I’ve discovered a whole lot this week about using my Silhouette machine. You know how we learn from our mistakes? This week seemed like a crash course in learning. I had to put production on hold last week because of my birthday and then Easter. Take the hours away spent for a birthday and a holiday, add the other things that are part of everyday life, plus my day job, and I easily get behind. So putting the previous week behind me, I dove in this last week to tackle a few orders with deadlines, fully expecting accomplishment and success. I’ve learned so much in the last few months, it didn’t occur to me that there was still more I didn’t know. I’ve been steadily making mistakes and it seemed I’d paid my dues, but there are more to be paid.
It’s just been a few months since I began exploring this new craft, and while I am creative, I’m not a crafty person, so this might as well be a new language. Words and abbreviations that are common to the Silhouette crafters like, HTV, vinyl 651 and 631, tape transfer, vinyl transfer tape, carrier, Siser, permanent and temporary vinyl, (glossy means one, and matte means another), weeding, flocked, print and cut, platen. The vernacular is extensive. I’m learning a new software program called Silhouette Studio and a new piece of equipment called a heat press. I had to determined whether I buy a swing arm or clamshell, 15 x 15, bigger or smaller? Do I buy a mug heat press? What brands and sizes do I buy and from whom and what’s the best product for the best deal? What kind of mugs do I buy? Can I use Dollar Tree mugs and transfer contact paper (Yes for vinyl – no for sublimation). What kind of heat transfer vinyl do I buy – by the roll or sheet and from whom and what brand? This put me right back in the grocery store when I was a new mom and would stare down the diaper aisle. Except this has been going on for days and there are more than just diapers down this aisle.
As I set out to execute my orders, I faced new particulars unique to this craft, or if you’re me, to this new business. For one, the process I’d believed I could do for one particular order required another piece of equipment. I thought I was all set because I had purchased a mug heat press. But with sublimation, another technique of transferring images on to a mug, it requires a different type of printer, ie: not the one I own, the one my dear friends bought me for Christmas. I scrambled, scouring the Internet to determine if I should buy another printer: websites like Silhouette School, TRW, YouTube, and Facebook support groups. I tried desperately to ascertain if sublimation is a part of a Silhouette business, and what part it would play in my business model, the one I haven’t yet developed.
After hours of research I began with the other order on deadline. I felt fairly comfortable with this job, yet I found myself struggling with other decisions: How far down to put graphics on a shirt. There are factors to consider: size and type of shirt, and size of graphic. Some women like it across their breasts and some do not. Then there’s the length of time the heat press stays on the shirt. That depends on the vinyl you’re using and the shirt fabric. My friend had given me a material I hadn’t yet used. Then, do I peel the carrier off when it’s hot or cold, or does it matter? I thought I knew this for the most part, but the new shirt material threw me off. Depending from where you get your information on the Internet, you can get twenty different ways to do the same thing. Who is the expert? Which method do I choose and which website do I trust? Which will save me from wasting materials and time? And in this case, which will save me from ruining the shirt my friend gave me?
My lack of knowledge became apparent. The lack of experience became evident and defeat set in. I felt like a slave to it all as I considered the amount I must learn before I will enjoy the rewards of fulfilling a service and purpose and begin making a profit.
I was so disappointed when I discovered I couldn’t put my friend’s logo on the mug like I thought I could. Then I sat down and cried after I discovered that oil can get on a t-shirt if it’s not placed a certain way on the platen of the heat press, and that I would have to throw out the t-shirt. I cursed because the guide gauge wasn’t locked down and caused the sheet to slip around in the Silhouette machine, costing me vinyl and over an hour of time as I hunted for the problem. I cringe when someone asks me a price, because I haven’t been able to track my costs or time and I’m determined not to charge customers time and materials specific to my learning curve.
Blood, sweat and tears – prayers and podcasts. I listen to a podcast called, Don’t Keep Your Day Job. It encourages me and I’m grateful for those who have gone before me and the technology we have to be encouraged and to learn. I think the founders of YouTube deserve my money for all the YouTubers who are teaching me, yet I’m really grateful I don’t have to add that to my expenses.
A couple of months ago I felt certain in the decision I’d made. That I wouldn’t make money with my Silhouette machine if I was hand ironing projects and sharing kitchen counter space with my dinners. So I rearranged my family room into a dedicated work space and I purchased a Trans Pro Select 15 x 15. It comes from Pro World, but I bought mine (and was fortunate) from someone on Facebook Marketplace. It’s a great piece of equipment. Then I bought a TransPro 3 in 1 Mug Heat Press from Pro World. Two big purchases to improve efficiency, capability, and opportunity. Although, I thought I would be using the mug heat press for vinyl 651, only to learn that’s not a method for vinyl 651.
I thought the equipment would be the magic equation to turning out products, but like everything of value in life, there are no shortcuts. I’m happy to have the good equipment, but the equipment doesn’t give me the knowledge; the practice does, and the blood, the sweat, and the tears.
I purchased Melissa Viscount’s E Book, “Cutting a Profit.” She’s the author of Silhouette School. Through my research I’ve figured out that she’s a “go to” Silhouette guru. I’ve only read the first two pages and on about page two she says not to take an order for anything you don’t know how to make. Oops. I’m glad I bought her book. I’ve got a lot to learn.
But learning I am. There was success this week. My friend had a French themed party and these items (minus the VACATION MODE) were the perfect touch.
As I look at my yard this spring, I’m reminded of what blood, sweat, and tears can produce. Well, a lot of rain and sunshine has a lot to do with it, but I need the encouragement, so I’ll take some credit, too.