Holiday Gift Guide for Artists: Top 10 Gifts For Crafters this Christmas (2019)

A gift guide for people who have no idea how to buy art supplies — what do they even want anyway? 

Because gifts aren’t about what they need, it’s about what will light up their face and make them feel special — like it was picked just for them!

In this guide I’ve included the following, so you can find what that person is looking for with ease!

  • Who the gift is best suited for
  • The gifts’ suggested uses
  • A simple price-point guide [$-$$$]

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

For the avid illustrator:

KOBWA Professional 100% Log Anti-breaking Pen Charcoal Sketch Set is an excellent holiday gift for illustrators, students, and artists alike!
KOBWA Professional 100% Log Anti-breaking Pen Charcoal Sketch Set: Portable Multifunction 18 Pieces

Important for anyone who draws anything, keeping your tools safe is a must! Too many of my favourite pencils have been lost, stolen, snapped and broken — but ever since I got a “roll” for my pencils, it’s been great!

This set covers all the bases; including 18 sketch pencils, 3 charcoal pencils, 3 paper erasable pens, 1 pencil extender, 1 craft knife, 1 eraser & 1 rubber moldable eraser. With 18 sketch pencils ranging from 8B-2H, as well as the 3 charcoal pencils (Soft, Neutral, Hard) — this set of pencils has you covered, not needing to worry about what any of those numbers mean. [$]

The Togood 60 Sketch Twin Markers with Dual Tips (Broad/Fine) Professional Alcohol Marker Set is a great gift for calligraphy and manga artists this Christmas!
Togood 60 Sketch Twin Markers with Dual Tips (Broad/Fine) Professional Alcohol Marker Set

This impressive pack of markers is great for animation students, paper crafters (like scrapbooking and journalling), and professional artists alike. This gift will also be sure to make a large impression! These double-ended markers are ideal for character design, comic book drawing, fashion design, and for student and general use. [$$$]

There’s also a smaller 36-pack available if you were going for something more… subtle. [$$]

Prismacolor is where it’s at!

Every artist goes ga-ga when they see or hear “PRISMACOLOR”, and that’s because they’re worth that much attention. Prismacolor pencils are what I have used for years… But now they have these?! The Prismacolor Art Sticks pique my interest in particular because of how much time they would save me when I have to colour-in huge areas.

Art sticks have the quality of Prismacolor’s regular pencils — much like pastels, they work best on large areas, as foundations for layering, or quick turnaround projects. Because of their soft core, they can be used for superior blending and shading, endlessly.

As a pack of 48, this one is a steal! [$$]

For the portable painter:

Watercolor Brush Pen by Ohuhu are excellent for painting with water on the go and could be the perfect gift for the creative person in your life this holiday season.
Watercolor Brush Pens, Ohuhu 20 Colors Water Color Painting Markers With Water Coloring Brush

This gorgeous set of 20 watercolour brush pens is odourless, non-toxic, and washable! This set is great for adult colouring books, doodling in a journal, manga & comic illustration, and even calligraphy! [$]

I would recommend these for artists with only a limited workspace or for those who want a portable painting experience. 

Be sure to grab the right paper to go with it. If it’s a gift, you might as well make it beautiful. I personally love these watercolour paper Art Journals the most in the world (not exaggerating)! [$$]

Presents are made for the pleasure of who gives them, not the merits of who receives them.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

An adjustable aluminum painting easel is a staple for any painter, especially this one which is suitable for table-tops and floor display, making this perfect for travelling artists. The telescopic legs can be adjusted from 25 to 73 inches! Each leg can be adjusted individually to provide an even surface, even on uneven terrain. [$$]

A collection of brushes that offer a variety of sizes to choose from both Flat and Round. Whether you’re applying minor details or large strokes, our brushes are versatile enough to handle any task. Making these a perfect gift for painters this holiday season!
A lovely customer photo By Zoddo of Artify 38 Pcs Paint Brushes Art Set

This collection of brushes offer a variety of sizes to choose from both Flat and Round. Whether you’re applying minor details or large strokes, these brushes are versatile enough to handle any task. I haven’t used them personally (yet), but the reviews are very encouraging!

They come in a canvas wrap; you roll them out and you’re good to go! The wrap makes them easy to store in a bag or backpack, while also providing essential protection from unwanted damage. This design makes it ideal for students commuting to and from school, and hobbyists who regularly travel. [$$]

For the diligent designer:

Made from Hardened acrylic material, with ultra-thin design, and wear-resisting materials, it feels like a glass panel without chipping or cracking.
A4 Ultra-Thin LED Art Stencil Board Light Pad Tracing Drawing Pad Board Light Box for Artists, Drawing, Sketching, and Animation

This A4-size portable light box totally changes the game for stencilling, calligraphy, comics & animation, and design! You can now get these crazy things, light-pads for drawing anywhere you have a USB connection: using only 5 V, these babies can be run off of only a power bank! [$$]

A fresh Moleskin Art Pad is the accessory for any designer. Something simple and practical, yet beautiful. Even KonMari couldn’t turn this down. [$]

For the crazy crafter:

Ever art for “365 Days of Creativity” by Lorna Scobie

365 Days of Creativity is a thoughtful and inspiring book designed to help you carve out moments of self-expression and unlock your creative potential. Award-winning illustrator Lorna Scobie shows you that art does not have to be scary — it can be done with any materials, in any colour, in any style and, most importantly, it can be done anywhere! With themes that look at imagination, nature, memory, and pattern, this book is designed to encourage you to think outside the box and spark the artist within. Featuring a creative thought for every week, goal-setting, and mood-based activities, as well as plenty of supportive prompts and tips, this fun and inspiring book will make a perfect gift and keepsake as well as being a powerful tool for positive change. [$]

