Just a reminder, all my shops will be closing the day after tomorrow, February 1st, for one week because I get to go back to California! I'm tagging along on my husband's business trip. Although I won't get to visit my hometown, I will get to go to the beach. This is my first trip back to Cali (other than airport layovers) since I was seven years old, so to say I'm excited is an understatement! I do not plan to do any sort of business while I'm away, so if you want something pick it up within the next 24 hours.
Besides my California adventure, my business venture is progressing. My custom-designed eyes arrived from the manufacturer and I'm happy to say they're gorgeous! I tried them this morning and they're a perfect fit for the American Girl doll. They are harder to insert than the Margon eyes I've been using (if you get them in sideways and have to boil them to get them unstuck the eyelashes will fall out. I may or may not have learned that the hard way) but once they're in the rim doesn't show at all and the iris size is the same as the original. I am waiting to hear back from the manufacturer about final pricing, shipping, and colors for an order of several hundred pieces. Once I place the order it will be a few months for them to be made but then I will have my own exclusive line of doll eyes. I'm just beyond excited! I started work today at 6:30 AM, I was just so eager to get started. Before 7 I already talked to clients and suppliers here in the USA, the Netherlands, and Taiwan! I always envisioned myself with a global business because I simply adore traveling and meeting new people and I feel like finally it's really happening! Speaking of meeting people all over the world, I recently became acquainted with an extremely talented Dutch artist who is trying out some of my eyes in his wooden automatons. He sent me the photo below and you can also find his work on YouTube. I hope you'll check it out, and hope my eyes work!
My tried and true kids' clothing and consignment business is moving along. I am in the middle of listing several hundred pieces of girls' clothing. The new stuff is mainly size 12-24 months but I have dresses in size 0 all the way to adult right now and more are on the way. If you need an Easter dress or ensemble I hope you will head to my eBay and Poshmark boutiques (link from the Home page).
In another new adventure, I am trying reselling new baby clothes. I have a huge wholesale lot of Baby Boden pieces, including those shown below, on the way. To start I am just stocking baby girls' pieces, but if they do well I will add boys' and older kids' stuff. Baby Boden always flies out of the shops, which is why I chose that brand. It's cute and really high quality and since it ships from the UK it's not easy to find around here. I do have one boys' Mini Boden shirt in my boutique right now if you are interested in boys' clothes. Sign up for Poshmark with the code STUDIOMANDALINE for a $5 credit. It doesn't look like the Boden pieces will be here until I return, so look for them starting mid-February.
It's hard to leave just when so many things are taking off, but I am in desperate need of a vacation, even if only to rest my hands. I plan to treat the trip like a health spa getaway. Through the keto diet and intermittent fasting (you can follow along with that journey on my Instagram) I am down SIX dress sizes and I plan to try to shave off a few more walking on the beach, exploring the tide pools, and getting back to my roots! I hope you have a wonderful week, until we meet again!
I've been largely out of the shop the past few days due to several unexpected events. First, on Wednesday we had a winter storm that, instead of delivering a trace of snow as it was supposed to, gave us nearly eight inches! If you're a North Carolinian you know that just shuts everything down. The roads were so bad Dale Earnhardt Jr., who lives in the next town over, crashed into a pine tree and even the county snow plow ran off the road into a ditch! The kids have been out of school for three straight days. I've been drinking more wine than is probably good for me. Our puppy, Loki, decided it would be a good time to eat a squeaker from a toy he chewed up. I took the toy and squeaker away from him when I saw it and didn't realize he must have either snuck it out of the trash when I wasn't looking or had another hidden away. At any rate, he ended up with an intestinal blockage and had to be rushed to the emergency vet in the snow. We made it there and back with difficulty; what should have been a 10 minute drive took over a half hour each way. We weren't sure at first what was wrong so Loki had to have two sets of X-Rays and bloodwork before they finally found the problem and took him into surgery around midnight. Since this was the emergency vet and not our regular vet the bill ended up at more than $2200. Loki is lucky he's cute!
