TAFA’s Year in Review: 2013
2013 is coming to a close, bringing with it the opportunity to stop and take a look at the year that has passed. Reflections on what has happened for us as a community during TAFA’s third year help us look forward into the next year, building on what has worked, changing direction on what hasn’t. The internet, the sites we use, the tools we develop and how all of that relates to what we do changes quickly. This, of course, leads us to look at our year in review, as so many others are also doing now.
I have had an image for my own life of the tree that can bend with the wind, that can be flexible, and I send those words out to all of you, too. Bend and allow the wind to dance with you, but keep your roots firmly planted in solid ground!
“The wind does not break a tree that bends”
– Sukuma proverb (Africa)
We started out 2013 celebrating the diversity of our members by creating the video “Red”. If you have not seen it, please watch it as it is probably the last one that I will make showing all of the members. We have gotten too big! I plan on doing more themed videos, but I find it so inspiring to see the work all together like this because it captures how textiles and fiber art translate into such a wide span of uses, interpretation, materials and expression.
We had 74 new members join TAFA in 2013! That brings us to 530 studio artists, organizations, and textile related businesses from 44 countries! Scroll through our Member List to see those who are up on our site and explore our Member Map to see where they are by location. Clicking on the pins takes you to their member profiles.
Interested in membership? Membership page.
Setting up this companion site to our main one was a huge project for me. I started working on it in January and it took about six months of bumps and hurdles to get it to function well. This is a BuddyPress site, WordPress’s solution for communities. They had a major re-write just as I started working on it and it took that long for the theme and plugins to catch up and update their codes so that things would play well on the back end. There are several areas on this site that can be accessed through the navigation at the top of each page. The forum area is for our members and the blog, Market, and other pages are for our community at large. We had two blogs on our main site which are now retired. A quick explanation of our public pages here:
- Blog: Our posts have categories and tags to help find topics of interest. There is a drop down menu in the sidebar to help find the categories, showing how many posts have to do with that topic. We’ve had tech posts, member features and two ongoing series: TAFA’s Gift Guides and the Decorating with Textiles. All of our members have access to posting to our blog so expect to see more contributions coming from them in 2014. Sign up to receive posts by email in the sidebar or via Networked Blogs on Facebook.
Top Blog Posts:
- Techy and Business: WordPress Tutorial, Blogger Tutorial, SpoonFlower Tutorial, Selling on Etsy, How to Use Facebook, Etsy’s New Guidelines
- Gift Guides: Bags and Purses, Fiber and Textile Jewelry, Christmas Decorations, Kids, Hats and Gloves, Stocking Stuffers, Scarves
- Do-It-Yourself Directory (Supplies and Tools)
Those of you who enjoy reading blogs can now follow our members on our Member Blog Page:
The latest posts also show up on the sidebar of our blog.
Our members who have books on Amazon can now be easily found on our book shop page:
Call for Artists
We have a couple of excellent feeds announcing opportunities for textile artists on this page.
Having this second site has really helped us to have a central location where we can communicate, share information, and plan activities. There has been a learning curve on how members use the forum and my hope is that it will become a comfortable place in 2014. We have hubs on several social media sites where information is also shared, but it becomes very hard to find it again when you want to revisit a topic or tip. Now, we can organize our interests by themes and use them whenever we need them.
We have an Event Calendar on our main site which got a lot of activity in 2013. This is a handy tool as it has a Google Map on the listing and people can sign up to receive event announcements by email or on Facebook. We post the event again on our Facebook page a few days before it happens.
Social Media Sites
We are on quite a few sites with mixed results. You can see most of them listed on our hubs page. Here is a quick review on how we are doing on them:
Facebook: Our private group is our most active member hub. It’s fun, pleasant and informative. Our public page is the top referrer to both our main site and to this site. We have around 8,300 likes there at this time.
LinkedIn: We have about 1,000 people in our group there which is open to the public. There are spurts of good discussions, but they come and go.
Our Ravelry group is pretty much dead, I haven’t been able to get a following on Twitter, and we have some activity on Google+, but not much. We just started on Tumblr in September and have a growing audience there. Many of our members are on Flickr and we have slide shows posted around, but they do not interact there. One of the best tools that we are using is RebelMouse, which can also have a social media side to it, but we have not developed much of a following there.