Item description of “365 Days of Creativity

For the babe busting their butt and rubbing elbows in the art scene, this ArtBin Express Tote is the best way to wheel around valuable creations, bulky displays, and hard-earned-dough from show — to show — to show… The priciest on my list, but still has huge savings and is a sure-fire way to become their “total life-saver”! [$$$$]

ArtBin is a great brand that I swear by and would honestly love one of these for myself… Like, really bad. To fan-boy a bit, this thing packs:

26 individual loops on inside cover for markers, brushes, etc, and large back pocket holds up to 12-Inch by 12-Inch books, papers, and projects! Perfect for your professional artist on the go, workshop leaders, and portaging your scrapbook club materials.
  • 26 individual loops on inside cover for markers, brushes, etc.
  • A large back pocket that holds up to 12-inch by 12-inch books, papers, and projects
  • A shoulder strap with shoulder pad to easily transport the top unit that is detachable
  • Double reinforced side handles for secure lifting
  • and sturdy double skate wheels!
3D Pen, Duoles 3D Doodler Drawing Printing Pen, Christmas Gifts/ Present and Toys for Boys & Girls - Modern Arts and Crafts Tool. CREATE IN 3D - Duoles 3D printing pen extrudes heated plastic which instantly hardens, allowing you to literally draw in 3 Dimensions, freehand or on paper.
This 3D Pen, Duoles 3D Doodler Drawing Printing Pen is perfect for wild imaginations!

3D drawing pens were a hot gift last year — and they still are! For kids and adults, it’s easy for a crafty mind to get their hands on this and make something it was very much not intended for… Give the gift of crafting in a new dimension!

Duoles claims their pen is light, slim, and easier to handle. It boots up in just 30 seconds to get you creating quickly. You can easily control extrusion speed for smoother operation and endless creation. The best part is it will auto-off if not used in over 5 minutes, making it safer than a hot glue gun! [$$]

That’s my Artist Gift Guide for 2019!

I’m always curious as to what you are curious about!

You can find me active on Facebook and Instagram as well as posting more blog content on my personal Patreon page. Reach out to me; I respond to all comments and questions!

Until next time,

-Joey @ The A/J

A Minimalist Tidying Up With Mari Kondo

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

Despite reading similar or related information from many other sources, reading the life-changing magic of tidying up first hand was a whole new experience. 

The night before this project began, I had cracked open the life-changing magic of tidying up by Mari Kondo. 

After reading the first 55 pages that Friday night — like all the cool kids do — I knew I had to start then and there.

That, and I had gotten an email indicating the book was due back to the library on the Tuesday and I couldn’t renew it…

I decided to embark on the challenge: to apply the KonMari method of tidying to my entire space in a single weekend.

If you’re not familiar with the KonMari method, it is the Japanese style of tidying up. The idea is to tidy everything in your home, in totality, and your mess will never relapse. It’s become more widely read thanks to the popular Netflix show, Tidying Up With Mari Kondo.

Starting off as someone who already considered themselves a minimalist, I wasn’t sure there was much for me to take away from this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else already. Everyone in the community references Kondo and I figured I knew it all by proxy.

I have been down-sizing since 2015 and I was at first apprehensive about whether this idea was a good one. Was this project even worth my time?

Does the KonMari method actually work? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash
Does the KonMari method actually work? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

I was open to learning more about the lifestyle I had adopted, but I didn’t think there was anything left for me to get rid of… I was very much wrong.

Clothes are always first in the KonMari method, and the most fun in the tidying process.

30-day minimalist wardrobe challenges are the most popular minimalist content in mainstream media (other than this book). As fun as those are, they’re ineffective and contrary to the KonMari method.

I spend much of my time taking care of my house, entertaining friends weekly, and host clubs and workshops out of my home. After establishing this vision, I awoke that Saturday morning feeling far more excited than I anticipated.

My first goal was to fit all my off-season wardrobe into a single carry-on bag to free up my closet space to create more breathing room in my closets. I was sick of struggling to find properly-fitting linens and hanging guests’ coats on the armchair because the closet is overflowing with the households’ Canadian winter gear. My hats, scarves, flip-flops, swim trunks… Everything scattering amongst 2 closets, as well as a full-size suitcase and 2 carry-on bags. My partner seemed unconvinced when I first revealed my plan, but they were then bewildered when I met my first goal.

Transform your home in only one weekend using this method!
Learn the top tips I used to transform my home in a single weekend!

My second goal was to fit my entire wardrobe (underwear, socks, hats — everything) onto a rolling clothing rack. I’ve had this goal for more than 3 years.

During my first big clothing-cull in 2016 I got rid of over 6 113L [24 Gal.] garbage bags of clothes. In 2017 I let go of about three more. Each time, this task took me over 2 days and I never accomplished my goal to only have one clothing rack of items to choose from every day.

This year, following the KonMari method outlined in her book, I still filled an entire 113L [24 Gal.] garbage bag — I had clothes I loved that were three sizes too big for me, and a size I never wanted to be again! The amount of baggage that went with those clothes lifted a weight I didn’t know was there, thanks to following this book.

This time around, it only took me 5 hours to fully sort my entire wardrobe and I finally met my first minimalist goal ever!

