Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 343

Here's a screenshot of me crossing the 10,000 follower mark. It happened while I was sleeping so I didn't get the exact moment. It happened about a week after I started trending. During the first 12 hour period, I got 2000 new followers and during the next 12, I got a similar amount. Then it started to decrease from there. 

Here's a screen shot of my Tumblr email notifications, which came every 12 hours, in reverse order. The amount of followers steadily decreased as I went lower on the list of trending blogs on the Tumblr app. You can see that it suddenly drops from almost 200 to the teens near the top. I think this is when I stopped appearing on the app. 

During this time, I also received this email from Tumblr saying on the was on their Radar. This meant I would appear on the side bar whenever people looked at their Tumblr dashboard. You can see an example below on the right. What pops up there is random though and even after hitting refresh a lot, I never saw myself appear. Maybe Tumblr is encoded so I don't appear for myself. 

So I've trended on Tumblr and hopefully been on their radar. The next and highest step is to be on Tumblr's Spotlight where they recommend blogs to people looking for new things. It's the closest thing to a front page Tumblr has. While I could only see myself trending on the app, the Spotlight is easily accessible on their webpage. We'll see if I ever get on there.

Day 342

A few weeks ago, I woke up in the morning, went on my computer and looked my Tumblr stats like I usually do. I check to see if anything interesting happened over night (usually nothing does). Everything looked normal but then I noticed that it said I had 900 followers. I was pretty sure I had a little less than 700 the previous day. I thought maybe I had 6 and 9 mixed up in my head. Then I refreshed the stats and now it said I had over a thousand followers. I was a little dumbfounded considering I usually get maybe 10 new followers on a good day. So I knew something was up. I thought maybe a big website wrote about me but I couldn't find anything on Google. Or maybe some super popular person on Tumblr was sharing my stuff to their followers. I couldn't figure it out. Then I got this email from Tumblr:

Apparently I was trending. This happened a few days after I uploaded the group photo of my Adventure Time crayons. It was fairly popular and I think had a few thousand notes at that point. I'm still not sure if I was trending because that post was getting popular or if someone on Tumblr noticed me and decided to stamp me with the Trending label and then I actually began trending. Either way, my account was blowing up. Tumblr itself doesn't really have a front page so I couldn't see myself being promoted on their website. However, their mobile app does have a section for trending blogs and tags. So among the prestigious company of the New Yorker, PBS and Baby Animal Tongues, I found myself. I think I was about the fourth one down on the list. As days went on, I would get lower and lower on the list and get less and less attention.

But for the time being I was happy. Twelve hours after I started trending, I got this email update from Tumblr.

Day 341

Yup. So that finally happened. It was like a month ago but like I've said, I'm behind and also writing about things out of order. The funny thing is that trying to sell this set was the original motivation of my online presence. I opened an Etsy store to sell it. I created a Tumblr account so I could post it on the Game of Thrones Tumblr. Then things took off from there. A guy in Australia bought it. There were some complications but I'll write about it later.

A few weeks ago, I saw the Game of Thrones Facebook page post some of the fan art from their Tumblr page. I was happy to see they included mine. It ended up getting about 9000 likes, 1000 shares and 300 comments. A lot of those comments were dildo related.

Then a few days ago, I was googling myself again and found my Donnie Darko crayon was posted on the Donnie Darko Facebook page. There it got even more likes and shares than the Game of Thrones one. A handful of people commented on wanting to buy it (unfortunately it had no link to me or my Etsy store). I don't know how willing they would be if they realized the price. One guy said "Hoang Tran if you're reading this, message me". I'll probably message him eventually but I'm a little busy at the moment.

Donnie Darko and Game of Thrones have millions of fans on Facebook so it's kind of weird thinking that my crayons have been seen by potentially millions of people.

