Running an online store is a daunting task for every digital artist, with greater hurdles than most people realize. There are on-demand print services such as Printful or Society6 that can print art on carrier bags and T-shirts. But customized items such as enamel pins or acrylic charms come with production challenges that require that you find the right suppliers who specialize in making those items. (Just view this How it is made video that shows how much manual work is involved in making email pins.)
Indonesian artist Meyoco & # 39; s illustrations – often inspired by Japanese pop culture and magical girls from the anime with wavy ocean hair, translucent bottles of Ramune and Game Boys packed with garden flowers – are the kind of special art you always want to have with you and use to decorate everything you possession. She regularly supplies her store with charms, email pins and stickers, in addition to selling sweatshirts and prints. Although she occasionally works freelance, her focus is on her store, because it takes up most of her time and is her main source of income.
The edge spoke with Meyoco about the challenges of running an online store, its bestsellers, and how social media printing can dictate art style.
For the sake of clarity, this interview has been slightly modified.
(ONLINE SHOP INFO) My online store will reopen on August 31 at 8:00 PM PST! Floral Boys pins, Moon Soda pins, Kitchen pin and Squeeze pin are available again! pic.twitter.com/FEE4REyFKa
– meyo STORE REOPEN SUNDAY 20:00 PST (@meyoco_) August 30, 2019
How long have you been running your store? What are the most difficult and rewarding parts of running your business?
I have been running my online store since around 2014! It used to be an on / off thing when I was in college, because I couldn't handle running a store full time. After I graduated in 2017, I decided to open my store regularly.
Customer support has always been the most difficult part of running my business. I have never been someone who is good at communicating with strangers and receiving emails that have caused me a lot of fear. I would postpone answering emails with order requests for a few days because opening emails frightened me. Fortunately I am no longer afraid of emails, but I still find it a source of fear.
The most rewarding part of it is that people actually want to buy my products. I have never been the best in everything – not with art or academics. I know I have to improve many things and I am still grateful that people want to buy the things I make. This may seem a bit strange, but I also like packing orders. It can be quite therapeutic.
How has your experience been with finding the right suppliers?
Finding the right suppliers cost me a lot of trial and error. I have changed supplier several times over the years. For acrylic charms, I changed supplier four times before settling with my current one. I changed supplier twice for pins. For washi tapes I joined group orders because the MOQ (minimum order quantity) for washi tapes is a bit high. After I had a larger customer base, I started to order washi tapes directly from my supplier, so I don't have to wait for someone to organize a group order.
The first time I started making my own merchandise for a convention in 2013, I made acrylic charms and pins with every local supplier that I could find on the internet. The quality of my first merchandise was not great. And to be honest, the sale wasn't that good either. Initially, I limited my suppliers to local suppliers only because I wasn't sure if I could pay for printing from foreign suppliers. After I started selling my products internationally, I started looking for foreign suppliers who could print better quality items. In the beginning it was frightening; I wasn't sure how to handle customs fees and pay hundreds of dollars to scare products. However, after I got the hang of it, it was really worth seeing my work print as good quality products. These days I mainly print my products in China, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Over the years I usually changed suppliers because I was not satisfied with the quality of their work or because I found a better supplier. I also prefer suppliers with good customer service, because I have had the accident to deal with extremely rude customer service. It really makes my job a lot easier if the suppliers I work with have decent, polite customer service.
Art theft is a widespread problem that many shop owners face and it seems that your art is particularly susceptible to theft. Would you say that there is always a risk involved in creating things, especially on sites such as Alibaba? Does watermarks help?
I personally have never experienced that my designs were sold by my Alibaba suppliers, but I know that there are always risks with other suppliers. Of course there is always a risk in making things. There are unreliable suppliers everywhere, so it is always important to research your suppliers carefully before you make your products with them. From my experience, certain companies will explicitly declare that they will not sell your designs, and they may conclude a contract with you to ensure that your design is kept safe.
To be honest, when it comes to art theft, watermarks don't always help, because thieves often just remove Photoshop watermarks. I am very lucky that my fans always know when someone sells my art without my permission.
