Using print-on-demand sites can be weird. The sites themselves put forward a polished face. They curate their front page and featured works so that the tons of schlock uploaded by people doesn’t show up to represent their brand. To prove my point, go to one and use the search feature. Unfortunately, mostly garbage and copyright violations will show up(addendum: it looks like they’re making an effort to clean it up) and you have to sift through it to find the good stuff. Anyone can make a shop on them. Anyone can upload work. Anyone, so your work is swimming around with theirs, and you have to hope you’re found or that the site chooses to feature you.
It’s great that people have the option to see their own work used as functional objects like notebooks, blankets and so on, that you don’t have to wait to be discovered to see if you work hits a good note, but it does crowd the pool.
The currently popular print-on-demand sites also have different aesthetics. Redbubble seems to be a bit more illustrative, pop culture-ish, cutesy. While Society6 kinda has this Urban Outfitters thing about it. Lots of atmospheric pieces, abstracts and botanicals. Part of it even reminds me of early 2000s grungy-design phase(hell yeah, I still have all my dirty photoshop brushes!), but also mixed with your grandmothers damask couch. I like both and that they have carved out different brand identities.
I do prefer Redbubble’s image uploader and backend than any other POD site yet. Society6 offers some more complicated items, like shower curtains and drapes, but I find their image uploader a bit buggy which can be frustrating. Neither are difficult to use, but when you have a lot of designs to manage, any problems can make it tedious.
The other POD site I’ve been using is Zazzle. Zazzle, I think, has been around forever and still appears to be going strong, It hasn’t been choked out by it’s many competitors. Zazzle has the most product options by far, which is good but also sometimes overwhelming.
Zazzle is for moms(cool moms). I don’t say that as an insult. I’m just saying that branding wise, they push very middle class suburban friendly work. They also promote products like printing your baby’s picture on a mug and gifting it to a grandparent. Cute, and the type of thing that families love.
I’m not pushing my weirder stuff there. What I’m trying to do is release items like party supples or school stationary with my patterns on them. I seriously love the idea of some mom in Oklahoma hosting a Halloween party for her kids, seeing my creepy cute Halloween patterns on cups, paper plates and napkins in my Zazzle store, and then ordering them for a bunch of grade schoolers to use while they play the “Monster Mash”! So here’s hoping for that to happen!
Like anything else, you need to give your storefronts regular attention in order to see results, which can be hard if you are an easily distracted person(that’s me). But if you do, it can work. I don’t make a huge amount of money from these shops, but once they are setup and running, they become a source of mostly passive income. These sites regularly run specials, offering coupon codes to use at checkout that will take a percentage off your order or give you free shipping. And if you’re extra thrifty and use rebate sites to get a percentage back from your purchase, Society6 is included in Ebates or other cheap people apps.
I started this post off by saying using these sites can be weird. To come back to that, what I meant to explain is that I think there is a bit of a prejudice against using them. It feels a little bit looked down upon in certain circles. I think the thought is that, if you’re work was truly good, then someone would have commissioned you or licensed your work. It’s a bit different now than it was in the early 2000s, when these sites were new and there was a lot of glory that went along with getting a shirt produced by Threadless or prints sold by 1XRun. I’m not sure when or if it changed, or if I’m conjuring that up in my head. If I am right, I think the stigma is fading. There are incredible artists using these sites to help themselves make a living. Of course, they don’t get a huge cut of the profits, but then they don’t have any of the hassle or cost of production.
This has been another ramble about art and internet stuff. It’s good to put my thoughts down in words. It allows me to examine them a bit more closely and see where I’m wrong or right. And enjoy the little ads I’ve sprinkled among the words! I’ve been playing at making better pinterest/instagram posts, more attractive ones, and these are the results.