TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tour TAFA's New Site!


Yesterday was my 50th birthday and I could not have asked for a better present than to have TAFA go live with its new site on www.tafalist.com.  Two years ago, I had come to the realization that many of my peers and I were swimming in a new madness called social media.  We were all bumping into each other in different places, but didn't really have a way to connect in an orderly manner.  There was also so much to learn.  Selling online had become extremely competitive and if we were going to make headway in this ocean of information, my thought was that we needed to do it as a group.  "Together we can do great things!"  So, I put the idea out there, started TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List using a blog format and began navigating the web to bring in potential members who were professionals and who worked with handmade textiles and fiber art.

A year later there were almost 200 members and it was clear that we needed a new website.  A bunch of us held a brainstorming session on facebook, identifying member needs and how we would use the website.  In the summer we had a fundraiser on IndieGoGo and raised $5,000 towards the new site.  In August, work on the site began and it took five months of hard work to reach yesterday's launch.  Oh, and we are $2,500 over the budget plus there is a Phase Two in the works where the site will be completed with the original bones we envisioned.  In the end, this will be a $10K site and we believe that it will become a major hub for the textile and fiber art community.

Take a Tour

Navigation is not self-evident at this stage, although we believe we have some really cool tools to explore the site.  An in-depth drop-down site map is planned for Phase Two, but we want to live with what we have for awhile as we tweak the site.  Here is a map of the front page:


  1. Logo:  Click to return home.
  2. The List:  Our member list.
  3. Fresh Profiles:  Members who have made recent changes to their member profile.
  4. Banners:  They flash and are linked to member profiles.  Click to visit.
  5. Member Stories:  Features on members.
  6. Product Talk:  Features on products.
  7. Events:  List of member events.
  8. Member Blogs:  Not ready yet, but will have a stream of member blogs.
  9. Member Map:  A Google map with members pinned to their locations.  Click on the pin to see the member, linked to member profiles.
The core value of the site is in finding the members and their products.  The members each have a member profile page.  They can each list four products (which link to their sites), one video and one event.  All of these can be shared on social media sites and show up in search.  They are color-coded by type of result (profiles, products, videos, etc each have a different color).  Users can bookmark these in their private bookmark page for future reference.  Here are some examples:

Profile Page

This page will be re-worked in Phase Two as it still seems a little awkward in how it displays, but all of the member's basic info is there: where they are in the web, on the google map, and a slideshow if they have one.  In Phase Two, the member's blog will stream to the sidebar.



Search

The search bar at the top of the site needs a keyword in order to operate.  Type it in and either hit enter/return on the keyboard or click on the magnifying lens.  We currently have 400 members, so with 4 products each we may have an initial 1,600 products to look at.  The results can be narrowed down by clicking on the drop down menu.  Here is an example of a search result:


This was for a search on "shibori".  Note that some of the boxes are brown and others are golden.  The brown ones are products and the golden ones are member profiles.  Click on the product and you get a full page description of the item with a link to the member site.  Click on the member profile ones and you will go to that profile.

Product Pages

You will see an image, a description (if the member entered any), a visit link (takes you the member's site), and a comment box where visitors can ask questions or say something about what they think about the product (hopefully, something nice!).  The page can be shared on social media sites and saved as a bookmark.  We also have a green flag on product pages.  This is to be used to alert us when an inappropriate image is loaded (blurry, bad photo, or culturally insensitive).  We will take a look at flags and work with the members on their presentation.  

Here is an example of a Product Page;



Bookmarks:

You have to log in if you want to bookmark something.  Yes, non-members can have mini accounts where they can bookmark pages, leave comments and buy ads.  When you are logged in you will see a red ribbon at the top right hand corner of the site.  That is our dandy bookmark.  Here is a video that I liked:


The orange arrow is pointing to the bookmark.  I clicked on it and then checked my bookmark page:


Sure enough, there it is:  the third to the right on the first row.  Notice the color coding again.  Don't want to keep something anymore?  Click on the red bookmark on the item and it goes away.

Events:

Many of our members make their living by teaching workshops or participating in competitive shows or gallery exhibits.  We felt that having an event page was a huge service we could provide for them.  This page still needs some tweaking and in Phase Two it will be searchable by type of event, location, and dates.  For now, we have a basic list:


Click on the event and it has its own page which links to the member profile.  The event also posts on the member's profile page, on the left sidebar.


The event has a full description along with a location map.  Each member gets one free listing which can be renewed when the current event expires.

