Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Etsy Seller: Vidrio - A Man's Perspective

While browsing the Etsy forums the other day, I came across a rather engaging post about the Tea Party movement (farce) by a seller named Vidrio. I had to check out the page because it isn't common to see male sellers on Etsy. After checking his profile, I was really impressed with how he articulated his philosophy about making art. I felt like he nailed the way I feel about the pieces I create... that I actually transfer a piece of myself into what I make. A lot of people for whom I have made things have told me that when they wear them, they actually feel like my pieces bring them good luck, or that I am close to them. Check out my interview with Vidrio below:

ME: Joseph, I really found your page interesting, not because you have great products (which you do, by the way), but because of your profile. It seems that you believe that your items aren't just made of glass, but also contain some of the positivity and creative energy that you feel when you are creating. Explain to me what you're thinking and feeling and experiencing when you create a piece.

Vidrio: It's really hard to explain what I feel when I create something. It's kind of like going into a meditative state. I never have the TV on but usually have music on. I try to just focus on the process and not so much on the outcome. For example my Meth Tart sculpture, I had no idea what I was carving when I started that piece. I had a thought in my head of being drawn to things that are bad for us, and Meth Tart was the finished product.

ME: As a man, you're vastly outnumbered in the Etsy league of crafters. Did you get into your art completely out of your own interest? What started your interest in glass crafts? Do you have any other friends you hang with who craft in your circle, and what kind of arts do they produce?

Vidrio: I do wish more men were on etsy. I think a big part of that is, etsy has become more of a venue for "crafts" and not "art". Women in general are more into crafts. But either way, it's a cool place to sell my work. I started in glass doing stained glass windows. I took a class a few years ago for it and just kept going. While living in California almost all my friends were business people, not artists. My husband and I are living in Phoenix AZ now, so I'm hoping to make more artistic friends.

ME: WTF Etsy is not just about the products available on Etsy, but about the people. We are artists, largely, which means that we are a group of free-thinking individuals who find something gratifying, almost cathartic, about producing art. What makes you an individual and not just a shop?

Vidrio: I make glass for me. Of course I hope it sells. I need the money. But even if I was rich, I would continue to make glass art. I think that is the great divide on etsy. Many of the sellers are just trying to make money so they can stay home.

ME: I've met several wonderful people through Etsy, and even received an invite to be a part of an art show/block party and a couple of local shows. Have you ever met anyone from Etsy? Has it advanced your business?

Vidrio: I have met a few people from etsy. One of them actually exposed me to a co-op here in Phoenix. It's a great place called Conspire. It's a great store where we all sell our work and it has a kick-ass cafe. You can check it out at http://conspirephoenix.com

ME: I've found that trying to be a volume seller has taken priority over being an artist. I spend so much time packaging, listing, and doing the maintenance part of Etsy that I have very little time to invest in my craft. It's hard to keep the balance between selling your art and preserving the original spirit of the art. What is your ultimate goal concerning your art? Do you hope to one day be able to support yourself (and possibly a husband and children) in the future by doing something that you love?

Vidrio: When I first started on etsy I tried to be a volume seller. It wasn't for me. I think if you make work that you love and put all your energy into, people will buy it. I do think I need to find a way to make things faster. I've gotten into that habit of starting new pieces and never finishing them. My goal would be to support my Husband and myself with my art. But I don't expect it to happen tomorrow.
ME: What does Vidrio mean?

Vidrio: Haha I get this question a lot! It means Glass in Spanish.

ME: Do you have any advice out there for other Etsy sellers?

Vidrio: My biggest advice is for everyone to price correctly. I am really tired of hobbyists selling work at cost. It demeans the art form and is an insult to every working artist.

ME: Have you ever bought anything from another Etsy store? If so, what kinds of things do you shop for on Etsy?

Vidrio: I have bought gifts for friends and family. I also get all my soap from etsy. I buy African Black Soap. It's great for your skin!

