Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Featured Artist - jessijewels

Jessi is a 32 year old graphic designer who works in the art department of a catalog company. She lives in southern Connecticut with her husband of 7 years, and creates handcrafted jewelry and cards in her spare time. She enjoys gardening, shopping at flea markets, and spending time with family and friends.

She joined Etsy in January of this year, and has been a seller for about 6 months. I have personally purchased a pair of earrings and a card from her, and was absolutely thrilled with the quality and creativity. :)

I recently interviewed Jessi, here are my questions and her answers.

What first interested you in jewelry and card making, and how long have you been doing each?

I've always loved jewelry and I've been into art for as long as I can remember. I graduated Elementary School and High School being known as the Most Artistic (kinda funny since I can't draw worth beans!). I won a gold key for an art piece in HS and also designed the cover for our graduation booklet. I was chairperson for the National Art Honor Society and every year held a workshop to involve kids with art projects.

I'd have to say that I first became really interested in making jewelry about 7-8 years ago, before I was about to get married. I was looking for ways to save money and decided that I would attempt making the earrings and necklaces for my wedding party (to save more money I hand painted each clay pot that I used as wedding favors, put together all the flower arrangements for the centerpieces, and added my own touch to the invitations... proof that if you do more, you can save more when you're planning a wedding. :)

I started making scrapbooks before I got into card making. It all started around the same time (7-8 years ago). My first one was a "me & mom" scrapbook that I presented to her the day that I got married.

Which is your favourite, if you had to pick between the two?

I can't really choose one over the other. I constantly switch between the two crafts so they stay interesting to me. "Some days are diamonds and some days are scrap." Of course, having two very different crafts that I can go between at all times makes for twice the mess though! I think it really helps keep the ideas flowing and it's only work if you get bored doing it and I never want that to happen.

Which have you had more success with?

I have had quite a bit of success with my jewelry. Every year my aunt and I have a jewelry party and we both make out really well. I've also had jewelry at an art gallery, and sold some pieces at an annual fair/flea market that's in town. I've never sold my cards before joining Etsy, but I am proud to say that people have been scooping them up! For the past 6 years or so, I have been making all of my Christmas cards and I always get such great feedback from friends and family. They tell me that they look forward to getting my cards every year. I'm kind of afraid that I'll never be able to stop making them by hand or they'll come after me!!!

What is your favourite colour to work with?

I don't have one! I use silver more than gold because that's what I personally like best. In order for me to sell something I have to like it. That means the style, color and items used. I use all types of colors and gemstones, glass, crystals and metals. New and vintage. Dainty and bold. They say "variety is the spice of life" so that's what I shoot for. I like silver best but I make some copper, brass and gold colored items as well.

What style of jewelry do you prefer to make over the others?

I guess I'd have to say earrings because I can usually bang them out pretty quickly if I get myself on a roll. Bracelets and necklaces are usually more time consuming especially if they're intricate.

What type of jewelry do you, yourself, wear most often?

One thing that everyone knows about me is that I wear silver. I always have AT LEAST 5 sterling bracelets on my left wrist. And I have silver earrings in each of the 7 holes in my ears. I LOVE sparkles and love to wear them on occasion, but for the most part I tend to wear natural stones and crystals.

Is your favourite colour to wear the same as your favourite to work with?


How did you first discover Etsy?

I had never even heard of Etsy until I typed "sell handmade jewelry" into the Google box and it popped up. I kinda just stumbled upon it. -Guess it was luck!

What convinced you to sell on Etsy?

After scoping out how Etsy worked, researching it and asking questions in the forums, I decided the first step would be to purchase something and see how it goes. So that was exactly what I did. I found everyone to be friendly and helpful and my order went through and arrived without a hitch. Then I was hooked. I ordered some more items... and some more, and then decided it was time to jump right in and set up my own shop.

Are you happy with how your shop is going?

I think if you were to ask just about anyone, they would probably say the same thing. I do like my shop. I think it's orderly and detailed, easy to understand and a comfortable & friendly place to be in. Just like with anything in life, some days are better then others. Sometimes it feels as though you’re selling things left and right and then next thing you know you're having a dry spell that lasts weeks.

How much time would you say you spend each day on your crafts?

It's different all the time. My husband would say I spend too much time; on my cards especially. It can literally take me hours to think up something and make it happen when it comes to my cards.

What inspires you with jewelry making?

I am most inspired by the "in" colors and seeing what is popular at the moment. I look at magazines and websites to see what's new.

What inspires you with card making?

Occasions- birthdays, anniversaries, etc. There are so many things in life to celebrate or to be thankful for. I want to have a card for everything. I like to use fun stickers, bright colors and papers. I want to get as much use as I can from the items that I have on hand.

