Thursday, September 22, 2011

Member Feature: Lorrie (LennyMud)

Featured: LennyMud
Interview by: NancyWallisDesigns

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your family and other interesting tidbits you care to share.
My name is Lorrie and I am an Etsyholic.  My family considered an intervention when they discovered that I was sneaking the laptop into the bathroom with me to check on convos.

My husband thinks my Etsy shop is my mid life crisis. If so, I think it's better than 5 vials of botox, a cherry red convertible, or a 20 something blonde in terms of making me feel renewed.  I now embrace my pear shape because it means I can call myself a hipster.  The truth is that I am painfully shy and somewhat socially phobic.  Etsy gives me a vehicle to connect with many people that I never have to actually meet in real life.  Online I can pretend that I am everything I wanted to be when I grew up: which was specifically a beautiful Japanese woman with an English accent.  (No one can say I didn't aspire to greatness.)

I just recently moved from New York City- where I have lived since the 80s- to the beautiful suburbs of New Jersey.  I have two amazing children that I like to refer to as "The Spawn."  My most recent purchase for our new home was an owl cookie jar.  Did I tell you I was an etsy addict?

When did you first hear about Etsy and how long did it take before you set up your shop?
I am sure I stumbled upon Etsy on some wine fueled google search a few years ago.  That would certainly explain my shop name (more on that later.)  I opened my account in March 2009, made my first sale in April and was probably on the forums hundreds of times between asking people to critique the 8 darkly photographed items in my shop.  I literally gave things away when I first opened shop on Etsy.  And I don't mean a rock bottom price: I mean I literally went into chat rooms and if someone admired something I made, I would send it to them for free.  Who knows if it was deep artistic insecurity, well meaning generosity, or a result of being drunk.  All I know is that in order to reconnect with the process of creating, I had to reconnect with the process of work moving away from myself and out into the world.  Pull up a chair:

I went to a karaoke party once and a girl there was a fairly well known backup singer for B List performers.  She refused to perform karaoke; gave some high faluting speech about it being her "craft".  After finishing a rather horrid rendition of "Total Eclipse of The Heart" I reflected upon what she had said, and then developed my own philosophy which is vehemently opposed to this kind of artistic self indulgence.  The ability I have to make stuff is a gift.  It is something that moves from outside of me and through me--I am just the vehicle for it.  I get pure pleasure from the act of creating--from the process itself.  I have never made something that I didn't give away or sell happily.  For me the joy was never in the end product: the true high is in the act of imagining and making, the icing on the cake is when you get to put it out in the world and share it.  So for Gawds sake people, if you are able to sing- sing for others!

When browsing in your shop the words bright, original and clever come to mind.  Humor is obviously a big part of your life and it shows in your designs.  Where do you come up with these ideas? and what's your inspiration?
Coming up with ideas is EASY!  Coming up with ideas that don't totally stink is the hard part.   I find everything inspiring.  Truly.  My mind is always racing 100 miles a minute and I am easily distracted by squirrels and shiny things.  If I do ever find myself a bit "stuck" I usually contemplate cleaning the bathroom or doing the laundry.  The mere thought of housework usually generates several I MUST MAKE THAT RIGHT NOW ideas.

Is it true that you named your Etsy shop after your cat?
Yes.  Lenny is the name of my studio cat.  I make the pots, Lenny breaks them (that way I never run out of shelf space).  Depending on who I am talking to, Lenny is either named after Lenny in Steinbeck's novel, or Squiggy's compadre on Laverne & Shirley.  I rescued him from the streets of Harlem and he rewarded me by getting rid of the mice that infested my workspace.  When he was 3 months old, Lenny fell into a 6 gallon bucket of glaze.  He has been "challenged" ever since.  Lenny makes really bad choices.  And he is not for sale.  Probably not.

Your business goes well beyond your Etsy shop and some of us might not know that.  Can you give us a little background to your company and success.
I started a company called Our Name is Mud on a cardtable at streetfairs in NYC in the 80s and along with my wonderful husband built it into a pottery business that started the "paint your own pottery" craze on the East Coast in the very early 80s.  I owned four bricks and mortar stores in Manhattan, including one in Grand Central Terminal, and launched a wholesale company in the early 90s that made my ceramics available in thousands of stores worldwide.  I sold Our Name Is Mud to a large giftware company three years ago, but I still continue to design for the brand.   I am not your typical Etsy store owner in that I straddle a world where I am involved in manufacturing overseas and in big commercial ventures, but also try to pack my handmade mugs in materials that are eco friendly.  Getting to be listed as the #11 on in the pottery category has been just as exciting as growing a really large business.

