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!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Member Feature: Jill (bellalulu)

Featured: bellalulu
Interview by: margotbianca

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, family or other interesting details?
I have been married for 10 years to my high school sweetheart. We have two young daughters and one big Weimaraner dog.

I graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in Interior Design. Before kids, I worked for a design firm and then for an architecture firm. My clients included schools, churches, an electric company, and even Wal-Mart. As you can imagine, budget and creativity were sometimes very limited.

When my oldest daughter was born almost 7 years ago, I left my job to stay at home with her. I started selling on Etsy just as a hobby about 3 1/2 years ago. Now it is truly a part time job. I fit in here and there throughout the day, but do most of my work after everyone else is in asleep.

Other than family and Etsy, we are active in our church and keep busy with our daughters' activities. I also like to run, and completed my first marathon last Fall.

How did you first find out about Etsy? Did you sell vintage items somewhere before coming to Etsy?
I first saw an Etsy ad in Home Companion magazine. I went to the site and was instantly hooked! At the time I was selling vintage items out of an antique mall. I still have a booth at a local antique mall, but (shhh, don't tell them) I put all of my favorite finds on Etsy.

Where do you find such cool stuff? How much time would you guess that you spend shopping and sorting through treasures, compared to the other things you have to do to keep your business thriving?
My favorite and reliable source is our local Saturday flea market. I grew up going (sometimes begrudgingly) with my mom, and now I am almost never miss it. My mom still goes too, although usually not as early as I do. I also shop at estate sales and antique malls. It varies week to week, but do spend a lot of time hunting for treasures- that is the best part of this job! Listing and shipping aren't quite as much fun. To hold myself accountable in those areas, I make sure to list at least one item every day and to ship items quickly.

As I look at some of your first sold items, and then watch your progress over the past few years, I notice a real evolution in terms of the way you've presented your discoveries to shoppers. Can you talk a little bit about the things you've learned since the beginning of your Etsy experience?
In the beginning I didn't realize how important it was to have really good photographs. About a year and half after I started selling on Etsy, I was in a front page treasury for the first time. I saw how much attention that quickly brought to my shop. Eventually I got a better camera (a Canon Rebel) and took a photography workshop (Ashley Ann Campbell's SnapShop). Thanks to that valuable training and lots and lots of practice, my photographs and my shop have a better and more cohesive look.

Your shop announcement promises "at least one new listing every day." When did you start this practice? Have you noticed that this helps with sales, and if so, how long did it take to notice a change?
I used to do the "one new listing every day" just for a month every once and a while. When I would take a break from that, I did notice a decrease in views and sales. Honestly, a big reason I like to that is just to keep myself committed to listing at least once a day. I do think it probably helps bring customers back to the shop to see what has been added.

I so often see advice coming down from Etsy to make our item descriptions narrative and whimsical. It is a style that I think works for some shops and some items, but it is nice to see an alternative style flourishing. Your item descriptions are appealing because they are broken down into little sections that make it easy for customers to understand immediately what they are buying. Is this something that you've always done, or did you develop it as you learned?
I just started with this type of description fairly recently. It has helped speed up my listing process a bit. I was finding myself staring at a blank screen trying to come up with good descriptions. This way I can just type out the facts, whether "good" or "imperfect" and hopefully add some fun comments here and there too.

Your shop is packed with such lovely, unique back-to school themed pieces right now. Together, they work to make a visual story that is cohesive and thematic. I'm wondering how you balance marketing strategies and personal inspiration when you make decisions about your shop, and how far ahead you must plan in order to keep your shop looking seasonally appropriate.
I am currently participating in Poppytalk's Back to School Market. When it opened last Monday, I added 12 new items all at one time to my shop. They all relate to the "back to school" theme. It is so much fun to gather things for Poppytalk's themes, and often it matches up with Etsy's Merchandising Desk suggestions. I need to be better about keeping up with current themes, seasons and holidays all of the time.

How do you think your personal aesthetic effects the kinds of treasuries you make on the team?
I do tend to pick the things I really like for treasuries. I guess that means I tend to incorporate fun, imperfect, sometimes quirky, and of course many of the wonderfully creative handmade items on Etsy.

Visit Jill's Etsy Shop!

Other places to find Jill: