Friday, February 27, 2009

An ode to the creme egg

Growing up in England, I was completely spoiled by the choice of Cadbury's chocolate available to me. I even went on a school trip way back when to the factory where you end up in a room filled with the stuff at wholesale prices. That's right, a dream for a 16 year old with a chocolate fetish. After moving to California though, it was somewhat distressing to me for a while that I couldn't get it out here because there's something about Hersheys that just isn't the same. Interestingly enough, Hersheys picked up the license for Cadbury's in the U.S. now. This means that I can pick up a limited selection, usually at CVS Pharmacy (of all places). I'm much happier about that, but I do lament over the Creme Egg situation.

In the UK, you can get Creme Eggs any time of year. The delicious chocolate shell with the gooey sugary mix of mystery filling. You bite off the top, suck out the insides and still have the rest of the chocolate shell to eat for dessert. I would like to know why can I only get them at Easter?! I don't recall small print on Creme Eggs saying they should only be on offer if there's the possibility that the Easter bunny delivered them. Further to that, why is it that the American Creme Eggs are smaller? They're under license to Hersheys out here, but in a land where everything is bigger, you decide to shrink the eggs and then restrict how often I get to eat them? I shake my fist at you.

Speaking of Easter eggs in general, the Brits seem so much better about making big old chocolate eggs that have the tasty chocolate shell but are also filled with candy on the inside. These eggs exist for almost every brand of chocolate that I can think of back home - eggs filled with jelly beans, eggs filled with M&Ms, and so on. Out here, there is something not quite as fun about the hollow chocolate bunny. You bite off his ears and there is no surprise awaiting you on the inside. It's sad, but true.

I know that a world exists where my beloved Creme Eggs can be bought and savored year round. For now, I will try to see the silver lining and be happy that I can get them at all. Well, now you know how I like mine, the question do you eat yours?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spent all weekend getting funky

I was inspired to try out some things with Photoshop this weekend while my husband was busy producing music in the basement. To the dulcet tones of his bass speaker, I decided that it was a good time to play with some of my photos.

It has to be said that I've always been somewhat resistent to messing with my photos much. I take a lot of time to compose my shots so that they don't need to be post-produced. However, I am realizing that post-production definitely has its place when done correctly. I'm pretty happy with my efforts and of course have to share them with you here!

I tried out a Lomo effect on this picture. Lomography has characteristics including high color saturation and vignettes. Next up was this picture of the Old Mission Santa Barbara. My brother lives up in Santa Barbara which is a wonderfully peaceful town and I visited on a quiet weekday when there weren't too many visitors. Just walking around the mission, there is such history there that I decided to add some age to this photograph.
Finally, I've thousands of wedding photographs that I've been meaning to organize from the wedding shoots I've done over the last few years. This is one of my favorite photographs. I love capturing the quiet moments. In this case, the bride was waiting for her family to gather for formal shots and was looking at her chuppah, which was covered in the most beautiful flower garlands. I added a little warmth and soft lighting to the natural dusk lighting that the original photo was taken in. Now I've had a chance to learn some new things about Photoshop, I'm really looking forward to going through my photos and finding new pictures to tweak. I'd love to hear opinions on what you are seeing here!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Won't be quitting my day job

As promised, I am now going to reveal the data from my analysis of the Quit Your Day Job (QYDJ) feature on the Etsy blog. I think there are some really interesting observations in all of this, the most important being that I probably enjoy making spreadsheets in Excel too much. You should note that I was also somewhat of a math geek in high school so I'm going to explain some of my statistical points to you along the way.

My disclaimer...
- I love my day job. I've been working here for coming on 8 years and I've met some of my best friends here. I've watched romance bloom between co-workers, learned to knit, been to a lot of concerts, and eaten way too much in this office. There is no way I'd give it up anytime soon (unless you want to offer me a couple million dollars and a free vacation to Italy).
- The reason I decided to do this study was not out of jealousy or snarkiness to the artists featured by Etsy in the QYDJ series. If they have been able to find themselves a career doing what they love, then I am all for it. This really was spurred by my own curiosity.

