Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why have an Etsy shop?

Artists without Etsy shops are often surprised to hear that mine doesn't make a ton of sales.

So I know people, lets call them my friends, who do really well on Etsy. They make regular sales, spend a little time each day getting those transaction emails, wrangling bubble mailers, going to the post office, sending their sweet handmade pretties to far off locations. Me? Not so much. Yes, of course I've had some sales in my Etsy shop, and believe me, each one is a winning-scratch-ticket thrill! But I don't really do the kind of volume that would take my biz anything past a hobby. Luckily I do well in my studio and at craft shows or I would get really discouraged.

Crafters, pretty much all who open an Etsy shop I'm guessing, get excited at the possibility of selling from home. It's a very attractive idea! No storefront to rent out, no business loan to apply for, working in your pajamas. Right? Though Etsy's trademarked tag line is "Your place to buy & sell all things handmade", I think they should amend that to read "Your place to buy & TRY to sell all things handmade". That would bring a lot of expectations down to earth.

Luckily, (or not) I had tried an online business in the past and my bubble was already well burst by the time I found Etsy in November of 2006. Still I had hopes. Over the years my product has evolved, my photography has improved and I have made reliable, if slow, sales each year. But that momentum I dreamed of, the one that everyone talks about as inevitable that I thought would come from having over 1,400 shop hearts UPDATE November 2010: now 2844 hearts and surprisingly regular front page exposure? That just isn't happening. Honestly I don't know why not.

So why am I still running an Etsy shop? Because it does take a lot of time and attention to keep a shop appearing vital, so if I'm not making great sales why am I spending that time? Because sales are not the only thing I'm getting from Etsy. I almost can't believe what I get from Etsy, it's mind-blowing. I will make a list (not in chronological order and not comprehensive) and show you:

1) I made a friend right away, a like-minded soul with an Etsy shop who put me in a treasury that made it to the front page (way back when they would last all day!) and now she is writing a craft book and she interviewed me and maybe I will be in it! UPDATE November 2010: I'm totally in that wildly successful book!

2) Speaking of craft books, I am already in one! The author found me on Etsy and asked me to submit items, she put a dozen of my artworks in there! How cool is that? I can go to Barnes and Noble and there it is on the shelf. Nice :) UPDATE November 2010: I have also been in two magazines and on the Martha Stewart TV show!

3) A local craft show offered free trial spots to Etsy sellers, I took one and met by chance someone who is now my very good friend! Meeting her changed my life and my business for the better in innumerable ways. Amazing luck. And Etsy.

4) I have 3 consignment opportunities in the works all because I was found on Etsy. I didn't have to nervously approach galleries and cringe against the sting of rejection, I was pre-approved! And I didn't even know I was applying. My online application is my Etsy shop and it's up 24 hours. UPDATE November 2010: I am now in 5 shops!

5) I have been pre-juried into high-end craft shows I didn't even know about that ended up being very successful for me and which led to other opportunities, wholesale orders and friendships.

6) I found adjunct online communities that make me feel part of a whole world of like-minded crafters. Like Flickr for instance, and now Twitter. These are my office mates, this is where I have my watercooler chats and keep in touch with the world. Literally the world. If I ever travel to England, for example, I have a half dozen women to meet up with that already seem like sisters to me!

7) As far as my products go, I have definitely been influenced by the Etsy, new-craft revolution aesthetic and I love where that's taken me creatively. Being on Etsy has also caused me to improve my photography and packaging, I've stepped up my game.

8) People find my shop and blog about me and my products which is always incredibly cool and great exposure.

So, though most days I feel like a needle in a haystack on Etsy, every once in a while one of my items miraculously makes it to the front page or someone sends me a friendly convo, I get a heart or a complete stranger randomly presses the Buy button and sends some money into my PayPal account and happiness into my heart. I do admit to having the gambler's addiction to unpredictable results, that's the nature of retail, but the benefits I really glean are regular and satisfying and go beyond just dollars.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What I'm Working On Now

Needle felted Sleepy Sheep:

Tiny poly clay sheep:

Tags for items going in shops:

Mom's cards!

Monday, April 6, 2009

What I'm Working On

Lately I've been snapping pictures of my workspace. I am in such a high state of production that I haven't been able to take time to blog! But I can show you in pictures what's happening in my studio:

Making the polymer clay designs that go on my egg ornaments:

Here are baked and sanded eggs waiting on varnish. Meanwhile I'm bagging sets of beads. I make them from the clay leftover from making the eggs:

Here I am choosing vintage buttons and sewing pinbacks on flowers and nests:

Sorry for the tilt angle! Only way I could get it all in :)