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Thoughts on Thortful

What is Thortful?

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thortful.com

I was approached through my Etsy shop by a company called Thortful. They specialise in printing and sending cards designed by artists, illustrators, cartoonists etc… from across the globe. As a customer, the premise is that you choose a design, and they print and send it either to you, or directly to your chosen recipient. You can choose to have the inside blank, or personalised with your own message, or even with your own handwriting (using their Apple or Android apps). For the most part it’s like a cross between Funky Pigeon/Moonpig and the likes of Redbubble/Zazzle.

What are the cards like?

The cards are A5 in size, printed on ultra smooth 350gsm card. They feel really nice and the print quality is pretty decent. On the back, there is a considerable amount of Thortful branding, although they do also credit the designer with the name of their company and a short bio. Each card costs £2.99 + postage of 64p (a first class stamp, very reasonable). The cards are delivered in a brown envelope. It is not hard-backed, and I have read a review from someone claiming that their card arrived bent. This appears to be an isolated review, however, and I’m not sure that the absence of a hard-backed envelope is a deal-breaker.

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Card front & envelope

 

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Card back with heavy Thortful branding

 

What’s in it for me?

Basics

As a designer, I am able to upload up to 20 of my designs, for free and without exclusivity. I retain all rights to the images. I can retire any or all of my designs at any stage. There is no contract. When you have more than 10 designs, you are eligible to be featured on the Thortful homepage, and across their social media platforms. I currently have 12 designs uploaded, but have yet to be featured (although I am still very new, so I will need to give this some time).

thortful creators
Featured creators on Thortful homepage

Profit

When someone buys a card, Thortful take care of the order from start to finish (printing and posting). I do nothing. And I earn 50p from every sale. Designers are paid monthly, through Paypal once sales have reached at least 10.  It remains to be seen how popular my card will be, and Thortful appears to be a business near the beginnings of its growth, so I doubt this will be a money-spinner. Still, an extra trickle income would be nice.

Security

I have attempted to ‘steal’ my own designs from their website (using the right click button) to check if my work is vulnerable on Thortful, but it seems to be fairly secure.  I’m sure anyone bloody-minded enough could find other methods (screenshots, etc…) but I doubt they would, and even if they did, I’m pretty sure the resultant image wouldn’t be of a good enough quality to do anything untoward with it.

Profile

You get a profile on their website, but you can’t add much to it.  It would be nice, if nothing else, to be able to add social media links – perhaps this feature will be added later? Essentially,  if you want to use this as another way to promote your existing business, you really can’t, as it is very insular and limited in that respect. Having said that, if you treat your Thortful profile as a separate entity to the main bulk of your online business, then it’s fine. I have used the CushoPeas branding, rather than the Cushobi branding for that very reason. It feels like a separate branch of what I do, so I have made that distinction clear on Thortful.

Service

I want to stress the point that, before I joined, I had a few email conversations with a member of the Thortful team and they seemed genuinely nice. How refreshing!  They also made the process easy and pleasant – and that counts for a lot in my book.

What is Thortful’s web presence like?

Reviews

As it stands, Thortful have 96 Trustpilot reviews with an average rating of 9.6 out of 10.  I checked out the two negative reviews (as I always do!) and one referenced heavy Thortful branding on the back of their cards, while the other referenced a bent card. Both of which I mentioned earlier, neither of which are deal-breakers. And both times Thortful responded in a positive, helpful way to the complainants. I was also pleased to read that they’ve taken on board the comment about excessive branding and have promised to address the issue in due course.

Social Media

Socially, Thortful have 2,180 Facebook followers, 3,176 Twitter followers, 488 Instagram followers and 79 Pinterest followers.  Those stats could use some work, but like I said, they seem to be a growing business and I think that they’re full of potential, and numbers could – and likely will – soar over time.

What’s the app like?

I can only speak for the Android app here but with 5,000 downloads and a 4.7 out of 5 rating, it seems to be doing fairly well.  It’s got a nice clean design, it’s laid out for ease of use, and it’s fit for purpose. I like the idea of being able to incorporate your own handwriting inside your card, but am yet to try out this feature and therefore cannot attest to how well it prints.