Are you involved in any street teams?

I belong to the CT Etsy Street Team, a team specifically for Connecticut Etsians. I also belong to EtsyGreetings.

How has being involved with them changed your Etsy shop and/or you?

Being a part of a team makes me feel like I belong somewhere. A team gives you goals to look forward to, ideas and promos and outlets to sell your items at. They give you that little bit of structure you need in life. :)

Would you recommend teams to other Etsy sellers?

Yes! I have recommended that people join teams. If for no other reason than for the support and friendships you will get from them.

What do you wish you had known when you started selling?

How addicting Etsy is!!! Making treasuries has become a favorite of mine. The couple of threads that I HAVE to check in on everyday. I don't know what I would do without the group of great friends that I've made on "the hug" thread. Of course GenuineArticle, along with SosoRosey, LewesiaGlass and SallysCreations have been the ones that have been there all along. Helpful, supportive and always a friend. A special thanks to all of them and to all of the new shops that I've met along the way.

What advice do you have for new sellers?

My advice to newbies would be to give it time. It usually takes a while to get your shop out there and noticed and to make that first sale. The other thing is to promote your shop the best you can. Put up fliers locally, hang around in the forums, join teams and B&Rs and be social. Good luck to all of you, and most of all, Have Fun!!!


Jessi has also had success selling at a local art gallery and at flea markets and craft shows.

She has a vast array of supplies and loves to do custom work. This photograph to the right is just her natural stone collection.

She also has a large collection of vintage beads, as shown below, in addition to glass, crystals, buttons, sterling and charms.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Naughty or Nice?

My dear Etsy friend Jessi has featured me in another one of her amazing Treasuries! She always has a unique and creative concept for her Treasuries, and I was just delighted to find a photograph that I took featured in her latest. :)

Mine is the Heavenly Clouds photo in the middle on the right hand side.

Have you been NAUGHTY???

by jessijewels

I'm interviewing Jessi to feature her on my blog, so stay tuned to find out more about this creative Etsy seller. :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

When I first started selling online, pretty much all of my free time was consumed with setting up my Etsy shop, learning about taking product photos and writing good descriptions, and trying to figure out as many of the Etsy "tricks" as I could to make my business successful. It wasn't long before I got into the swing of things and managed to trim down the time it takes me to list a new item from 45 minutes to 15, learned how to photograph an item using 12 shots per piece rather than 50, and had enough practice with creating jewelry that it didn't take me forever to make a pair of earrings.

Once I had a system in place, I found that I had more free time on my hands. And when I thought about what I wanted to do with that time, I realized that photographing and listing the items and promoting my Etsy shop were not the activities that really called to me. I just wanted to make more jewelry. Jewelry that didn't have to be photographed, measured, written about and promoted. The perfect outlet for that came when my dad was in the bookstore at the college he works in, noticed that the woman there has jewelry displays by local artists, and brought up my name. She was very excited to get in more product, so I started making earrings like crazy, and my mom and I beaded a bunch of necklaces and bracelets.

The bookstore woman wanted a little placard with a short bio on us and our business, and a bunch of business cards to put out in addition to the jewelry. It took me a few weeks to get it all together. Learning how to design and print off earring cards took awhile, and making little tags and attaching them to each of the necklaces and bracelets was time consuming, too. Once I had a boxful ready to go, I handed it to my dad and he took it in for me. The woman was over the moon, and bought almost all of it to put out in a little glass display case with only my jewelry in it.

That was back in May. She didn't need anything for June, which was too bad because I'd been hoping that a good sale like that could be a monthly thing, but she does want more product now in July. Apparently, my earrings just flew off the shelves, and now the only items left in my display are a few necklaces on leather cording. It seems that they're not the leather cord crowd, so I'll stick to tiger tail necklaces with this order.

Because the earrings did so well, I'm making them the majority of this order. She bought 9 pairs before, but considering how well they've done, she wants a lot more this time. So I have about 14 pairs made so far, and I'm hard at work on many more.

I love the freedom that comes from knowing that I won't have to photograph, measure, write about and promote these creations. I can make whatever design I want, try it out a couple of different ways without thinking about how similar the internet listings would have looked if I listed three pairs of garnet earrings that look so much alike, and I can concentrate completely on making the earrings without worrying about whether or not they'll photograph well. All I have to do is create them, print off and label the earring cards, and attach the earrings. I can make them look fabulous without thinking about the settings of my camera, and the customers will be able to clearly see what size and colour they are without the mystery that the internet lends to one's pieces.