The basics...
- The sample size for this was 36 sellers, each of which were featured in the QYDJ series. I'm going to keep this vague when it comes to identifying individual sellers.
- The numbers I crunched are entirely based on what is currently available in their Etsy shops. We can't see the price of sold items or anything like that, so what I did was take a weighted average of all the items currently in their store. (If you're wondering what the hell a weighted average is, see footnote). I then multiplied this by the number of sales they have to come up with a gross income estimate.
- Based on the number of sales and the gross income estimate, I deducted the cost of listing each item ($0.20), the 3.5% Etsy fees from the sale prices, the Paypal transaction fees ($0.30), and the lowest Paypal merchant fee of 1.9% per transaction.
- To obtain an average monthly income, I figured out how many months the seller was on Etsy, and averaged their gross income by that number of months.

My assumptions (because there's absolutely no way I could find this stuff out)...
- I can only assume that each item had a listing price of $0.20. It's just not possible to take the cost of relisting into consideration here. As I said, I can only make observations based on the information readily available to me.
- The averages are based on the items in the shop on the day that I ran the numbers. It's definitely possible that the shop has increased or decreased their prices since opening.
- The income I'm noting is gross income. I can't make estimates of materials, taxes or other overhead the seller might have to account for.
- The monthly average gross income is based on the number of months since the seller joined Etsy. It's possible that they were a buyer only prior to opening shop.
- All income is based on USD. There were some sellers who were not US based.
- I do not take into consideration whether any of these sellers have a shop outside of Etsy. This is based entirely on Etsy sales.

Now for the fun stuff...

The lowest average selling price was $3.45, with the highest being $515.89. I should note that I'm pretty sure the high was an anomaly because their median selling price was $220 and that seemed more likely. (My statistics teacher would be proud of me for remembering that even with statistical outliers, consistency is a good thing!) The average selling price for this sample of shops was $52.45. I have heard a lot about handmade work being devalued and complaints that many prices on Etsy are just too low. This gives me comfort to know that higher priced goods really do sell!

As for how many sales these sellers have had? The range was 209 sales to 10,373, with the average being 2215 sales. To put this in perspective, I went ahead and looked up the top seller on Etsy, who has a whopping 42,600 sales. Now, that definitely sounds like a full time job, but they weren't interviewed for the Storque, so I digress.

The 36 sellers included in my study have an average of 26 months on Etsy and (this leads me to the part you probably wish I'd mentioned 3 paragraphs ago) - an average monthly gross income of $2,238.27 (after Etsy and Paypal fees). That doesn't sound too bad, until you realize that only 13 of the 36 included in this were even making over $2000/month and there were a couple of sellers who seriously skewed the numbers upward (2 in particular making upward of $7K a month and I give them a round of applause for having both an awesome product and a solid business). The most interesting thing for me was that one of the featured sellers had an average monthly income of only $155.38.

My conclusion...
It seems to me that if the mythbusters had something to say about whether it's possible to quit your day job and make a living on Etsy, it would be "plausible". My biggest concern is that from what I can tell, some of the sellers featured in the QYDJ series definitely couldn't quit their day jobs unless there is somebody else at home bringing home a decent sized income. For sure, once the cost of materials, taxes and other business overhead (marketing, business cards, shipping materials, etc) have been taken into consideration, their net income is likely to be less than $15,000 a year. I do realize I live in an incredibly expensive state (CA) but that would be considered low nationally. Without another income at home, the chances are many of these sellers may not be able to afford health insurance based on these numbers.

Perhaps it's not a question of whether someone can quit their day job and sell on Etsy full time, which I believe is definitely possible for some. It's more a question of those that Etsy is featuring and how many of them are legitimately able to support themselves on their Etsy earnings. Looking over the many Etsy sellers who have sales into the tens of thousands, there are obviously those that are "stop working for the man and be your own boss" successful; however, I think the QYDJ feature doesn't necessarily provide the best representation of sellers who are able to do so.