Do most people comply if you ask them to bring something down?
I never asked anyone to delete anything, because they never asked for my permission in the first place. To be honest, I don't even mind re-posting without credit, because it just happens way too often, that's why I always use watermarks. However, when someone tries to take advantage of it, I try to blow it on my social media. Then they usually pick up my stolen things.
What would you say is your trademark style?
I think my trademark style nowadays is a clean line art with flat colors and solid pastel backgrounds. I always use the same themes, such as flowers and waves, so that they become part of my style. I also often use the same colors, especially pink, so I think it has also become part of my trademark style.
Where do you get inspiration from?
I mainly get inspiration from things that I like or that bring me joy. I have always loved flowers because they are fascinating and fun to draw. They can be drawn with almost anything. I love drawing game consoles because they are part of my childhood. I also like them to draw and to combine with other objects, such as flowers or maybe even Ramune soft drinks! Instead of being inspired, I think I mainly draw because I want to have fun drawing things that I like.
How is the art community in Indonesia? Do you participate in many disadvantages?
I feel that the arts community in Indonesia, especially the pop art community, is flourishing. There are so many good artists with incredible artwork here. The disadvantage is that there are a lot of small fights and people try to knock each other down. There are people who hate each other for the most ridiculous, small reasons. People will present themselves as your friend, and gossip about you behind your back. It is very difficult to find people you can trust. It's very uncomfortable and frankly I don't like communicating with my local colleagues unless it's about people I absolutely trust.
I have not participated in local disadvantages for a while. The last time I participated in a local scammer, I had many bad experiences, especially from conference organizers who didn't seem to consider their tenants and visitors as anything other than a source of money. There were also problems with sexual harassment, unbridled theft and overcrowding. I didn't want to waste my money on disadvantages I couldn't enjoy, so I decided to focus more on my online store.
(ONLINE SHOP INFO) My online store will reopen on August 31 at 8:00 PM PST! Charms for Sky Ramune, charms with Witch hat, Charms with Fluff and Roll and MS Plant charms are available again! pic.twitter.com/VtdLxSXBU7
– meyo STORE REOPEN SUNDAY 20:00 PST (@meyoco_) August 30, 2019
What are some items that sell really well? Are there specific types of things that people are looking for and do you take that into account when creating things?
People really, really, love email pins! It is always surprising to me, because enamel pins are not cheap to make and sell. I just started selling sticker sets, and they also sell really well. Of course I take this into account when I create new items. People also like merchandise with game consoles and drinks, which is a good thing because I also love designing products with those & # 39; s.
You have warned other artists before about the dangers of comparing social media with self-worth. Can you tell more about that? Is it from your own experience?
In 2013 I started using social media to share my art because I had very low self-esteem. I felt that none of my former acquaintances liked my work, and I thought I had to start again with deleting all my previous accounts and creating an art account that none of my acquaintances knew about. I thought getting approval from strangers who did not know me certainly matters more than the approval of my former acquaintances. It was really small, but it was then my main motivation.
Eventually I got more and more grip over the years, which helped increase my self-esteem. Somewhere in 2017 I felt that I was starting to hit a wall. I didn't get as many likes as I wanted, so I got the feeling that I wasn't working hard enough to earn more likes and followers. Social media statistics started to dictate my happiness. I would be obsessed with the number of likes in each of my messages. I thought people would see me as a failure if they noticed that the number of likes on my messages is not as high as I want. As a result, my mental health deteriorated over time.
Around this time I fell into a malaise. It felt very difficult to just draw something that I like, because I will always get stressed or my audience will like it. I finally decided to completely change my style to suit what my audience liked. I stopped using watercolors because I felt that my audience did not like my watercolor artworks. I switched completely to digital colors and started to draw more objects instead of just people.
I do not regret that I have changed my style, nor am I ashamed that the approval of my audience is so important to me. But it is not something I would wish for other artists. My self-esteem relies too much on social media, and it is not healthy, which I am still working on.