Japanese Artistic Manhole Covers

Kurashiki Manhole Cover - Photo by PINEAPPLE Studio

Japan is an amazing country which in my eyes is a fascinating combination of futuristic urbanism and technology alongside traditional arts, ancient architecture and nature. My husband and I traveled there for 3 weeks exploring different areas. This was truly an inspiring experience which left a long lasting impact on us.

I like when attention is put into the little details, and you can find many examples for that in Japanese arts, culture and sculptured nature. Even something seemingly insignificant as the sewage covers (manhole covers) turns into mini works of street art, with detailed engravings depicting architecture & nature scenes.

As you take a closer look you will notice, that these are not just random images. Each one tells a story about the history or main characteristics of the city or town it is in:

Matsumoto Manhole Cover - Photo by PINEAPPLE Studio

Matsumoto is the main area of production of Temari (Hand Balls) and it is one of its most important folk crafts. Temari are handmade silk balls, which were used in the past for games. Today they serve mostly as decorative objects and good luck charms.

Osaka Manhole Cover - Photo by PINEAPPLE Studio

A colorful depiction of the Osaka Castle.

Kobe Manhole Cover - Photo by PINEAPPLE Studio

Kobe manhole covers depicts the city with mountains in the background. The anchor symbol represents Kobe’s beautiful harbor.

Hiroshima Manhole Cover - Photo by PINEAPPLE Studio

Thousands of colorful paper cranes are decorating the Children’s Peace Monument located in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, in memory of the girl Sadako Sasaki and the thousands of child victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Nara Manhole Cover - Photo by PINEAPPLE Studio

You can find many Sika deer roaming free in the Nara Park area, which are considered to be a sacred animal in the local tradition.

Kurashiki Manhole Cover - Photo by PINEAPPLE Studio

Inside the Achi Shrine in Kurashiki is a centuries old Wisteria tree, which is considered the largest of its kind in Japan.

Thousands of these artistic manhole covers can be found in Japan. I recently came across this beautiful Flicker album by member MRSY. Looking at these photos makes me want to visit Japan again and look for each and every one of these street works of art.

There is so much to see in Japan! If you ever travel to Japan I recommend using this website called Japan Guide to plan your trip. It is full of resources, travel routes and information, and was extremely useful when we were planning our trip.

How to make a personal connection with your online customers

How to make a personal connection with your online customers | www.worldofpineapple.com

As a designer or artist you might have an online store on your website or on another platform (such as Etsy, Craftsy, Zazzle etc.). You’re checking your analytics and see that visitors are coming in but sales rarely follow, and you start asking yourself why these people aren’t buying? If this was a brick and mortar store or even a booth at a craft fair, you could talk to people, ask and learn from their comments and answers. How do you do that online?

I believe the key is to Make it Personal. Buying and selling online can sometimes feel very automatic and un-personal, like you’re communicating with built-in systems and computers instead of real people.

When I first opened my Party Printables shop, I realized that since a person can purchase and immediately download a product, the whole process could work completely automatic and that I may never have any contact with some of my customers. I decided very early on that I want to change that and make a personal connection with them.

Here are 8 tips on how you can do that:

1. Show them you’re a real person

In my opinion, personal connection with customers and potential buyers is the most important aspect when running an online business. Buying and selling online can feel very alienating, since you don’t see the person on the other side of the computer screen. Try to be as accessible as you can for the people interested in your products and services. Help them see there is a real person who cares about their needs and will be there to answer their questions and concerns.

2. Share

Write an about page so that people can learn a bit more about you and your business.

Share your inspirations, ideas and maybe some “behind the scenes” of your design process using social media and a blog.

Make it super-easy for people to reach out: Create a visible and easy-to-use contact form with a simple and inviting call to action such as “Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have!” You can also include your email, phone number and other ways to reach you.

3. Give them GREAT customer service even before they’re your customers

People may have questions before purchasing. Maybe there is something they want to clarify, maybe they want reassurance, or maybe they just want to know there is a real person behind the product and who that person is. My advice – Be nice, be professional, and keep your answers short and sweet. Don’t turn a simple answer into a sales pitch, and don’t over load your buyers with extra unnecessary information. Instead, open a route for communication – I always finish an answer with “let me know if you have any further questions” or “let me know if you need anything else” – this makes the person on the other side feel comfortable enough to ask more questions and helps to start a dialogue.

4. Thank Them Personally!

This one is very simple – after people purchase from you let them know you appreciate that – by writing to them in person! Don’t just send an automated ‘Thank You’ reply.

