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Whew! Thank you!

MY GOODNESS. This past weekend was AH-MAZING. Austin Pagan Pride and Lone Star Zinefest, y’all wiped me out! Deepest thanks to everyone who came by my booth or table and purchased something. It makes me so happy to make art, moreso when I get to see how happy people are when they take one of my pieces home.

My next event is ArtsGoggle on October 21st. In the meantime, I will be working to restock everything I sold out of! If there’s something that’s out-of-stock in the store, it should return soon.

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So, one of the reasons I call myself a “maker” is because I truly derive joy from the creation and process of bringing new art into the world. I’ve always had a soft spot for printmaking because of the involvement of process.

A Brief History

One of the “cute” methods of printmaking I’ve always had my eyeball on is that of Print Gocco, a now-defunct process for making handmade greeting cards. It was largely for the Japanese card-giving market, and ultimately was killed off by the rise and affordability of desktop publishing. The parent company, Riso, eventually ceased production of not only the device, but the consumables required to actually produce cards/prints. My misfortune was to discover the existence of Print Gocco a mere year after the system’s demise. I never actually acquired a Gocco system because, why? It might be a nifty novelty, but then becomes a dust-collection trinket in my studio after all consumables are gone.

Fast forward to 2017, when I discovered an insanely valuable tool for my maker’s toolbox, 3D printing. I still had the idea of Print Gocco: a cute, tiny print-production studio. I drew up designs to create one using LED lights and small photo emulsion screens to make little screenprinted cards. It kinda fell by the wayside, never to come to fruition, mostly because of how irritating getting materials for the “occasional” screenprint became. I’d have to buy enough emulsion to coat something like 20 giant screens, but it seemed such an absolute waste when I ended up making two tiny screens for cards or ceramics. Emulsion doesn’t last forever.

Last week, I randomly decided to poke into the world of Print Gocco again. I wondered if the system was easier to get? Maybe someone was making bootleg supplies? What’s up? I stumbled on a great blog post on No Bad Memories discussing a deep dive on the Gocco process. Long story short, the dots were connected for me that Print Gocco was made by the same company that owns the Risograph, the Riso Kagaku Corporation.

In hindsight, I’m not sure how I didn’t immediately connect Print Gocco with Risographs.

I love making zines, and haven’t been able to find a place in DFW that offers Risographs to the general public. Oh, I’m sure there’s a place out there, but I haven’t found it yet. In the meantime! Thanks to No Bad Memories‘ additional blog post, I’ve put my mail label printer to work and have made my first two-color print using a method related to Print Gocco.

Unlike screenprinting, Print Gocco uses heat to essentially burn away a thin plastic film from a super-thin fiber substrate. No Bad Memories uses a label printer to accomplish this, another source, Stampalofi, uses a repurposed thermal fax machine to do so.

It took me a bit of experimenting to find settings that worked for me, but here’s a little rundown of my process, may it help other people also interested in hand-making little mimeographs. I highly recommend reading both of the blogs on No Bad Memories, in addition to watching Stampalofi’s videos if you’re unfamiliar with the process.

Materials & Settings

The name of the magical material to make stencils is typically referred to as “Risograph master”. You can find rolls of this on eBay for at various price points: I got lucky and snagged a roll for $13 including shipping. (Generally they seem to go for around $50 for 2+ rolls. Shop around.) This gives me enough material to make literally hundreds of cards. It is essentially a roll of super-thin tissue with a super-duper-thin layer of plastic. You will want very sharp scissors/blades/papercutter to cut this stuff.

Me, I have a Munbyn label printer. They’re not too expensive, and super handy when you have to make thermal stickers like mailing labels and bag labels for your small business. The label printer prints via heat, not ink. Thus, it is perfect for this project.

I’ve screenshotted the settings I have found to work: yours may be different! But in my testing I’ve found that you want the label to go slow enough to allow for the plastic to burn away, and a power level in that Goldilocks area of not too hot and not too cold. Too hot will melt too much plastic and you’ll be scraping melted plastic off the heat element of your printer.