Saturday night, I went through my books. 

The next day I didn’t get to start working on my KonMari project until about 3pm, which was a huge set back. How could I finish the rest of my project in only 7 hours?!

On top of that, I still had the most difficult categories left to organize: papers, komono, and sentimental items. Kondo defines komono as miscellaneous items Pg 106.

As someone who takes great pride in their home — especially my office-space — I gazed bewildered by my desk overflowing with papers. I watched as they spilled onto the floor in a comical fashion.

Papers spilling off my desk, onto the floor in a comical fashion.

My desk with all of my papers, before sorting (and my dog). I would of been too embarrassed if anyone knew how many more filing systems I thought I needed for all this meaningless “stuff”.

Where I determined to keep my papers.

It took all day Sunday to go through my papers. I ended up with another garbage bag in the hall, 4 vacant storage devices, and a half-dozen empty folders. I now finally have 3 portfolios filled with work I’m proud of rather than a pile of binders and folders of sketches and prints I “have to go through one day”.

My desk with all of my papers, after sorting. 4 full portfolios and an empty filing box sit under my desk (until sorting them away).

Despite my many successes and visual results with this project I’m disappointed I didn’t finish in the time-line I set, even if I felt I had completed it.

I asked ,“Does this spark joy?”, throughout the entirety of cleaning out my late-grandmother’s house in spring 2017. This question helped me only keep valuable essentials I would use throughout my life. It turned a burden into a process of closure and acceptance. The things I ended up keeping out of guilt left shortly after they arrived.

A minimalist in 1 weekend Pinterest card
Click to see more pins like this one!

After going through all my miscellaneous items in summer 2018, we ended up moving only about a third of our belongings to our new home.

I’m sure Kondo would think going through the same process again with the same items would be redundant — especially timeless, important things after already deciding they “spark joy”. I will consider it for the future, but I’m more than satisfied with the single Rubbermaid tote of photo albums, scrapbooks, and other komono that still bring me joy as I flip through them. I’m curious, do you think this counts? 

Click to follow me on Pinterest!

10 Key things I took away from the life-changing magic of tidying up by Mari Kondo:

  1. We should be choosing what we wish to keep, not what we want to be rid of. Pg 41
  2. Vertical storage is key; stacking is a spell for clutter . Kondo mentions this throughout the book (folding shirts, storing papers, etc.)
  3. Do not over-categorize as this complicates things and results in keeping more than you need. Simplicity is key. Pg 84
  4. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. Pg 95
  5. Presents are not things, but convey someone’s feelings at the time the gift was given. If you don’t use or enjoy what they picked out for you, the gift-giver wouldn’t want to burden you with it and it has served its’ purpose (of being received and conveying one’s feelings).
  6. Have a defined location for everything you own. I’m already a master at this, but it’s information you must know!
  7. Pursue ultimate simplicity in storage and do not scatter storage spaces. I was guilty of this one, but it was an easy fix.
  8. Don’t underestimate the “noise” of written information, especially in your native language. It can feel like some is whispering cleaning instructions to you whenever you open a closet.
  9. Letting go is more important that adding healthy habits. Letting go, in itself, is a healthy habit of its’ own.
  10. At last, thank your belongings. They support you in some way, sometimes the entire day. Practicing gratitude for your possessions will help reinforce what is important to you. You might also see what is unessential to you.

Overjoyed Sunday evening, I was rid of the two dozen sketchbooks I had been standing knee-deep in. I was taken aback at my car trunk full of baggage I didn’t know I had.

The most important thing to me was shaking off my minimalist Imposter syndrome. I did what I set out to do in only a single weekend, accomplished many of my personal goals, and am eager to see the ongoing impact of tidying up. I’ve also just finished reading through and practicing Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, another fantastic book I plan on covering soon.

Finding Minimalism in one weekend
Transform your space into a peaceful place in only 2 days!

If you’re interested in how I manage my artwork archives or even my wardrobe, let me know. I’m always curious about what you’re curious about!

Whether you’re new to minimalism or you think it’s a dumb trend, let me know that as well! I’m always open to interesting dialogue from different backgrounds. You can find me active on Facebook and posting more blog content on my personal Patreon page, I respond to all comments and questions!

Until next time,

-Joey @ The A/J

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joey Dean, painter & Designer
About Joey.

How To Find Your Niche

Why You Need The Right Niche Pinterest Title Card
Finding a niche is easier said than done. I’m going to give you some tips on where to look for your niche interests and talents, as well as some journalling (or deep thinking) prompts to help you get in the right mindsetFinding a niche is easier said than done. I’m going to give you some tips on where to look for your niche interests and talents, as well as some journalling (or deep thinking) prompts to help you get in the right mindset. @ The Artist Journal (DOT) CA

Starting out — whether you’re an artist, writer, or any creator — having the right niche is the most important thing to think about. Once you find your niche everything will begin to fall into place and you’ll have a reference point for consistent decision making for your art business.

Picking a niche is no small task. If you pick the wrong one, no matter how hard you work in the future it isn’t likely you’ll be successful.

Finding a niche is easier said than done. I’m going to give you some tips on where to look for your niche interests and talents, as well as some journalling (or deep thinking) prompts to help you get in the right mindset.

Choosing the wrong niche in the beginning can kill your project before you even start.

The easiest place to start looking is your social media accounts.

