Wednesday, May 23, 2018

7 Year Itch

My first handmade Edith doll

I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately, because things have been really slow in my stores. I haven't had a sale on any platform in two days, despite doubling my number of eBay and Amazon listings and starting the 30 Minute Method on Poshmark. I would blame it on eBay's widespread new update, as they completely revamped the entire platform and that kind of stuff often takes a while to get back up to speed, but it's every site. It's scary, because the last time I remember a slowdown like this was right before the economic crash that led to the Great Recession. Just like today, I would read about how the economy was booming and wonder what I was doing wrong. I'm not an economist but I've been selling for a lot of years, so take it for what it's worth.

Thinking back, however, made me realize it's Atelier Mandaline's seventh anniversary this month! And not only that, I've come an incredibly long way. Seven years ago I was home with three young children. The Body Shop at Home closed leaving me, as an independent consultant as well as freelance graphic designer for their headquarters, out of not one but two jobs. I was selling occasionally on eBay but the throes of motherhood left me little time for it or anything else and I felt like I was losing myself. I had recently become interested in doll making and repair and taught myself to make pressed felt dolls. I decided to write a blog to document my learning process and also to force myself to use my art and writing degrees with some accountability and regularity since I would presumably acquire followers. My very first post was about my obsession with re-creating Edith from The Lonely Doll books, published on May 10, 2011. Mandaline Artful Living, as the blog was then known, was born and would grow into the Atelier Mandaline brand, collection of shops, social media pages, and finally, my own website.
My second handmade Edith doll

I never imagined too many people would be interested in my doll making, but now I have stores on eBay, Facebook, Etsy, Poshmark, Young Living, and of course my website, and I sell on Mercari and Amazon too. My blog has hundreds of thousands of readers from around the globe and I have thousands more followers on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Poshmark, and Vero (I'm up to nearly 20,000 followers on Poshmark alone!). My offerings have expanded to include everything from doll supplies to my own fashion boutique. I'm still struggling to find a reliable manufacturer to help me expand my website shop but I feel really proud of myself. I built my brand and bootstrapped my business entirely by myself and I did it without taking on any debt through the Great Recession and while raising three kids, two of whom had to work through (and one is still working through) significant special needs. My business and brand aren't the only things to experience impressive growth. When you compare the first felt Edith doll I made with the second one you can see how much I was able to improve my skills (in photography as well as doll making), and those dolls were only made a few months apart. Nowadays I sometimes amaze myself when I save dolls that I would have just thrown away in the beginning and my production speed is exponentially faster. Of course, much of the improvement in speed comes from no longer dealing with a two year old! I always wanted more children and would be thrilled to have another baby, although I've given up on that dream, but I have to say it is so much easier to get things done now!

I have to say, although I may have built my business and brand alone, I absolutely could never have reached my current level without all of you. My readers and early, blog followers, my customers, all those who took me under their wings and mentored me and gave me advice and became my wonderful friends and in some cases even sent me gifts and free inventory, I will never be able to thank you adequately. Even the Internet trolls who sent me hate mail when I didn't do well enough or made an identification mistake or when I over- or under- restored a doll in their opinion, thanks to them too, because they forced me to improve my game. They, and all of you, made me stronger and better. I'm not going to let a few bad days take that away from me. I'm going to keep going, improving, and growing, as I always have.

As a special thanks to you all, I am having a huge sale. You will find extensive markdowns on eBay, Etsy, Mercari, and Poshmark through Tuesday, May 29th, even including some of my newest pieces. You can link to all my shops from my website. I have so many new products planned. I even have a new Edith version in the works, so I hope you will keep watching.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Dream Doll

My most recent restoration is this Ideal Baby Dreams Velvet Skin baby doll. She got a cleaning, a hair style, repaint, reflocking, and new eyelashes. To see how to restore one of these dolls yourself please visit my website.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Tutorial: How to Insert Eyelashes on Fixed-Eye Dolls

Well, I am sad to report Google has allowed the Blogger app and website to become so outdated it's obsolete. The Blogger app became dysfunctional several iPhone updates ago so I can't add photos from my phone. I either have to connect my phone and download them all or move them one by one from the blog on my own website. So, I decided I am not writing this tutorial twice. It is posted on the Updates page of my website. I hope you'll stop by to learn this skill! I apologize for the inconvenience.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Coming Attractions

A Wellie Wishers doll with real lashes.

