Metatags for Pics, or Don’t Do As I Do

So, I didn’t understand SEO or tagging photos, and now I’m suffering for it. Over the past several months, I’ve been going back through and adding metatags in. My gallery site and blog here were fairly quick to go through, but my portfolio site for my costume work is taking me forever. Literally hundreds of photos, that a lot of time I was in such a hurry to get up that I just didn’t pay attention.

In the end, the pain will be worthwhile, I hope, in driving traffic a little more. For example, if I have Take Back Your Mink from Guys and Dolls, and that image comes up while someone is looking up the show, it gets my name out there. But if I only have adelaide4 as the title, which is what it currently is, then it won’t ever come up. But we are talking long boring hours of trying to come up with descriptions because I am too poor to hire someone to do this for me. (Hear that, spammers? Don’t bother me cuz I don’t got nuthin’ for you.) As a do-it-yourself creative, and a huge proponent of being one, mistakes are part of the process. But take a lesson from me. Do yourself a favor, and every time you upload a photo, take the time to add a decent title and alt tag. Look up some articles on the best way to do this. Be as descriptive as possible.

I still have a long way to go on this project, but I will get it done eventually. Keep chipping away like I do everything else. Living that freelancer’s balance of paid work and getting more paid work. Good times, good times.

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Open for Art Commissions

I want to remind all of you that I am open for art commissions. I finally went through all of my gallery yesterday, updating my title and alt text to make my images more search engine friendly, because I was bad and never did that, and I was reminded how much fun I have making art. And unfortunately, as I always have to prioritize paid work over spare time work, I don’t get to spend as much time on it as I would like. But if you hire me to make you something, then I’ll HAVE to art!

Let’s say a single figure fairly detailed pencil drawing of one figure (human, animal, or fantasy creature) would start at about $35 plus shipping on medium size paper (8.5″x11″ up to 15″x20″) and would go up depending on size, number of figures or addition of background, etc. Watercolors and charcoals/pastels would be significantly more but anything over $100 will include free shipping. Here are some samples!

Email me at katmicari(at)gmail.com if you want to set anything up!

The Biz

I’m just past mid-way working on my first feature film in the costume department. The hours are excruciatingly long but I have met so many great people and learned so much in this process and am being paid very well for my time, so it is worth the exhaustion of a few weeks. The designer I’m working with is so well-organized and creative, my hard work has been very appreciated by everyone involved, and the sheer juggling of all the pieces is interesting to watch and learn.

Yet as a side note, it is insane to me the amount of effort that goes into making a theatrical production or feature film, and even though I do enjoy film and theater myself personally, I can’t help but feel like the creative and monetary energies of everyone could be so much better spent elsewhere in the world. There is just a whole lot of waste going on. Even down to the number of cases of bottled water that we go through on set each day, and of course there is no recycling at most of the locations so it all just goes into the trash (I take some of my empty bottles with me to recycle at home, but when I’m super exhausted after a long overnight shoot and trying to clean up the mess in our area, I just scoop it all up into the can). I felt the same way on my first theatrical production I got hired onto after the break I took when I had my son. Here is this gigantic set built with beautiful costumes made from scratch, and it is a five week run and then it gets stored or destroyed. And then onto the next show or film. I can’t help but see the irony of all these really green creative people adding to the waste of the environment with everything involved. But I’m still here and a part of them, and seeing how costly things are, it would be incredibly difficult to produce a truly low-footprint production.

Every other thing in my life has been put on hold with the filming schedule, but yesterday and today on my days off, I am still filled with so much creative energy. I start my other long term costume job for the spring tomorrow, filling in as costumer of a college dance department while their’s is on maternity leave, which requires me to miss 3 days of these last two weeks of filming, and I am looking forward to diving back into my personal projects while doing the work for the college and spending more times with the kids once the film is done. I will need to readjust my timeframe for releasing certain things, but the work will be coming. Life is very interesting and exciting for me right now.

“Destiny, destiny, no escaping that for me!”

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Tomorrow is my last day working as a seamstress full-time at the bridal shop. I feel both excited and nervous taking such a big leap into freelancing, but it is time.

I am taking a week off, then have two costume freelance gigs back to back (with a little overlap), so I am set til spring, and I left it with the shop that I may come back and freelance with them in the busy season. I also hope to open two small online shops when my 2nd contract is done. February is going to be a crazy schedule, then things should settle down and give me lots more time and flexibility. Time with my family. Time to create.

It is funny… when my son was about this age was when I quit my office job and moved cities. Both times things just happened organically, but I still needed to make that choice to leap. Which is so empowering to do.

