Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Memories

Monday memories on the Sparrow Salvage blog

 Came across this little memory moment while cleaning up the shipping desk - a couple of old stamps including one for Little Brown Sparrow. The Sparrow Salvage one will be used again soon... Does anyone still have these cards I used to give out? Hold on to them, they'll be worth millions when I'm famous! The pages they're sitting on are part of my packaging materials; books bought long ago in auction lots that were too far gone to be of worth. Now they add a little romance to every purchase.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Weekend Wandering

 My brother joined us for the weekend down here in the country; the second weekend of every month is a double market weekend here, with the Coal Creek market and Loch market both occuring, one on each day. So we decided to make a trilogy of it and visit the weekly Kongwak flea market as well. (Except Dad was the only one that made it to the Coal Creek market, it was too early for me!)

 old house in Loch

I've been wanting to flex my photography muscles again and this time of year is perfect for it. Intense blue skies, big fluffy clouds and bonfire bright autumn trees all create an explosion of colours and depth. And of course the countryside with it's old houses and rolling velvet hills doesn't exactly hinder!

tissue pom poms, pressed tin, carved wood and an intensely pink blind in the beautiful old Loch church hall
 Loch's main street, alive with heritage and green - enticing glimpses of antique shops can be seen in the distance.

 The main interestion in town, complete with heritage Post Office and the rolling green hills that are seen from almost every angle in these local tiny towns, snuggled into the dales.

 Standing in the middle of the road is pretty safe in tiny country towns, plus you get great shots of the wide old streets and heritage shop fronts.

 picture perfect - usually I wait for people to move before I take my shots, but not this one...

 I wanted to explore this back lane - but I wanted to shop for antiques more! I meant to go back but shopping swept it from my mind. Next time perhaps.

A modest little house dressed in aqua blue and dusted with autumn leave.

I bought a few things  - plenty of locally grown veg and home made cakes, a 1970s tooled leather handbag (I've been searching for the perfect one for ages- finally scored!) and a splendid baby pink 1950s cake box. We were worn out by lunchtime and came home to a roast pork dinner with all the trimmings; every bit of it was local produce!

 Photography, country drives, home grown food and family company... I decree we should do Market Weekend every month. That's if I can master the art of getting up before midday...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Death to the Sun King


 Rejoice! For supplies are once again trickling into fagin's daughter. I pulled them all during the summer heat and only sold jewelry for a while, most because I didn't want to have to go to the PO in all that 39 degree heat just to post $5 worth of beads. I love every order don't get me wrong...but if you've ever known heat that hits you like an oven door the moment you leave the house, you'll understand. Ugh- I'm starting to sweat just thinking about it... 

Thankfully that time of the year has now passed, and we're in that odd realm between summer and autumn, where the weather is a rollercoaster of lovely grey skies and cool winds, peppered with one or two scorchers. I've only had to use the AC once in the last 2 weeks, something of a miracle for early March. Usually by this point in the year I've burst into tears halfway through making dinner just from the sheer exhaustion of the merciless heat! 

Possibly the whole thing will make a liar out of me and we'll get a whole week above 30, but for now- grey sky bliss. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Much to my darling Wildthorne's delight, I am now on Instagram! Go find me, my hipster minions.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Making the Most of your Etsy photos - Using your first image

So I've been writing a bunch of tutorials, and one of them is a photography tutorial, all about what kind of set up to use and various tricks for lighting and etc. But I'm starting to think that it's a bit unnecessary. There's a thousand tutorials out there on set ups and lighting and composition, why do you need me to tell you all about it?

Well I've decided you don't. But where I think I do have experience is in what kind of photo to take. How to represent your item, what to think about, how much trouble to go to etc.

So here's some free wisdom, gained from experience that (hopefully!) will help you create better images for your Etsy shop. Yes the first 3 are technical and I said I wasn't bothering with that, but I'm only including them because I consider them very important - if you never learn your way around photography any more than these, you'll be OK.In fact they're so important I've called them 'technissentials'. So important I made a new word! Let's just accept that and get on with it.

