I wish I knew how to: Bloganuary Entry #4

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

Life is about constantly learning. I truly enjoy learning new things, and I seek knowledge, no matter how small. I love that there are so many ways to learn right at my fingertips, thanks to my friend the internet. Whether I’m learning a craft, a recipe, a computer trick, or a dance class, I feel like it’s good to be constantly open to learning.

I love finding random tutorials on pinterest, and I love taking advantage of online resources. I’m currently making my way through a Life Coaching course and hopefully I will finish that in the coming months *fingers crossed*, and I’ve done a few ecommerce courses over the past year that were really interesting.

But if I had to pick one thing that I wish I knew it would be that I wish I knew how to change a flat tire. Of course, there’s a million reasons why this is a good, practical, and important skill to have. I don’t like the idea of being stranded, vulnerable, or possibly in a dangerous situation over something that I could fix myself if I have to. Because tires rarely announce in advance that they plan to go flat, the sooner I know how to do this, the bigger relief this will be for me. So it’s on my 2022 learning list for sure.

But on a smaller scale, here three things I’ve learned to do recently by using online resources:

Fabric Stamping: I follow an artist on IG that uses random items to stamp fabric, and she then uses the fabrics to make bags. I have been mesmerized by her process and thought I could try something similar. So I looked around on pinterest for tutorials and tried my hand at it. Using some remnants from Joann’s, some fabric paint, a straw, and a plastic fork, I created these masterpieces. I thought this was fun, and it’s such an easy way to decorate a space. I also plan to try this on some tea towels. It could make a really cute gift idea, and there are so many different possibilities.

Ceramics: To stay sane during the pandemic, I definitely turned to crafts. One thing I found cute and interesting was clay. Trinket dishes, earrings, and wine charms…I tried them all. I tried both air dry clay as well as clay that you bake in the oven. Here’s one of the many tutorials that I played around with and here are a few of my results.

Beading: I love making my own accessories, so when I stumbled across some posts for making beaded jewelry, I became obsessed! And again, the pandemic caused lots and lots of time isolated in the house, so this was a wonderful creative outlet. Several hundred dollars later (oy!), and I have bags and bags and bags of beaded bracelets to show for it. Here’s one blogger that gives a good bracelet tutorial and below are a few of my results:

What do you like learning? What’s the last thing you learned or taught yourself to do?

DIY Mockups – Tips and Pointers

I’m really surprised that I’m enjoying making my own mockups for my business. Initially, it felt like something I was forcing myself to do, but after three sessions, I am noticing improvements each time. And surprisingly, I am starting to really enjoy it. Maybe I just had to shake off the nerves and tackle the logistics to push through to the fun part, but now I am starting to find it less daunting and more pleasurable.

How did I decide to try making my own mockups?

When I started my business, I realized I could pay for flatlay mockups. And they were great. But then I noticed that other brands had actual people for their listing pics. I really wasn’t sure where to find these kinds of mockups, but I eventually landed on, of course, Etsy, and found some mockup pics that contained people. And I loved it. I bought a few and used them in my listings. I thought they were great. There are a lot of wonderful choices, but finding a combination of someone wearing the item that I was actually selling, and for that person to be someone that I felt represented my brand…that narrowed the options significantly. I definitely wanted to include people of color, both men and women, and the choices were slim pickins.

For example, some of the ones that would have the item I was selling, it would have a female model that fit my brand, but the picture would be themed, like…football or baseball theme, something that really doesn’t fit my vibe. Or it would fit all of my criteria but the picture would be heavily filtered and faded, or have something about it that just didn’t work for me. And don’t get me started on finding mockups with men of color. There just really are not a lot of pics out there at all.

One day I looked at the pics I was purchasing, and it hit me that this was something I could possibly do. And so I tried. I bought a better tripod/ring light than the one I had, picked a nice sunny day, and headed out. Suffice it to say, I did not love the results from the first shoot. But I’ve now had three sessions, and each photo session has been a lesson. Each time I realize what I want to do better next time. And each session has been better than the one before it.

So that’s a success, right?

I think it is!