Day 340

I've been writing about things out of order so this happened quite awhile ago, back when I first started to get noticed. I was contacted by a woman from the UK about writing an article about me. She worked for Caters News Agency. They don't publish articles themselves though. Instead they write articles and collect photos and sell them to other websites or newspapers to publish. So there was an opportunity for me to make some money off of this. I had to answer a lengthy list of questions and since I wanted the article to be good, I provided lengthy answers. She also requested photos of myself with the crayons which I begrudgingly provided. She also asked if I had any videos of myself carving a crayon. I said no but would try to make one. That's why I made a video of myself carving Finn. I'll upload it at some point. A week or so went by and then the article appeared.

It was published on the website of the Daily Mail which I believe is the second largest newspaper in the UK. That was cool, however the website has so much content that I'm not sure how many people actually came across it. I knew Brits like puns for their headlines and they made one for the title of the article. Unfortunately, it doesn't make much sense. Coincidentally around the same time, Banksy was spending time in New York making street art. He called his residency there "All I Ever Wanted was a Shoulder to Crayon" (spoiler alert: I'm Banksy). Anyway, the article was a very condensed version of the answered I provided. It was almost like it was made of bullet points. I guess they wanted to keep it short so it'll be easier to sell. The only real inaccurate thing about the article was that it made it seem like I quit dental school to carve crayons when really I just stumbled onto it while pursuing other things.

Apparently, Maeby Funke is a reader of the Daily Mail. Anyway, a few weeks went by and I didn't hear anything from my UK contact. I figured they didn't sell the article anywhere. Then out of the blue, I got a invoice saying I made about $100 off of a sale to Hello Canada magazine and/or website. I couldn't find any article from them about me since so I don't now if they actually did anything. Nonetheless I was pretty happy considering it's practically free money. I think I'm also due another hundred from a sale next month but I don't know who bought it yet. The original agreement with Caters was for a three month association and I have another month left on that. I bring that up because oddly enough I was also contacted by another UK based news agency asking to write an article and perform similar functions as the first one. I might take them up on that to see where that goes. 

On a slightly related note (I don't remember if I've written about this), I was contacted via Tumblr by a guy from Disney Magazine in Malaysia. He asked if they could publish images of my work. I replied to the email address he gave but he never responded. Sad. Maybe I could have gotten the attention of the US side of Disney.

Day 339

I've mentioned before that different websites and blogs have written about my work. A few are original articles while a lot are just reposts from other sites. Every now and then I google myself to see what's been written. I don't look too hard. Maybe I should set up google alerts or something. Anyway, here are a few notable ones. After the initial flurry of articles, things kind of died down a bit. Then I noticed a lot of hits on my Etsy store one day and I traced it back to an article on Boing Boing. I have never heard of the site but I guess it's popular because it lead to other sites finding me. 

One of those was The Daily Dot, another site I wasn't familiar with. Someone there contacted me asking permission to post images along with some other basic questions about my work. I obliged and the end result is above.

More recently, I was contacted by Mashable. They wanted to post images and ask some questions as well. I have heard about this site before but don't frequent it. Both of the above sites contacted me through Etsy. I'm not sure if they found me on Etsy or through my Tumblr, but Tumblr's messaging system is terrible so I'm not surprised they used Etsy. I also added an email address (carvedcrayons@gmail) on my Etsy shop for people to contact me if they don't have an Etsy account which some people have used. I had to decide between carved crayons or crayon carvings. I wanted wax nostalgic but I that was already taken. Carved crayons is easy to remember though and it matched my Etsy shop name (which also wanted that to be Wax Nostalgic but that was taken too).

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 336

In my Etsy shop, there is an option to request a custom order. I've had a handful of requests, though few have actually gone through. My first two were Doctor Who related. One guy wanted a Tardis and a girl wanted a Tadis and a Dalek. The guy was in Australia and I guess the shipping cost was too much for him so he never replied back. And I guess the cost for two crayons was too much for the girl. Next I spent awhile messaging a girl in Singapore. She wanted to buy Princess Bubblegum as a gift. Side note: I've noticed that quite of few of my orders are gifts for other people. My crayons aren't exactly cheap so I think it's too much for most people. However if it's a gift, then the price isn't too bad. People would rather splurge on others than themselves. Anyway, Singapore girl needed the crayon in a week for a birthday and I couldn't guarantee that it would arrive in time so that order fell through.

