Tips for Photographing, Describing Your Handmade Products

For the last several weeks, I’ve been browsing Etsy for a purse. ( is a website for artists and functional crafters who want to sell their handmade work.) I’m looking for a comfortably large purse, in leather, with interior pockets so not everything bunches up at the bottom. Ideally it will have an outside pocket. Because the sun is so fierce here in the summer, I’m looking for a brown or neutral. It will shut with a zipper. Right, no magnets. You’ve read the other post in which I discover that magnets erase hotel room keys, metro cards and mess with your iPhone.

two spouted teapotFor some reason the same generation who spends the entire day on the phone or texting, grows strangely reluctant when it comes to describing a purse. There are lots of adjectives (“awesome”,” big”, “useful”) and much space spent on color descriptions, although the photographs should manage to convey most of the color information. “A really awesome mustard-like yellow, not like Grey Poupon, more like oaker, but not dark,” reads one description. “Oaker,” I am assuming, is what passes for “ocher” if you are thinking in wood tones.

Conspicuously missing are what a customer finds important before purchasing: dimensions, the color of the lining, if the strap is adjustable, how long the strap actually is, the exact material of the purse, the number of inside pockets, and how it closes.

The purses are often shown hanging in a featureless room, from a nail. There is no way to tell how big this thing really is. The same is true if the purse is being worn by a woman who is standing against a white wall. We can make certain guesses, but if the woman is short, the purse looks larger than it is.

Some simple tips for photographing your functional product:
1. Light it evenly so the entire product can be seen well. This is not time for dramatic shadows.square egg The photo on the right could be a pat of butter or a fold of paper, but it’s a square egg.
2. Fill the screen with the product, not the model holding the product.
3. Show the product in use. A purse hanging in a tree, from a fence, or lying on a table doesn’t give the additional information that someone holding it would demonstrate.
4. Show the inside of the bag, too. I hate black linings, because my stuff disappears into the bottom of the bag. So I want to see the lining and the pockets.
5. If you claim you made the bag, and I can read a popular brand name on the label in the picture, I won’t believe much else you say about the bag.
6. Show the bag closed in one shot, open in another. That helps me decide if the bag is functional.

Write descriptions that help a reader make a decision about buying:
1. Include dimensions and which way they are given. Across, down and deep is a good order. If the purse tapers, say that.
2. Don’t use words that those of us who aren’t functional crafters don’t know. “Popper,” “drop,” “slip pocket” are familiar terms to you, but not necessarily to your clients.
3. Tell us the material. If there are many materials, tell us what is where. “Made of leather, pleather, naugahyde, cordura and brass” isn’t nearly as useful as “Leather on the outside, lined with canvas and brass rings on the straps.”
4. Keep it short and use lots of verbs.
5. Link the characteristics of the piece (features) with how the client can use it (benefits). Saying, “the straps are really long” is not as effective as “You can hang the purse over your shoulder or wear it across your chest to keep your hands free.” That helps browsers visualize themselves carrying the purse.

Using clear photographs with simple descriptions will help you sell more of your work quickly.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and a certified creativity coach. See her work at
(c) 2008-9 All rights reserved Images: 2-spouted teapot: Square egg:

Defining and Measuring Success

In the New York Times magazine for June 28, there’s a full-page ad on page 5, with the headline, “SPEND one day a year getting a complete health exam or the next 364 wishing you had.” The ad touts Mount Sinai’s “Executive Health program,” in which “senior

Ad in the NY Times magazine, 6/26/09

Ad in the NY Times magazine, 6/26/09

physicians using advanced  non-invasive diagnostic screening technogies” check you out and you get “personally ushered through [tests] with same-day results.”

The word “Spend” is all capitalized in the headline. The headline motivates through fear. Get a checkup or you might regret it.  That ad got me thinking. Top-level executives can be scared into spending. They get the big bonuses. They can afford “executive-level” medical care because they deserve the best health care. They get the non-invasive tests run by “senior physicians” and get personally ushered right by the rest of us, who, because we do not have clout, (read: money) must settle for the invasive tests run by interns that suck up vacation days and cost us a bundle.

We know this is so, but to run an ad about this great program is an amazing insult. I know the reaction–most people will think if they spend  a little more money, they can pretend to be executives and get good care. Don’t fool yourself. This is another step in the “C-level or drown” thinking we have brought on ourselves.

Shouldn’t medical care be a little more egalitarian? Why should the senior physician automatically be assigned to the executive? Because they are both successful? Because the rich, most of whose salary we pay or agree to, are more important?

There is a lot of attention paid to C-level executives (CEO, CFO, CIO) simply because they have the title. And if they have that title, they must be better, smarter, more successful.

And that’s what I have to disagree with–that money is a measure of success.  As long as we make money the common denominator, those with a smaller number below the line will get a smaller piece of justice, medicine, education. When money is the measure, then getting the money becomes the only proof, the goal worth fighting for.

That’s how we got to where we are now. The people who thought they had real money, real equity, who were given real mortgages that were built on a base of need and greed and illusion.