  • Look at your mutuals and favourites on social media; they can often help narrow down your field of expertise.
  • Look at who is commenting on your stuff; they’re your quality, engaged audience you want to keep around.
  • Create similar, but interesting content to get people to scroll, click through, or read longer.
  • Look at social media selling platforms (like facebook marketplace, fivver, and kijiji) to start looking for what other people are looking for if you can’t define your own work.
Easy Ways To Find Your Niche Pinterest Title Card

Look especially at your mutuals, most popular posts, favourite brands/artists, and general popularity of what you have done in the past. This can help narrow down your interests and even your style if that’s something you’re struggling with.

Don’t forget about your comments sections! Every platform has a place for people to leave comments. Read every one and actually listen to them. Try to respond to them all in quality. These are your most engaged audience and they’re actively looking at your stuff and want to support you!

Where is the need for you?

What do people come to you for? What do they need your advice on? This indicates what people think you’re knowledgable in; odds are you’ve given them helpful advice in the past and you may actually know what you’re talking about.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

What do you offer that every other artist can’t?

This could be something as simple as your style, something that makes you memorable, or something that helps people: combining these would be ideal.

Look at your favourite reading materials and genres of writing and dig deeper into your interests:

  • If all you read are life-hacks on Pinterest, odds are you have an interest in creative problem solving and enrichment.
  • If you scroll through facebook fuming about the fake news, then maybe you’re passionate about social commentary.

The beauty of the Internet is there’s a niche market for everything, and if you can focus on it, you can build a sustainable and viable business of it.

Michelle Phan, pioneering Beauty YouTuber and Makeup Entrepreneur

Answer the Three W’s

Who are you?

What are you trying to accomplish?

Why do you want this?

If you can’t answer these questions, you’ll need to put some more effort into finding what people need that you can offer. Remember, who is paying you is who comes first. Think of how you can best help or satisfy those people that support you most without losing your integrity.

Start-Making-Life-Work-for-You Title Card
Read more at The Artist Journal .CA

I hope all of this was enough to set you on the right path to finding your specialty. Confused about what I wanted for so long, I had never found my specialty.

I didn’t figure out my niche and my work suffered for it, for much longer than I would like to admit. I didn’t think I needed one and it was leading to a string of disappointing work.

If you can relate, go read about my creative journey and how I got here. I talk about where I’m coming from and why I’m here for you. I also want to hear how opening your Etsy shop has been going in the comments!

Until next time,

Artist Journal Initials circle logo
The Artist Journal initials blog logo

-Joey @ The A/J

My Creative Journey: Why I’m Here For You

In the beginning…

I was a stable and reliable worker my entire educational career. I went to school full time, volunteered 15 hours per week on campus, and had two separate tutoring gigs going while never missing an appointment.

These days, it can take all my effort to be on time for a single meeting with a client and I’m sure you can relate to this.

My art career started when I was a college drop-out and totally unemployed for almost 7 weeks. I had spent the previous 8 months jumping from job-to-job. Whether it be seasonal work for months or my single day working at a call centre (which is a whole other story), nothing was working.

I couldn’t believe I was an unemployed college drop-out struggling to pay my bills every month.

Why can’t I commit to my work? How do I learn to love what I do? Do these questions sound familiar to you?

I didn’t seem to be the only one with this problem. When I first began looking at self-employment in 2016, my generation had the highest unemployment rate in recent history (at a whopping 53%).

The real cause was what I was working on. I realized there wasn’t a way to change how to think and feel about work fast enough to start paying my bills for the long-term.

Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

The first step I took was to change my work, not my attitude.

Repeating my mistakes was the problem. Mistakes I didn’t know I was making. I wasn’t playing to my strengths. Rather, I was fighting to overcome my weaknesses every day because “that’s just how it is”.

I began to shift the scope of my job searches and limiting the side hustles I was investing my time in.

Confused about what I wanted for so long, I had never had a focus. I never figured out how to apply my strengths to my work. That’s why I kept disappointing myself and decided it needed to stop.

I’m here for you.

Helping empower other creators is my passion. 

I focus on helping people find their passion and the courage to support their passion by providing quality and accessible tools, information, and resources.

I work to dispel common myths of our generation, like laziness and lack of initiative. I want to prove the new generations have more to offer than we get credit for. I’m here to make your life start working for you.

I write for single-person operations and online stores or anyone looking to start selling their goods and services. If you’re of another nature, please let me know in the comments your job title/why you’re here!

Welcome to The Artist Journal,

-Joey @ The A/J

The Artist Journal blog circle text logo
Logo for The Artist Journal.

Why You Need A Workflow Right Now: Make More Time To Create!

Save yourself stress and money by following the right work map

What is a workflow?

The best way for me to describe a workflow, work map as you may have heard before, would be: it’s a checklist of everything you do. To elaborate, a workflow is the order of steps your work passes through from start to finish. It’s the method you set up for getting your stuff done.

You probably already have workflows you follow in your life. Your morning/night time routines, the recipes you know off by heart, and how you shop at the supermarket are all routine things we do all the time, without even thinking about the plan.

Why you need to develop a workflow

Simply put, when everything is laid out in front of you, you can’t miss anything. You don’t need to waste time thinking about the next step, saving you a lot of time and energy in the long-run. 

I have established workflows for my professional life I tweak every so often. In a business setting, it allows others to complete a task in the same way at the same quality because everything they need to know is laid out in a specific order.

Text "Save yourself time so you can create more; creating more in less time using workflows" and a picture of a person on a tablet, standing in a studio/office.
Creating more in less time using workflows.

