Blog is moving!

4 02 2011

This blog is moving!

Please visit for the new blog site, and subscribe. Thanks for reading!

Website makeovers

4 02 2011

Finding my way these days has felt a lot like being lost in the woods. When you’re lost in the woods, everything looks like a path. But there’s one that’s right, and it just takes attention to the small things to figure out the right way to go. And once you choose the one that’s right, it becomes so obvious which way was the right way.

I’ve had a welcome flood of requests this week for new websites, and I’d like to tell you about this problem I have when it comes to web design. It’s called addiction, and it’s a problem I love to have. I’m lucky that Advokate’s services can align so closely with my own sick addictions – I never feel like I’m working at all. When somebody calls me while I’m working and says, “Are you busy? Let’s hang out. What are you doing?” I find it really hard to say, “I’m working.” It’s not work if it’s your favorite thing to do, right?

I’ve been known to stay up into the wee hours of the morning lately, twiddling a site until it’s just right. It’s art, to me. It’s a creative process of trial-and-error. Maybe this font – no, too sterile… Okay, this one’s closer. What if I squeeze the letters together more… That’s more like it… and maybe it just needs a little more yellow for warmth… YES! Oh yes! I need to show this to someone! I don’t get this much of a kick out of painting, even – because the kick is that I’m doing this for other people. Let me tell you about it.

When I do a site for somebody, we sit down together, usually in their studio, store or space, and they tell me about how they want it to look. It’s harder when they’ve already got a website and so they have a vision in mind already. So the customer is talking about the technical stuff and how they’d like it set up and what pages and such, and often it’s a very similar thing and I’m listening, but what I’m really doing while they’re talking is absorbing.

I take in the colors they surround themselves with, their handwriting, the promotional materials they’ve already put together, the way they do their hair, their art – beyond just the media to the style that makes them unique — and then hold that flavor that defines them up against the images, fonts and site structures I work with and DING!DING!DING! find a match. It’s so exciting when I’ve tried every option – options that come close, but aren’t quite right – and then finally have that perfect match. Then it’s a matter of plugging in the information they provide, doing some light editing (which I also love – proofreading is something I have a knack for), and then the final tweaks.

Then, at 2 in the morning or whatever, I email them to tell them it’s ready and what do they think? And I have to go to bed and wait for them to be in touch with me. It’s hard to sleep. It’s like planning a surprise party, or waiting for somebody to open a handmade present – that kind of care, excitement, thought, anticipation and anxiety.

I’m not the super best coder/web developer/technical person ever, and because of that had some trepidation with my first websites for other people. But when I do a website for somebody, it reflects who they are – or how I see them. It’s an intuitive portrait of them and it’s done with creativity and emotion and what I hope is a good understanding and connection of what they want — and I’m realizing that the design sense has more value than the coding skills. And – lucky me! – I’m now fortunate enough to have a few technically-minded friends in my toolbox that I can call on when I need a tweak that’s over my head, so I’m ready to jump into web design full-force.

I especially love when I can do this for somebody whose work I really admire, and this was the case recently with my friend and Shirt Factory colleague Adela Tavares. She’s an incredible painter, and I was not only honored, but creatively had a great time making her site. Designing it was the inspiration for this blog post. Thanks, Adela!

Etsy class set for February 2 – UPDATE: POSTPONED TO FEB. 9

20 01 2011

UPDATE! – The class has been postponed to Wednesday, February 9, at 10:30 a.m. Same info, new date!

Hello, blog readers! Here’s the press release I’m sending out for my next Etsy class, set for Wednesday, February 2, at 10:30 a.m. If you can’t make it, despair not! I do one-on-one consultations too. Details below:

Kate Austin-Avon sets next Etsy class

GLENS FALLS – Kate Austin-Avon, Glens Falls mixed-media artist and sole proprietor of new business Advokate, announces a class for artists and crafters interested in selling online.

Titled “Intro to Etsy,” the class is set for Wednesday, February 2, at 10:30 a.m. in Kate’s studio: Suite 311 on the third floor of The Shirt Factory, located at the corner of Lawrence and Cooper Streets in Glens Falls.

Class fee: $25. Reservations are requested.