Color! This biggest issue with screenprinting is you don’t want your inks to dry on you. In big boi screenprinting at the factory, a lot of inks need to be heat-dried, so they don’t dry superfast. Fancy pants artists often use oil-based inks to print. I phased out all oil-based materials in whatever I’m doing because it smells terrible, gives me a headache, and is a PITA to clean. For our little Print Mocko, we want something that gives us working time and won’t dry faster than we can print. Stampalofi has a great video on making nori paste to extend the working time of acrylic paints. However, if you have them available to you, Speedball’s Block Printing Inks have a moderate working time and are water clean-up. They worked perfectly for this.

A block print roller or brayer. Screenprinting uses a squeegee. I started out using a squeegee for this, but it was MUCH too aggressive for the delicate fiber stencil. I noticed it breaking down after a short while. Finding inspiration from devices like the Edison Mimeograph, I found that using a roller was much better suited to the process. Again, Stampalofi has a great video on using a Lion Menucator, which illustrates the hand-rolled Mimeograph. (If you’re a huge dork like me, check out this filmstrip on “Mimeographing Techniques“. Yessir, us old folks remember getting purple copies in school for our worksheets.) In short, a hard rubber brayer worked great.

A frame of some sort. In my pictures, I used one of these I obtained at Daiso for cheap and cut it up. (Believe me, I’m mulling on how to best over-engineer a reusable 3D printed solution.) For an even cheaper solution cut up an old cereal box and tape your stencil to it.

Paper. You can’t used a toothy/textured paper for this. You’re not gonna get a clear impression. Use something smooth. For this project, I used some generic cardstock I got at HEB. My proofs were done on index cards. Entire project was great for the wallet-area.

General Process

This isn’t an especially detailed tutorial, rather an overview of my process after I manufactured a stencil. I will reiterate that 1) I’m assuming someone endeavoring to make lil’ mimeograph prints is familiar with the general idea behind risographs/mimeographs and B) has checked out linked blogs.

Checking fits with my Daiso frame I made. The plastic is soft enough to bend a bit, but stiff enough to provide a nice frame for the stencil to fit into.

In this shot you can barely see where the plastic material has been burned away. Crucially, you will need to do two things when running the stencil material through your printer:

  1. Lay it shiny-side UP
  2. Print the MIRROR IMAGE of whatever it is your are printing.

Evidence of squeegeeing/scraping the ink through the stencil. The entire setup being clear was helpful with half-assed registration.

Lots of little one-color prints! Embrace the lil’ imperfections, for they are what exposes your laziness humanity.

When you’re done with a color, so is your stencil. My aggressive squeegeeing absolutely wore it out, and removing it from the frame completely destroyed it.

After a bit more scraping, I switched to the brayer. The results were MUCH more satisfactory, not to mention less messy. The next project will be brayer-only.

Checking a proof of brayer use. MUCH easier.

Look at all those imperfections! Things definitely crisped up after the brayer. Using the squeegee, you can tell where I was afraid to scrape and ruin the stencil, resulting in less ink deposited.

Mmm…so printy. This is pre-signing and edge-rounding. After that, they will be released into the wild as free art!

Thoughts & Source List

This entire Print Mocko project satisfyingly scratched an instant gratification itch I get now and then. (Pottery is NOT a speedy process!) I can’t wait to experiment with using the Riso stencil material for ceramics, and incorporate some spot colors into my zines.

A condensed list of helpful sources:

  1. Print Gocco – a Wikipedia article
  2. Print Gocco – a demonstration of the cute machine that caught my fancy
  3. Mimeography – a Wikipedia article
  4. Risograph – a Wikipedia article
  5. No Bad Memories – deep dive on Print Gocco and related processes
  6. Stampalofi – helpful videos on the riso stencil process and a mimeography demonstration
  7. An Old Filmstrip – showcasing mimeography techniques

I’m grateful to those who have shared their techniques, sources, and information in keeping old technologies alive in some form or another!

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Maison de Fée

So, I picked a very heavy craft to follow. Pottery isn’t exactly light, and I tend to get extra fancy with my displays. For about 10 years I was a face painter at various conventions, birthday parties and what have you, sadly, that did a lot of damage to my back. When you’re in your early 20s, you tend to not fuss yourself with “old people” problems like taking care of your back.