Member Map

This is one of my favorite site features!  We are now over 400 members from over 30 countries.  We are using a Google map to pin our members:



Click on the pin and you will see the member's logo and a link to their profile page.  If there is a congested cluster, just zoom in to see them more closely.  I love how diverse we are becoming and long to see the day when there is more than one lonely pin in Africa!  Right now, that is Oshiwa Designs in Namibia.  This is a great way for members to find each other and for buyers and students to support their local artists and businesses.   I also love imagining a road trip, thinking, I can stop here and here and here and here along the way, meeting wonderful TAFA members at every step of the way!

The List

As our name implies, we do have a list of members.  There is button next to the search bar that says exactly that, "The List".  Click on it and you will see our members, 100 to a page in alphabetical order:


The first two images link to the member profile:  People photo and logo.  The other four are products and link to their product pages.  The name also links to the member profile.  Below that is a one-liner that the member uses to describe themselves in a nutshell:  We are all very cool!

If you love handmade textiles and fiber art, then you will love TAFA.  And, many of our members also make or sell supplies and tools, so be sure to look for them as well.  We have gorgeous hand-spun yarns, home-grown fleece, natural dye suppliers, hand-made spinning wheels, vintage textile stamps and much more.  

Come and explore and if you like what you see, spread the word!  So far, only a third of our members are up and we know that we will continue to grow and become better and better.  We have come a long way in two years!  It makes me excited to think of where we will be next year, the year after or when I turn 60!  You can be a part of it.  Sign into the site and start interacting with an incredibly talented group of people who have a world to offer!  And, support them with your buying power, too.

Enjoy!


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Affecting Change in Your Corner of the World

"Gandhi" by Diana Bracy



You must be the change 
you want to see in the world.
-Mahatma Gandhi


I just watched an inspiring video by Jeff Skoll, one of the founders of eBay, at a TED conference.  The video is several years old, yet still current in its message:





Jeff's path is one example of one person who succeeded in harnessing his talents and ideas into successful businesses that could then allow him to give back to society.  We have several leaders today, who like him, are working on the big issues that threaten our world's future: the environment, economic inequality, human rights, war, etc.  Any one of those issues seems daunting enough on its own.  Together, the state of world affairs seems depressing indeed.  How do we move forward and hope for a future in the face of this mess?


My answer is that we have to believe that each person can truly make a difference.  Diana's quilt above is made by tiny pieces of fabric, each a different shade.  On its own, the piece might not seem significant.  As a part of the whole, it is essential.


Many pieces make the whole.



Two years ago, at right about this time, I had an idea and put it out there:  I felt that those of us who have an online presence and are trying to get an audience for our work as fiber artists or textile businesses needed a better way of getting the word out.  Most of my peers were starting to use social media sites, opening shops on Etsy and spending a lot of time networking and doing what we thought we needed to do get business to come to us.  Swimming alone in an ocean of information.....  We needed to band together and be so beautiful that the right people would come to us.  TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List was born.  Two years later, we are almost ready with our state of the art new website.  You can preview it here.  We are now at 402 members from over 30 countries.


Yes, I have worked hard to make this happen, but it could not have happened on my own.  Many of TAFA's members have stepped forward with their time and money to help this dream come true.  I've had to learn a lot along the way and have some tips on what has worked for me:




  1. Be passionate.  Love what you do with your whole heart and be willing to take risks for it.  Expect that it will take time and endless hours of unrewarded effort.
  2. Define your Vision.  Don't replicate what is already being done out there.  Most of the textile and fiber art organizations that are out there serve their specific niche.  TAFA embraces all of the textile and fiber art traditions, but members are vetted in based on the maturity of both their product and their presentation.  Members came together in a think tank to help write the mission:   TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List is a membership organization of fiber artists and textile businesses on the web.  TAFA showcases member portfolios through its website, provides access to larger markets, offers business resources and fosters community.
  3. Establish a Home Base on the web.  I used Blogger as it is easy to set up, free, and integrates with other platforms.  
  4. Set up your social media hubs.  TAFA now has active hubs on facebook, google+, flickr, LinkedIn and a team on Etsy.  
  5. Build your community.  I started with my peers and several signed on.  Then, I visited thousands of websites over the past two years, inviting the cream of the crop to join.  Of every 100 that I visited, 10 were invited and of those, 1 accepted.  It took persistence, but as the list of members grew, it became more legitimate and interesting as a group.
  6. Make the financial risk minimal:  For the first year, membership in TAFA was $25.  This was an affordable amount to risk in a new enterprise.  In the second year, the membership fee went up to $48.  Now, in the beginning of the 3rd year, it is up to $75.  Members have also supported TAFA financially with inexpensive ads.
  7. Reward your supporters:  As TAFA grows and establishes itself, my main priority is, "How will this benefit the whole membership?"  I have tried to build systems that benefit everyone equally.  
  8. Ask for help.  There have been times where I was stuck or against the wall.  The members stepped up to the plate and helped me center my energies in a productive way.  (Don't do this too often as it can get annoying....  )
  9. Build your financial support.  Once you have your project seasoned and can show something for what you have done, take it to the next level and get the financial support you need to fund your tools.  We identified the need for a "real" website with a robust search engine and estimated that it would cost $5,000.  We raised exactly that through the members in a fundraiser using Indiegogo.  By the time the site is finished and does everything I want it to do, it will end up costing closer to $10,000 (Spring 2012).  But, I expect the site to raise the rest of the money on its own through new memberships and advertising.
  10. Set it free.  Let your dream take root and become bigger than yourself.
After two years of hard work, TAFA has established a name and identity within the textile and fiber art community.  The next steps will include separating it from my personal business and making it an S-Corporation, getting it to become financially stable so that it can hire staff, and ultimately selling shares back to the members so that it can become member owned.  I predict that it will take another two years before we get to that point, but when it happens, TAFA will be something beyond my own vision.