And best of all, the college bookstore gets WAY more traffic than my Etsy shop. Try as I do to advertise, renew and list, I'm still competing with thousands of other sellers. There are hundreds of thousands of pairs of earrings on Etsy. The college bookstore has me and about three other artists. So at any given time there are probably only 100 pairs of earrings to choose from. And there is also the factor of the impulse buy. You're in the shop for a totally different reason, but you see the shimmering rainbow of labradorite calling to you from a display case called Genuine Article. In person, $20-30 doesn't seem like a lot of money, especially when you can pick them up and twist them in the light. And you also have the added bonus of removing the postal service from the equation. Pick the earrings up, take them to the counter, pay for them and take them home. You could put them on right away, if you wanted. Instant gratification.

So all in all, selling my product to a local store has been an amazing addition to my online business. I have had, and am continuing to have, an incredibly positive experience, and I definitely recommend it to others. Find a local shop (or 2, or 10), take in some of your product and ask if they're interested in selling it from their store. If you choose a location that's appropriate for whatever you make, and they're open to local artisans, you just might wind up with them being your very best customer yet. :)

See the fruits of my labour.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I love being in Treasuries!

I woke up today to a wonderful surprise - I'm in a Treasury! :) The gorgeous and fabulous Miss Jessi of jessijewels created a beautiful Treasury featuring people from The Hug Thread, a friendly little oasis in the Etsy forums.

The sunflower photo at the top right was taken by my sister, Natashia, and is for sale in our shop. :)

luvin' in the garden ...

Coincidentally, I entered a contest run by CelticKnot today, and won $5 off any item in her shop! I showed Natashia her shop and she fell in love with the Rainbow Helix earrings featured in the above Treasury. Thus, they are no longer available. ;)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The art of photography.

I've heard a lot of artists in the Etsy forums say that they love to design and create their pieces, and they adore their shops and really enjoy selling online, but they hate photographing their items. I completely agree. I've struggled a lot with my photography. I love creating jewelry, I'm always pondering new designs, pairing beads together in my mind and thinking up names for my future creations. I want all of my pieces to find loving homes, and I know as an online seller and shopper that good photographs are the most important tool when selling over the internet.

Online shopping has its advantages. You can do it in your own time, pop in and out between work or chores, view a wider selection of items than there tends to be in any one regular store, and easily compare similar pieces. But the biggest drawback is that you can't pick up, turn over and feel the object. It can be hard to get a sense of size, true colour, or quality. This is where photos become crucial.

Unfortunately, most people who spend their time sewing, potting, sculpting, painting, making jewelry, etc, aren't spending their time learning to become world class photographers, and we can have a very hard time creating photos that are as incredible as our handcrafted items.

As with all aspects of my business, I want my photographs to be the very best they can be. I want them to have the "lust factor," as my mother calls it. That almost indescribable quality that compels you to click on an item photo no matter what it's a photo of.

The first thing I tried was a homemade light box. I found a tutorial online that described how to cut the top and sides from a cardboard box, cover the spaces with thin paper and aim lights into the box to illuminate the object. Those photos came out quite dim and a bit grainy looking, like so:

I quickly realized that though some people seem to have success with it, this method wasn't working for me. It was suggested to me that one of my items might photograph better on a dark background, so I laid out black paper on the cold stove top, turned on the hood range light, set the camera to flash and gave it a try. It seemed to be an improvement, so I spend a lot of time trying to perfect the technique, using PhotoShop to lighten the pictures where necessary. This is what that looked like:

Even though this seemed to be an improvement on the light box, the photos had an almost surreal quality to them. The black background was a bit stark and didn't help to give any depth or proportion to the items. I had about 30 items in my shop at that time, all photographed this way. They certainly didn't inspire "lust" in me, so how could they do so to my larger audience?

It was at this point that I started to understand why there is such a wide spread opinion that indirect nature light is the best method for photographing one's products. I decided that it was time to give the method a try. After experimenting with several backgrounds, including white and coloured paper, my sister, Natashia, tried an item on a weathered wooden bench that our aunt had given us as a housewarming present. The pale gray wood provided an interesting visual and some perspective to the pieces. Combined with the indirect natural light (the bench is in the shade of the garage) it created photographs that make it look like you can reach out and pick up the items.

Very pleased with this presentation, I set about rephotographing my entire shop. It took a few weeks, but I finally got all of my items changed over and was able to add more (I'm up to 79). I did need something a bit different for the first photograph of my earrings, and that was quickly remedied with a small house plant that I take outside with me.

I love the way that the natural backgrounds in natural light convey such a friendly, summery feel to my whole shop. And they do the most justice to the jewelry that I work so hard on. Now I just have to worry about what I'll do come winter..... ;)