If you are the owner of a t-shirt company, and you are struggling with finding the mockups that work best for your business, consider trying it yourself. This in no way is to throw shade to any of the offerings on Etsy or elsewhere, because I’ve found some really great ones which I love and routinely use. They’re affordable and they look great!

But after using the same pics over and over, I got bored. Or the model mockups would have some qualities I didn’t care for, and I feel like why am I paying for this when I can create something that I like that looks just as good?

So as I keep practicing creating my own mockups, I’m getting to the point where I’m really liking the results. And I love even better that I’m not paying for them.

So let me tell about some of my successes and failures, and give a few tips for those that may be considering trying to take their own mockup photos.

Your Look:

  1. Do your research. Find pictures and mockups that are similar to what you’d like to do. Save the pictures and take them with you when you go on your shoot. Having a starting point for your photo sessions will help get the ball rolling.
  2. Style your outfit. Create an overall look that will appeal to your customer. Yes, you are selling a tshirt, but if the customer sees the style potential of your tshirt, that entices them to want it in their closet.
  3. Accessorize but do not go overboard. The focus should remain on the item you’re selling. Your customer should see how it hangs, how it fits, how things line up on an actual human. Compliment the look with bracelets or earrings, but don’t cover or outdo the item being purchased.
  4. Create different looks. Show versatility. Everyone wears tshirts, but not everyone wears them the same way. Expand your customer base by showing the item in a range of scenarios. Dressed up, dressed down, under a blazer, under a jean jacket…with sneakers, with heels. The more options you’re able to provide, the better chance you have of snagging customers.
  5. Be conscious of your hair length. For a tshirt to be used as a mockup, the front of the shirt should have space for your logo/artwork to be placed. If your hair is covering that space, the pic could be hard to work with, or it may look odd if you place the logo over top of your hair.
  6. Wear lipgloss. I swear, even just a nude one makes any pic look better.
  7. Consider wearing heels even if they aren’t visible. I’m short and curvy, and heels naturally elongate my body, and help the shirt fall properly. Most pics that I’ve taken do not even show my feet. But trust me, the heels helped.

Your Poses:

  1. Be aware of weird gestures. Know what your arms, hands, fingers, eyes, and mouth are doing. I had to rule out some really nice pics because I noticed my middle finger was sticking out. LOL…so…that’s not gonna work.
  2. Take multiple pics in the same spot. Sometimes you have to keep working one angle to get the perfect shot. If the sun is in the right place, and your item is draped just right, but your eyes were crossed, don’t move. Open your eyes, stay in the same position, and take more pics!
  3. Try different stances. One leg in front of the other, hips poked out, legs spread apart, leaning forward, leaning backwards. Look to the side, look up, look down (beware of double chin though).
  4. Try shots without your face. You are selling a shirt, so show the shirt. That doesn’t necessarily mean that your face has to be in the picture. Take some shots of just the neck and torso area. Your whole body does not have to be in every pic. It’s ok to only include parts of your body.
  5. Do different things with your hands. Hold something, tuck your thumbs in your front pocket, put your hands in your back pocket, hold them behind your head, put a hand on your hip. You want to look natural, so do the natural things that you’d do if you were someone standing around wearing a tshirt.
  6. Make different expressions. Smile, don’t smile, act like someone told you a hilarious joke, pretend like a long lost friend walked into the room. Consider what you sell and what the vibe is of your items. If the tone of your shirts is serious, then smiling may not be appropriate. But if you sell a mix, make your mockups versatile by changing your facial expressions for your pics. Use your eyes and use your smile.
  7. Take some time to reset. As you maneuver, and go back and forth to your tripod, your clothing may shift. Brush down your hair back down, readjust your clothing, make sure everything is back in place. Reset yourself after every few takes.