And yet, I’m still so tired. My daughter started working on another molar this week, I feel so drained and sore, and this morning as I was getting things ready for the day I could clearly see and hear an aspect of myself crying and whining “But it’s all so haaaaard. ”  And it is hard, so I need to pat that inner self on the head, give myself a little time to relax and play and hopefully sleep, then finally emerge into this next stage of my life. It is time.

The Fires Burning Within

I have been feeling this increasing need to create for several months now. I’ve laid a lot of groundwork, have my pieces all laid out on the game board, but things keep getting in the way, not least of which is my refusal to ever work myself sick again. Not excuses, just frustration at the delay.

My goal is for all my creative endeavors to be fueling each other, for the art and writing to flow back and forth, to use them as inspiration for both my music and my costuming. My husband and I are talking about starting to sell homemade bath and beauty products which we did as an offshoot of our Fairy Magik label years ago but at the tail end, so we didn’t give it a very good go. To do all of that while taking in freelance sewing work and spending more time with the children. But to do more than chip away at that requires me first and foremost getting out of this stressful and physically exhausting job I’m currently in, which we’re working on.

I’ve been posting older work on Instagram to inspire me to continue chipping away, but honestly, by the time I sit down and have a few minutes to work, it’s so late at night that I’m spent and can’t tap the space I need to be in. Everything comes in it’s own time, and I feel the “soon, the time isn’t right just yet, but soon”, but patience has never been one of my strongest points. So the fires within continue to burn, to grow, threatening to overwhelm me.

When I finally unleash the fire, it will be a sight to behold.

Drained

So, I almost worked/exhausted myself sick again. My inflammation has gotten really bad, causing joint pain that I haven’t felt in a long time. My daughter has been teething her molars still and is going through a huge cognitive growth (her vocabulary has doubled in like a week and she’s started teaching herself her letters!), and waking up every 1 to 2 hours for over a week now, and I’ve been pushing myself to work past midnight every night for over a week too. Last night, my body said “nope” and I went to bed right after my daughter, which was helpful, and I was able to rearrange the delivery date of one of my projects to make my week better, so I should make it to bed at more reasonable hours for the rest of the week (except for Friday – I’m working til 9:30PM then going to have to finish packing for our trip to my interview, so I’m sure I’ll be up late).

I feel silly for letting myself get in this situation, and I can blame some outside factors for holding me up on my original schedule, but I never want to work myself into being bedridden again. So that’s something for me to bear in mind if I continue trying to freelance while still having such a young child and working a full-time job. I can’t do it all. I have to practice self-care, especially when I’m going on so little sleep. Otherwise I can’t be present for my family or present for the bigger issues facing us a society.

My Spinning Head

I have a lot going on in my head right now. The currents are threatening to thrash me about and pull me under if I let them.

  • At the suggestion of a friend of mine who already works there, I applied for a job in my former field at a big university in a state my husband and I have never considered living in before. I had a phone interview a couple of weeks ago and have been invited for an in-person interview next month. I always have the tendency to worry about things ahead of time, and while I’m shoving the actual logistics of being offered and accepting such a job and selling the house and uprooting my family to the furthest dusty corners of my mind, they are still making their presence known. I have been having all kinds of feelings about this prospect bubble up, sometimes simultaneously – excitement, dread, panic, happiness, flattered, a positive outlook toward a new adventure, the irony of having applied to many university positions years ago with nary a bite and now to have it happen when I don’t know if I really even want such a position anymore, the irony of having decided to make this the year I go freelance and get more time with my kids. It’s a lot. I’m excited to interview, to see the situation that’s available. The idea of a stable job with real benefits and a pension and paid time off is appealing. But it’s not what I wanted. On the other hand, a lot of people don’t get what they want, and providing a secure environment to raise my children may be worth the sacrifice of my wants. Again what I’ve talked about before – others’ needs coming before my wants.  The position though is interesting, a mix of creativity and organizational work, and the situation seems posh. But this may be yet another year of BIG DECISIONS AND CHANGE for us, when I thought we were fairly settled. So there’s that.
  • I have two freelance projects I’m doing – one for an individual client and one for an entity – and both have been fraught with delays from other people. So now, on top of my full-time job and sneaking out of state for an interview next month, I’m going to be working incredibly hard to pull off these two contracts. Other people holding me up is frustrating. Having to chase after people for contracts and money and answers to questions to start working… it’s a pain.
  • I’m finishing the last part of Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Idea, and it has been challenging me in really great ways. But now I’m contemplating the workings of life and humanity deeply while all this other stuff is going on.
  • I’m letting myself carry more than my share of the outside world lately, allowing myself to get sucked down by it all.