Someone asked for a French bulldog. I wanted to do this but the guy never responded either. What I like about these requests is that they ask for things I would never think of which is fun. One guy asked for an Elvira carving which got me excited because it would be a challenge. That would require applying white wax (for skin) onto a black crayon (for hair and her dress). I would have done it from the chest up so I could carve some nice cleavage. I was really curious if I could carve a pretty face. But the guy never replied. I hadn't even quoted him a price yet so I don't know why he didn't.

My latest request was for a Loki carving. This I also want to do and believe can turn out pretty cool. The lady agreed to the price so I'm just waiting for her to pay for it. Hopefully she does that soon. It's for decorating her two year old son's room who is named Loki.

So a fair amount of requests that haven't worked out. Well below is one that did work out and I think it's awesome.

It's Frank the Rabbit from the movie Donnie Darko. I like the film. I liked the idea. I was happy to do this. I even applied extra color free of charge. The base crayon is black and I applied grey for the eyes and teeth. I originally wanted the base crayon to be grey since I thought black would be too dark but he wanted black. The grey is already fairly dark so there isn't too much contrast with the black. Besides the fact that the ears should be more spread apart (which I couldn't do), I think it's a good likeness. What was nice was that I didn't have to be really precise about everything. For most carvings, I pore over reference images trying to get every detail right. But Frank's mask has an irregular shape and surface so I didn't need to worry about precision. Pretty much all my previous crayons have a smooth surface. Even my fox, which should be furry, was smooth. Here though I added in some texture. The head has a fur-like texture. For the mask, I ended up drawing countless overlapping fine lines. It gave the mask an almost metallic look because you can see tiny spots of shininess in the light. It's a little hard to see that in this picture though.

So I sent the crayon off feeling pretty good about myself. Then a few days later, I got a message from the guy saying the ears broke off during shipment. I was surprised by that. I ship the crayons in the test tubes I showed awhile back. The tubes are long and the crayon can slide up and down so I put in a ball of tissue paper first so the carved end of the crayon doesn't bang into the plastic. The crayon can also move side to side a bit. However the distance it can move laterally is less than a millimeter so I didn't think it could build up enough momentum in that distance to create enough force to break the crayon. I guess the package was rattling like crazy for the ears to break. So I ended up carving a new Frank the same day and sent it off the next day. The guy got it a few days later and was happy. On the bright side, I asked him to mail the broken one back to me so once I fix it, I can keep it for myself.

Pro-tip: I print my USPS shipping labels through Etsy's site but there wasn't an option to print a second label to the same person. So I went to the USPS website to print a label but found out they don't allow printing of First Class mail which is the cheapest option and the one I use. Luckily, I found out that Paypal let's you print First Class postage (probably because there are a lot of Ebay sellers using Paypal). So keep that in mind if you ever need to do that.

Day 335

In the past, I've written about how I carve late at night often. The light in my room isn't that bright so I don't see what I'm doing very well. Often it isn't until the next day when I have sunlight that I can clearly see what I did the previous night. I decided to fix this by finding my old lamp in our basement. It's a desk lamp so all the light is directed downward onto what I'm working on and not in my face which is nice.

The funny thing is that it's too much light and I see things too clearly now. When I take photos of my crayons, it gets blown up so big on my computer screen that I see all the faults and defects. It looks bad on the screen, but in real life it looks fine. Now with this lamp, I can see all the defects as if I was zoomed in with my camera. Now I spend too much time trying to perfect everything when it actually looks fine in normal lighting conditions. I'll keep using the lamp though because too much light is still better than too little.