How to create a workflow

You need to start by sitting down and visualizing the task at hand. Think carefully through each step you take in your process and write all of it down. You especially want to include steps your usually forget or cut around.

I wanted to show you one of my processes as an example, hopefully as a blueprint to help you along.

What my shipping process looks like:

Text "Why you need workflows for your business to save you time and stress" and a birds-eye view of someone writing at a wooden desk
Why you need workflows for your business to save you time and stress.
  • Review order in Etsy app and put aside stock.
  • Pin buttons and enamel pins to backing/business cards. I do this because A. It looks nice, and B. it keeps the pins from clumping together in the envelope, which makes shipping more difficult and expensive. I combined my backing cards and business cards to reduce waste in my packaging and to cut printing costs.
  • Pull out shipping supplies. All I have for my packages is paper envelopes, custom (paper) return labels, and promotional materials I already have made for live events. I have tissue paper and twine for gift wrapping. I used to use hot pink bubble mailers, but since Canada stopped recycling opaque plastics I switched to paper manilla envelopes and decorate them with washi tape.
  • Stuff orders; I always add a thank you note to my orders as well as a sticker (if I have extras on hand). Don’t try to make it too complicated. With a bit of washi tape you can easily individualize boring envelopes while keeping it eco-friendly.
  • Write out addresses on labels, not envelopes. It’s so much easier for me to write out address labels rather than the envelopes themselves because I often have shaky hands. The higher contrast also makes it much easier for the postal service to read and you don’t have to recycle the entire envelope if you make a mistake! You could print them as well, but unless you’re shipping out three dozen orders at a time it wouldn’t be worth the hassle. I also consider the cost of ink and power for something I can easily write by hand.
  • Apply address labels before closing the envelopes. I always double check my package contents before sealing them; I would sometimes mix up orders with the same contents, so I had to stop writing names in my letters. I also discontinued using names because many of my customers haven’t given me their preferred name. I would take this into consideration if you’re appealing to an LGBTQ+ market.
  • Fill out customs forms and save them to Notes app. If you can’t do this you can print them, but again I consider the resources for something that takes me 30 seconds on my phone.
  • Deliver packages to post office and mark complete in Etsy app. I mark my orders as sent before even leaving the post office parking lot. You don’t want overdue packages in your shop manager; they reflect poorly on your shop’s overall standing.
  • Follow up on your orders! Use those comments, reviews, and photos (with permission) to your social media. You want people to know that you’re great at what you do and this is factual proof!

I have been using Etsy as the marketplace to sell my handcrafted goods and artwork since October 2016. In the beginning, I was running everything from my phone and this was actually helping me make more money! The Etsy app is the perfect example of a workflow as it takes you through the process of posting a new listing.

Read more about running and Etsy shop and how I increased my shop performance!

Hands with a watch and manicure, holding a phone. Text reading “improve your etsy sales from your phone”. The artist journal .ca
How to run an Etsy shop with only your smart phone.

Creating workflows drastically reduced my administrative work time and further freed me from my desk. I know adapting this workflow will benefit your small business practice and make you feel like the badass boss you are! 

I would love to hear how you’re applying what you’ve learned, or if you have tips to share about your workshop practices. Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram!

Text "Save yourself time so you can create more; creating more in less time using workflows" and a picture of a person on a tablet, standing in a studio/office.
Save yourself time so you can create more!

-Joey @ The A/J

How I Opened My Online Store and (Accidentally) Started A Brand!

"How I opened my own online store and started a brand" Crafting desk with a cutting board, scissors and rulers.
How I Opened My Own Online Store And Started A Brand

Before writing more great advice about creating content, I wanted to give you a run-down of my background, what I make, and how I got started. I’ve been really excited to share this story, as I feel it’s a great learning experience to share with other creators, whether you’re just starting out, or stuck in a career-rut.

Toadstool Illustrates is the online apparel and print shop I run. I use it to facilitate creative conversation around LGBTQ+ and its’ expression. Toadstool has evolved with me as an artist, being the brand’s third iteration it has become exactly what I set out to do when I first officially opened up shop in October 2016.

But back when I started, that wasn’t my plan or even my intention. I actually had no idea of what I wanted other than “I want to make stuff and make an impact”. In the beginning I mistook that for something else…

How I got started.

The patches all started in 2015.

I was in college for Environmental Technology and found there weren’t any active environmentalists or other activists among my peers. I additionally found that even working for the government I couldn’t make in impact. It was extremely disheartening.

While in college I worked for a summer at a popular craft store, and was doing a lot of sewing and clothing alterations. I had piles of scraps piling up because I just couldn’t bear to throw it all in the trash. 

Weeks go by and I’m still wondering what to do with all of these scraps. They appeared to be nothing but a pile of shredded denim and bleached t-shirt arms. I decided I would cut them into squares, as large as I could, and noticed they were all coming out at similar sizes. I still couldn’t figure out a use for them.

Table covered in scattered bobbins of thread, yarn, and other sewing supplies in a green cutting board.
Photo by Vladimir Proskurovskiy on Unsplash

I am suddenly struck with these questions: can I make an impact by spreading messages? Can messages spread via the things you wear? Of course, that’s what brand logos and tattoos are for, but wouldn’t it be better if you could spread multiple messages at the same time? This and many similar thoughts led me to do some brainstorming.

After doing a little research, I decided hand-made punk patches were the perfect way to start. Even better, this idea allowed me to recycle over 90% of my scrap fabric that was piling up around my workspace! My patches are now all hand-painted on recycled scrap fabric.