Your Scene:

  1. Use props. I’m not talking about fake mustaches on a stick. But take some pics holding a handbag, an ice cream cone, a bouquet of flowers, a glass of wine, a beach hat, or even your cell phone. Set up a scene that’s relatable and attractive to your potential buyer.
  2. Beware of background items. Plugs, cords, and passersby happen. To the extent possible, clean the space so that it’s free of junk, remove any cords, stand in front of any outlets, or let passersby cross before you press click. The extra work will make the pic sooooo much better. But keep in mind, if there are things that just can’t be avoided, and the shot is just too bomb to pass up, use photo editing software to blur the background. If the wall is white and the wall outlet is white, consider brightening the picture to obscure the outlets.
  3. Consider your scenery. Fancy backdrops are great, but they are not necessary. The purpose of these pics is to show off your tshirt. Not to show fancy places that you’ve visited. Scenes on location are nice, but a simple white wall is just as awesome.

Your Photography:

  1. Use different features on your phone. Take pics using both the front and the rear cameras (if you are using your phone). In most cases, the main camera on your phone will have the better resolution. But camera phones are so good these days, that even the inferior cams produce decent pictures using the front or back cameras. Sometimes seeing yourself in selfie mode will yield better pictures than if you are shooting blind. Play around and see what works best.
  2. Get a tripod and bluetooth shutter. Save yourself the headache of setting a timer and running back and forth. Once you get into a groove or find the perfect position, the bluetooth shutter helps you remain in place for more great shots.
  3. Pay attention to shadows. In the grand scheme of things, your shirt is not likely to be purchased or not purchased due to shadows. And in a lot of cases, the shadows can be edited out of your pictures. But there could times when a shadow is difficult to work with, especially if you’re a less than skilled photographer like I am. If the shadow falls on your shirt, and editing isn’t your forte’, it could be difficult to place your logo or artwork without looking strange.

I hope these tips help. Have you thought about doing something similar for your tshirt business? Have you tried doing your own mockup photos? What are your thoughts? Have any tips to add? Lemme know!

DIY Mockups for My Business

From the “spring gone get whatever body I give it” files…

Happy Wednesday!

What’s the weather where you are? Yesterday in Maryland was hot and today is going to be even hotter! So ummm…about all that chocolate I’ve been eating lately…

I experimented a little more with taking pics for my tshirt mockups yesterday. And though I wasn’t spring-ready, I still knotted that shirt up and struck a pose…because who gone check me??

Do you use mockups for your tshirt brand? I do love the convenience of the etsy mockups, however I’ve noticed that there are very few that have people of color as models. And I feel as though my brand is too diverse for one model type. And hello…I’m black and I want black representation for my products.

So…what’s a girl to do? I pulled out my tripod and got to work! Because sometimes you just gotta do it yourself, amiright?? I think I got a few good shots. Can’t wait to share them!

Here’s a little sneak peek of my mock-ups in action.

I still have some work to do to perfect the pics and poses. I need to work on being conscious of light, shadows, and backgrounds. And I definitely need to work on facial expressions lol. But it’s been fun doing this and I feel like every time I try it, I get a little better. And even though this is the free method of acquiring mockups, and that’s hella dope, the best takeaway is that I have pics that I feel represent me and my brand without spending hours on etsy. And I just love that!

#diymockups #pocmodels #diversitymatters #repesentationmatters #minoritybusinessowner #etsyowner #etsygrammer #dropshipper #diyphotoshoot #smallbusiness #entrepreneurlife #blackblogger #blackentrepreneurs #marylandgirl #blacketsyshop #loveyourbody #tshirtbrand #shopifyseller

12 Easy DIY Vase Upgrades In Time For Spring

Vases and planters seem to be at the center of home decor these days. Plants are great for creating a warm environment and for improving home air quality. Flowers are known mood-boosters. People are are inviting in more nature into their homes these days for overall mental and physical health reasons (especially during quarantine), and that means they need more pots and vases to put them in.

Yall know I love a good DIY. I love it even more if it’s free, cheap, or cost-friendly. There are SO MANY cute ideas around the innanets, so with plant and flower lovers in mind, I rounded up a few of my favorites! The best part of most of these projects is that you probably have a lot of the materials on hand. And if not, you can scoop them up with a quick trip to the thrift store or dollar store! West Elm and Anthropologie…whatever! Try these easy and less expensive DIY’s and create your own vibe for a fraction of the cost.