Technissential #1 - natural sunlight

Sure I know, everyone says it- because it's true! Though there are some truly amazing ways to set up an artificial lighting rig for any budget, fact of the matter is nothing beats Mr.Sunshine for the best results.Wait for overcast days and shoot as much as you can, when you can. Don't just shoot a few things and say 'that'll do' - it's good to have about a week's worth of listings ready to go on your hard drive for the times when weather and schedule are inflexible.

 Above, (unedited!) shots of the same necklace using natural and artificial light. Though there is only a subtle difference, you can see below after editing there is still something 'off' in the artificial shot; the blues and yellows aren't quite right and the whole thing looks a bit too harsh and flat. Even after editing (see below) the lamplight shot is still somehow 'not quite there'. It might not look that different to you, but I'm holding the necklace in my hand right now and I can tell you, it's not the same colour as the lamplight image shows. Natural light is jut a flattering to an inanimate objects as it is to humans, so use it whenever you can.

Technissential #2 - Any camera will do

Any camera is fine for shooting images for your shop- really! My first digital camera was purchased 10 years ago and still takes a great picture, even though it's only a 3.6 megapixel dinosaur. So get out your manual (or download it if you no longer know where it is) and learn your camera's settings. Especially critical to good photos is white balance -a simple setting on your camera which will turn your yellowed or blue-soaked shots into more natural tones.

Above, changing the white balance has changed the light and tones drastically in these (unedited) shots. The center image is correct- on the left it is too blue and on the right too yellow. All 3 photos were taken within seconds of each other; the only thing that's changed is the white balance setting.

Technissential #3 - post-process

Post-processing your images after you shoot them can mean the difference between a good photo and a great one. Not just perfectly good photos made better, but you can save low-exposed pics, or wrong white balance setting, or most frustrating of all, when purple doesn't want to come out purple. In the image below, the left half is unedited - straight out of the camera- while the right side has had basic post-processing in terms of light/contrast, colour adjustment and sharpening. You don't need Photoshop for this; Gimp is free and easy to use, and if you want more control you can get PS Element fairly cheaply on eBay. Consider it a good business investment!

That's the technical taken care of, let's move a bit deeper into some Research n Development. These tip will hopefully teach you to achieve pictures which both stand out from the search results and give you an improved social network presence. Practically every category on Etsy is flooded now and it's no longer enough just to have great photos - you gotta know how to flaunt it!

Know what you're shooting for

If you just head on into it randomly snapping images, you're going to have a bad time. Know what you need for the listing, and make sure all 5 images convey the whole piece without repeating themselves. Don't bother uploading similar or out-of-focus images, it's just a waste of time and gives the impression you don't know what you're doing.  Make sure you have an image that shows the object in it's entirety as well as images which show details like clasps on jewelry, lining in bags, labels in clothing etc. An Etsy specific tip- make all your images landscape orientation (wider than they are long) and you will avoid those ugly grey edges.

Take as many pics as you can - the more the better. Above is a cropped screenshot of my listings folder; I average about 20 shots for every item I list; from these I'll narrow it down to the best 5 and discard the rest. Being able to pick the good apples from the bunch is much better than just dealing with the few you've got.

Love your background

There's a lot of people that will tell you the best background to use is the one everyone else uses - the white background. I can't see the sense in this- your background is what makes your shop; it showcases your inventory, captures the heart of your target market and helps you accentuate your brand (what they now call 'tell your story'). Used to be that everyone was keen on the pure white background, though lately I'm seeing a rising trend in a dove grey backdrop. You don't have to live like that!

Above is a shot of various papers and old book covers I recently explored for backgrounds; I've settled on a staggered pile of old papers now and I use it in varying layouts across all three of my shops. If you set yourself apart and define your style by having a signature background, soon enough people will recognize it by sight outside of Etsy. This is especially helpful on social networking sites where credit of the original image can be lost. A distinctive visual style will work infinitely better than any watermark. If you want more help on what background is right for you, check out my older blog post on the subject.

Props are your friend

Backgrounds aren't the only thing that can set your style - a consistent prop or display is a great way to create unity in your shop, especially if your stock has a large variety. If you sell a lot of something particular like jewelry, but in many different styles, the same one or two jewelry cases or bracelet prop can bring a cohesion.