You can show your appreciation by creating beautiful wrappings for the products you ship, inserting a personal hand-written thank you note or maybe even adding a small gift to the package.

If you’re selling digital items, you can send a personal thank you message and maybe a small freebie.

I send a personal message or email to each person buying from my shop, thanking them and letting them know I am available if they have any questions.

5. Show them you care – Follow up

After your customers receive the product, reach out to them and follow up. Ask if they are happy with their purchase, what they liked and didn’t like, if they have any suggestion on how you can improve your products and what more would they like to see in your shop.

Make sure to address any issues or concerns they may have.

I usually contact my customers 4-6 week after purchase to follow up (I learned that this is a reasonable time period for most of them to already use the party printables). I thank them again, send a little gift and ask for their comments.

6. Don’t Spam

Sending a ‘Thank You’ message right after purchase and following up a little while later is enough. Not all customers will write back, but you will be able to learn from those who do. Don’t write multiple messages if you don’t hear from a customer, respect their time and privacy (and inbox!).

I heard some sellers like to add their customers’ email addresses to their mailing list. Personally I don’t do that and I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. Sure, some customers will probably be happy to receive your updates, and those who don’t can always unsubscribe from your mailing list (if you do add your customers without asking them, make sure they have an EASY way to unsubscribe if they want to!). But imagine this – what if ALL online sellers you ever bought from decided to add you to their mailing list? I wouldn’t want to start receiving so many emails and newsletters. I prefer to choose and subscribe to what interests me, so I give my customers the same choice.

7. Be Honest

Don’t try to manipulate your customers, don’t lie to them and don’t ignore their messages. Remind them there is a real person behind the emails they receive by showing a little of your personality in what you write. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes, it shows you’re human! Be honest and caring and remember you are talking to a real person, who will usually respond to your honesty with great appreciation.

8. Learn and Improve

Communicating with your customers and potential buyers is a great way to learn what they want and need. Then you can change, tweak and re-design your products and also create new products and give better offers to new and returning customers.

The bottom line is this: You can’t control people’s decisions to buy something, but you can make it easier for them to choose you, by making a more personal connection.

How do you make a personal connection with your online customers? Please share your story in the comments below: ⇩⇩⇩

Click here for more Art & Design Business Tips

Everyday Patterns

Tree Trunk Texture - Pattern Photo by Noa Ambar Regev

I love patterns in nature – this is the texture of a tree trunk.

There is a concept that talks about how reality is actually a subjective thing that exists inside our minds and is directly influenced by our personal perception of things. Without getting too philosophical about this, I do agree with the idea that two people can look at the same thing and see it differently. But you can also reverse it – what if you start looking at things from a new perspective?

I’m a visually curious person, that means for me I need to see new, interesting, beautiful things on a regular basis or I get really bored! I take Penny (our dog) for a walk everyday around the same blocks, so at some point I just had to change the way I look at my neighborhood to keep avoid complete and utter boredom. When you walk around your neighborhood, what do you see? Most people would probably say buildings, trees and pavements.

Well, I see patterns.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point I started seeing the world in patterns. Probably because I love patterns so much I was subconsciously looking for them everywhere I went. Today I do it very consciously. I like searching and discovering something new every time I go outside.

Sometimes it’s about looking up (or down), sometimes about zooming in or trying to look at the broader picture. The point is, you can find beauty and interest even in ordinary day to day things you see around you, if you just change the way you look at them. Try it the next time you’re outside, it’s fun! And notice how your world becomes that much more beautiful and interesting as you do.

All photos where taken by me during my walks with Penny (she had been very patient). You can find them and more patterns on my Instagram [follow me while you’re at it :)].

I would love to see what patterns you find in your own surroundings – share a link to your photos in the comments :)

Office Building Pattern Photo by Noa Ambar Regev

Zoom in on an office building.

Raindrops on Pavement Pattern Photo by Noa Ambar Regev

Raindrops on the pavement.

Clouds Pattern Photo by Noa Ambar Regev

Look for patterns in the clouds.

Paved building walkway - Pattern Photo by Noa Ambar Regev

Paved building walkway.

Yellow flowers in cracks - Pattern Photo by Noa Ambar Regev

Tiny yellow flowers in the cracks.

Flowers Pattern Photo by Noa Ambar Regev

One of the buildings in my neighborhood has a beautiful flower garden. I can totally see a textile pattern design in this one!

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