When people think of handmade crafts, they often imagine an old world workshop with hand tools, candlelight, gypsy fiddle music and a decided lack of modern technology. I can assure you that nothing is further from the truth, dear reader. The crafts community at Pike Place Market takes advantage of any and all modern improvements we have at our disposal to help us make our living. After all, we do our work in the land of Boeing, Microsoft and Nintendo: it’d be anti-Seattle not to. To wit, here’s a small example of the technology I employ every day in the running of my hat business:
I have a MacBook Air laptop that I chose for its portability. I can take it from home to studio to the Market with ease as it is small but powerful, not unlike its owner! I also employ a Wacom Cintiq tablet that lives at the studio as my main drawing platform. I worked sixty hour weeks this past holiday season to afford to add this amazing piece of tech to my business arsenal and do not regret that decision for a moment. It has revolutionized my ability to create textile prints, advertisements and to make my website photos truly professional grade. I’m in the middle of a big revamp of the hoodie portion of my website and, without these two computers, I’d be spending three times the amount of hours on the project with results I like less than half as much. I also have a scanner and a high quality photo printer that I share with my studio mate and fellow Pike Place Producer Emma Roscoe of Red Delicious Bags. Additionally, we have a Clearwire portable wifi hub that we use for internet access at our studio or at the Market so we can get some online work done between helping customers.
And speaking of helping customers, I also use some pretty sweet technology to allow Pike Place Market visitors to have safe and easy credit or debit transaction at my daystall. I hook up a Square device to my iPhone that allows me to run credit cards which my customers sign with a stylus on the screen and then have a receipt instantly texted or emailed to the cell phone number or email address of their choosing. It’s convenient, safe and works at the Market or at any craft show where I have either wifi or cell signal. Best of all, it makes me feel like I’ve got a tricorder from Star Trek!
Here’s an example of how much amazing modern tech takes prepping photos for my website to the next level. On the left, you can see an image pulled directly from my digital SLR camera, another fine piece of high tech that helps me run my business. The backdrop and lighting that photographer Kelsey Kruger supplied is quite in evidence due to the cramped quarters of our small studio space. On the right, you can see the final image that will be up shortly on my website. Using Photoshop on my Wacom Cintiq tablet, I was able to remove the background and then color correct the image so that my online customer will be able to see exactly what color the hoodie he or she orders will be when it arrives in the mail. Some surprises in life are fun, but not when you’ve paid to ship them to you!
And speaking of websites, the new cloud computing technology has really revolutionized the way that small businesses like mine are able to create and maintain web commerce sites with a minimum of expense and hair pulling. Services like Shopify or Core Commerce provide templates, secure shopping carts, SKU numbers, stock tracking and data storage for a very reasonable monthly fee. With little to no knowledge of HTML, a craftsperson can create a truly professional grade website in a fraction of the time it would have taken to code their own site from scratch. When you have to design, create, sell, market and account for your product, the last thing you have time to do is become an expert coder.
Once you’ve got that website up, it needs viewers! Thanks to social media like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, getting folks to check out the website gets much easier (and less expensive) than using traditional advertising. Even sites like WordPress, which Pike Place Producers uses to create this blog, make reaching out from our small community of craftspeople to the world at large possible and affordable. And, using a smartphone or a laptop or tablet plus a portable wifi hub, we can create or update online content during quiet moments at the Market. You can meet the producer either in person or virtually nowadays.