asking for trouble

Ask Me Anything!

ask me anything

I randomly checked Formspring a few weeks ago, only to discover it was closing down! It seems to have been saved now but clearly no-one is using it any more. You can still read my old answers there, but I’m going to start answering questions here on the blog now instead. This time I have a couple of queries from the survey and a couple by email.

The perfect notebook – custom orders for notebooks with size/paper type options Why does no one do this??

I would love to do this, but the reason is that most printers have a minimum order, which can be anything from 25 – 1000. So you can’t just have one notebook made at a time. The only way to do it would be to make them by hand – I have considered buying a spiral binder as it would be quite fun. Maybe one day!

Is their any chance you would open a small store with just your stuff?

Sometimes I feel like the only designer/maker who doesn’t want to open a real life shop! I would only do this is if my stuff was popular enough that I could have staff to run it and I could maybe work in the back and make window displays and occasionally come out to straighten all the products and chat to customers. Or if I ever get a studio outside my home, I would probably open it up for visitors. I really like working at home though.

I saw that you sell your super cute artwork on every platform like Zazzle, Spoonflower, Society6 etc. I’m a beginner with this stuff and I was just wondering if it’s been useful using all the sites versus just one. Also how do you manage to keep track of it all?

It’s usually by necessity as no one site has all the products I want to have available, eg. only Spoonflower does fabric and Society6 was the only site doing good quality iPhone cases (that has changed now). It also depends on your audience – Society6 is more art-based, Zazzle is more about personalisation (adding names etc.) and Spoonflower is very much about pattern design. There are also other sites that are geared towards T-shirt designs, fashion, laser cutting etc.

My advice for anyone starting out is to start with the one that best suits your artwork and your audience, and what products you want to be designing, or industries you would like your designs to be picked up by in future. I think the best one for artists is Society6 – it’s easy to use, there aren’t too many product options and they all seem to be good quality and reasonably priced, plus it’s got a good community aspect for connecting with people and getting fans. Zazzle has the biggest range of products, but I think to be successful there you either need to already have a big fanbase or you need to start designing for trends and holidays that they promote.

As for keeping track, the answer is not very easily! Ideally, I would add one new product every day so there’s always something new, but in reality it’s easier to pick a design and make all the variations for different products and then upload them all together. I did recently create a spreadsheet of all the designs and products so I can see where the gaps are and try to be more organised in future.

The above all kind of applies to marketplaces too (eg. Etsy, Folksy etc.). I can write something about that if anyone’s interested?

I am really interested in making notebooks. Could you tell me how you make yours?

I included this one as an example of the sort of questions I get asked all the time on Etsy/Folksy and by email that I never reply to. I actually  really like answering questions and giving advice when it’s something like the previous question. When it comes to how do you make X / where do you buy your supplies / what company do you use to print X I just find it very rude. I would never ask another designer how they make their products or what suppliers they use, unless we have some kind of relationship and already share business tips.

But the main reason I never answer these emails is because my reply would basically be Try Google. All the stuff I’ve made by hand, the products I’ve had printed, the suppliers I’ve found have happened because I did some web searching, read blog tutorials and books, went to classes or just had a go and tried to figure it out myself. Don’t just do what everyone else does – find your own way!

Got a Question?

Hopefully I didn’t scare you off with that last one, but if you’ve got a question for me about my designs, freelancing, Japan or just something random I’d love to answer them! Just fill out the form and I’ll answer a batch every now and again.


Hello! I’m Marceline Smith, the designer and owner of Asking For Trouble. I create illustrated stationery, accessories and gifts using my cute characters inspired by Japanese kawaii. This is my business and personal blog where I write about my creative doings, inspirations, travels, Japan trips and daily life. Read more »

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