My footnote on "weighted averages"...
If a shop has 20 items for sale at $10, and one item at $50, a standard average would calculate as $30.
With a weighted average, it takes into consideration that most of the items are $10, therefore the weighted average is $11.90. This is far more representative of the average price.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

4 out of 5 isn't bad

For my last sock pattern (Rustled Up Socks), I was really excited to be collaborating with an indie yarn designer who dyed up some beautiful yarn for my project. I'm thrilled to be doing that again for the new spring sock pattern that I'm working on now. Perhaps I'm swayed by the So Cal weather, not that the recent rain is anything to go by, but I am definitely an ankle sock kind of girl...when I'm not wearing flip flops that is. So, this will be a cute lacy ankle sock when it's done and I'm happy to provide this little preview. I'm just using some yarn from my stash to knit up the prototype, so the final yarn will be a surprise! =)

The fun part of this being that one of the double pointed needles has walked off. It's interesting trying to write a pattern for a set of 5 DPNs when you only have 4 of them. I don't know if it had some kind of dispute with the other DPNs in the set and has decided to go sulk in a corner hidden out of view, but I wish it would return!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quit your day job?

Etsy has been running a "quit your day job" (QYDJ) feature in their blog for a while now, and I've been truly curious as to whether or not it's possible. Don't get me wrong, I love my day job and enjoy the people I work with, but at the same time I wonder if it would truly be possible to make sufficient income without "working for the man" (so to speak). After what I heard on the news yesterday about the California tax increases that sound like they're going to affect every aspect of my existence, I think my opinion of what you can live on in L.A. might be slightly skewed! However, thinking as a statistician on this one, I'll be keeping it real.

So, being the math and Excel nerd that I am, I've started compiling data from the Storque QYDJ features. This isn't meant to be a form of pointing fingers at those Etsy sellers that have been featured, more a statistical analysis of whether it's possible to live off an Etsy based income. My spreadsheet is a work in progress right now and I'm about half way done with the data input for each seller. I hope to have something good to present to you in a week or so!

The interesting thing is that it may have been 12 years or so since I've had to consider what a weighted average is and how to take an outlier into consideration (yes, I know, speak English right?) but it's amazing how quickly it all came back - kind of like riding a bike. It's true, I actually enjoy doing this stuff!!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I was tagged

I was reading this blog post from my friend Holly and mentioned that I hadn't been tagged. OK, big mistake because she immediately tagged me and now I must post 25 random things about myself. So, here we go. You're about to learn a bunch of strange things about me, whether you wanted to or not!

1) Seeing as she's the one that tagged me, she gets an honorable mention here. Holly and I used to work together and have been friends for about 7 years now. Her fiance and I worked in the same department and I got to witness their love blooming from inception. She is the person that introduced me to Etsy and if you haven't checked out her stuff, you should. We are also able to take photographs of ourselves with two separate cameras at the same time. We're incredibly talented like that.

2) My husband and I met freshman year of college because my roommates and I needed ride to a frat party. That evening, I walked into a screen door in front of him. We dated for 10 years before getting married, then planned our wedding in 10 days.

3) I have grade 8 certification in piano and ballet from the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Academy of Dance respectively back in the U.K. I studied both from the age of 6-18 before I moved to California.

4) The piano thing reminds me that I am double jointed in all my fingers. My hands are on the petite side but I have a span of 8.5" from tip of the thumb to tip of my pinky, which is longer than most of the guys I know.

5) Of all the strange things to inherit from my dad, he passed down the ability to read upside down and write backwards. There is very little practical use for this.

6) My current boss and I have the same alma mater. The other thing he and I have in common is that we both went to our first stadium concert in 1981. The difference being that I was 2 years old and he was 14.

7) I was a child model up until I was 13 when I got hips and boobs but stopped growing at 5'3". I don't think I've worn polka dots since this catalog cover was shot. Also, I'm now much more used to being on the other side of the camera.

8) Relating to the modeling thing, I was a dance extra in the U.K. commercial for milk with the song "Cool For Cats" by Squeeze. For that shoot, I had bright pink hot pants and matching tights.

9) Somewhere trapped in my head is a screenplay or novel just waiting to escape.

