So I do all sorts of things with shrink plastic. Buttons, rings, and even dollhouse chairs. Some of my stuff is drawn or hand colored, but a lot of stuff is done with a printer. But don't underestimate how much work goes into something. It's actually pretty consuming work. For example, this is how buttons are done:
- Find a vector image. I either use Vector Stock or CDs from the Dover Clip Art Collection. Vector just means I can size to the 3.12” I need to be able to punch it out with my 2” punch and not have it distort.
- If it isn't a vector image (say a photo or other custom work) I have to resize it so it'll not distort badly when it shrinks. (insert some pretty impress cursing here, and I'm not kidding, my cursing is impressive)
- For buttons like the Russian buttons, I have to use the one images and cover an entire sheet while resizing and not having the image distort.
- Sit and punch 12–20 buttons out by hand (swear more as my eyes glaze over and my hand cramps)
- Punch button holes, 2 per button (I'm looking into getting a fancy punch to do this step) (really swear as I rip my template for the holes or images don't line up)
- Bake (at this time of year in high heats) the buttons and make sure I don't over melt them and let them cool (swear some more as I pull hot buttons off the oven rack)
- Sprinkle UTEE powder on the now baked buttons. This gives them dimension and a hard coating, I've gotten smart with this and keep my UTEE in a salt shaker and sprinkle it on evenly
- Make sure the UTEE doesn't burn, It melts fairly fast and burns even quicker which can discolor a button (scream and throw things when I inevitably burn something because I was distracted by shiny objects)
- Let the buttons cool again (in a rush, stuff in freezer)
- Gently sand any excess UTEE off the sides of the buttons (shudder helplessly when the stupid emery board hits your nail and feels like squeaking chalk on a chalkboard)
- Drill out button holes, since the UTEE has covered these (sob hysterically when you put the micro drill thru a finger)
- Wash the buttons in warm water (this helps to soothe the stab wound as well)
- Mount on a card or package for sale (be sure to drop buttons at least 6X while trying to mount them to the mother f*c*ing da**ed card)
- List on Etsy (a tedious process, taking as long as 10 minutes per listing) (curse when connection drops and you have to start all over)
- Mail to new owner, this means taking the bus into town, or walking 6 miles (yep, I do that) or caging a ride with someone (listen to customers whine because you didn't mail out their special buttons they needed THIS Saturday but ordered on Tuesday, oh and then demanded and received free shipping)
- Collapse with relief that something sold (very important step)
So what's the big deal with branding then? Well, back in the 80's when my father was welding for a place that built phone booths, he'd someplace put in his initials “HJJ”. It was only in a way he knew, and he apparently recognized a few of his booths far away from where we live here in Upstate NY. So wanting to leave my mark is clearly genetic. Of course, good luck finding a phone booth these days.
Now, white shrink is awesome. It has clarity, and the inkjet stuff shows even the smallest of detail. Adding the UTEE makes it pop even more. So I don't want a brand on the front of a piece. But, I feel that putting my mark on the back isn't a big deal. Or a pendant, or a white ring. With clear and translucent, I try to find another way to mark my item. I'm seriously considering stickers as well. For my rings I sometimes try to put “DGD” (Dirty Girl Designs) or my initials “JMJ” someplace on the piece, with the computer or by hand. It's normally tiny and not easy to find.
With anything white, it's different. I do an all over repeating text of my Etsy address. “dirtygirldesigns.etsy.com”. Such as on the back of this button.
I am not trying to “copyright” “trademark” or “registered” my item. Not at all. First, I'm hardly the only person to do shrink plastic buttons or rings. Nor am I even close to half as talented as some of the other creators out there. Hell, I use images and I print. I still feel however, I do a lot of work and I want people to know where it came from. The name on the button is not visible, nor on the back of a white ring will you see the repeating design.
So, as an Etsy artist, do you mark your item? And on the flip side, as a customer, would you find my branding offensive? Or does it detract from your desire for the item?