ME: Lastly, tell me three things that all shoppers should know, would never had guessed, or that they would love about Vidrio

1. I went to college for Glass.
2. I really believe everything I make has a piece of me in it.
3. My favorite color changes every few hours. Right now it's white. haha

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Almighty Law of Odds and Averages: The Realist's Guide to Etsy Selling

There is a PNR - a point of no return - in which you go from a casual hobbyist to a bona fide, maniacal neurotic who buys everything ever marketed and who eventually has more supplies than could ever be used if you crafted 24 hours a day, 365 days per year for the rest of your life allowing for the variable of advancing science and assuming you will live to the age of 135 years old.

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and the credit card bills) to prove it.

To help you avoid some of my personal crafting mistakes, I'm putting together series of blogs about what to do/what not to do to try and save you some money, some time, and some dignity.

The most important piece of advice I would give to crafters is this: do the math.

The almighty law of odds and averages

1. Face the facts-- your chances of becoming a millionaire from your craft are about as likely as the chances that your fat little cousin will get into the NBA and that your neighbor's son is going to be a professional rapper. *bling, bling* There are more crafters out there than wanna-be celebrities, and you are just a speck in the cosmos of compulsive crafters.

2. Don't quit your day job -- I would love to tell you that I'm not trying to shatter your dreams, but that would be a lie; however, it is my civic duty (and also a mandate according to my compulsive candor) to present you with a healthy dose of reality. Hey... craft supplies cost more than Prozac and overdraft fees. Just sayin... Chances are, if I get 300,000 readers, fewer than 10 will have the luck, the skill, the resources, the personality, the connections, and the cognitive prowess to actually take a one-person business and build it into a recognizable brand. Numbers don't lie (unless you refer to Bush, Jr. being elected President not once, but twice), and you probably are not on top of the tropological food chain.

3. Prioritize your priorities -- Yes, I'm aware of the seemingly redundant sub-heading of this section. It was intentional. Lists are a beautiful thing, and making a bulleted list of what you want from your art is key in being successful. You may or may not measure success in terms of profit margins or monetary rewards. Maybe you are a natural starving artist, primarily involved in making a statement or expressing yourself for therapeutic reasons. Perhaps you are sentimental and want to preserve memories and give gifts in a creative way. Maybe you just need some extra cash and would like to make it doing something you enjoy. Whatever your reasons, prioritize them. At times your priorities may change dependent on your creative whimsy and financial situation, but you can re-adjust your strategies later.

Here is a sample of how you might prioritize (for the visual nuts, try a pie chart or bar graph. Tactile/ kinesthetic learners... use Legos):

My crafting priorities:
1. Avoid homelessness (70%)
2. A selfish endeavor to do something better than my sister-in-law (13%)
3. I love attention and want public recognition for my work (12%)
4. Crafting is fun (5%)

Since the primary motivator in the above scenario is financial, then my goal would be to make the largest profit I can. I might do things to save time like make multiples of the same item so I don't have to photograph, Photoshop, edit, describe, and tag as often. Also, if profit is my main objective, then making less time-intensive items is something I'd want to do. Sometimes, you will have to sacrifice your artistic desires and not spend 85 hours on a painting when the market just isn't skewed toward investing in the original art of a complete unknown.

Conversely, if you're really just interested in crafting for fun, and you want to just get a few items out there for the experience of sharing your art, then ignore the market and price your items as to what you think they're worth. The remainder of this article is geared more toward the former category, though, and will mainly be helpful for those who are looking to make money.

4. More is More: If your objective is to make money, you will have a much better chance of getting sales if you have a broad variety of products. While someone looking to buy a camera might go to a camera store, someone looking to buy an ambiguous gift for a friend will more likely go to a store with broad range of products and find something there. You have a lot better chance of having someone hit your store if you have more targets. Tag your items according to a variety of interests, professions, and possible search terms. A necklace with black beads can be tagged as goth, emo, classy, and formal. Also, have a range of prices in your shop. Someone looking to spend a certain amount on a gift might overlook your store if you don't have something within his/her range. For instance, someone looking for a gift for her kid's teacher and a second gift for her mother might buy something listed for five dollars for the teacher and something for fifty for the mom. As the "sort by price" feature becomes the primary way to search, the law of odds and averages allows that you will have a better chance to be seen if your products appear all over the price scale.