10) The older I get, the less interested I am in chicken.

11) The very first thing I learned to cook was scrambled eggs. I have perfected the art of making them super fluffy and light. I refuse to eat scrambled eggs in restaurants because they look weird and somewhat like egg bricks.

12) My husband and I make decisions by playing rock, paper, scissors. It has prevented a lot of disagreement in the past.

13) Buying our house was the most exhilarating, fulfilling, frustrating and terrifying thing I have ever been through. Adulthood is way harsh!

14) I think of fate as a "choose your own adventure" book. Life hands you choices along the way and the path you pick determines where you end up.

15) Both grandparents on my mom's side were Bhuddist.

16) Even though I was born in Singapore and my mom's side of the family is Asian, I don't speak a word of Cantonese. I somehow always know when they're talking about me though!

17) When I get my U.S. Citizenship, I will have been a citizen of three different countries on three different continents.

18) I'm pretty sure my parents' house in England is haunted. None of the ghosties are scary, but I did sleep with a tennis racket by my bed when I was a kid (not that it would have done me much good!)

19) Being on "Don't Forget The Lyrics" would be awesome. I've always had a talent for remembering lyrics but I wonder if I'd forget them all if under pressure.

20) When my father in law got re-married some years back, I got up with the band and serenaded them with "Just The Way You Are" (Billy Joel) during the reception. It brought him to tears.

21) My belly button is totally off limits. When someone touches my belly button, it sets off my gag reflex.

22) I've always been really good at finding things on the ground. When I was a toddler, I was with my parents at an airport gate waiting for a flight. I was playing with something in a small bag. My parents wanted to know what I was playing with. Turns out it was over $1000 cash from somebody cashing their paycheck. I don't find much money on the floor anymore though.

23) Also when I was a toddler, I had a habit of storing food in my mouth for later. Apparently my favorite thing to store was pieces of banana. It sounds really weird now but I think I might have been a chipmunk in a former life.

24) I think baby food is gross. I had to try it once at a baby shower and swore that I will never feed it to my kids when I have them. If I won't eat it, why would I make them eat it?

25) I sound completely Californian and people are always asking where my British accent went. I tell them that it got lost somewhere in baggage claim (just kidding).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Into phase 2

Well, the good news is that our bathroom is basically done! They have a small flooring issue to figure out (has to do with a strange soft spot that has become apparent) but it's usable and that's the most exciting thing to me right now.

A couple of days ago, the demolition of the second/guest bathroom began. That's the bathroom that started the need to remodel anyway. When we first viewed the house, the shower door in that room was crooked. Think thick aluminum frame with "rain" frosted glass and a shower base that always looked a little dirty because there were little dark flecks in the design. The floor was also a light brown vinyl that didn't really match anything. Even better was the scary original vinyl flooring underneath that when they pulled it up. My favorite part of the room though was the position of the shower head. I'm 5'3" and it was low for me. My dad is 6'5" and when my parents were visiting, he somehow showered in there. I do not know how, but he must have had a very clean belly button! The good news is that it's now been raised about 18" up from where it was...which is good for non-tiny people.

I'll be taking completely finished pictures soon, once everything is done, sealed, dry and I can get in there with a wide angle lens (been using our point and shoot so far).

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winter Wonderland

When I was a kid back in England, I always loved it when it snowed. We had a little sled that my brother and I would use, and the snowman thing was always fun too. I remember my dad dumping a 3ft icicle in my bathtub once when I was really small - something I'm glad has only ever happened to me once.

I haven't seen snow at my parents house for a long time and have never seen anything like this before. They're in the south of England (about 30 minutes out of London) and my dad just sent me these pictures of what the house looks like right now. Naturally, I had to share! My mom said it's fun except they're not prepared for this kind of snow down there so there's no slow plows or anything like that and they're essentially trapped in the house given the depth of the snow on the street. She also said she couldn't put the cat down because she would disappear!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

More treasury fun!

I found out I'm in another treasury. It's my second one this year and the first time this ACEO has been included, so feeling quite honored. The other work I'm featured with on this one is stunning.