Jeff Skoll's speech confirmed much of my own process.  Some of us, creative entrepreneurs, have a gift at seeing a need and of imagining a way in which that need can be addressed.  When TAFA can fly on its own, I will probably start something else as I have always been an idea person.  Change does not have to happen by creating a new project like eBay, or on a much smaller scale, TAFA.  It happens by each of us being conscious about everything we do.  If you are an artist, think about the materials that you use.  Are they toxic?  Can you recycle garbage into your work?  Can you involve your local community into an activity that helps them understand art in a new way?  Are there local organizations that need your time or financial support?  Each person's talents, resources and visions all contribute to change the world, a bit at a time, to make it a better place.


FACES of EARTH - 1972 NASA Blue Marble image of Earth as a Twitter Mosaic.



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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy 2012!


2011 is history!  Another year come and gone.  How time flies...  I remember when I was a kid and I thought about the year 2000.  I was going to be 38 years old.  Soooo  oooold!  Well, in a couple of weeks, I turn 50.  Not so old, eh?  Heh, heh....  It's all a matter of perspective.

The end of the year and the beginning of a new is always a time of reflection for me.  If you follow this blog, you know that I have spent a great deal of time and energy in building TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List, an organization that helps textile businesses and fiber artists market their businesses.  I launched it at about this time two years ago on a Blogger platform, wondering if there would be interest out there.  At this time last year, we had grown to over 200 members and it was clear that we needed a new website.  Most of the year was spent focusing on that.  Several members volunteered their time and energy in a think tank that we set up on Facebook, discussing what we needed.  Then we had a fundraiser on IndieGoGo and successfully raised $5,000, again from the members, to pay for the site.  A local design team, Horizon Media Group has been working on the site since August, with me actively in the thick of things.  One week ago, we had members volunteer as guinea pigs to test the process of loading their info and using the site.  There are still many glitches and we need to change servers, but you can preview it at www.tafalist.net.

TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List's new site.

Hopefully, we will be able to move to the www.tafalist.com url by the end of this week.  This has been an incredibly exhausting process, but one that has also been energizing, wonderfully democratic, and it goes to show that things can happen with no money.  My motto with TAFA has been, "Together we can do great things!" and the website is the first proof of that.

It's hard to explain to people outside of the textile community what I do.  I used to say I was an artist, but since I started TAFA I have poured all of my creative energy into building it, so have not done much of my own sewing or art work.  Hopefully, the website will free up some of my time so that I can do that again this year.  I also hope that I can travel more and actually meet some of the members who have become virtual friends.  We'll see how it all pans out.

We also had our first live event last year during the Quilt Show in April here in Paducah.  We suffered serious flooding in the area and it was a scary time.  I don't know if we will do it again this year.  I was also able to visit family and friends in Wisconsin and in Chicago during the Fall, a wonderful highlight.

What is ahead for 2012?  I haven't thought much beyond getting the new site finished.  Who knows what doors will open or close?  I pretty much try to live each day fully and take things as they come.  Many friends  have been ill in the past year, having major surgeries or having to go through chemo.  As we get older, nothing can be taken for granted, so I just hope that 2012 will be a healthy one and a creative one, with no big, rude surprises.

Let's start out the year with that old favorite Gaelic blessing:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May God be with you and bless you:
May you see your children's children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings.
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.

May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.




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