Come Fall of 2022, my second-to-last show of the year, I put my back out lifting boxes of pottery and equipment into my car, and hauling it to the show site. The phrase “I’m too old for this” has never repeated itself over and over so many times in one head.

I needed a way to showcase and move pottery to shows that didn’t murder my body.

Let’s Do This.

Ever since I first saw Andrea Denniston’s Teardrop Build, I became enamored with the idea. Stash everything inside? Hell yes. Trailer becomes display? More hell yes. Similarly, I loved Diana Kersey’s “Foamie” display trailer after seeing it at Texas Clay Festival. No tables to haul, no shelves to assemble, just stow and go. It’s like an infomercial.

Planning commenced, with minimal self-imposed stipulations:

  • trailer must be able to fit inside buildings that have double doors or cargo entrances
    • trailer must be light enough for me to manipulate/move
      • trailer must be able to display 95% of my work

The venture into Trailer Land began with installing a tow bar onto the Subaru. The resources at are great, they have clear instructional videos that allow you to not pay $200+ at U-Haul to have them install a tow bar as was recommended by far too many people.

Wow it looks naked in retrospect.

Use that $200 towards a Harbor Freight trailer frame. I picked me up one of these bad boys for a little over $400. Buying new, it was the cheapest. Had I shopped around, I might’ve been able to pick up a good second-hand trailer for a reasonable price. My reasoning was that building it would give me a better understanding of how the thing worked. Plus building stuff is fun.

I wasn’t especially sure how well me and the trailer would get along, so it went on a “test trip” to an event in Austin with all my equipment, sans pottery, strapped to the back. The only thing I added was a 3/4″ plywood floor.

To Austin! Our nation’s state’s capitol!

Strapped on were my three display tables, tent, box with tent roof/walls, and box with display shelves. (Shelves flat pack.)

At this point, I was too nervous about the leaf spring shocks providing any protection to my pottery, so it traveled in the car.

The inaugural voyage got me used to pulling a trailer of stuff, how it moved, and the fact that I cannot for the life of me reverse the car and get the trailer to reverse.

Wood is Expensive

It WOOD (haha) have been great to be able to find lots of salvage and build with it. But I live in a post-apocalyptic suburbia where people charge a premium for garbage fence pickets on NextDoor. Fortunately, I had plenty of my own scrap, PLUS a retired bed platform I had constructed about a decade earlier. This isn’t to say I didn’t plunk down a chunk of change on new wood and needed hardware; you can only dig so much out of your personal woodpile.

No, I did not follow any specific building guidelines. I eyeball a dangerous amount of measurements, though in general rulers and cuts weren’t too wonky.

Let’s 3D Print

Terrorizing school children and evening dog walkers.

At this point, the majority of the construction was done. Originally, I had planned to put shelves on hinges that latched up, so I could pull up to an event, unlatch the shelves, and boom. Put up pottery. However, after a test run, I was concerned about the amount of rattling and jiggling outside shelves would take.

I took the base on a test run throughout the neighborhood, doing my best to emulate MarioKart. Topped it off with some donuts in a school parking lot, and I was satisfied that the house wouldn’t tip, and had no tendency to lean one way or the other.

I decided to go with French cleats for hanging my shelves. That way I could add more, put up less, and not worry about them becoming damaged while in transit.

French cleats are pretty reliable as far as holding weight, but mine were kinda skinny, so I added tabs to prevent horizontal motion from happening. Unless someone trips and falls into the house, it ain’t goin’ no where. The brackets pop off for transit and ride inside the house with the shelves, all is well. Each bracket took around five hours, I printed two at a time, each side had eight brackets. My calculator tells me that’s roughly 240 hours of print time. That comes out to…TEN DAYS to print the brackets. Man. My Prusa needs a vacation.

Start Paintin’

At this point, the Texas weather was unseasonably warm for days at a time. This means it’s time to start slappin’ down paint!

UGH I forget how much painting solid colors sucks. This step not only involved painting, but also patching, caulking, sanding, etc. The WOOOOOOOOORST. You only THINK you bought a decent piece of plywood until you have to paint that sucker. Then you decide your next project will be to go back in time and hit yourself with a bag of cement for picking the world’s lumpiest, bumpiest, most uneven sheet of wood known to mankind.

