Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Experimental Exploding Flower Garen Box

As I mentioned in my last post, I've had this idea floating around in my head for an exploding box that has flowers as the centerpiece.  When I first conceived the idea, my thought was to use a cardboard tube that has been cut down to size as the container for the flowers.  I figured I'd cover the outside with some pretty paper or something to make it more attractive and less, well, like a toilet paper tube.  Then I was browsing at Michaels the other week, and I stumbled upon some tiny clay plant pots that are the PERFECT size for this!  With a coupon, they weren't too expensive, so even though I'm just experimenting at this point, I sprang for them.

Anyway, let me back up.  Last year, for the Spring Etsy Team sale, I made an exploding box with a paper rose as the centerpiece.  I never got a picture of it because I made it at the last minute, and ended up selling it at the sale.  I always wanted to do more, but my method of making those paper roses was a bit of a pain.  I used a large flower punch that I had to cut sections out of and use several layers to create a 3-D flower.  I had seen that Sizzix and Spellbinders both had 3-D rose dies, and I finally decided to break down and get the Sizzix one.  Unfortunately, when I got it home, I found that the roses that it makes are tiny- much smaller than I had originally thought.  The largest size is maybe the size of a quarter in diameter, the smaller size is more like a nickel.  So I ended up getting the Spellbinder die, because that one is a bit larger.  But once I made some of those smaller roses, I started thinking of ways I could use them, and that's when I came up with the flower garden idea. I have lots of other flower punches and dies, so figured I have a variety of flower types I could use.  And then there was this idea: floating butterflies.  I cannot take credit for this idea at all, because I shamelessly stole it from my BFF Kendra.  Last year, she made an exploding box and used some thin strips of clear acetate to have "floating" objects in it.  I was thinking it was the graduation box for her nephew, but when I went back to look at the pictures she sent me, that wasn't it, so now I'm not sure which one it was.  In any case, I thought that was a very cool idea, and when I started thinking about a flower garden exploding box, the thought came to me to use that same floating object idea with butterflies.  I was able to find a roll of acetate at work, and "borrowed" some for my experiment.

So, here is the lid:

 The flower on top is the Spellbinder 3-D rose die.  I cut it out in an off-white card stock and inked it with 2 shades of purple ink and a sponge.  The leaves are cut with a Martha Stewart rose leaf punch.  The lacy squares are a new Spellbinder die, and they are perfect for exploding boxes- the largest one is 4 inches square, which is exactly what the boxes are.  I got it with the intention of using it for the sides of exploding boxes in the future, though on this box, I only used them on the lid.

I got a DCW paper pad a few weeks ago that I really like- it has lots of purples, greens and yellows, with some blues as well.  I really liked the paper I used on the sides, like you are looking head-on at a flower garden.

Above is a view of the box when it has been opened.  The outer layer is embellished with a layer of floral paper under some purple panels that have been dry embossed. This embossing folder is really cool- the craft store where I bought it had some sample cards that had been made with it, and I liked that you can emboss it with either side.  I actually used both here- in this picture the top and bottom panels have just the edges of the flowers raised, while the left and right panels have the petals themselves raised, and the edges depressed.  The middle layer is embellished with some flowers that I cut out with punches and used jewels for the centers.  The inside layer has the same paper that is on the outside.  Then, there is the center.
There's that adorable little clay pot I was talking about- isn't it cute?!  So, let me talk about the flowers for a minute.  There are two roses- the purple one in the front, which you can see the top of, and the yellow one behind it, which you can see from the side. These are the two Sizzix 3-D roses.  In the middle is a daisy that I made using a daisy punch. I used 3 layers and glued a tiny pompon in the center, which I colored yellow with some yellow stamp ink.  The purple daisy was cut out with a larger daisy punch, and I used a yellow button for its center.  The flowers are attached to pieces of green floral wire with the use of a hot glue gun.  Leaves were punched using two different MS punches and adhered to the flower stems.  The stems (wire) are stuck into a piece of Styrofoam that is in the pot, and covered with some crumpled green tissue paper.  I also put some tissue on the bottom of the box, surrounding the pot.  Then there is the butterfly, as well as a dragonfly, that seem to float above the flowers, on thin strips of clear acetate.  This part was challenging- I added these pieces last, and I really should have figured out where to put them before gluing down the plant pot.  Next time, I will make the flowers a bit shorter, so that the butterflies will be more prominent- as it is, they kind of blend in and aren't that noticeable.  My daughter, Meredith, thinks I should only have put one, but I kind of like having both of them there!

So, there it is- my vision finally brought to life!  There are things I will do differently in the future, and that's why it's good to make a few test products before finalizing the design and process.  I still need to work on my 3-D flowers- I don't entirely have the hang of making those roses yet, and need to come up with some different things to use for flower centers.  I am not all that fond of the button on that purple daisy, but was at a loss for something else to use.  The pompons I have are too small for that size, but perhaps the next size up will work.