I’m inspired by LGBTQ+ issues, and Transgender rights specifically, as well as other humanitarian ideals and sex-positive humour. I try not to take myself too seriously when it come to my patches and pins; they’re meant to be conscientious, but still fun.

"How I Got Started Selling My Art Online" and hands typing on a keyboard
How I Got Started Selling My Art Online And Established A Brand

About my pins.

I started collecting pins and buttons when I was a child. It was the early 2000’s, but my bags and lanyards were totally decked out like it was 1988. 

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m making my own buttons.

After the success of my patches in mid-2016, I was able to invest in new merchandise: buttons! I was so excited to take this next big step into new territory. 

I found the ideas and motivations behind my patches — that were too colourful and complex for fabric painting — easily translated into these tiny buttons. In the beginning I couldn’t afford a press and had to outsource production to other local makers.

After about 2 years I was finally able to buy my own button press!

Since then, I have been having fun helping other artists and creative businesses with custom button pressing and design services.

I include the first 20 buttons in the base fee to do my best to help out; I know starting off can be tough and buttons are great way to dabble into new merchandise.

Text "DO MORE" on an iMac screen on top of a minimalist office desk.
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

I personally started with handing mine out for free at in-person events, which I feel really helped my online performance. I began working small craft fairs and art shows with them in about April 2017. By October people remembered me and were coming back to buy again!

Artists use them to experiment with turning their art into a physical medium. I’ve been told they’re also great when you want to expand your price range as a seller. 

My latest and biggest project so far would be my Sword & Shield Enamel pin set.

My LGBTQ enamel pin set was in the works for over a year. I still remember thinking — over 2 years ago at my first Hamilton Pride festival — about how I wanted to contribute to my community and how I didn’t think I could.

I definitely didn’t know at the time it would be with my designs. Giving people a unique way of showing their transgender identity was not the initial intention, but with a more neutral-masculine design and colour pallet my pin was a stark contrast to most of the other all-black geometric designs flooding the search results.

My main concern was that I love our flags’ colours, but didn’t feel comfortable being decked out in pastel garb (and got the consensus that other trans-masculine folx out there felt the same way). That’s what inspired me to begin sketching.

These enamel pins were meant to help bridge the gap between the Transgender pride flag colours and the use of original neutral/masculine design.


So, that’s my Etsy shop story.

"How I opened my own online store and started a brand" Crafting desk with a cutting board, scissors and rulers.
How I Opened My Own Online Store And Started A Brand

Don’t leave thinking this entire article a big flex. It’s not, it’s for you to know I speak from years of real experience and about a metric tonne of books. I will be creating a 2020 reading list to help you get in a more creative and productive mindset to start your year off right. Let me know if that’s something you would look forward to, or any book recommendations you may have for me!

Until then, I hope you read through my last article where I talk about How To Use Your Doubts and Fears To Build And Motivate Your Business Part 2. If you missed Part 1 of that series, it’s important you go there first!

Coffee mug reading "hustle" sitting on a desk with an iPad and Apple Pencil.
How to use your doubts and fears to build and motivate your business.

If you want to read some Etsy Shop tips I’ve gained through my experience go read How To Run Your Etsy Shop From Only Your iPhone And Increase Your Sales! Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram.

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Joey @ The A/J

Build Your Business By Asking The Right Questions: 2 of 2 articles

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How to use your doubts and fears to build and motivate your business.

In my previous post: How To Use Your Doubts And Fears To Build Your Business, I brought up something that makes us all a little uncomfortable: our biggest doubts and fears.

More specifically, insecurities that have you stuck in your situation, or are hurting your ability to set effective goals for yourself.

I covered how improving your mindset will improve your productivity;

How to build the confidence to believe in your business, and the questions you need to ask to get better at what you do.

I introduced the idea that quality thought creates quality work.

Pretty deep stuff, but it’s just another way of saying that your thoughts combined with a healthy growth mindset can shape and improve your output.

Last time we also began to address our jealousy and insecurities. If you made the time for some deep thought on the topic, I’m glad you’re back. If not, you can still follow along!

Coffee mug reading "hustle" sitting on a desk with an iPad and Apple Pencil.
Build your confidence as a new entrepreneur by asking all the right questions.

Now thinking back on it (or if you’re anything like me you wrote it down and you’re looking at it right now), what were you thinking about?

What stood out to you the most, or what struck a chord for you? Use these to get back into a deep thinking state. I highly suggest recording your thinking process to refer to as your company grows.

In other words, what pissed you off the most? If the jealous feelings you were having before are more complex, odds are they’re not vain, and valid. The causes or solutions just might be too hard to see at first glance.

It must be 2005, because you may now pull out your burn book. You’re going to write why you hate that witch so much. Everything, don’t hold back.

Now that you’re left with some unbiased observations of your insecurities, you can now use this new information for good!

You’ve boiled this list down to the point where you can now clearly see your doubts and fears laid in-front of you. It’s daunting.

If you’re not a chaotic personality like me, I’m sure this can even be a bit scary. Our primitive monkey brains are programmed to do the easiest thing every time. To avoid confrontation and change, but that gets you nowhere really fast.

Using your simplified list of descriptive words, expand upon those words and state the real problem. Then you can create constructive solutions on how to tackle your problem.

An example would be if you’re jealous of how someone is better at you than something, you’re probably just not confident in your ability. A constructive alternative though would be that your skills maybe aren’t up to snuff. A constructive solution would be to enrol in a class or workshop to improve your abilities and confidence in what you’re doing.