Painting Sucks Let’s 3D Print Again

I wanted shingles for the roof. I looked. And looked. For some crazy reason, people only want to sell you enough shingles to get started covering an entire regular-sized house. People building 4′ x 4′ homes need shingles too, people! After more dead-ends than I would’ve liked, I printed out a test leaf-shaped shingle.

Test leaf came out perfectly. I liked the shape, I liked the look, and it had the unanticipated benefit of being able to be shaped by heating it with a heat gun. I guess we’re doing this. Rough calculations say we’ll need…SEVENTY TWO LEAVES to cover the roof. Time for a trip to Microcenter, I guess.

Each leaf took two hours to print, not counting the time spent manually changing filament colors. (I even cobbled together some gcode to make it spit the filament back out at the end of a print to save me that step.) You get out your own calculator to figure out how long the print time was for the leaves because SIX DAYS OF PRINTING GOOD GOD

I really need to do some printer maintenance.

Actual Painting

Next is fun painting. Still laborious, but fun. Barring cold days, it probably took around two weeks to get all the painting done. I opted to go with regular ol’ craft store acrylic paint as A) the trailer would not be sitting in the sun for months at a time causing fading and B) the entire trailer would be getting a clear coat of polyurethane.

Because the weather was warm/cold/warm/cold, I spent some time doing a bit of 3D printing during the cold. First up, a nice plaque to go over/in the sun on the back of the house.

Have you ever struggled with cutting angles beyond 45° with wood? I have a miter saw and a desire to keep all my fingers, so I couldn’t figure out how to safely cut wood slats for the gables of my little house. 3D printing and a protractor to the rescue! I measured, printed, and got close enough to say “Eh, I’ll fill it in with caulk.” Tada, fake gable supports.

Back to painting! I like my faeries to have transparent wings, so I did a little airbrushing and cut some wing stencils in order to spray on some color-shift paint for wings. Violá! In the meanwhile, I started to add some black to the roof and trim.

Time for…a freeway test run. I’m a member of a makerspace in Richardson, Folks on our Discord channel kept asking me how it did on the freeway. My builder sister asked me how it did on the freeway. My experienced father asked me how it did on the freeway.

Uh, I suppose I need to take it out on the freeway.

Opting for a Sunday evening drive, I tooled my not-quite-finished trailer out to TheLab and lo, I arrived safely. Much trailer building discussion was had, and I made it back home in one piece. Huzzah.

Back to painting!

Oh. I guess that was a short rest of photos documenting painting.

Shelves! Cleats! Vinyl!

Painting, DONE. Time to add on the cleats and hang the brackets and place the shelves!

The bottom shelves were a bit of a concern; I wanted them to cover up the wheel wells, and “frame” the house. However, they’re right at knee height, and if someone were to bump them a bit, they might tip. The brackets weren’t enough for how wide I wanted them. Simple solution? I drilled a hole and put a clevis pin through the shelf and wheel well. Shelf isn’t tipping nor is it sliding, and the pin is super fast to install.

Vinyl Letters

I was a bit concerned with visibility at night despite looking like the Studebaker from the Muppet Movie, so I managed to locate some reflective vinyl online. Five minutes on the Cricut later, I had a jumble of lettering to adhere to the house.

Not all the vinyl is reflective, just the giant-ass website so people know who to complain to when I cut them off.

Shingle Install

I admit I was waffling on the leaf shingles up until two days before I had to leave for a show in Austin. Would they hold up under three-ish hours of sustained 75mph winds? Did I want to test that? I had screwed three leaves for my test drive to the makerspace, but not an entire roof full.

Screw it, I’ll put ’em all on.

Using the heat gun to bend the leaves brought an unexpected benefit; it basically fused some of them together, thus eliminating potential flapping in the wind. I lost a few leaves, but way less than expected. Fortunately, it was not noticeable at the show.


Time to play trailer Tetris! Load ’em up! Pack it up! Cram it in! Pottery this time rode in the trailer, tightly packed in with packing foam. Everything else was strapped down with either bungees or straps inside.