 

What’s the verdict?

All in all I think Thortful is full of potential and I’m excited to watch them flourish.  For designers it’s a fabulous idea, but I can’t imagine it will bring in huge numbers of sales until more awareness is raised. Still, there is *seemingly* no harm in trying it out and seeing how things develop. If nothing else, it’s another weapon in the online crafter’s arsenal.

Why not check it out and let me know your thorts (see what I did there??)

niobe

 

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The World’s Most Expensive Card

Materials + Labour + Expenses + Profit = Wholesale x 2 = Retail

The above seller’s formula is what most craft business owners are told to use when working out how to price their items.  It’s what is fair.  I mean, let’s face it, as much as we crafters, artists and other creatives do what we do because we love it, if we’ve taken the leap into selling our makes, it’s because we want to see a return for the time, money and passion we’ve invested.

And rightly so.

But, see, there is a fundamental flaw in using the above formula that most, if not all, crafters also have to take into consideration; what consumers will actually pay.  Most of the time the two figures don’t even come close to each other.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a popular item and work it through: The featured image on this post (see above) is a bespoke card I made for a customer whose friend’s last name is Fox. She saw and fell in love with my button fox wall art (see below) and asked if it could be turned into a card. My answer was, and is always, “of course.” Because I love a challenge and I am a people-pleaser to the core.

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My framed button fox took me about an hour to make. Let’s say I pay myself the current UK national minimum wage – because this is work – that would be £7.20 for the labour. The materials cost around £5.00, expenses would be around £2.00 and I always try and give myself a profit of around £5.00 on each piece of wall art. That gives me a total wholsesale price of £19.20 and a retail price of £38.40.  Would people pay that? I’m still undecided – and at wholesale price, Finn the Fox is still unsold!** – but for a piece of wall art, it’s a possibility.

Now, let’s take the formula apply it to my fox card. As a reference point, the fox is the exact same size in the wall art as it is on the card.

So, again, it took about an hour, perhaps a shade under this time, so I’ll set it as £6.30. Materials varied slightly (no frame, different paper) so they came in at £2.20, expenses stayed at £2.00 and it’s a card, so I usually allow a profit of just £0.50.  That gives me a total of £11.00 wholesale and £22.00 retail.

Take a second to digest that.

£22.00 for a greeting card.

£22.00.

£22.00?!?!?!?!

OK, so clearly that’s never. going. to. happen. So here’s what I did:  I took away my labour costs and sold the card at wholesale price, which brought it down to a much more respectable £4.70.

Can I just say here that this handmade hustle is HARD.  Because I can guarantee you that there are hundreds of card makers (and other crafters) out there completely and consistently underselling their work. The main bulk of my business is cards, but there really is no profit in them. When I make and sell a card, I do so purely for the enjoyment, and I’m OK with that. I’ve made peace with that.

What I really want you to take away from this though, whether you’re a creative or not, is that the next time you see something that’s handmade and think HOW MUCH?!?!?! please first consider this formula, consider the maker and consider the time and care they’ve put into creating it. But most importantly consider this:

They are probably STILL selling themselves massively short.

** Somebody very lovely has since bought Finn.  I hope he’s enjoying his new home – I certainly miss him!

niobe

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Wonky Stitches

Life of an artist

I don’t purport to be a true artist.  There are many more talented people out there who deserve that title.  But I use the term “art” to mean anything which is made by a creatively inclined individual.  So whether you are a knitter, as sewist, a cartoonist, a painter or a cardmaker, you are an artist for the purposes of this post.

And as an artist, let’s see if you recognise this scenario: You have an idea for a piece of art.  You plan the piece of art. You make the piece of art. You hate the piece of art.  Sound familiar?  You are not alone.  I truly believe that this is something we all do at some point.  In fact you may find yourself at a point where this happens again and again.  You start to doubt your work, doubt yourself.  You feel like you aren’t good enough. You wonder whether it’s time to throw in the towel (the knitting needles, the paintbrush….)