Haven’t we had enough of that yet? How much more do we have to believe that a big car makes us worthwhile? What’s success to you? How do you measure your worth? Kindness?  Understanding? Inner peace? Achievement? What kind of achievement?

Let me know how you meaure success in the comments. I want to know.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and successful owner of QuinnCreative. She also works on a combined art-and-writing project in which strangers comment on life in shared journals.

Traveling Journals Update: Loose Pages.6.26.09

More loose pages are coming in–these are from Theresa Hall.

The traveling journal project is getting a lot of attention from artists and journalers alike. Absolute strangers are contributing to four traveling journals and to loose pages of art paper I send them.

You can joint the project. Send me an email at rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com and tell me which journal you want to contribute to, or if you prefer loose pages. You can read more details.

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

This around-the-world project allows people to express themselves in any meaningful way. For the loose pages, I’ll bind them when I have enough. For the journals, they will be a part of a large, traveling art and journaling project which I hope to circulate through libraries and museums.

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Theresa Hall (c) 2009

Traveling Journals Update: Loose Pages-6.25.09

Some loose pages came back from the traveling journals. These are from Poughkeepsie, NY, pages done by Becky Nielsen.

There are many ways and reasons to keep a journal. A vital reason is to witness world events. We often can’t change anything on our own, but the ability to witness and pass on is enormous. Awareness comes before action.  Thanks for your powerful contribution, Becky.

Becky Nielsen, watercolor on paper

Becky Nielsen, watercolor on paper

Quinn McDonald is circulating four journals (and loose pages which she will bind into journals) among strangers who want to share the raw-art-journaling experience. Read more about the journals. Take a peek at some of the images. Join the project by sending an email to rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com

Theme Thursday #7: 6/25/09

Ready for Theme Thursday? Three creative links (or any topic you are interested in) posted on your website. Leave a link in the comments or in the creativity incubator (more information in the right sidebar.)

Circus Stilts, Pitt Pen on paper, (c) Quinn McDonald

Circus Stilts, Pitt Pen on paper, (c) Quinn McDonald

Deborah from Silverwoman Studio does wonderful plant drawings. I love the composition on these pages–particularly the chicken. Sandy at My Fiddlestix has another great touch with placing images on the page.

Starshyne has a Wishcasting Wednesday. People wish for things and other people help them wish. It’s calming and interesting.

Type words in a box, the avatar reads it to you. Cool and very slightly creepy.

For your next project: amazing washi papers.

Want to know the moon phase? It’s 9 percent waxing crescent. How did I know? I check it out on the moonphase page.

Make your own Jack the Dripper design: click on the page, and when the page is blank click again. The faster you drag your mouse, the thinner the line. Click to change colors.

And finally, a quote from Rabindanath Tagore that struck me with a flash of light: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”


Prior Theme Thursdays

Creative Play 6/18/09 *** Creative Play 6/11/09 *** Creative Play 6/4/09 ***

CreativePlay 5/21/09 *** Creative Play 5/14/09, *** Creative Play 5/7/09

—Quinn McDonald is a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches people how to write and give presentations. She also  manages four journals that travel the world.

Summer in Phoenix: It’s Baaaack

There is a season we huddle in our houses–no sense ruining your day by going out. Comfort drinks to soothe you while you listen to the weather report, wondering when it will all be over. That used to be winter. Now it’s summer in Phoenix. It will be 110 degrees by the end of the week, and it will be followed by 120 more days that are 100 degrees or above.

Things I’ve learned from my second summer in Phoenix:

—You CAN fry an egg on the sidewalk. This is best done around the summer solstice, when the sun is directly overhead at noon.

Victoria's page in the Sonoran Traveling Journal

Victoria's page in the Sonoran Traveling Journal

—A dip in a 95-degree pool is refreshing.

— You will walk half a mile in heat so hot your feet get stuck in the parking lot tar. This is not to get close to the mall entrance. This is to get that space under a tree.

—You carry a small cooler with a water bottle or 3 in it. A water bottle left in a cup holder is hot enough to make soup.

—You don’t leave CDs in the car. They melt. Even in the CD player.

—You don’t carry a black purse. The contents is too hot to touch.

—You put your iPhone in a light-colored cover. No one believes that iPhones  don’t work if it gets over 95 dgrees except for residents of the Sonoran and Mojave deserts.

–You bring plants in for the summer. It gets too hot for many plants outside.

—You know there will be churning dust storms and rain storms so violent they are called “monsoons.” You leave extra time to clean your pool after these storms.

—“Geezer Glasses”–those giant sunglasses that slip over your regular glasses suddenly seem like a good idea. The glasses that get dark don’t work in your car because your windows are tinted. And you can take them off when they fog over when you walk into a store.

—You carry a sweater into a store because the difference between the outside temperature and inside temperature is often 30 degrees or more.

— At midnight, it’s still 96 degrees. You think that’s cool.

One of the Traveling Journals came back–Summer in the Sonoran. It will go out next week, I need to keep it for my class at Changing Hands on Saturday. That’s an image done by Victoria Pearman, above.