The top of the car had to hold the tent. It’s just too long to fit into the house! Likewise, I was concerned about my larger ceramic faerie houses being banged around too much. They’re not packed especially tight, and I felt better with them in the back of the car.

It’s Showtime!

Overall, I’m absolutely pleased and satisfied with this build. It was challenging, used a variety of my skills, and was extremely eye-catching in its final form as a display piece.

Will there be future improvements/additions? Absolutely. But my major goal was to create a transport and display that wouldn’t kill my poor back at the end of the day. I’d say I nailed it.

Addendum: 72 leaves were not enough, nor were 90. I suspect I’ll have to update later with exactly how many leaves create a satisfactory roof.

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Production in a Pandemic

Goodness! It’s been a while, eh? This year has been a doozy, and I’ve had my own share of “How in the world do I deal with this?” moments. Every single show I had on the docket for the year has been cancelled, sadly. I love going to shows! I love meeting people and making things that make them happy. The moment someone finds “their” mug or plate is a precious moment of joy for me. It’s a delicate balance of staying positive for next year and trying to stay grounded in reality. I’m sure most people can relate to that!

Because I suddenly find myself with no shows or festivals to prepare for, I’ve turned my attention to a project that’s been on the back burner for years: an Oracle Deck. We’ve entered the harvest season, and I’m starting to see the fruits of my planning and drawing. I share with you a collage of in-progress photos: sketches, prototypes, computer drawings, lists of drawings to complete. It is my goal to have a finished product in-hand before the holiday season!

I hope that all folks are doing well during this tumultuous time: the wonderful thing about the world is that it’s natural state is of one in balance. May you find your OWN balance and peace.

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Thank you!

Austin Witchfest 2020 was fantastic! I wish to thank everyone who patronized my booth; you have helped to support me in my craft, something for which I am ever grateful. For those who wished to purchase online, I only ask that you give me a few days to unload my stock and evaluate what I have available to put online.

Some items I completely sold out of! In the next month I will be working to replenish and restock everything. Keep an eye on my social media outlets, as I will be posting official shop updates, as well as work-in-progress photos and stories.

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Shop

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The Tale of the Boho Bracelet

Oy. Strap in kids, I’m about to take you on a journey of discovery. How do you know when something you’re buying online ISN’T actually handmade. This is the tale of the boho bracelet.

The star of the show!

What exactly IS “handmade”?

First off, let’s figure out what handmade actually means. The broad dictionary definition is “made by hand, not machine”. I postulate that most people where I am from, the US, equate handmade with not being factory made. That is, the item in question is not being made by the thousands: it’s created by one or a few people, on a small scale, uses high-quality materials, and is often wholly unique. Can something from a factory be handmade? Yes, it can: factories use humans, and human hands often assemble things. You could argue that your Nike shoes are “handmade” as they require a human to actually stitch and assemble the shoe. But considering you can purchase Nike shoes for $40 and so can thousands of other people at Target, they are considered factory made, or mass produced.

Got it?

Handmade: small-scale, high quality, unique, traceable origins, higher buy price, known maker
Factory made: large-scale, lower quality, mass-produced, lower buy price, unknown maker

Now that we’ve generally got that settled, let’s see what got me so riled up. I was browsing Facebook, like you do, and I ran across a post that one of my friends had commented on.

A friend of a friend loves the bracelet! She tags my friend. My friend asks:

Handmade or manufactured?

DING! She asked the winning question. The store answers:

Hi E! All our bracelets are handmade!

BUZZ! Wrong. My alarm bells go off immediately. I KNOW this item isn’t handmade. What set my alarm off? How do I know? How do I confirm this?

Internet Detective

I’ve had people ask me “How do you know?” I’ve been an artist long enough, and been online long enough that I can quickly sniff out the difference based on cues in the photo, the name of the shop, the number of shares, and the answer that the shop gives to customers. Based on those cues, it takes 5 minutes on Google to confirm. Nope. Not handmade. But how do you figure it out?

