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Life as a Waldorf “Short Order” Cook

The other day my daughter was asking me:”Mom, what are all those little sticky notes on the window behind your sewing machine?” I responded:”Oh, those are the custom orders I received and need to finish for Christmas.”

If you are an artist/crafter and offer custom work in your etsy shop, life in the months before Christmas can get pretty complicated and hectic.

You may find yourself worrying and asking the following questions:
How many custom items should I offer?

Do I have all the materials to make them?

Do I have enough shipping materials, and will I be able to ship it on time?

How do I keep my store stocked at the same time?

How do I balance the custom work with my desire to create new items?Should I just skip sleep and work 24 hours? Now is the time, right?

I have been struggling with these questions since August. I would really like some input from other crafters who offer custom work. How do you stay organized and make it through this busy season?

Sometimes I get so tired of the balance act I am performing that I want to stop taking customs orders altogether! But then I get some wonderful Feedback or a really sweet message from someone who received their doll, and I forget all about the stress.
I find, that the challenges of custom orders bring out the best in me. Often customers come to me with ideas I never would have come up with myself! Or they point out how one of my items sold previously was so great because of a certain feature and why don’t I combine it with this other feature…I think my customers make me a better artist. Even when I find myself grumbling at times about a difficult request…

My favorite kind of dolls are ethnic dolls. I made the Asian dolls you see in the pictures for children adopted from China. There is a great need for such items because it is hard to find dolls with Asian and other ethnic features on a regular store shelf. I feel that my work is important and appreciated by the children and parents alike!

But I am only one woman. I wish I had some elves to help. Maybe some day my daughter will be old enough to help. But for now it is just me.

Later I might post a picture of all my little sticky notes in the window of my “studio”. I feel like a short order cook at times. Which is a funny way to put it since my orders take hours to complete. =)

Hope to hear some opinions from all of you who do customs!

Love, Ulla

11 thoughts on “Life as a Waldorf “Short Order” Cook

  1. I love this imagery–a short order cook!

    I am not struggling with customs this fall/winter, but with gearing up for faires! I have two big shows this season, and I;m completely neglecting my Etsy shop in order to get things made to have inventory on hand. So I am busy crafting, but no one sees it 😀

    I do have several custom orders as well–I figure I can take them up to December 15 and still get a doll out by Christmas. But that really depends on how many orders I get from participating in the faires, and how many I get from my shops just in the meantime. Last year I was shipping custom orders in December, and also shipping pre-made, non-custom dolls well past Christmas–just people buying them from the shop. I don’t know what this year will bring with the economic downturn…

  2. A couple of years a go I went to a local fair. It was not a great success. I spent two days in a booth and hardly made the money to pay for the booth.
    I have not tried again since…
    But then I barely have any dolls left to sell. I am so glad to have found etsy. It really has made my life so much better!

  3. I love custom orders! I find, like you, that they often challenge me to create a doll that I might never have made on my own. And it’s so wonderful to make a doll that you know ahead of time is wanted…great for the budget too!

    I am also getting ready for fairs. I do 3 this time of year and they have always been great.I find that sales improve as people come to expect you at a certain fair. Actually having an Etsy shop has been good for those as well since it keeps me geared up and working all year long.

  4. Wonderful work.I usually make up and offer but then mine are not as personal as yours.

  5. i love custom orders too and am in the middle of a large one right now, so my shop may look bare but hopefully not for too long 🙂

  6. I love custom orders. But we don’t have a lot up right now because we are trying to stock up. Soon we should have a few dolls listed and we can put up customs but I am hoping the pre made dolls will sell so we are not to stressed out around Christmas (although that might be a blessings to :))

  7. Some days I love customs, some days not so much. It all depends on how I feel, what is going on with my children and family, how financially broke we are, etc. I do not like it when someone contacts me for a custom and is demanding or really picky. I just want to throw in the towel! But when someone contacts me and TRUSTS me to create a beautiful piece of artwork, then that is the best creative moment for me. :0)

  8. You sure pegged it with the “short order cook”! That is how I feel sometimes too. So many things to juggle…Custom orders keep us going though – they shake things up a bit, keeping it fresh.

  9. Jenn, I totally understand you there with the being real “picky”. I sometimes get those… Just emailing and getting it all set up takes so much time and energy that I don’t feel enthusiastic at all.
    But the ones that say: You are great. I know that whatever you make will be wonderful – they really inspire me to give my best.

  10. Thanks for the article, Ulla! I so agree with custom orders challenging you to do your best work and come up with new ideas. A lot of my products and techniques have come to life from a customer looking for something specific that I had to figure out how to make. I love that challenge, but it can be stressful, too!

    I’m reaching the endpoint of my first very large custom order. So, like Birdie – that’s why you haven’t seen anything new from me for awhile!

    I’ve learned so much from this custom order, mainly in time management! In 6 weeks I’ve made 25 items, whereas before I had made 100 items in 18 months. I increased my productivity by 3-fold! Woo Hoo! All during this time it has been very important to me for this not to change our family life. Every day I’ve had to be very mindful of balance, choices and efficiency! I’m so grateful to this customer for giving me that exercize!

  11. I can’t tell you how much I struggle with custom orders! In fact, I’m struggling with completing one now – which is why I’m on the computer. Balance is key and when I get burnt out and need to do my own thing, I just let people know. I know other orders will come when I’m in the right frame of mind.

    Your dolls are adorable (coming from an asian mix who never had a doll that looked like me).

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