5. Don't Follow Guidance from Gold-Diggers: If you're looking for ideas, ignore the blogs and circulations that hundreds of thousands of your competition receives. If you're selling on Etsy or Ebay or any other worldwide market, emails from those places are not designed to make you successful; they're designed to advance the agenda of the entire company. Just like you, the agenda of major marketplaces is to make as much money as possible. That means to bring in everyone who is willing to click links and spend money. They aren't as invested in your success as an individual.

6. Your Days are Numbered: Considering the numbers, the amount of time you are around is relevant. When buyers know that your items are reliable, your shipping is fair, and your customer service is consistent, they are more likely to revisit your shop. Be patient. With millions of sellers out there, you can expect that you will have to wait your turn in que to be recognized. Just be persistent while all of the weaker sellers either burn out or give up. You'll find yourself closer and closer to the top as time advances.

You might not make it rich by crocheting diaper bags or weaving pot holders, but you might at least recover your investment, you crazy shopaholic.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Etsy Seller: ChYMieRa

Etsy is a people's market, a giant global community of individuals who value self-expression, creativity, and supporting handmade items. No exception to that rule is ChYmieRa, an Etsian who stood out to me as a special individual when I received a series of positive feedback left by her at my supply store. Usually, buyers of supplies leave very generic comments or no comment at all; but ChYmieRa's comments were all different and genuinely personal. I think most people think of supply shops as impersonal, but I put as much care, creativity, and work into my supply shop as I do my finished jewelry shop. I see myself as a treasure hunter, and a big part of my art is to find rare, special, and unique supplies. I spend a lot of time taking the pictures, editing the pictures, and writing the listings, often to list an item for $1.00. ChYMieRa's feedback comments were the metaphorical kickintheass I needed to get back to work and listing away at my little supply shop. See my interview with ChyMieRa below:

ME: You have 275 feedback ratings at a rate of 100%. How long have you been a seller on Etsy to have such an extraordinary record?

ChyMieRa: About 2 years ago, a friend referred me to Etsy for "one of a kind" pieces(which I love), as I looked through listings, I realized that although many of the artists were very talented, the only way I'd be able to get something exactly how I wanted it was to make it myself. So, I did just that, started making "one of a kind" pieces for myself and wearing them. I received so many compliments that I decided that maybe I could also sell my items on Etsy. It was a hobby at this point and I figured if I couldn't sell what I make, I would keep it an wear it for myself. I opened my shop in September of 2009 and started out simple. I also listed a lot of vintage items that I had laying around that I failed trying to sell on other sites. I love to create things, and when somebody buys something from me, I look at other things they like and make a little something extra for them as a surprise. Someone buying a necklace will get maybe a surprise pair of earrings to match. I think it keeps fans coming back.

ME: There's a large variety in your store, but your items have a theme. Where do you get your inspiration?

ChyMieRa: Originally, I was hoping to have a shop with darker themed items, I love the natural, supernatural and I am inspired and fascinated by historical figures and events- fact or fictional. I read a lot of old books and I'm a big fan of black and white movies. I also offer several items in my shop that are on the lighter side as well so that no matter who comes to visit, there will be something for everyone. I love using bones, keys, and anything old or dead. Whatever I get my hands on is doomed to be in one of my creations.

ME: What piece have you made that you have been the most proud of? Did it sell or did you keep it?

ChyMieRa: There were two pieces -both are necklaces- in my shop that I was so excited to make once the idea was conceived in my head. They both started with genuine deer antler tips. I then hand cast sterling silver (using the lost wax technique) caps with bails that the antlers would fit into. One is called "Knot All Who Wander Are Lost" a nautical take on the original saying, and the sterling cap depicts a ships wheel on the front and the back is inscribed with that saying. This one hasn't yet sold. The other one which stayed true to the original saying "Not All Wanderers Are Lost" had a sterling cap with a fern leaf on the front and the saying inscribed on the back. This one did sell.