Boxes, tins, candlesticks and small china dishes all have their own personality. Props are fantastic not only for giving a sense of scale but also for conveying mood. If you have a tea set or some fine dishes to sell, fill them with delicate pastries; baskets look great filled with rustic bread rolls and handmade candles always look nice displayed in silver trays. Furniture is especially in need of props- that antique kitchen table will look even better laid with a tablecloth and garnished with a chair or two. If it all seems a bit too much like hard work, just keep the prop shots for listings where the selling price makes it worthwhile.

Follow the leader

Your first image (which I call the leader) is the one that gets you the attention, so make sure it's a sparkler. It doesn't necessarily have to be one that shows the whole object, some shops have a style that relies on showing just tantalizing glimpses of details. Your image isn't just there to illustrate what's for sale- it's also going to work it's butt off networking and advertising you all over the internet. It may seem as simple as standing out from search results, but from there it's noticed on activity feeds and in a user's favourites. Before you know it it's in treasuries and being shared on Pinterest or Tumblr and featured in blogs. When people are attracted to images online, it often isn't really about what's for sale, it's about the picture of the thing that's for sale. The more engaging your image is, the more likely it's going to get around.

This little blue dish was in my shop for about 5 months before someone bought it; in that time however it racked up an incredible 636 hearts and 89 treasuries! This padlock gained 253 hearts and 44 treasuries.They weren't particularly expensive objects, but the images were so admired that they paid for themselves time and time again in advertising for me and were seen by thousands of people. And I didn't have to lift a finger!

Change is good

Once you have something listed, it could run it's whole 4 month listing time without being purchased. When it comes time to renew expired listings, take a look over it and make sure there's nothing that might be a problem in it's being sold. Are the images showing the right scale? Is the texture on the material being showcased? Does the reflection of your camera make it look like there's a mark on the glass? Maybe the first image jut isn't appealing; many's the time I've had a listing that wasn't selling, so I changed the picture and boom- off we go.

On the left is the leader image I originally used on the listing for a tie. It was okay, but the board didn't give an idea of scale and the tie looked too long for it's 1940s origins. In the right image, I used the male torso; it gives a nicer idea of scale and looks more appealing (I can show the whole tie in another image in the listing). Sure enough, using the vintage mannequin rather than the board gained me much higher views. 

My final tip is - don't overdo it! These things take time and are filled with trial and error- I doubt there's a single 'online merchant' who's 100% confident they're doing everything right. What's most important is that you're happy with it, and it's working for you. Not all your listings have to be perfect treasury fodder, not all your images have to be prize-winners. Aim for about 80% gold and 20% glitter.

Saturday, January 18, 2014



Boy I've been slack on this blogging front- a month since my last post! Well it is what it is, volcano season is upon us here on the wrong side of the planet and I've been spending most of my time laying on the bed in a zombie daze. The last 4 days were hotter than Satan's sauna/hot tub room with built in pizza oven, but I managed to get through thanks to a good supply of homemade watermelon slushies, cool showers and a barely coping portable AC unit, clinging to the knowledge that in a couple of days we would have a week of the weather out there now; cloudy, cool and intermittently rainy. For now!

antique books; scanning digital download fodder

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I love TV

Here's a TV series I just finished watching- found it a couple of days ago when needing something to take away the pains of the ladycurse. You can watch the whole thing all at once on You Tube - as I did! (There are seperated episodes there too, if you need that.) 3 very enjoyable hours. Essentially, 'Amanda is an ardent Jane Austen fan who lives in present day London, until she finds she's swapped places with Austen's fictional creation Elizabeth Bennet.' I'm not an Austen girl (have never read any of them, maybe saw Pride and Prejudice once, 1000 years ago) but I thought it would be fun and I was right! To say Amanda is an 'ardent Jane Austen fan' is wrong though, she's just obsessed with reading Pride and Prejudice over and over. There were a few discrepancies; I don't think the costumes were paid too close attention to, but it's a fun ride. Mr.Darcy is hilariously, typically and relentlessly cranky and there's a few nods to the classic Firth incarnation. ('Wet shirt' is all I need say, I'm sure.)