You can write in the journals, too. Check out the details about all the journals here. Or, drop me an email at Rawartjournal [at] gmail [dot] com.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and journal keeper who loves living in Phoenix.

Traveling Journals: First Voices

This coming Saturday, June 27, if you are close to Tempe, AZ, join us at Changing Hands bookstore for the first of three raw-art-journaling classes that will create pages for the traveling journals.

No prior experience in journaling, art journaling or drawing is required. Just a need to make a meaning and perhaps a curiosity about journaling with strangers.

You’ll learn a new art journaling technique and how to apply it, and once you are having fun, you’ll make a page for the journals and a page for yourself, so you’ll have fun to share and fun to take to your studio and remember.

The class is from 10 a.m. to noon, fee is $20. You must contact Changing Hands to register, I can’t do that for you. Phone (480) 730-0205 to register.

Changing Hands is at 6428 S McClintock Dr # C101

That’s at the Northwest corner of McClintock and Guadalupe in Tempe.

Tempe, AZ 85283-3936

Below is Liz Crain’s contribution to the Traveling Journals:

Liz Crain, ink on paper, Unthemed Journal

Liz Crain, ink on paper, Unthemed Journal

Marriage Celebrant: I Do

Change is life. What were you doing a year ago? Are you still doing the same thing now? What’s new about you? What are you doing now that you didn’t do a year ago? We’ve had a housing collapse, people are losing their jobs. People are re-thinking their lives, what makes them happy, how to hold onto that happiness.

imagesBecause I coach people in change, help them re-invent themselves, I have added something new to my coaching–officiating at marriage or commitment ceremonies. I’ve received the paperwork I need to officiate at marriages in all 50 states. A special ceremony, a custom ceremony, traditional or contemporary–I can not just officiate, I can help you prepare for it, spiritually and emotionally.

I’m performing my first ceremony on July 18 in New Hampshire. I live in Phoenix, but travel from Sky Harbor airport is convenient.

In times when trust is worn thin and hope is a thread, I want to help people who choose to honor their vision and trust in themselves and their partners. Life might be harder, but a ceremony of trust deserves a special preparation. You can find the details on a new page on my website.

Tell me about your wedding, and how you are making it work in today’s tough world.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, wedding celebrant, and life- and creativity coach, helping people re-invent themselves.

Random Thoughts After Meditation

That bag of blame you are dragging behind you? Like stabbing yourself in the heart a thousand times to hurt those who hurt you. It’s not retribution if the other party doesn’t care.

* * * * *

All that painful stuff from your past made you the powerful, capable person you are today. Stop trying to fix it, teach yourself to use it to your advantage. It’s not going away, might as well make work for you.

* * * * *

If it’s not inside you, part of you, it isn’t yours. That includes happiness, peace, and joy. None of those come in a shopping bag, they are born in your heart.

* * * * *

If you don’t let the person who wronged you off the hook, you have to stand there and hold that heavy pole–reeling them in, playing it out, reeling them in, playing it out. Hint: there’s a better way to spend your time.

* * * * *

The things we hate about ourselves are often our best characteristics turned up too loud. Don’t pull out your faults, tone them down till you can see the gift in them.

* * * * *

Quinn McDonald is a life- and creativity coach, writer, and speaker. She is engaged in a journal project, sending journals around the world to collaborate with strangers.

Why I Dropped Earthlink for GoDaddy

Finally, I was tired of the poor customer service at Earthlink, my website host. The hour wait before you talked to a customer service rep. The tired, angry help you got.  I am impressed that their outsourced reps speak grammatical English, I certainly don’t speak Hindi, but real communication was difficult. They did not seem to understand my questions and read from a script. They did not imagesunderstand “Please?” or “Say again?” to mean “Please repeat that.” If I said, “I don’t understand” they took it as a cultural lack on my part instead of my letting them know that I’m a techno-dope.

Worst of all, they had very few Mac-speakers. Maybe other Apple-geeks don’t need customer service. But I did. And I would be lost in a world of “right-click” and “open IE now.” The final straw came when an “update” to Earthlin’s website builder made it impossible for me to add to my site unless I used InternetExplorer as a browser.

GoDaddy was incredibly helpful, fast and efficient. OK, cheaper, too. My email was offline for less than an hour, my site was down for less than three hours. The longest wait was waiting for the cache to update, which was not GoDaddy’s problem, but Cox Cable’s.

Everytime I phone GoDaddy, I get speedy, efficient, patient help that works. Waiting times are usually less than three minutes. I have had one less than ideal experience, and I simply thanked the service rep for his help and placed another call.

After nine years of having one site, I needed to separate my art site from my business site. There were too many similarities, confusion in what I was teaching and where–if I was a business writing trainer, why was a course at an art store? If I teach art journaling, why did I list a utility as a client?

So now there are two websites: is the business site for business training, pencilspeaking, freelance writing, and business coaching. is the site for the Traveling Journals, creativity coaching, and classes in art journaling.

Please visit them and let me know what you think. If you find a typo, please let me know, but be specific.