I know it's been ages since my last post and I apologize! I have no fewer than five saved drafts I just never got around to finishing. Rest assured, I have been working hard. On the way to the blog is one tutorial showing how to add "real" eyelashes such as the ones shown to dolls with fixed eyes and another showing how to re-flock dolls whose flocking has worn away.

The new fence, under construction

Spring arrived in fits and starts, and if you're a long time reader you know that means I'm working in the garden for long periods. Loki, our naughty puppy, has decimated the grass, including the sod we laid last year. He has also been digging up the vegetable and flower beds and even the stone patio. Our yard is extremely wooded and we don't have enough sunlight for plants of any kind in most of the yard. The stone patio is right in the best area for a garden, but the patio is one of my favorite things about the property and a reason we chose our house, so I don't want to rip it up. My husband came up with a terrific idea to combine a fence to protect the grass with planters in the sunny part of the yard and I contributed the idea to use a wide cap to add extra seating to the patio. We've been working on that. After five years of similar projects we are starting to see results, enjoying our fire pit and our homegrown fruits.

My husband was able to get my computer working fairly well again, which is a good thing, because besides working in the yard I've been re-working my business model. Long and hard reflection convinced me that while my doll and doll supplies business is steady, it's not very lucrative. It's just too much of a niche market to be really profitable, at least to the extent I am able to fund it. My problems finding a reliable supplier contributed to my decision. I spent a month or so in a funk and feeling really depressed and then I decided to do something about it. I joined a resellers group which is helping me set and achieve goals ad build my business. I am absolutely still restoring and selling dolls and doll supplies and writing tutorials but I am expanding the reselling part of the business. I branched into women's fashion with my Poshmark boutique earlier this year and now I have started selling on Amazon and Mercari. I am Atelier Mandaline on both platforms. I am stocking new and used toys, electronics, fashion, art supplies, and even some food and toiletries. I even started adding men's fashion to my boutique! My inventory is the largest it's ever been. It's still hard for me to purchase large lots. I had a little mini heart attack this month when my credit card bill arrived during a slow sales period, but things picked up so I'm trying to trust the process. The next step for me is to try Fulfilled By Amazon. You pack your inventory and mail it to Amazon and they handle it from there, so it's as if you have a big warehouse with employees. Freedom from daily shipping and collecting money will allow me more time to restore more dolls and find more great deals, as well as allow me to occasionally take a vacation without losing sales. Right now the way eBay is set up forces me to close my store any time I can't be at home. I hope you'll check out my newest "stores". I don't have a store on my newest platforms but you can follow me on Mercari like a social network and I hope you will. I don't have any followers so far!

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Wish No Longer!

I am happy to announce my newest flat back stationary doll eyes have arrived! This represents one more step toward the fulfillment of my wish to offer my own line of custom doll supplies! These eyes are sized to fit American Girl Wellie Wishers and other vinyl dolls with oval 16mm eye pockets. You can also use eye setting putty to use them for bjd, reborn, and other dolls with an open socket. The new colors are pink, lavender, and gray, bringing my offering to eight colors total! I am currently listing these on eBay and Etsy. If I can keep them in stock well enough I will add them to this website soon. You can link to all my shops from my website.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Keto Cakes Worth Craving

Yesterday my husband and I were craving something sweet, so I experimented in the kitchen and came up with a few variations of ketogenic cake. These hit the spot! My computer is broken and I am writing on my old, extremely slow computer, so I only posted the recipes once, on my website. I hope you'll check them out: and enjoy them as much as we did!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

It's Your Lucky Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Today's your lucky day because I am having a huge 1-Day sale in my Poshmark boutique. Buy any two pieces and get one FREE! To get this deal, go to Poshmark, create a bundle of three items, and I will send you an offer with the cheapest item free! I've never done this before, and the luck won't last: it runs out at 9PM EST TONIGHT! I am running a 1-day sale on eBay and Etsy as well, so make sure to check those shops today. You can link to all my shops from my website and save a ton of green (or gold)!