So, in the midst of all of this, I have to keep myself centered. I have to take care of myself in the ways I know how and shut my mind up enough to be able to listen to the intuitive inner self. I need to keep stepping forward in the creative process. It’s going to be really difficult, but I am up for this challenge.

Business Decision Making Time

I’m going to spend a little time today writing out my options and thoughts on the sewing line I want to start in the coming year as an income stream once I am able to move into freelancing full-time again, which will be on top of the freelance design and build work I currently do and will continue to build doing and the alterations I’ll take out of the home, and this will be the bulk of my income while I build up the creative work I do here with writing, art, and maybe someday music without stressing about the income the work here brings in as of yet.

So firstly, I have to pick a direction. I thought that I had, but I’m second-guessing myself now on whether I need to narrow my options more. After a lot of research, it seems like other shops are most successful having one niche thing they do very well, for example, a creator only makes tutus, or waist cinchers and corsets, or capes, or fairy wings, or hair accessories, or purses, etc. Or they focus on a very particular niche market, like horse blankets with a handful of horse accessories, or ice skating costumes, or ballet costumes, or burlesque costumes. Sometimes even more narrowed, like a shop only sells pasties for burlesque, with nothing else. The upsides to having a shop like this are:

  1. You get really really good at something so you can market yourself as an expert and build a reputation
  2. Being really good at something means you learn all the shortcuts you can possibly take and still make a really good product
  3. If it’s a “rinse and repeat” kind of pattern adjustment to create different looks, you aren’t starting from scratch every season to mix up your selection
  4. It’s a lot easier to train potential future employees/family members/friends to help you if the orders start piling up, which is again a time saver
  5. If for some reason you ever want to start mass-producing anything via hiring out a factory (not something I think I’m really interested in), having easily repeatable patterns makes the process much easier

The downside for me though is that the thought of limiting myself in this way bores me. Because my background is in costume design, my initial thought (and what I find much more interesting) was to design an entire look and then offer up the pieces of the look in a shop, and to also include interesting patterns of other things I’ve developed over the years. To have vintage and costume inspired pieces that could be worn in a wide variety of settings, maybe include some men and children’s pieces as well as accessories, and to tie in the designs with some of the work I am producing here eventually as far as inspiration goes. But if I go this route, I may potentially be running into problems down the road.

Part of my concern is that my husband and I already had an online shop, both on Etsy and via our own site, where we sold fairy-related art, costume pieces, and even bath products under our label, and we made it all. And we never were able to really get a good month of sales, in part because we were spread all over the place instead of having a particular focus, and also because we were frequently going for quantity over quality (a mistake I will not be making this time around). So is it narrowed enough to simply stick to sewing/wearable creations under my unique vision, or do I force myself to start very narrowed and see how it goes? Also as an aside, I made up a big batch of a face scrub/mask to give as Christmas gifts, and I had forgotten how much I love to make the bath/beauty products and it would be fun to eventually try selling those again. The recipes I had come up with were really good, but it is such a saturated market. So for the meantime, I will just allow myself to create more of those for myself and for gifts as I can carve out the time to.

Anyway, any of you have any thoughts on this that could help me reach a decision? Do I do what “feels” best to me despite it possibly being more complicated and time-consuming? Or do I follow good examples of other successful businesses and stop being so freaking stubborn in life? It would be nice if something could be easy for a change.

Uncertainty

I am moving forward in my hope to be home with the children and freelancing as soon as possible, but the economic uncertainty in the United States and globally right now is making me nervous. I am trying not to let it freeze me up in my planning, but I am now trying to plan smarter as far as the planning my online shop for my sewing business goes. I won’t want to invest huge amounts into bolts of fabric to begin aside from some basic silks, which means going with the slightly higher cost and lower quality fabric available from the handful of local stores in the area. And I am rethinking my plan of only having truly high-end products and trying to come up with a few lower ticket items that will still be well-made to entice people. And I’ll probably take on as many alterations as I can reasonably do this prom season to invest back into the business, which means of course less time to get samples sewn up. All of that really is dependent on whether or not we get to the place of financial security to get out of the current situation I’m in. We’re working on it, but nothing is certain in this world right now.

It also means I won’t be able to afford oodles of new art or music supplies and equipment, so I’m going to have to make careful stock of what I have and be very careful in my use of things going forward. Writing thankfully can be done anywhere on any machine.

It’s really difficult to stay positive right now with everything going on, isn’t it? It’s hard to make plans for the future when everything could be easily cast aside at a moment’s notice. Part of me wants to go be a survivalist somewhere instead, and hide away from society. But I want to do what I can with what I have to help. So I refuse to succumb to fear.