I find that much of my time is sucked up by these social media sites and one of my big goals for 2014 is to figure out how to become more effective at it. All social media is based on the assumption that relationships are being built, that we are “social”, not just dumping information out on to these various platforms. Interaction takes time, but also creates meaning. I think that this is something that all of us struggle with. I advise our members to pick no more than three places and to cultivate those and perhaps I should listen to my own advice for TAFA!
Over half of our members have shops on Etsy and we have created a beautiful destination there: TAFA Shops on Etsy. Etsy has grown tremendously in the last couple of years and many of us find that our shops are just lost there. They also changed how they define “handmade” this year, now allowing designer products in the handmade category. There are many other problems which were outlined in Etsy’s New Guidelines, but it remains a place where we have a significant presence.
Having a common search result helps to bring us together there. Updates on our Etsy Team are on our blog, TAFA Team. We have a nice following there and get steady views on our posts. Member blogs are also posted there in the sidebar.
In September we learned about a service called Merchpin that could be used to create themed collections of our member products who have shopping carts. It works seamlessly with Etsy, but can also take any cart that can be downloaded to a .csv file. We set up a separate area on this site and created a Market and now have 24 of our member shops represented there. The beauty of this service is that products can be arranged many different ways and just pasted on to a page with code. Click on an image and you land on that person’s shop.
We’ve had several features on our Market Shops in the last two months including a few interviews: Ariane Mariane, Wrapture by Inese, Afghan Tribal Arts, Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts, Castilleja Cotton, Something Else Studio, and Hot Moon Collection. Finding a shopping cart solution for our members is a top priority as most have products for sale. This Merchpin solution is not a perfect one, but it does offer a lot without having to have extra staff or set up an actual marketplace.
We cannot end the year without thanking our sponsors! TAFA does not have yearly membership fees so it is a challenge to come up with ways to generate income to pay for my salary (It IS a full-time job!) or to do any paid marketing. Our sponsors have been a huge support and we hope that you will support them in return. Their ads flash on our main site and on this one. Click to visit our current sponsors:
Many thanks to all of them for their financial support!
Interested in becoming a sponsor? Click on the image for info:
This year we also set up a Classified Ads page on this site. The ads are beautifully displayed and also show up on our blog’s sidebar.
We finish off 2013 by offering a beautiful art calendar on Zazzle! “Roots” celebrates where we come from: our ancestors and our understanding of home. You can see all of the images for each month on this post and purchase the calendar on Zazzle. Zazzle often has discounts running on their site and at the time of this posting, they have a 20% off coupon running through Friday. It’s posted at the top of every page.
Goals for 2014
Much of what I do is housekeeping: answering emails, helping members navigate through whatever issues or decisions they are making and networking on the social media sites. As the tree bends in the beginning of this post, I also try to allow the winds to change my directions, to be flexible and to try new strategies. I absolutely love this group and it gives me immense joy and fulfillment to work with them, promote them, and to build on what we have already managed to lay as a foundation in these last three years.
So, I move forward with just a couple of goals which are hopefully achievable:
- Continue to develop our Market. I am thinking of a dedicated site for it and am exploring that option.
- Look at the possibility of getting a couple of social media interns who can help make our hubs meaningful places.
- Interact with design blogs which might feature our members.
- Find interior designers and galleries/boutiques who might work with our members who make larger works (tapestries, art quilts, etc.).
If at the end of 2014 I can report on these four things with some success, I will have a feeling of accomplishment. If you have ideas, connections or feedback on any of these things, do leave a comment or contact me at rayela @ comcast.net (remove spaces). I have idea folders that are growing!
I have been thinking a lot about groups and their importance, both the virtual ones and physical ones. Many of us evaluate what a group can do for us, but I also think that it is about what we can each do for the group. I remember having a confrontation with my preacher father when I was a teen and didn’t want to go to church, “It’s boring!!!” He said, “It’s not about what YOU get out of it, but rather what you can GIVE to it.” I’ve never forgotten that and for me, it has been true that in giving, I have received much support, inspiration, joy and meaning. Think about that with whatever group you belong to. My mantra for TAFA has been and still is:
Together we can do great things!
On that note, I wish all of you a wonderful 2014! Every year I make a funny Christmas card with me and my dogs. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope this brings you a smile:
Thanks to Colin’s Creatures for letting me use his sheep!
About Rachel Biel
We love hearing from our community!