Sometimes I think we rely on Etsy too much to sell our products.  What advice do you have in terms of marketing and advertising?
Etsy is amazing.  I love Etsy.  I think Etsy is a bit like that John Travolta movie; The Boy in The Bubble.  Etsy is safe.  Etsy is Easy.  Etsy does a lot of work for you.  When you love Etsy, Etsy often loves you back but still respects you in the morning.  The choices Etsy shop owners have to make about marketing and advertising really depend on where they want to end up - what they aspire to - how they personally define success.  Many of the fine people I have come to know don't want to grow their business to the point where they would have to sacrifice time with their family, or have less time for the actual act of creation.  Know what you want.  When you know what you want, figuring out how to get there isn't as complicated as many think it is.  Hope that didn't sound too Yoda-ish.  Maybe I should have just recommended people tweet and get a facebook page.

What specific things are you doing for your Etsy business to get ready for the busy fall/holiday season? 
I am trying SO HARD to do one significant thing:  Say No.  I suffer from the disease of yes.  Which means that when someone convos with a tale about how only the set of espresso cups I made 4 months ago will make their dying uncle in Italy smile again, I say yes when I should say no.  Multiply this by 3-5 special requests a week that I jump through hoops for and you'll understand why I am up at 5 am each morning.  And I seriously am up at 5.  Because Etsy also cannot interfere with the fact that I volunteered to help out with the PTA.  Or that I need to water my neighbor' plants while they are away.  Or give blood.  I'm seriously trying just to learn this one word: NO.  It will make a huge difference in terms of getting ahead for me stock wise.

I am also seriously limiting the time I spend on the computer.  I am rather CDO  (that's OCD but in alphabetical order)  my son has special needs and my husband has ADHD - I run my house and my life like a drill sergeant and I schedule, make lists, throw the bowling balls up in the air and tap dance while I juggle them.  I write down what time periods I will answer emails and convos, etc.  and I find that scheduling things that can be a time suck can find you time you didn't know existed because you were comatose while stalking a friend's facebook page.

What techniques do you utilize to keep yourself organized with all your orders, packaging and shipping.
I do the things I absolutely HATE and DON"T WANT TO DO *footstomp, pout* first thing. Always.  I withhold the things I really want to do as rewards for the things I must do.  I schedule times to process orders, answer convos and am very focused during those times: just like when I am with my family I am ocused on them -- you know, when I'm not checking convos wink wink nudge nudge.
I recently hired a vagrant with a bushy beard named Dan to help out a few hours per week with shipping.  He's not really a vagrant.  Probably not.  The key is knowing when to ask for help--and knowing when getting help will actually help grow your business by giving you more time to invest in it.

What's been playing on your ipod lately?
The Spawn have loaded it with Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus along with the odd Disney musical like Mary Poppins.  So I pretty much have had Pandora Radio on to the "Cat Stevens" channel most of the time, when I am not listening to the African Childrens Choir or a little Celtic harp.

If you could go on a vacation right now, anywhere in the world and money is no limit, where would you go?
Honestly, a week at home to catch up on everything would be heaven.  I'd clean out some drawers, paint the bedroom, make some of the food I've drooled over on Pinterest.  And of course, remain close to the lap top.

Visit Lorrie's Etsy Shop!


PipingHotPapers said...

I wnat you to be my friend!

PipingHotPapers said...

Oh, and I LOVE your family picture!!

Brian Western said...

Well crafted questions and entertaining and informative answers (basically what Alice said, eh?) with cool snapshots to boot (Alice, again)! Hurra!

Pegg said...

I am with Alice and Brian!
Fabulous interview, I wish you live close by!

themagiconions said...

I am with Alice and Brian and Pegg!! You are so much fun and it's really, really, really nice to put a face to LennyMud!!
Super interview!!
Blessings and magic,

TheNightJar said...

Gee, Lorrie, I thought I was the only one who wanted to be a beautiful Japanese woman with an English accent...with a hipster body, of course!! great to get to know you a little better and to see your face! cheers

PonderandStitch said...

Awww love this interview!! Love the pics, too. :D

margotbianca said...

this interview has such a light and pleasant tone, and yet is really informative! i too, laughed at the family photo! you guys are adorable. and, great job, Nancy!!

Anna said...

Love your interview Lorrie! Thanks so much for sharing a peep into your life and for the advice on time management. fun read!

Karen/Small Earth Vintage said...

I was out of town when this was posted--I'm glad I finally caught up and read it. Lorrie, you could be a comedy writer or stand up comedian. You're hilarious! Really enjoyed this interview, and love the accompanying family photo (the look on your daughter's face...). Your Etsy/Boy in the Plastic Bubble analogy is spot on!

shannonblue said...

Great interview!!! I love these, love getting to know everyone a little better.