Happy Birthday Tim Burton (August 25, 1958)

Thank you for the art!

I have a problem when people say something’s real or not real, or normal or abnormal. The meaning of those words for me is very personal and subjective. I’ve always been confused and never had a clearcut understanding of the meaning of those kinds of words.

schools really need to think about how they’re “teaching their students about health”, they claim it’s just about motivating themselves to exercise & eat healthy,

but how does that justify weighing students every year & making them feel incredibly guilty if they’re gaining weight faster than in previous years/are in a weight group “inappropriate” for their height, asking a 14 year old to explain to you why they think they’re gaining weight & how they can fix it, how do you expect that to help their health and not just completely break down their self confidence?

what do you expect to accomplish by teaching 10 year olds about health using material intended for 16 year olds, that is clearly beyond their comprehension? why are you teaching 10 year olds about BMI and how to calculate it, asking them to calculate their own BMI as homework?

how can you preach health and then completely dismiss an 11 year old’s concerns about her friend’s dieting habits as “oh, eating healthy is always good!”

how can you do this and then act surprised and appalled at the rate of eating disorders in teenagers, children & young adults?

How to make [that thing you want to sell in artist alley]

Every so often we get questions asking “Do you know where I can print/make ___?” Generally speaking, if we know, it’s probably already on our resources page, along with some informational posts on this tumblr, and we’re always aiming to share new things we learn about that we think will be useful for our followers. If it’s not, it’s often because we don’t know - because the product is something rather specific or specialized, and/or something we don’t have personal experience with because we don’t make/sell it. 

No one can be an expert in everything. However, there are approaches we would take based on experience and logic. We hope by sharing this, people can use this information and proactively apply it to tackle almost anything they dream of making.

So, for the sake of anyone wondering “Where can I print/make ___?”, here is a rough guide on how to figure out how or where to make [that thing you want to sell in artist alley].

Basically, it comes down to this: Do your research. Be resourceful. Think like a maker/entrepreneur - because that’s what you are.

In the day and age of public libraries + Google, not to mention globalization and innovation making small scale technologies possible and the huge interest in maker and DIY culture, there is a wealth of information literally at your fingertips. Take advantage of them! Ask yourself - have I researched this seriously? Or am I throwing out questions hoping someone can supply ready-made answers to a single place/website/company that will make everything super easy?

There’s usually little harm in asking others, and asking questions is an important part of research, but expecting an easy answer is not realistic - especially not if you have a specific need or situation that other people don’t necessarily have.

Also, if you’ve asked other artists who sell what you want to make, and they don’t provide an answer, it can very well be that they are not comfortable providing that information. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are bitter, selfish people who care nothing for the happiness and success of others. It’s not unlikely that it may have taken them a significant amount of time and research to investigate for themselves, going through a process not unlike the one we’ll describe here. It’s also possible it’s actually a pretty complicated process for them to get it done. Many people consider their production methods and sources a hard-earned trade secret for their business and their livelihood. The reality is that artisans all over the world have done this for thousands of years. That’s why we even have the concept of, and the term for, trade secrets!

So, where can you start?

1) Google

Search for things like "printing” or “custom” “(thing you wanna make)” “(your geographical area)” (e.g., print custom bags Toronto or Canada or something like that). Look at the results. Check out the websites. Compare their prices and processes. Look up the companies and see if they have reviews. There may also be pages and posts of people reviewing, discussing, or describing related things that you’ll be interested to know about too.

And, if you don’t know how to do something, you can also Google that. Here’s a guide to get you started that we found by googling “how to find a vendor” and basically enabled me to reduce the length of this post by half:

Remember this is the internet, so don’t forget to apply your critical thinking skills to the information you turn up. You can always cross-reference with other references and resources, like at the reputability of the website/organization posting it, other users’ feedback, the library, etc.

2) Our resources page

As mentioned previously, we share a list of a broad variety of suppliers and vendors here: http://aatoast.tumblr.com/resources

Remember, this list is a starting point. We don’t list every potential manufacturer/supplier out there, and we have not personally used all of them. We do have a bias for Canadian vendors, because we’re based out of Canada, and for companies that do business in English and have likely handled artist alley type requests before, due to our audience. 

If you’re looking for things you see all the time in artist alleys, like prints, posters, postcards, bookmarks, books, buttons, stickers, keychains, etc. you should be able to find at least a couple of viable suppliers here. If you’re looking for less common things, you might find them here as well. We don’t always list everything a supplier offers, and we don’t have experience with all of them. However, if you go to these sites, you may find some of them do have what you want. Or the information on their sites can point you to other keywords/phrases or potential suppliers.

On our resources page, we also list some other great artist alley tumblrs like @howtobeaconartist and sites that expand their resources and reviews list to many more vendors and options in the US. You’ll be paying USD and potentially other shipping or customs fees, but that’s an option if you’re comfortable with it.

