Photography Practical Possibility

Almost a decade ago, I mused about taking my photography from art to practical. CafePress called to me.

Use your images, design cool stuff, and make money.

I set to work, creating things I’d designed for my family on my home printer: cards.

I added calendars, travel mugs, T-shirts, and, of course, framed posters.

Then the future cracked the foundation of my emerging new life, and choosing which products to put up on CafePress, working with their templates, uploading, and filling in the product pages became all too much.

CafePress landed on the pile of lost skills, broken friendships, crumbling health; I shoved its memory away. Until early this year.

I began to reminisce to myself how much fun I had designing calendars and mugs, T-shirts and hoodies. But I didn’t want to return to a US company. The US is a complete shitshow, and I grumbled silently why no Canadian companies? How do I find one? I didn’t know then that such companies are called drop shippers.

Trying to find a Canadian web hosting company and domain name provider whose servers were in Canada and who charged in Canadian dollars had been frustrating. Canadians talk up American companies; not nearly as many look inside our own borders for the same or better and talk them up. So I didn’t look for a Canadian version of CafePress. Also: strange, lingering fatigue gripped me. I didn’t feel like fighting it to look for the ineffable. (I’m like others and wonder if the illness I caught in mid-December, whose effects lingered for months and months, was maybe an early form of COVID-19.)

Then one day something moved me to watch a Mayor John Tory press conference in mid-May. By then I wasn’t watching his COVID-19 pressers much. He announced the ShopHERE for small businesses — and artists! An initiative of Toronto’s Digital Main Street, it was one more way to support businesses and artists cratered by the pandemic. I immediately surfed to the site on my iPad and applied. Into my lap, dropped:

A logo.

I’d been stumped for years on how to design a decent logo, one of those tiny images you see next to the URL in your browser. Suddenly, an answer.

A way to sell my Brain Isolation poster that BIST was exhibiting at its Expressive Art Show.

BIST had asked me for a price so people could buy it.

A chance to recreate my favourite T-shirt.

I’d worn my CafePress down to almost threads.

A place to put one of my favourite mugs back up for sale. (Photo provided by Nancy H., a customer.)

And a whole new design to create — masks. They weren’t as popular as I expected.

Maybe masks didn’t move because Public Health didn’t get across the message clearly that the pandemic is going to rise into a second wave and it’s gonna last into 2022, so people, get yourself a whole bunch of masks — and fabric is more environmentally friendly than disposable ones.

But I keep designing them. And T-shirts, and tank tops, and yoga leggings.

Designing.

That’s what I’d been missing. It’s what ShopHERE gave me back. Through it, I found a Canadian alternative to CafePress: Art of Where.

I forgot that all this was answer to my remembrances for awhile in the steep learning curve, the desperate panic of trying to find customers, the grrr of having to pay a Canadian company (Shopify) in USD. US companies have no problem charging Canadian businesses and artists in Canadian dollars. But I won’t get on that hobby horse again. For now!

Unless I can attract more customers to my Art Fit To Wear shop, I won’t be able to keep it going. But the thing about opportunities and answers like this is that it may not always be the first obvious presentation that’s the answer. Only the rest of the year will tell me if this is it or a stepping stone, if it’s a way for me to learn new skills but is not meant to actually last. Instead, I’m to use these skills elsewhere.

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