Above is a picture of my work area. It's pretty fancy working on the floor (hurts my knees after awhile though). I took this picture at night with my normal room light off and just this lamp on. I thought it would look cool but unfortunately, my room isn't big so I couldn't back up enough to get the right shot. Now it just looks like a poorly lit photo. Anyway, on the top left, you can see my crayons and completed carvings sitting in test tubes. You can also see my tray of crayon tips which I save if I need to melt them to fix or add to something. On the right, is my laptop for looking at reference photos and watching TV shows (it can't be a show that's too distracting though). Top right in the dark are my magical crayon melting tools.

Day 334

Most of the latest and upcoming posts aren't necessarily about things that occurred in chronological order. I've kind of just lumped things together by topic which seems to make more sense to me. This one will be about my Etsy sales. To me, Etsy is more interesting because I'm actually interacting with people more. What was odd about my sales at first was that they occurred in waves. Not in terms of being sporadic but in people ordering the same thing at the same time. So if you didn't know, I made a listing for most of the crayons I made so far. I list that there are multiple available and I make them to order. Anyway, back to the waves. And by waves, I mean like 2 or 3 so these waves aren't too big. I had to make a few R2D2s, then Stormtroopers, then Darth Vaders and then Totoros.

I mentioned previously that I was kind of sad that I would send away what I made and didn't get to keep a copy for myself. I also found out when I had to make the R2s that having an existing carving speeds up the duplication process since I could directly compare the two. So before doing the Stormtroopers, I decided that I would start making a copy for myself. It'll take some extra time but at least I won't have to do it again in the future. Also for everyone new carving I make, I can keep the best of the two. 

Because of that, one day I ended up having to make four Darth Vaders. Two were for customers, one for Senthil and one for myself. I was reminded of how much I dislike carving him. The geometry of his face is weird and hard to reproduce. It doesn't help that his helmet is big so I have to make the face smaller to be correctly proportionate. Also, carving black crayons is a pain because it's hard to see what I'm doing. It makes me want to increase the price so less people buy it.

These orders have been keeping me busy lately. I haven't been able to carve stuff that I want though. I can see that Star Wars crayons get ordered a lot while Adventure Time does not (younger audience with no money probably). I think if I did a Tardis from Doctor Who, it would sell similarly to Star Wars. I currently have 236 followers on Etsy and I'm sad that they haven't seen anything new in awhile. I'm kind of in a lull right now so hopefully I can do some new stuff and/or get back to modelling.

Day 333

Now for a Tumblr update. I currently have 643 followers. However, not much activity has been going on these past few weeks. First of all, I've been busy carving stuff I've sold on Etsy so I haven't been making many new things. For long stretches of time, I've been getting just a few likes and shares an hour. No-Face was an exception and got over a thousand notes. There's supposed to be a lot of activity on weekends so I posted Finn on a Sunday hoping he'd get a lot of attention. He got very little which surprised me. So I deleted that post and uploaded it again on Monday for another try. I got pretty much the same result. That was disappointing. I think I've mentioned how fickle Tumblr is. It's all about timing and luck. I liken it to trying to start a campfire. I create some sparks hoping a flame will catch. Most sparks die out quickly. Sometimes the kindling catches fire but goes out. If I'm lucky, a flame will start but usually it won't survive the night. Then there's Princess Bubblegum which burns forever. I just posted the Adventure Time group shot a few days ago and that did well. It survived the night and has over 3000 notes as of right now.  Otherwise, nothing too interesting going on on the Tumblr front. I actually think I'm getting more views on Etsy now a days.

I did notice that one of the people who bought my crayon posted it on their own Tumblr. I wouldn't have seen this normally but his username and profile picture are the same on Tumblr and Etsy so I looked at his page. I'm glad he liked it. Even though I've made sales on Etsy, I've yet to receive a review from a customer. So it's nice to get some feedback.