The same day I heard from a customer that her doll arrived with its face crushed, despite my having spent $6 more than I charged her shipping it Priority Mail in a brand new box in an attempt to get USPS to be more careful. I had to refund her money. Last week they lost two of my packages and I had to send free replacements to the buyers. I don't get it; I've never had as many problems with them ever as I have in the past week. And speaking of USPS, their rates will rise 6% on average the day after tomorrow. Regretfully I raised my eBay prices 6%, since eBay requires me to pay shipping and return shipping for most items to keep my Top Seller status. To ease everyone into the change my store will be discounted 10% this weekend, through Tuesday. You can shop the sale when you link to my eBay store from the Home Page.
You may have seen my posts about painting custom color doll eyes for people. All of a sudden, about six months ago, I began to have as many as ten inquiries each day about American Girl doll eyes. Evidently a big trend is "eye-swapping" American Girl doll's eyes for other doll's eyes or for more unusual colored eyes. This is great for me, as an eye seller, except that I carry Margon eyes. I carry Margon because they are the brand used in the vintage dolls I mostly restore. They will fit the American Girl doll in the 13mm size but the fit isn't perfect. The eyes are smaller than the originals but the casing is more round, so you have to go with a smaller eye to fit it in the face. I reluctantly put the American Girl sized fit on the listing for the 13mm eyes because I was trying to avoid answering the same question a hundred times a week, but even though it's all over the listings that the eyes are smaller I keep having people return them without even trying them. They just look at them and decide they won't fit and won't believe me when I tell them it's the right size. I'm bleeding way too much money for these returns; the shipping alone is $6 when I have to pay it both ways. So I had to stop accepting returns on those eyes. EBay cut the Top Seller Discount on fees in half and it just doesn't make it worthwhile for me to save on fees by paying for all these returns. If you are responsible customer who reads the listing and looks at the photos before you buy online I sincerely apologize!
Very soon American Girl eyes may no longer be a problem. I've been working with a manufacturer to have doll eyes made to my specifications. Today they told me they had my sample ready and I ordered it. It will take about a month to arrive and then I can make sure the fit is good. If it is I can order them made in different colors, instead of just the three I have now. Then it will take another couple months for them to arrive but my hope is to have eyes that fit the American Girl dolls in the colors my buyers want so I don't have to paint them so often. I am so hopeful these will work. I just can't wait to carry my own brand of eyes that I don't have to make apologies for or paint different colors! Loki and his surgery and all my USPS refunds set me back as to how many things I can order, but my dream is to eventually have my own line of all kinds of doll making supplies, designed by me, and even someday dolls made to my design! I hope you will follow along with my journey and thanks so much to all of you who supported me and purchased from me to help me get to this point!
Dryper Dolly: How To Repair
I encountered the rare Ideal Playtex Dryper baby doll from 1959 in my doll hospital recently. Because of the doll's unusual construction I decided to write a repair tutorial for others who might come across this doll. At about $100 unrestored, the doll's value merits repair!
I've been writing free doll repair tutorials for years and I wonder if there's a way I could actually get paid for them. Please let me know, would you be interested in signing up for a monthly program called Mandaline University? My idea is to write a monthly lesson and send that along with all the supplies needed for individual repairs. By the end of the course you would have restored your own dolls step-by-step and gained enough knowledge to open your own doll hospital or to fix dolls and re-sell them if that's something that interests you. I thought I would also have a private Facebook group for subscribers where we could all bounce ideas off one another and you would have greater access to ask me questions. Please fill out the contact form to let me know if this is a viable idea or to request an estimate for doll repair.
January 13th, 2018
Help Find This Doll
Doll Peeps ~ we need help! We are looking for a replacement doll for a special needs woman in Germany. The doll is from the Polish manufacturer Hencz-toys. Please let me know if you can locate one, especially if you are in Germany or Poland.