Your biggest ally in learning about an image found on the Internet is reverse image lookup. I used Google Images. You just click on the little camera in the search bar, and plug in an image URL. Poof! Search results that feature that image pop up. I right click, copy the image URL in the Facebook post and paste it into Google Image search.

Oh. Hmm. That’s…that’s a lot of shops carrying that “handmade bracelet”. Let’s take a moment and click on the shops:

Ohhhhhhhhhhh. Shop #3 kinda broke the pattern by not immediately featuring that off-center image, but it’s there! You could pretty much stop there: this EXACT. SAME. image is in five different stores. They’re all selling for about the same price, and all AMAZINGLY are offering a pretty substantial discount on the product! I didn’t screencap all of the shops, but there were even more. Several even had the same “wheel of chance” gimmick for visitors to spin for a discount code.

Get Rich Quick

Why do all of these shops have the same product? They all have Facebook pages and Instagram pages offering a bevy of similar jewelry. Why?

This is actually a business model:

  1. Decide on a theme (Boho/Hippie)
  2. Find a product on AliBaba (Boho bracelet)
  3. Open a Shopify Store with product (Be sure to offer a huge discount!)
  4. Open social media and post products with TONS of popular hashtags.

If you look up “How to Open a Shopify Store” on Youtube alone you can find hundreds of videos with people leading you along this exact same process. It’s not just Shopify, posting stuff like this is rampant on Etsy and Amazon Handmade.

This particular business model of buying on bulk and opening a Shopify store is RIFE on social media. Step 4 is how you stir up business: buy some fake likes and shares, and you eventually get enough real people who want to purchase your product. It’s kind of like junk mail. They mail out to EVERYONE in hopes that eventually somebody will buy that 20% off oil change (with coupon).

This is It’s a marketplace for purchasing mass quantities of items: LEDs, bolts, pencils, tools…jewelry. The minimum order for our handmade bracelet is 120 pieces. If we scroll down, the current supply availability is TEN-THOUSAND pieces. If we scroll down the page a little more…

Such a homey studio!

Handmade, see?

…that place is HUGE! Dang! Also, I gotta laugh at the “handmade” picture. People are clearly involved at all stages of this process but for some reason something about that photo warrants a “handmade” caption. I don’t think folks think of a giant factory when they think of a unique handmade product. (Side note: I found one or two OTHER AliBaba shops that sell the same bracelet, same picture, but have entirely different factories. It got surreal after a point.)

I’ll digress a bit by saying the problem with using the word “handmade” is that it’s a disingenuous word. Saying it evokes images of an artisan carefully piecing together a bracelet at her home workshop, while technically handmade could mean “using hands to make.” It’s essentially evolved into a nebulous marketing term like “organic” or “natural”. Buy this handmade boho bracelet! It’s made from organic leather and is 100% natural.

Back from my digression, out of curiosity I started plugging in the description from the item I found on AliBaba into different popular online stores:

Amazon Handmade



Don’t fret yourself that the photos on Amazon and Etsy aren’t EXACTLY like the one from the AliBaba listing I screencapped. There are PLENTY more shops on AliBaba alone that have those exact same photos.

Etsy and Amazon Handmade I find most irritating because they’re supposed to be “handmade” market places. In reality, they’re gimmick sites. Etsy especially loves to tout itself as the place where artisans and crafters can sell their wares! Fact of the matter is, people hawking cheap factory-made jewelry is big money it won’t ignore. I don’t mind, a business wants to make money, fine. However, it’s damaging to actual crafters who put time, effort, and money into creating products of high quality. People look to Etsy to provide their “stamp of approval” and by virtue of the fact that a product is on Etsy, it somehow is “legit” as a super real handmade high quality item. Amazon Handmade has been suspected of watching the high-selling items, then undercutting the artisan by selling a similar item that comes from…a giant factory. I threw the Ebay screencap in to demonstrate how many sellers I got by copying and pasting the description from the AliBaba listing.

Caveat Emptor

Buyer beware! Especially when it comes to buying what you think is a “handmade” item online! Ok, so, we know that this happens, and we actually want to purchase a handmade item. Remember when I said I could sniff out the item was mass-produced?