For instance, when I’m having trouble getting started on a painting, I watch someone else paint for a while because it inspires elements of new ideas for me. If I’m feeling bad about my drawing abilities, I’ll visit the @IARTHAMONT private studio for Monday night life-drawing and get more practice in.

Reinforcing your knowledge can be the confidence-builder you need to keep moving forward, whether in your career or life or personal life.

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

I’ve done many revisions of my list and so you will need as well, as nothing in life is static. Skills grow while not being measured, there’s a human need for gradual change, and our values and emotions evolve with age.

This entire exercise was a big one in helping me start out when I decided to “make things work for me“ almost 4 years ago. It clearly helped.

You’re never too young to plan, or too old to dream.

But more specifically, this kind of thinking helped me first start to envision where I wanted to go in life and what I needed out of it, at 20 years old. I only mention my age because you’re never too young to plan, or too old to dream.

The points I listed in my own exercise also led me to look toward more positive role models in what I refer to broadly as my field in “content creation”. Whenever I have self-doubt or feel like my work is going nowhere I will put on one of their videos/podcasts/songs and remember why I started “making things work for me” in the first place.

You may not think spending the time with your thoughts helpful, but I hope after this two part series I have convinced you otherwise. What I call, deep thought or deep thinking, is such a useful tool that we should be making more time for and I will be mentioning continually going forward.

I think you can do it. If you apply what you’ve read today, you #canhaveitall just like every social media influencer you admire, youtuber you respect, or even another artist you envy.

Having your cake and eating it too may sound too good to be true, but I’ve been eating my cake for over a year. And that’s why I believe in you, because I’m doing it to!

Out of fear of not sounding gimmicky enough, just do it! 

Joey @ The A/J

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How To Use Your Doubts and Fears To Build and Motivate Your Business: 1 of 2 articles

Have you ever wanted to start over? Hit the reset button on your life? Quit what you’re doing and go for your dream?

Build and Motivate Your Business by Asking the Right Questions

I must admit, it can be a huge privilege to do so. My true obligations are to keep my home running like a well-oiled machine, care for family, and to upkeep a part-time income. But that being said, I’m still keeping up a regular income with my business.

Or you might even be in the situation where — as most people I know — you have a stable job that you don’t have an intention on leaving. You’re satisfied with where you’re at right now, even content. But, haven’t you had the urge to do more?

What if there was something you’ve always wanted to dabble with, or even profit from? And what’s the harm in making an enjoyable part-time income on top of a job you already enjoy?

A huge part is of getting comfortable with your fears is mindset.

  • “I don’t have enough.”
  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “That’s not for me.”
  • “I’m no good at that!”

These are not what productive and successful creative minds think. These are limiting doubts, and we don’t have time for these!

A hand writing in a square-ruled notebook with a black pen.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

I have enough. I am enough.

Your new mantra

This is my biggest mantra I pass onto you, young grasshopper. Because once you are enough, you will be able to accomplish things you once thought you never could.

But, this all does not come by just believing in yourself. You can do as many self-love rituals and as much bullet journaling as you want, but if you never ask yourself the right questions you will not find the answers you need.

The human brain needs specific, measurable goals. An abstract concept such as mindfulness and dreaming are far less likely to have the same, lasting result. I have some better alternatives to get you in the right mindset to figure out where to go.

Can you tell me why don’t you believe in yourself? Are you simply lacking the skills you need to succeed?

Look at what relevant skills you are lacking, by locating where your insecurities stem from. This means look at those around you. The best way to see your own insecurities is to notice what you’re jealous of. If you’re jealous of someone, pinpoint why. This was a huge eye-opener for me.

Someone holding a coffee mug that reads "like a boss"
Build your confidence as a new entrepreneur by asking all the right questions.

This change in perspective helped me realize: how much I want to help others in their creative careers; that I needed to start my (third, cough) blog, that I’m Transgender…

So, what makes you jealous, and why? It’s quite transformative thinking,(pun intended) and can help open your eyes to what you feel you’re lacking in your life and in your self.

That being said, some of these enviable attributes are healthy to indulge, but some are toxic. Looks, money, and fame are not qualities to be jealous over — they’re unproductive time-sucks and career-enders.

Instead, focus on a person’s credibility, influence in their field, the success of their online store, skills acquired through hundreds or thousands of hours of practice, or having the dedication to devote that amount of practice to something. Look for qualities in their work and practice as well as their lifestyle choices.

Some constructive questions to ask yourself are:

  • How did you meet/hear of them?
  • What do they do in their career, or lifestyle?
  • How much more skilled are they than you?
  • What are they known for?
  • What qualities make you the most jealous, and are they vain/shallow?

You might posses a few of these qualities and you just can’t see it. You should ask some friends words they would use to describe you. Some things I have learned from others is that I’m brave, giving, loyal, strong, and confident; some of these things I would have never called myself.

You may find you have some baggage and honestly, you need to let that lie or deal with that shit later because we have bigger fish to fry today. I’m a big believer in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Today we’re only talking about how to get up off your ass and take control of your thoughts and feelings, not a therapy session!

An amazing concept I’ve come across this year is;

"How I opened my own online store and started a brand" Crafting desk with a cutting board, scissors and rulers.
How I Opened My Own Online Store And Started A Brand

Pretty deep stuff, but basically it’s saying that quality thoughts create quality work. Your thoughts combined with a healthy growth mindset can shape and improve your output, which in this case would be whatever you’re trying to sell!