Original message is here: I am a member of a group on facebook that is trying to help the mother of a 37 year old special needs woman in Germany find a replacement for the doll she's had since she was born, or someone local who can perhaps do repairs. Apparently, the doll had never left her side until recently, when it broke, and she's extremely distraught without it. This was posted to a puppet building group I'm a member of as a last resort, and as none of us are specifically doll people, we're not sure how to help. I thought I'd write you, as someone who appears to do doll repairs, and see if you have any sort of connections to anyone who may know about this doll, connections to anyone in Germany who may be able to repair, or anyone who may have the capacity to alter/age a similar doll. From what has been gleaned so far by people looking, it's from a Polish manufacturer, Hencz-toys, and is from the 80s.
Thanks so much for your time, I'm sure that you have a lot going on, so I really appreciate you taking the time to read this.
This post is going to be redundant for those of you who follow my social media pages, and for that I apologize. I have been so busy lately I haven't had time to blog much so many of my long-time readers may be wondering what has become of me. Instagram is the new Pinterest, in my opinion, and I have more than 1500 followers, for which am extremely grateful. Years ago when I started writing the Mandaline Artful Living blog about doll repair I never thought anyone would read it. And certainly for a long time the only views I got were click bait websites trying to get me to click on their site. Gradually my readership increased. When I started pinning my blog posts to the then-new Pinterest I saw an explosion in views and sales on eBay. Back then I only sold on eBay and didn't even have a store. Nowadays when I post on Instagram I see an almost immediate boost in sales and followers across my network of shops. I find I'm on Instagram more than is probably good for me because I am just learning so much. I have groups of people I follow for business: doll makers and sellers and resellers, and a weight loss group. Then I have my Facebook friends and family members and I find I am learning so much from them all. In my business group someone suggested the 10K On The Bay YouTube channel so I've been watching it and I am so inspired. I feel like a loser most of the time, because all these kids are making so much money on eBay in the one year they've been selling or whatever and I've been selling on eBay for 16 years, but they have such great ideas and insight. Some things don't apply to me because I am a different generation, like, "Try to work weekends so you won't spend all your money poppin' it at the club." Yeah. Not a problem for me! Lately most of my money has gone to impromptu surgeries and hospital visits rather than entertainment!
But anyway, Chris, who broadcasts the 10K channel, is a great person for me to listen to because he is a total numbers person. I am not a numbers person at all. My strength is making things. I can make almost anything and I can look at almost anything and know how it was made so I am good at fixing things. I've struggled over the years to define myself as a business. I've done a good job, better than most of the kids making all the money, establishing my brand, most likely because of my commercial art background, but I am not set up as a business at all. Partly this is from necessity. As you know I am a mom first and I am often called away from the shop to take children to the doctor or to school. We have three kids, two of whom we adopted with special needs. Our youngest was just released from his IEP, so he no longer needs speech therapy, in February, and by March I was consistently hitting the Top 10% of eBay sellers in multiple categories. I was on track to have a really stellar year when in September our oldest son, who has always been healthy, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Because he was away at college we spent nearly all our free time that month staying near him, three hours away and since then we've made multiple trips to help him adjust, take care of his medications, accompany him to the doctor visits, etc. Then we had the infamous two storey water heater flood that put my office out of commission right at the beginning of the holiday crunch time, so I didn't have the fourth quarter I was expecting. I made slightly more than last year. I am proud I was able to improve on my numbers even with all the tragedy and upheaval, but I am really interested in becoming a "real" business and a more automated business so I don't have to constantly be in the shop. Reviewing my numbers after listening to podcasts I realized I only had $10,000 for sale on eBay and most of those prices include shipping. So if every thing I have sold I would still only be making side money. I determined to add to my inventory. Money is tight for us right now because our children have had three surgeries and one ICU stay over the past two years. Our youngest has been complaining about his ears and looks to be on the road to another ear tube surgery, so I can't just spend and spend. So I took the profit I've saved and did some retail arbitrage at IKEA. I have all kinds of limited edition pieces which are now discontinued for sale on eBay. I also stepped up listing my consignment baby and kids' clothes. I've been concentrating on getting Spring and Summer merchandise in place so I have a ton of swimsuits right now. I am trying my hand at wholesale as well. I listed a whole bunch of choker necklaces on Poshmark and eBay. These are so trendy right now my daughter, who modeled them for me, bought some off me before the photo shoot! As my Instagram following has grown I have more and more doll hospital requests as well, so that is another income stream for me. It's not automated, however. I hope this year to grow my Amazon business. I know absolutely nothing about it but everyone who sells on Amazon says it's by far the least hands-on platform. Reviewing my numbers yesterday I found I am down slightly on eBay but up nearly 1200% on Etsy! Thinking more like a business than a person in business is already paying off for me! So if you aspire to own your own business you should check out 10K On the Bay on YouTube. I really hope you will help me grow by shopping in my stores, all of which you can reach from the Home page.
