been using sort of an affiliate earning approach to their users content. so, if i post a picture of something i think is freaking amazing and you click on it and buy it from the store, pinterest makes some $. i still have to check out how skimlinks does this but it is a very interesting revenue generating model. think about when they were talking about during tv shows people would be able to click a link and buy anything they saw on the show.

is this a bad thing? hell no. i have to agree with skimlinks (http://bit.ly/yG8k10) that content sites desperately need a way to actually make money. and what a great model. nothing horrible that i can see. instead of obnoxious ads, i, the reader can find places to buy all the amazing things i am reading about. um, what is bad about that?!

their content is generated by users outside of their organization. they are not paying people to post to their site. they only make $ if readers find what has been posted about worth buying. 

the only thing i am wondering is what if pinterest is motivated by the almighty $ to give more web prominence to those items that are generating them more revenue. then, their community content site turns into more of a store of interesting things people will actually buy rather than just curious finds. this also, in itself isn't a bad thing, but i would like to know this is what i am surfing.

peel back the curtains pinterest. there is no need to hide behind them. what you are offering your readers is a good thing. not a bad thing.

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Group of brilliance

Friday, January 13, 2012

I signed up for this workshop with some people from the Hello Etsy conference. A group of artisans and crafters trying to make some changes to their business. We decided to continue meeting after the workshop just to touch base and be accountable to someone or something for our progress. I think we all needed the support and we were all at the same level and all makers/shakers/changers. We met at the Slow Bar and began discussing the changes we had made over the last two months and when you are sitting in front of seriously active people talking about the things that you have done it over the last 60 days you become propelled to do more, think bigger, define and follow your visions. I like this quote from Jenelle Isaacson newsletter this month, (principal for Living Room Realtors).
Psychologist Richard Wiserman studied 400 people over the course of 10 years and watched for lucky breaks or chance encounters, both good and bad. This is what he found.
"My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good."
And, for me, even with the economic downturn, having to lay off my employee, having to start going into production myself, I can only see the opportunities here. There are so many. It feels good. Not bad.
We went around in a circle talking about changes and each and every one of us over the last 30-60 days had made some enormous ones. We questioned each other. We critiqued. We were not afraid to voice our true opinions. This is a good group of ACTIVE makers. I am glad to be part of it.

the holidays!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

I just went through a most difficult transition but I think I am beginning to see the light. With the holidays being slow for my site I recognized fairly quickly into December that my website was no longer going to be able to support even one employee. The lost traffic still not regained and all the $ I had borrowed to carry the site up through xmas made the choice obvious even to Rebecca. The second week in December on a day when we received only two orders to the website, (and December is historically for me as busy as all of September, October and November put together) Rebecca asked me if I wanted her to go to part-time. I said YES.
The third week of December I laid off the woman who had been my compadre and employee for 5 years. But for only one employee I was paying a hefty wage, payroll taxes, payroll fees, workman's comp, full health, dental, vision, paid vacation etc. The choice was obvious. It was a sad day. Plus, it meant I had to come back into the shop and do all the production, ordering and customer service on top of all the website, marketing, programming and product development.
I am not sad that I have come back to this point. The same point where I started 8 years ago when I first built the business. I honestly feel reinvigorated and challenged for the first time in many years. Excited. I mean, I don't really like making shirts or emailing customers but I am challenged with regrowing my business. So, I've come up with some new direction. I've talked about it a bit in some past posts but I really want to focus my store on US made products and showcase the designers who make the products.
My drop ship program is gaining some interest.
And slowly I think my traffic is coming back. Every other week I get an email from google saying my traffic to my site has increased by 5% from the previous day and no alerts to that it is dropping. I am hopeful.
The holidays have been difficult. My ex and I stagger our weeks with the kids and I have somehow managed to get all the weeks with no school. But, I have set up a monitoring system and, while I work in the garage my kids play with one another. It devolves into squabbling every once in awhile but for the most part what I hear through the monitor is some very imaginative barbie/plushie play.
Plus, my wonderful 70 year old mom is sitting in Mississippi praying for me and also entering image tags and testing the upgrade on my cart. Thanks mom! I will pay you back all the $ I owe you and I'll do it this year by selling the coolest baby clothes on the web.