To enroll, call (518) 353-2121 or email

This class for Etsy newbies is targeted toward artists or crafters who are finally ready to part with some of their work and would like to sell online. It’s conducted intimately and informally. Kate uses her laptop to demonstrate the process of setting up an account and listing on Etsy, and narrates tips and suggestions along the way.

Topics include opening an account, setting up shop, photographing your pieces, describing your work, shop policies, how to stand out in searches, the Etsy community and more. The class also touches lightly on business basics for artists such as branding and copyright.

Etsy is a great way to get your work out there,” Kate says. “It has its pros and cons, but one of the biggest pros I see is that people already go there to shop. Having an online store through Etsy is like having a kiosk in the mall, versus selling at your own website off the beaten path. It’s more affordable than Ebay and easy to use once you’re comfortable with it. Ease and comfort with Etsy is what I aim to build in the class.”

Kate’s business, Advokate, specializes in helping artists and small businesses promote, and offers consultation, web design, graphics work, publicity expertise, consultation, help with Etsy and Facebook and more. This is her fourth time offering the class. She is scheduled to lead a web design class for artists at LARAC in March 2011. A blog about successes of Advokate’s Etsy students is here: One student is already up to 5 sales!

Hire Advokate, instantly sell your work

8 12 2010

So a few weeks ago I helped a customer set up a shop on Etsy, the online marketplace for all things handmade. We spent four hours one-on-one getting policies set up, editing photos, creating a banner and avatar and listing her items. She got busy and listed a bunch of things after our tutorial.

In her first week of shop ownership, she was featured in a Treasury on the front page and sold a quilt! I was astonished – I mean, I sell things myself on Etsy and I know that sales fluctuate and are largely dependent on how often you list items. And here was a newbie, selling a big ticket item just boom, like that! I felt so proud that Advokate enabled her to have an online shop and that it was already making sales.

When she called me in excitement to tell me about her sale, she made the point that calling me had already paid for itself. (Here’s her shop, by the way – her prices are great and her quilts are all one-of-a-kind.)

So imagine my elation when I heard this news just now. Another Advokate customer took a group class and hired me to design her banner and avatar, and then for one-on-one help with graphics. She started her Etsy shop in late November and just began to list things today… And JUST sold an item within a few hours of listing it!!!

Here’s her new shop.

Now, of course their own talent and quality product is what closed the sale here, but I’m just so psyched that it was through Advokate’s services that they were able to get their Etsy shops up and running!

Don’t you want this to work for you? Call Advokate and start selling online!


30 11 2010

I’m going to blatantly swipe this blog post in the name of sharing it with you folks over here at the Advokate blog. I was just checking out because they featured my buddy Casey the Candy Thief and scrolled down to see this, which I thought needed sharing, especially after my font post:

It’s made by A Girl Named Tor, who has it for sale. Sweet! I know what my office wants for Christmas.

Editing photos for Etsy using GIMP

29 11 2010

Well, we’re just toodling along here at Advokate! I had two phone calls today from attendees of my Etsy class, looking for more help on photo editing. While I’m excited to give one-on-one lessons with them, and there are a bunch of other great tutorials out there on photos, I thought the chiseled-down Kate version of editing photos of your work for online selling might make for a good blog post. I like to think it’s pretty simple.

I’m saving my pennies for Adobe PhotoShop, which runs $699. In the meantime, I use GIMP, the free knock-off. It does everything I need it to do. There’s also which does all these things too, and you don’t need to install a program.

So I use my digital camera to take some photos. For my jewelry, I place the pieces on blank white paper in my studio, which has a lot of light. It can sometimes be more interesting to place items on clever objects to help “brand” your store. Since my stuff is so colorful, I think white sets it off well and makes it less visually confusing. I try to take close-ups, use angles, line it up next to a ruler, put it next to a business card, show what it looks like on a human being, etc. I take a ton of images and use the highest resolution setting on my camera.

Then I take my photos and put them on my computer and pick the five best to edit. They usually look like this.

First I might want to crop in to make it a little more interesting. I’ll just eyeball it and use the rectangle select tool to select something that looks kind of like a square shape and use Image > Crop to Selection. Then to make sure it’s square, I go to Image > Canvas Size, unlink the little chain, and make sure each side is the same. I’ll drag the preview around so I’m not cropping out something I want to use.