On the health front, I switched to the original Atkins Diet back in September when our son was diagnosed. I use ketogenic test strips before and after meals to make sure I am keeping my blood sugar in check. I wanted to test like my son has to because I wanted to understand his disease better. To stay accountable I post photos of all my meals and calorie and carb counts on Instagram. That led me to several doctors and nutritionists and people on their own weight loss journeys as well as Type 1 diabetics and I've learned a great deal from them. Dr. Wade Baskin recommended a book called The Complete Guide To Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and I read it and started experimenting with intermittent fasting. I never realized it before, but I used to practice intermittent fasting when we attend the LDS (Mormon) church. We fasted for 24 hours the first Sunday of every month and then sometimes for extra periods to pray for someone. That fast is more strict than most because it's a dry fast, meaning even water is not allowed. Dr. Fung's fasts are easier, as you are allowed to have broth and coffee and water while fasting. I always wondered how Mormon women stay so thin because they eat quite a bit of processed food due to the requirement they have a food storage that can feed their families for a year in case of emergency. Out of necessity they eat a lot of canned and packaged foods to use up their food storage before it expires. Now I understand it is probably the intermittent fasting keeping them thin. I lost about 12 pounds and have been stuck in a plateau of 8-12 pounds lost ever since so I am hoping fasting can help me break out of it. Supposedly intermittent fasting does not slow your metabolism like constant low calorie dieting. I am going to California next month and I want to be trim for my vacation! We shall see. Yesterday I did my first 24 hour fast for many years. Even though my weight is stuck on the scale I noticed a shirt that was tight in my waist a month ago (when my weight was a few pounds lower) is now so loose I can grab handfuls of fabric. That's great because it means I must be losing visceral fat in my abdomen, the most dangerous fat for health.
For the first time in a long time I'm actually hopeful and positive about the future. It seems like things are finally moving in the right direction for me and I have high hopes for 2018. I am sorry for this long, long, post, but I just really wanted to share with anyone else who might need some direction in the same areas. I hope you'll follow me on Instagram and participate in my groups: #resellersquad, #resellerfam, #dollrestoration, #dollhospital, #intermittentfasting, #weightlossjourney, #ketogenicdiet. These are just a few of the hashtags I follow but they're the main ones really inspiring me right now.
January 08th, 2018
My most recent doll hospital restoration is Flora McFlimsey, a composition doll made by Madame Alexander from 1939-1944. You can read all about the repairs and link to tutorials to see how to repair your own dolls on the blog. I guess my social media strategies must finally be working to get the word out; today alone I've had three requests for doll repairs! I'm not going to complain. Usually I have to find the dolls, repair the dolls, and then try to sell them, so restoring others' dolls saves me time and money! I used to worry about ruining someone's doll but then my friend, Lynn, sent me a doll repair school textbook and one of the first lessons is about how people are sending you broken dolls to fix, so it's not like you'd be breaking someone's valuable doll. And anyway, from what I can see, I am one of the only composition repair people out there and the only one repairing shattered glass eyes. So I guess I know what I'm doing as much as anyone! I am happy to admit more patients to the hospital, although there is at least a 2 week turnaround at the moment, depending on the complexity of the repair. Feel free to contact me for an estimate! As always, please link to my shops from the Home page to purchase already-restored dolls and doll repair kits and supplies.
My name is Amanda, but my childhood nickname was "Mandaline". I am a mother of three turning my passion for creating into a full-time business.