Your own worst critic

Artists are their own worst critics.  I have a friend who is a cake maker.  Her cakes are stunning (and they taste amazing – a winning yet not always achievable combination).  A couple of months ago I asked her to make a cake for my daughter’s fifth birthday so she asked my daughter what type of cake she wanted.  My daughter requested a pink cake in the shape of a 5.  The day before her birthday my friend turned up at my house and practically threw the cake at me, wailing “Take the bloody thing, I never want to see it again, you’re lucky I didn’t throw it against the wall!!”

After the outburst I looked at the cake (as a non cake maker) and asked what was wrong with it.  Because I thought, as usual, that it was stunning.  She went on to explain that the icing wouldn’t roll properly, the ribbon wasn’t long enough, she couldn’t get the gems she wanted, and about half a dozen more things that made it, and I quote, “the worst cake” she’s ever made.  While I tried to make light of it and reassure her that it looked incredible and that my daughter would love it (it did, and she did) part of me, as a fellow artist, completely understood where she was coming from.

You are good enough

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the details, in the perfection of our craft, that we fail to stand back and take a look at the bigger picture, which is, quite simply; we are good enough. Our art is good enough.  I can tell you right now; that piece you made but tossed aside and refused to put in your online shop because of that thing that went wrong? It’s good enough.  And that other piece that you made, and then hated because it didn’t turn out quite right? It’s good enough. You are good enough.

One man’s seconds is another man’s masterpiece

How do I know this without seeing your work?  Because art is about the labour of love. It is as much about the concept, the creative process, the passion of the artist, as it is about the finished piece.  I personally love to see a wonky stitch, a smudged pencil line, a piece of ribbon that is a fraction too short, because it reminds me that is has been handmade, that it was a labour of love, that the artist has given me a piece of themselves.  It reminds me that it was made by a human being, not mass-produced in some factory, and that we are all vulnerable and fallible.

And that, fellow artists, is a beautiful thing.

See it through their eyes

And so, the next time you feel disgusted, frustrated, distraught because of a piece of your own art, don’t discard it yet! First, do what I am *trying* to do myself: Look at it through someone else’s eyes. If you have someone whose opinion your trust (which I know as an artist is difficult), then ask them what they think. Stand back yourself and look at it as if you were not a knitter/illustrator/cardmaker. Ask yourself, would a layperson notice that stitch? That smudge? That wonky ribbon?  Would they care even if they did? Is that flaw the only reason you are not happy with your work?  How about the 99 other stitches that are perfect?  Can it be fixed? Altered?

Does it even need to be?

If at the end of all of that you still don’t even want to look at it, then fair enough.  But instead of throwing it away, can it be used for a giveaway? Sold for seconds? Give as a present? Used for scraps???  Even if the only thing you can take away from that particular piece is a lesson learned, then it still has great worth.

And, hey, if you do still decide to chuck it, I’ll happily take it off your hands! 😉

Here are some of the pieces I have made and then hated… Feel free to share links to some of yours in the comments.

 

niobe

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Be Unexpected

No place like home

I live in Essex but grew up in South West London, in a part that is incredibly culturally and socially diverse. Today we visited my parents who still live there. While I try and visit as often as I can, life does, unavoidably, get in the way at times and as such it always astounds me how quickly things can and do change.

A couple of visits ago I noticed some graffiti murals that had seemingly sprung up from nowhere. At first I thought that they were just the random Banksy-esque scrawls of a delinquent (albeit a talented one), but as it turns out, the council actually commissioned the pieces.

Step back, look deeper.

Taken at face value these could just be the bold brush strokes of some nameless talent, but as you look closer, or rather step back and look deeper,  you can almost hear the voice of the artist. Every time I’ve seen them since, I have noticed some detail that I missed the time before, have understood a little more about what each one is trying to tell me.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

While some people will inevitably deem them to be nothing more than garish eyesores (and honestly, I hope never to socialise with those people… sorry), I believe them to be stunning, modern pieces of art. For me, they are the embodiment of all that art should stand for and be: They dare to be different, to say exactly what the artist wants to say – irrespective of what others think, to be controversial. They evoke discussion and they call into question – really challenge the concept of – what is beautiful.

I love them and they evoke in me, as a creative type, the sudden urge to make something unexpected… What do you think?

niobe