Plus…how fun is it to tell guests, “oh that vase? I made that.” (and then turn like it’s no big deal while they gawk in amazement at your super fab, oh-so-chic creation?? I can’t be the only one that loves that feeling.

So here we go!

1) Textured Clay Vase

2) Colorblock Vase

3) DIY Marble Vase

4) Nail Polish Marble Flower Pots

5) Textured pail vase

6) Pottery Barn Inspired Urn

by Hometalk

7) Repurposed Thrift Store Vase

8) Gold Wrapped Vase

9) DIY Terracotta Vases

10) Twine Flower Vase

11) Faux Wood Vase DIY

12) DIY Hobnail Milk Glass Vase

With spring around the corner, it’s a great time to prep your vases for your lovely tablescapes and spring florals. Let me know if you give any of these a try!

DIY Manicure Using Gel Nail Strips

[DISCLAIMER: Some links in this post contain affiliate links. This means I get a commission if you purchase the product through my link at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

I’m one of those people that loves doing my own nails.  Partly because I’m just cheap or rather…ahem, frugal…but partly because it’s my version of spending time with myself.  For me, there is something kinda therapeutic about watching the paint go on, finishing it off with a shiny top coat, and seeing how pretty my hands are once I add rings, and get all cute and done up. 

I always think about how, back in the day, women did a lot of their own beautification routines.  They soaked in fragrant tubs, they curled their own hair, and they lotioned, lathered, glossed, and shimmered themselves to the nines!

I had a fairly normal nail routine before COVID hit, but lately, let’s just say things have fallen off a bit.  I’ve been seeing ads for gel nail strips and I’ve been pretty intrigued by it.  And you know how IG and the innanet works…once you look at one gel strip ad, they show up over and over and over until you just give in!  So I decided to buy some and give it a try.  What better way to spend a Saturday night, right?

I got my nail strips, read the instructions, gathered my materials, and jumped in.  And I love how they turned out!

Here’s what I used for my manicure:

Here are my steps:

  • Remove any nail polish if you have any on your nails
  • Push back your cuticles using the cuticle tool in your manicure kit
  • Use the swab from your nail strip kit to remove any remaining lotions, oils and debris
  • Put on one coat of ORLY nail bonder or a base coat.  This step is optional.  As with any base coat, this gives your paint something to adhere to.
  • One at a time, I did the sizing for my nails.  I selected the strip that was closest in size to whichever finger I was working on.  When in doubt, I sized down.  You do not want the strip to go past your cuticles.
  • Once you have selected a strip, use tweezers to remove the strip from the wrapper and place it in the center of your nail.  The tweezers help to eliminate excess touching, which can diminish the adhesive of the gel strip. As with anything sticky, the more you touch and manipulate it, the less sticky it becomes
  • Place the strip onto your nail and then use your fingers to smooth the strip onto the nail from the center, swiping outwards.  Wrap the strip around the tip of your nail as much as possible.
  • Using your nail file, file the excess strip from the tip of your nail.  Be firm when you file.  Also, you want to do your strokes in one direction at a time.  Doing back and forth filing will potentially rip the nail strip.  Once you file around the tip, you should be able to pull the excess off with your fingers.  You can also do some of the work with your clippers, but finish it off by filing the tip with your emery board.
  • Top with a top coat.  I used a gel top coat.  This is optional but could help seal around the edges of your strips and prolong the length of life for your manicure. 
  • Avoid soaps, oils, and lotions for an hour after you complete your application.

I LOVE how they turned out!  When I paint my nails, I’m lucky if I get a solid coat of polish to look decent.  I definitely have never gotten into designs and multiple colors.  This is such a fun and easy way to have designs and shapes and multiple colors without paying extra or without me killing myself following a youtube tutorial!  SO. EXCITED.!!

The packaging says that the gel strips can last up to 14 days.  I’m SUUUPER hard on my nails, so I don’t expect it to last that long.  If I get a week, I will be elated!  I will report back!

Have you been doing your own manicures during the pandemic?  Do you have any tips or products that have worked well for you?  Let a sista know!

In the meantime, here are a few more pics from my manicure photo shoot. I now have a whole new appreciation for hand models 🙂