Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Interview by: NancyWallisDesigns
How did you get started on Etsy?
I found Etsy while searching for a way to support myself after finishing school and not finding a steady job in my field. I wanted to find a sustainable way to sell things I was creating, without paying such high overhead fees to shops and galleries. I thought Etsy was a great venue for making business between consumers and creators direct.
What’s your favorite part of being a shop owner?
Aside from the true joy of making things with my hands, probably my favorite part is connecting with all of the people who enjoy the things I make. I love knowing that my work is being used all over the world. Last week, I sent packages out to Denmark, Oregon, Australia, Texas and Saskatchewan. I love that!
What challenges have you faced during the process?
Probably my two biggest challenges are efficiently managing my time and money. I try to stay focused and organized, and I think I've gotten better at those two things, but they continue to be my biggest hurdles.
It must have been exciting when you were a featured seller on Etsy. Can you tell us what it was like and any advice you can give us from your experience.
It was really exciting!! When I got the convo, I sort of hyperventilated for a minute! It was such a boost for my shop. It sent me many new customers, some of whom still shop with me regularly. I will say it was pretty overwhelming as well, in terms of keeping up with orders and convos. As far as advice, I guess I would say "pretend like you are about to get featured at any moment, and start doing little things now that would eventually help you deal with such an increase in traffic." My feature was not timed really well for me. It came right before a big teaching job that I had to travel out of town to do, so I didn't have as much time as I would have liked to prepare. I did set myself a few achievable goals to accomplish before the feature hit, and they did help me. One was to start using paypal for shipping. (Before that, I'd been doing everything the old fashioned way). This saved me a lot of time and energy, and I'd really recommend it to anyone who isn't doing it already. I also came up with a few products that I thought would be popular that could be make-to-order. This increased my sales during the feature, and it made it so I could have more Etsy inventory without spending the studio time upfront, saving me some desperately needed time.
You create with such gorgeous, vivid colors and patterns. Where does your inspiration come from?
You will probably think this is funny, but color charts, paint chips, and lined-up color swatches are the sorts of things that inspire what I will make next! I try to always have every color in stock, and I get a lot of pleasure out of seeing all the slight variations a color can have, because I want it all.
I love how you’ve made your art into functional pieces, such as tea towels and napkins. Essentially you’ve made art affordable and easy for us to bring into our homes. Your home décor line is only part of what you do. Can you tell us a bit about the other works you produce in your studio?
I started my functional line because I really do want people to be able to use handcrafted items around them on a daily basis, and also because I wanted to have a job that could allow me to continue to develop my more content-based studio work. I make etchings, woodcuts, drawings and installations, and then I work on getting that stuff shown. Put succinctly, my studio work is my attempt to talk about the incredible thing that is life. I guess that's really what all art is, so I should flesh that out a bit and say that I never get tired of looking at natural structures, patterns and phenomena, and that is really what gets me making new visual work. I typically work with paper, silk, and ink. Right now, I am excitedly looking forward to making a site specific piece in May that will be all about microscopic life in the ocean. If you want to see some of the projects I've done, I have a little website with those works. margotbmyers.com
As a successful shop owner can you offer some insights into steps that you took, improvements that you have made to get you where you are today. As Etsy has grown over the years and the competition increases have you had to rethink some of your designs, pricing, products over time?
I try to rigorously evaluate the way that my work looks both in person and online. I really look at it at least every month, and ask myself a few questions, such as:
What is appealing about this?
Is it something you would buy?
What would make it more irresistible to you as a consumer?
I also ask for feedback from close friends who are also trained in the visual arts.
As far as prices, I've discovered that my sales seem to be able to sustain a steady price increase over the years. I probably started out selling pretty low, but I think it helped to get me started. I've gotten better at not doing work for free, and knowing which projects are going to be financially viable to produce, and that has been something that I seemed to pick up little by little. Joining TeamT was another step I took to try and be more involved on Etsy. I hadn't joined a team before this one, and I can see why it is important and helpful.
I think your question about growing with Etsy is really a good one. Both my shop and Etsy used to have a much different look. For example, the first listing of mine that made it to the front page was this. Today, this item would never make it there, I think. The photo isn't interesting, and to my eye now, the lighting looks poor. I think that the thing that has probably improved the most over the years is the way that I present my work in photographs.
As competition increased and Etsy started to move towards a more polished appearance, I tried keeping up by researching the way that larger companies market and present products that are similar to mine. I tried following bigger trends in home decor, in just a general sense without losing sight of the unique qualities that set my work apart.
I want my work to keep evolving, so I consistently and continually incorporate new things into my current inventory. Last year, I started sending out a monthly newsletter, which has been helpful, because it pushes me to have something new to say to my customers on a regular basis. This year for the very first time, I am starting to have my own drawings turned into the copper batik stamps that I use in my production work, so that is a big step for me. I also like to play little numbers games with myself, in terms of number of etsy sales or views, to keep my momentum moving forward.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I love to fish and to garden. I've been part of a commercial fishing family and worked on the fish grounds my whole life, and it's a really important part of who I am. I also love growing a garden. This is a newer interest, and my husband, Lyle, and I work on cultivating the most food we can from our large backyard. It's really rewarding to watch things grow, trying new varieties and to understand in such a literal way that my life is part of a larger cycle.
I have garden pictures here.
And fishing pictures here.
I love garden talk, so if any of you are into that, we should chat ;).
Early riser or night owl?
I appreciate the beauty of the early morning, but I definitely get my best work done at night.
What’s playing on your ipod this week?
Audio books! Or, when I'm too lazy to download them, I listen to NPR. I have most recently enjoyed Gardens of Water and The World Made by Hand series.
Ten years from now where would you like to be living and what would you like to be doing?
I'm overall fairly pleased with my life as it is now, so I guess I hope it doesn't change too much! I love being married, and living in Bellingham, and I enjoy what I do. I guess I'd like to be a smarter, better person, and I'd like to have a nicer studio and be making more work that gets shown. But generally, I'd like to still be making things every day, watching the tide come in and out, and surrounding myself with things that grow.
Visit Margot's Etsy Shop!