  1. cues in the photo
  2. name of the shop
  3. number of shares
  4. how the shop interacts with customers

Start with #1. Cues in the photo. Well, first off, the photo quality isn’t great. It’s not crystal clear. That means it’s likely been copied many many times. Online photos lose quality. The product is off-center. Artists take pride in their work! An off-center photo? Noop. That’s just lazy. Finally, the photo is impersonal. It’s a product on a white background. It could come from anywhere. It’s generic. Almost like a stock model.

#2. Name of the shop. Cape Diablo Spiritual Store. That’s HIGHLY generic. Almost as if someone who doesn’t speak English just pulled some key words out of a hat. Cape Diablo doesn’t appear to be an actual place, none of the merch is devil-themed, or remotely has to do with Satanism, it’s not sea-themed, and it’s not especially spiritual. The website is full of generic boho-themed items. If you look at the “Our Story” on the website, it’s a weird, made-up story that doesn’t especially fit in with the design of the rest of the site. “Unknown Location!” oooh mysterious and…spiritual…for some reason…I guess.

So mysterious!

#3. Number of shares. Shares mean you’re popular, right?! *BUZZ* Nope. Companies like this KNOW you can pay for shares and likes to help boost visibility. It’s part of opening the store. I’m always suspicious when something utterly forgettable gets so much attention. Now, wait wait, you say. But there are actual customers that are posting actual photos!

Spontaneous reviews!

Ohhhhh. I see. So, you’re paid for your review. Not just randomly compensated, they actively pay people for posting a glowing review with a photo. Nothing especially wrong with that, but it’s disingenuous as on their social media, the reviews are presented as a pleasant surprise for the merchant! Oh! So thoughtful of you to give us such a nice review!

#4. How the Shop Interacts with Customers

I follow a LOT of potters and craftsmen on Instagram. There is a HUGE difference in how they interact with their customers. They’re personable. They answer questions with specifics, not generics. It’s kinda how you know when someone is smiling on the phone. You can’t see it, but you can hear it in their voice.

Hey we have a store, in case you didn’t notice.

The comments go on like this. “Buy it here!” or some variation thereof, and a link to the product in the store. The shop is doing everything it can to drive you to their website. Abnormally so. Some of the links have nothing to do with that a commenter posts. Almost every comment the shop posts is a link to their website in some form. Artists usually comment that the link to their shop is in their bio, or on the picture. Other comments are posted from what I can only assume are paid affiliates asking “How do I purchase?” I assume they’re affiliates because only a complete moron couldn’t figure out how to click the link on the original photo posted in the shop’s feed. Not to mention the twenty links prior that the shop posted in response to other people’s comments.


Now, it took me a while to post all of this. Actual searching? No more than five minutes. It’s easy, and anyone can investigate. I’m not out to expose these people as playing host to a vast conspiracy; I’m out to educate you, the consumer. I’ve had people express genuine surprise when I explain the Alibaba/Shopify business model, and anger when I explain that sites like Etsy and Amazon Handmade reap the benefits of such a scheme as well.

I’m an artist, and this kind of behavior is harmful. Not everyone takes the time to investigate their “handmade” good. Someone told “All of our goods are handmade!” might think they are getting an item which has had care and thoughtfulness put into its manufacture. It’s no more care and thoughtfulness than your Hanes t-shirt. The difference is that Hanes doesn’t claim to “handmake every shirt”. They’re made in a giant factory overseas, and that’s why they cost $3 on sale at Wal-Mart. “Cape Diablo” shops attempt to pass themselves off a unique and kooky little shop which draws its spiritual inspiration from an old Caribbean legend. Similarly do all the other “spiritual” shops selling the exact same item, which is made in a giant factory overseas.

Stuff is made in mass quantities. It’s a fact of life, and an amazing product of industry. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea; my beef is when mass-produced tries to horn in on my territory as a craftsman. I want folks to be educated on the matter: investigate your products! Handmade? Does the artist post photos of production? Do they take videos of their pieces? Are they interacting with people on social media in a way that doesn’t feel like a used car salesman? If you are genuinely interested in a higher quality and a unique object, you’re not getting it for 40% off plus 10% with the coupon code.