There's also this- The Paradise. I advise not watching any of the trailers for this as they're all awful. (The BBC really need to talk to me about their promotion/advertising/DVD artwork etc.) It's easiest to flog this as a better version of Mr.Selfridge, but it's more accurate to say it's a witty, elegant and lovable series about a large department store and the people who work there (and opposite it). The characters are all likable in their own way, there's plenty of familiar faces and the production design is amazing. The only thing I wish for it is that there had been more exploration of the other shops who are suffering under the expansion of the larger store. But they've just started showing season two, so maybe there will be!

I can't wait to live in England, where I can get great TV like this all the time instead of hunting it down online. Australia is a cultural desert.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Awayness Approaching

 Just so you know, Mz.Devices...I am selling the things i collect and am not a hoarder so there. Actually that was one of the reasons why I showed the old photos, it's one of the few things I buy with a purpose of keeping them. Sometimes. It's what makes me ideal for being a vintage dealer really, because I don't get attached to all the spectacular things I find. Although I do have this black glass buckle I recently scored... Is that watermark up there more subtle?

 Look at these buckles...medieval! I forgot to tell you chaps last time that I'm going away for a couple of weeks to the Misty Mountain Retreat - aka my friend's house. For some RnR and a little bit of (gasp!) socializing. yeah, other people! Weird.

 Due to the awayness of my being away, Fagin's will be on vacation as of Monday lunchtime, which is my time- so about Sunday after dinner for you. It'll be back up around the 22nd of October.

I'll probably still blog while I'm away because hobbit have wi-fi (well all the hobbits I know anyway) and I wanna do some photography n whatnot. I just wanted to give you a heads up in case there's something you've been meaning to get.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Old Folks

Since I'm always showing you pretty pictures of things I want you to buy, I figured it was a bout time I showed you pretty pictures of things you can't buy! I never used to be a collector of things but in the last few months I've found myself buying things for the shop and then deciding I might like to keep it, if only for a while. Most stock for the shop gets sorted, bagged and boxed till it comes time to 'shoot n list', but some stuff just sits around so I can enjoy it. This post is all about the antique photographs I have sprinkled around the room. Long gone people from other countries; there really isn't anything particular I look for when collecting- sharply focused eyes is nice, but usually there's just something about them. It's more noticeable in some than others.

Let's start with these 3 pairs - these came today as part of a lot (from this great shop), which I only bought for one photo (you'll see that later) I bought specifically for my brother who collects antique photographs as well, focusing mainly on bearded men. Anyway- these look to be photo booth cards but it doesn't seem photo booths were in wide use until the 1920s (though they did have them beforehand). I suppose they were swapped among girlfriends, perhaps this size was intended for lockets as they're only stamp sized.

 This one's my favourite. She's had enough of your shit!

 Here's the girl who's actually the frame in my layered backgrounds on Fagin's.

I love her! She seems like a nice, fun person. The back is sweet too: 

Back in the days when a photo of yourself was a perfectly good Xmas present.

 An elegant lady from the 1920s.

 She has a kind and graceful face.

 These sisters (I suppose) I love for no good reason other than it's a lovely shot and they have great dresses. I like to think that odd hand gesture on the table is some kind of secret code.

 Here's the photo I bought for my brother:

He collects pictures of manly men and I thought this one was especially nice, the close friendship and cigars. A lot of people nowadays see this and think 'omg gays!' but back in the late 19th century it was common for men to be closely affectionate with each other as girls are today.

I like to think they were out on the town, a bit drunk when one of them had the idea to 'get their picture took'. I might have to get a better shot of these boys and submit them to My Daguerreotype Boyfriend. (which is a great site I highly recommend.)

 Here's one I don't think I'll be able to sell any time soon- she's hilarious! In a congenial way, of course.

They told me to keep still and I kept still!

Her's a 'nice old lady'. Something familar about her face to me, and I love the detail of her dress and jewelry. I had this one as far as making the listing, but I changed my mind.


 Lovely girl in a stripey dress with a memorial brooch - she reminds me of a young McGonagall. This photo is only about the size of a postage stamp.
 A lovely 1920s girl who seems nice enough, but the longer you look at her face, the more annoyed she gets! Some people just don't like to be stared at I guess.

Here's the best for last! 
 Apart from looking like the Muggle Malfoy cousin no one ever talks about... check out the length of his neck!