This has probably been a lot to take in. Having conversations with people like this in person, I find many get overwhelmed with being confronted by their insecurities. We so naturally hide from them, so don’t feel bad if this is you.

I really want to help you get more confident in yourself and about your work!

That is why this is only Part 1 of 2 articles! After writing and formatting this piece I found it to be too much to digest at once, so I want to give you some time to think about everything we talked about here. I also want to hear how opening your Etsy shop has been going.

Speaking of, do you want to know how I increased my Etsy sales after freeing myself from my desk? I know my Etsy shop workflow will benefit your small business practice and make you feel like the badass boss you are! 

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How to run an Etsy shop with only a phone.
Someone holding a coffee mug that reads "like a boss"
How to use your doubts and fears to build and motivate your business.

Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram!

Until next time,

Joey @ The A/J

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joey Dean, painter & Designer
About Joey.

How To Run Your Etsy Shop From Only Your iPhone And Increase Your Sales!

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How to run an Etsy shop with only a phone.

If you are:

  • Someone who has ever wanted to run a side hustle
  • A creator with too much physical merchandise
  • An artist with an overflowing archive
  • A crocheter or any other talented crafter with more creations than you can give away

My point is, if you make anything, one of my favourite ways for you to make an easy income is Etsy. I want to be transparent that this is not a sponsored post, I’m just a long-time user of their platform.

I use Etsy as my online business platform for the following reasons;

  • I found it the easiest to navigate; vs. Shopify, Ebay, Depop, or even Squarespace.
  • Everything is there if you need it, you just have to look for it. The Etsy Seller Handbook is a good place to start.
  • I didn’t have reliable access to a computer until 2018. For 2 years I used my iPad to run my business, and website designers do not take kindly to them.
  • I find the fees reasonable for the service and customizability, as well as the legal protections your business receives as a seller. My shop was paying for itself within my first financial quarter.

I have been using Etsy as the marketplace to sell my handcrafted goods and artwork since October 2016. In the beginning, I didn’t have many resources at my disposal. At the time I was running the shop and making all of my work from my iPad and a $70 printer…

Someone sitting on a step, using their phone in one hand and a denim jacket in the other. Text reads “the easiest passive income for artists”.
The easiest way for creators to earn from their phone.

My problems at the time were access to poor-quality cameras, rudimentary editing software, and having slower order turn-around times as a result. It would sometimes take me up to 5 business days to ship something out because using these poor quality tools took so long!

After switching to operating from my phone I was able to cut that time down to 1-2 business days, which is a huge advantage in regard to Etsy’s internal SEO.

The increase in quality lead to more sales, which I was able to use to buy a laser-printer for all my business printing needs!

Creating a listing using the Sell on Etsy mobile app is a breeze.

Esty’s app guides you through the first couple of tedious steps and then easily lays out all the other information your listing needs. You should be filling in as much as possible while also using all 13 hashtags. 

You must use the right hashtags. They should be more than one-word searches and not sweeping, broad categories. They should be as relevant and descriptive as possible. 

Try also using synonyms; buttons are to pins as paintings are to artwork. I use tags such as; punk patches, trans pride pins, pronoun enamel pins, etc. These are extremely specific to my niche market and relevant to my products.

I do all of my photography and editing on my phone.

vintage camera hanging from black strap against a white wall
Photo by Yoann Siloine on Unsplash

I use my iPhone 8 Plus to take all my photos. I only mention this because of the high quality camera with stabilization, so I don’t ever have to worry about my shaky artist hands. I’m sure many phones have this now, but I love the portrait function for taking photos of my apparel outdoors.

I edit my photos either using the in-camera editing function, or when I’m not happy with that I also use Photoshop Express. It’s a free Adobe mobile app; all you need is a Creative Cloud account!

After editing, they’re ready for uploading. I write up my item descriptions in either the Apple Pages or Notes app. Pages is great because it can give you a word count; you should be writing at least 250-500 words, this will additionally aid Etsy’s internal SEO.

Sales are clear and easy to manage.

After the listing is all set up, it’s time to address sales. When you make a sale, it will create an order for you in it’s own tab. Using the app I check the order contents and shipping info. This way I can pack my orders, still without touching another device.

Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

I write my shipping labels by hand. I have pre-printed business cards, return labels, and flyers to stuff in my orders. That way I don’t need to print things more often than once or twice a month. Since I designed these assets in Adobe Draw on my iPad, I can access all of my printing assets through Creative Cloud and print them from my phone! Thought there was a loophole, huh?

I have found the one thing the app is missing is you cannot mark multiple orders as shipped at the same time. You have to mark each listing as completed separately, but if you’re not shipping more than 5 orders per day it’s not a big deal.

I fill out my international customs forms from my phone, send the barcodes to my email, and save them as pictures to a new note on my phone.

All I have to do is present the barcodes at the post office counter and pay with tap using, you guessed it, my iPhone! I guess you could use your wallet for this step, but it’s not as futuristic and cool.

Someone sitting on a step, using their phone in one hand and a denim jacket in the other. Text reads “the easiest passive income for artists”.

And that’s how I increased my Etsy sales by reducing my administrative work and freeing me from my desk. I know adapting this workflow will benefit your small business practice and make you feel like the badass boss you are! 

I would love it if you let me know what your trends look like after fully filling out your listings, or if you have tips to share about your Etsy shop practices. Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram!

Until next time,

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The Artist Journal initials blog logo

Joey @ The A/J

About the author title card: Joey Dean
About Joey.