Anyway, I like it, and I hope to do more with this concept!  I have more ideas for color schemes and designs, so it will be fun to see if they look as good outside of my head as they do inside it!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Preparations for Spring, and the Much-Debated Return of the Graduation Exploding Box

Hello! Now that the Valentine rush is coming to a close, it is time for me to start looking ahead to Spring, and all of the fun things I want to make.  My brain is bursting with ideas, and the hardest part will be deciding which ones to go with, since I don't have time to do everything!  I have a neat idea for a flowery spring-themed exploding box card that will be kind of different, and I recently ordered a whole bunch of gorgeous new washi papers that I can't wait to turn in to beautiful cards.

In the meantime, I've been watching my shop stats, and noticed something interesting.  Remember the graduation exploding boxes (here and here) from last year?  One of those was a custom order that I sold at a craft sale, and the other was a custom order that was purchased through my Etsy shop, and even though that was 8 months ago, I continue to get several views on it each week.  I know that it was pinned on Pinterest, because I get some views that come from there, and others come from Google, so it must come up in searches there as well.  Yesterday, there were a record 8 views on it! I'm not sure what's going on that people are searching for graduation items in February, but since that seems to be the case, I figured that perhaps now would be a good time to renew the listing for custom made-to-order graduation exploding boxes.  Since listings last for 4 months on Etsy, the timing is just about right, since June is 4 months away.

 To be quite honest, I debated for quite some time about whether to again offer these boxes or not.  They definitely bring shoppers into my shop, since they are pretty unique, and that's always a good thing.  BUT.  I have to tell cool as these boxes are, they are extremely labor-intensive and time-consuming to make.

Several months ago, I considered making a tutorial on how to create these boxes.  I started constructing one in order to take photos of each step of the process.  I ended up giving up halfway through, because the tutorial alone was so time-consuming.  That made me start to think long and hard about whether it was worth it or not to offer them for sale in my shop.  When I stopped to think about all of the time and labor that goes into making them, I realized that for what I had them priced, I don't even make minimum wage.

Now, I am not out to get rich by selling cards and bookmarks.  Since I've had my shop for nearly 3 years now, I have figured out that there is a pretty narrow market for those things anymore.  The digital age has given us e-cards and Kindles, and I've had more than one person comment on that fact at craft bazaars.  However, I think there are still those out there who like to give real cards, and /or who still like holding a real book in their hand when they read.  I am one of them, and I know I am not alone.  But the reality is that I do have to compete with those e-thingies, and I realize that I cannot charge enough for my items to turn a profit.  My shop is strictly a hobby shop- I like to make things, and I like to share them with others, and my shop allows me to do that while making a little bit of money to support my hobby.  Most of the time, I'm ok with that.  But not with these boxes.

Last year, when I first had the idea to make these, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  I had made a couple of the 4-sided exploding boxes and just loved them, and as graduation season neared, I thought that one with a lid that looked like a graduation cap would be cute.  Then I thought...instead of square, wouldn't it be cool if the box was octagonal?  It would look more like a real graduation cap!  So Google and I found this wonderful tutorial on making an octagonal exploding box.  I do not know this nice lady, but I am grateful and indebted to her for her very good instructions on making a basic octagonal box.  I have since developed my own template for creating the layers, but hers was very helpful in the making of my first test box, upon which my own template is based.  The process of making these boxes is complicated.  Everything is cut and assembled by hand- die cutters are useless here.  There are three layers, each with 8 sides, the outer of which has to be embellished on both the back and front sides.  That is 32 panels to be embellished.  Multiply that by 2,which is the *mimimum* number of layers that each panel is embellished with, and you can see that that is A LOT of cutting!  Then there is adhering all of those embellishments to the base layers, and that's just the box base- then there's the cap lid.  What this amounts to, even after doing it several times and getting the process down to a science, is, at minimum, 3 to 4 hours of work.  If the box is personalized with names, logos, and/or other graphics, it adds even more time, plus printer ink to make those.
So, this is why I had to think long and hard about doing this again.  I love the fact that I have come up with a unique product that lots of people think is really cool.  I appreciate that having something like this in my shop brings in traffic.  But I can only give away so much of my time.  For something that is this labor-intensive and takes so much of my time, I feel that I should be adequately compensated.  I realize that raising the price may mean that I will lose some sales, and if that's the case, then I may make the decision to retire this product altogether.  But I ultimately decided that spending 20 cents to list it for 4 months was an inexpensive way to test the, once again, I have listed the custom graduation exploding box in my shop.  Time will tell if it will be a good idea or not.

That said, I may also test a traditional 4-sided graduation exploding box, which takes far less time, labor and materials, and would be more affordable to purchase.  My BFF Kendra made one last year for her nephew, and it was gorgeous, and I've seen a few others out there on the internet, so while it's not exactly as unique as my octagonal one, it may do better in my shop, simply because it's less expensive.

Whew!  Well, I had no idea that that would be so long-winded!  But for some reason, I feel guilty for charging $30 for an exploding box, and felt the need to justify why I feel that I have to, just so that people don't think I am being greedy and/or unreasonable.  And if they still think that, even after this explanation, then I guess I would suggest to them that they attempt to make one themselves, and THEN tell me that my pricing is out of line!

Hopefully next time, I will have some new springy cards to share, because my fingers are itching to get into that new washi paper!