3) Manufacturers in other countries

Many companies and entrepreneurs outsource manufacturing to other places where costs are cheaper. Alibaba is usually the name thrown around as a place to start when people start talking about this type of manufacturer - the guide we linked earlier goes into more detail on things.

A few things to note:

  • Generally, you need to be making much larger quantities for this to be viable, and your operations are going to be scaled up quite a bit from doing one or two artist alley events here and there. A factory isn’t going to bend over backwards for you if you want to make 10 of something. That said, there are some exceptions to the larger quantity rule: for example, there are Asian printers are accustomed to managing very short run printing/products because of the strong self-publishing/doujin culture in those countries. However, this definitely brings up the next point.
  • You’ll very likely be working across languages (in some cases, you may need to be fluent or need someone fluent to get through the entire process) and across time zones, subject to the holidays and import/export laws of whatever country you are dealing with (as well as those of your own country of course).
  • If you happen to have family/friends based in those countries who can assist in checking out a place, picking up proofs, picking up finished products, getting them to you, etc., that can be very helpful in mitigating issues around time, stress and costs.

Another cautionary note - I’ve heard stories of artists who used overseas suppliers and later found their artwork being reused without their permission - but this is purely anecdotal. As with all decisions involving business (property and money), make sure to do your due diligence.

If you think your idea is a big winner, and you know where to make it but just don’t have the money up front, you could consider crowdfunding for your initial investment, like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. This is a whole other beast entirely, and there are many resources online on creating a crowdfunding campaign.

4) Group orders

If you’ve found a supplier/manufacturer you want to work with, but the minimum order is too large for you alone, consider coordinating a group order with other artists to offset the 3029482903325 items you’ll need to buy. Some suppliers, like @jimiagency, actually operate this way, by brokering group orders. This may not always be possible due to the restrictions of an order. Also, bear in mind that coordinating any large group of people comes with its own set of challenges (finding interested participants you can trust, chasing people down for information, deadlines, files, payment, etc.)

5) POD (print on demand) and marketing promotions companies

We don’t list these on our resources page, but these are at least two other types of companies that could work for you depending on your needs.

POD shops (think Zazzle, Society6, Redbubble, many more etc.) allow you to put your artwork on a variety of products and sell them online. The main thing is that they are set up for on-demand order fulfillment online, so often it’s less economical for you to order things for yourself to sell at an event - your profit won’t be that great. But it might be an option if you only want a very small quantity for something very specific. You can find google comparison articles and reviews to figure out the best fit for you.

Marketing promotions companies specialize in promo items used for advertising purposes. (Again, just google “marketing promotions products” + your geographic area. You can also google the type of item you are looking for.) Think of all the pens, bags, lanyards, water bottles, etc. you’ve ever seen at events emblazoned with company logos. They have large catalogues of all sorts of things and are often based locally. But bear in mind - these companies are usually set up for dealing with organizations or people who are buying, in bulk, promotions or giveaways for their business, and usually the printing is just a version of slapping a logo on something. They’re not focused on making things for an artist to resell beautiful reproductions of their artwork in tiny quantities in artist alley. Note in most cases costs are for single-colour imprint, the printing area may be quite small, and you’ll have to have the same image for all 100 or 250 or whatever minimum quantity you need to buy.

6) If all else fails, do it yourself.

Sometimes you really will not be able to find a vendor who can make exactly what you want, because it’s too custom, or the quantity you need is just way too small, or it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg. And you can’t coordinate a group order for whatever reason (not enough other artists interested, or the image always has to be the same, or whatever.)

You’ll just have to do what many artists/makers/entrepreneurs/small businesses do all the time: figure out how to make it yourself. After all, pretty much everything we have today didn’t really exist until somebody said, “why don’t we have [blah]??” and continued that train of thought with action.

  • Break your grand idea down into its components. What exactly is this thing you want to make made up of? What are the materials or what could the materials be? What are the different pieces?
  • Source the individual components, or come up with alternatives for the components.
  • Assemble it.

For example, if you wanted to make a bag, what are the components of the bag you’re imagining? A fabric with a custom pattern or print, for example, certain zippers/buttons/decorations, etc. So, you’ll need to find a place to print your fabric, which you can Google. Or maybe you can learn to print your own fabric, which you can also Google. You’ll need to find a supplier for zippers and sewing materials. Maybe you can’t find a zipper or a certain decoration - you can come up with an alternative way of achieving the same effect or result of closing your bag or having a little charm hanging off of it. You’ll need to know how to sew - or find someone you can pay or beg into doing so. And so on and so forth.

Some particularly enterprising people will sometimes turn this into another business opportunity - offering to make other people’s stuff. This is what has happened with things like buttons, where quite a few artists have purchased equipment for production and also offer button making services to other artists. Again, your mileage may vary as that’s another thing to take on as a business, but it’s an option to offset costs by enabling you to buy larger quantities of supplies and also make some additional revenue.

Good luck with your product idea!