Prime size for Etsy is 1,000 by 1,000 pixels. So I go to Image > Scale Image and scale it down so it’s 1,000 x 1,000 pixels. Now I’ve got what I want.

Now for some simple color adjustment. I go into Color > Levels and select the white eyedropper. Then I click on the white background. Presto! The whole image adjusts and looks more like something out of a catalog. If it looks too blown out, I can drag the little triangles around to change it to be a little less drastic. You can do the same for black,but sometimes it comes out darker than looks right, I find. I want to have it set up so it shows the most detail and looks neat and clean but not cartoony or dramatic.

As a finishing touch, I give the color a little bump by clicking Colors > Hue-Saturation and dragging the Saturation up just a bit. If your image looks a little too blue or a little too yellow from being indoors or outdoors, you can mess with the Hue just a tad here, too.

And that’s it! You could go nuts editing images, but these are the quick steps I use in my everyday Etsying. Happy listing!

P.S. This item is for sale.

Boy, do I love fonts.

19 11 2010

It’s true. Me + Fonts = Love.

You should see my high school and college papers. Though it looks completely obnoxious these days to compose documents in a font other than Times New Roman or Arial, I was riding high on the wave of technology back in the 90s.

Originally I’d change the switch on my dad’s old Epson dot matrix printer to sometimes print in script or Courier. To start, we were using some basic word processing program on DOS. Then I got into this computer program called Creative Writer (Anyone remember? With that obnoxious skinny purple guy, McZee? Imaginopolis? The Vanishing Point? I’d give my right knee to be able to play that thing again.) where you could layout newspaper columns, mess with fonts, import clip art – and all hell broke loose. I handed in funky text every time; sometimes multicolored. I was the Punky Brewster of school papers. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was paving the way for Advokate.

I had little-girl love affairs with Flower Power and Captain Howdy. Me and Velvet had a thing in my late teens. An old friend and my ex used to use really small Verdana on their websites – I still do, in some places. More recently I’ve been a fan of Artistamp Medium, but now too many people are using it, most notably Crandall Public Library’s campaign a couple years ago that was done by Trampoline Design. Fontocide and I had a brief fling, but now I’m over that and on to more mature fonts like Century Gothic for Advokate and maybe a little Tuer’s Cardboard when I want something more old-fashioned. Semi-secretly, I really like Hand of Sean, but I don’t like the name so I don’t use it as often as I might, otherwise. Looks like we all agree that Papyrus is fired.

I’ve always gotten really excited when I can recognize a font somewhere. I recall a time back in the 90s when there was a bottle of some salad dressing in the grocery store that used Party and I jumped up and down and showed my mom. Same with the Crandall Library campaign – see how smug I was up there about that? That’s because I felt ownership over discovery of Artistamp Medium. It was mine and then it sold out, being plastered all over town like that. Even though I had it on my site before the campaign came out, I feel crummy about using it now; like it’s not my own any more. Trampoline rules at what they do; I respect them a lot. I just was bummed they found “my” font. It’s like a guy you liked being into someone else. I don’t want to hang out with Artistamp Medium any more.

Yeah, so me and fonts. We go way back. It’s pretty awesome that this is what I do now, with the design end of things.

Another thing that I go way back with? Teaching people stuff I know. Check this thing out, at left. Back in 2000 or so I put a step-by-step guide together to help the elderly with setting up email accounts, back when computers with the internet in libraries were kind of a new thing for us in Killington. My mom’s a librarian and I interned for a summer at her place, the Sherburne Memorial Library, and helped the snowbirds set up email so they could keep in touch with their children and grandchildren. I rocked it. I started right at the very beginning for them and walked them through it, from mouse and cursor to Hotmail account.

So here’s where that’s gone in ten years: Couple weeks ago I taught a class at LARAC on how to design your own website. On Wednesday I went to Fort Edward to help a quilter set up her Etsy account and learn to list things herself and do some basic image editing. It was the same thing; Start at the beginning, answer questions along the way, keep it cool and help folks laugh when they’re frustrated, and get them to feeling empowered and capable so they can do it on their own. I love it!

I’m feeling like where I am with Advokate is pretty perfect; the most logical place ever for a certain Kate E. Austin from Killington, Vermont to end up.