ME: What made you decide to give a percentage of your profits to Native American schools?

ChyMieRa: I had been giving a monthly donation to the St.Labre Indian School on my own for a few years. I have a tiny bit of American Indian in me from my mother's side and I have so much respect for America's truest forefathers. When I opened my shop, I realized that when I started offering tribal and Native American inspired pieces, that I could give even more back.

ME: What does ChYMieRa mean?

ChyMieRa: The meaning of ChYMieRa? In medical terms the word chimera means having two or more sets of complete DNA. Since I wanted to offer both dark and light items, I wanted to come across as having two sides sort of like a Dr. Jekyl and Ms. Hide, but I wanted just one simple word. I also wanted to be found in search engines across the globe. I knew if I used the original spelling of chimera hundreds of pages in search engines would show up. So I tinkered a bit with the spelling of it and the light bulb started to flicker in my brain. ChYMieRa was an incorrect spelling of the same word, and when I typed it into search engines nothing really came up, but I still wasn't set on it until the magical moment when I realized that it was also an anagram of me. (Im Rachey) Thus, I became myself- ChYMieRa. It was destiny.

ME: How many hours per week do you spend shopping, creating, listing, packaging, or doing other craft-related ventures? What do you do with the rest of those hours?

ChyMieRa: I spend about 5 hours a day sleeping, the rest of my time is dedicated to running a small private boutique (which is my real bread an butter), raising a lovely family, being secretary for my husband's business, walking, and then the rest in for crafting. I could be in the middle of the sweetest dream and think of something spectacular, jump out of bed and head to my craft room. In the winters, I also make candles and soaps that I sell in various small gift shops around us. That hobby started because my skin is allergic to everything and again friends would want some and so on that I had to start charging and eventually too one room in our house and made it into a little boutique not open to the public.

ME: To be or not to be?

ChyMieRa: To be or not to be? I think there is a happy medium. I make money, therefore I am able to give. I love to give. I love to help others. Therefore it comes back to be. Yeah, i live by 'The Secret", and always have. I'm a person of principal and live my life honestly and when I put my head on my pillow at night, I don't have to ask myself if what I did that day would make my mother proud. But, if I Had to choose one side or the other, I would rather be poor and happy than wealthy and miserable.

ME: Three things every shopper should know about you:

ChyMieRa: The three things that every shopper should know about me are as follows:
1. My art form is a tad dark natured, but, it’s just an art form; I am not dark or
2. Most of my pieces are derived in theory before they are ever tangible

and most will have story. Some retold, some original by ChYMieRa.
If there is a story or something that a shopper loves, I can turn it into
something tangible.
3. Every month I feature a listing that is a riddle. I scatter clues through

my other listings, you just have to find them. The first person to email "convo"
me the correct answer will win that listing- FREE. I pay all fees, even shipping.
There is no purchase necessary to win, however, for every purchase made, an
additional clue will be sent privately to the buyer- a clue not mentioned in my
other listings(an exclusive clue). I am the only shop on etsy that does. I have
been doing it now- this is the 4th month. There was no winner the 1st month, the
2nd and 3rd months had winners. I hope to have a winner for this month. Should it not be won, it gets offered for sale at 50% off. The "Riddle" listing has also helped in sales as people want that exclusive clue.

ME: What advice do you have for other sellers and crafters?

ChyMieRa: Some advice I have for other sellers is have a variety, offer free or low shipping,
send small thank you gifts to your customers along with a coupon for their next visit-
that keeps them coming back. I tried promotions, but that didn't seem to work any better than doing nothing at all. Use clever tags to draw in traffic. Don't just 'want' your items to sell, 'know' that they will. People love buying "one of a kind" and hand- crafted items because they know they are not mass- produced.

Join an Etsy team. It promotes camaraderie, I belong to the Metaphysical Team, where all the members get along. We swap promotional items and when someone has a sale, they will put one of my cards into their orders. That also brings in a lot of traffic.