Interview: Yellow Bird + Yellow Beard

Please welcome Janee of the Etsy Shop and blog, Yellow Bird + Yellow Beard. Janee’s a maker, and everything about her brand represents her ever-expanding creativity. Her shop is full of garlands, banners, toys, and holiday decorations while her blog features everything arts, crafts, and handmade-related.

Janee is a great example of how to create an interactive and thriving relationship with customers through social media and blogging. You can find her anywhere, from Twitter to LinkedIn (and everywhere in between), sharing her adventures with all.

Today, she’s agreed to share the secrets of her success with us! So without further ado, enjoy the interview:

Let’s start with how much I love everything you have going on. Your shop is a handmade-lover’s playground. Your blog is a crafter’s paradise. It left me wondering this chicken- or the egg-style question. 

Janee of YB +YB

Which idea came first–the blog or the Etsy shop?

Actually they were basically simultaneous. I started making garlands for myself and my friends the same week I opened my Etsy shop. The motivation behind them went hand-in-hand and I knew from the beginning that I couldn’t succeed at one without the other. Both the items I make and my blog serve as a creative outlet and social enterprise for me. I love every aspect of it.

Is Yellow Bird + Yellow Beard (the overall brand) a full-time creative career for you?

Yes! I’ve been extremely blessed in this area. I was laid off my previous job several months after I started Yellow Bird + Yellow Beard and my husband’s job combined with the meager income I had from my shop was enough to keep us afloat. Now that YB+YB has grown it’s helping pay the bills while The Beard goes to Grad School. One of the biggest reasons YB+YB has grown so quickly is because I’ve been able to commit myself to it full-time. It’s my biggest dream that by the time The Beard graduates from Grad School YB+YB will be large enough to completely support us financially.

I read your first blog post ever, dated January 31, 2011. In it, you stated that you planned to blog every weekday morning. Looking through your archives, it seems like you’ve kept up with that promise pretty well! How do you come up with so many new ideas?

Well… I suppose that’s a multifaceted answer. First and foremost my weekly series posts give me the mental break I need to come up with new ideas for the “free” days. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays always have a series post which make them “easier” days because the content is mostly external. Other series have come and gone, sometimes I struggle with having too many series going at once and not enough free form posting. Also, my friends and sponsors are always welcome to guest posts on my blog and they do so frequently. That definitely ads to the fresh creativity. The other biggest contributors to coming up with new content all the time are my husband and his abundance of creative juices and my desperate desire to provide my readers with worth-while material. I do my best to have high-caliber posts consisting of great photos and interesting {or at least funny} writing.

Please describe your “zone.” Where do you create and what’s the atmosphere like when you’re working?

Well my “zone” has changed several times since starting YB+YB. When I first started I was a nanny full-time, which meant I would write in the mornings while the little man ate breakfast and played. After I was laid off I worked in our home studio. We used to live in a two bedroom apartment where we had converted the second bedroom into an art studio for the two of us. You can see photos of what it looked like HERE and HERE. It was dark and messy and poorly arranged and I hated it, but that had as much to do with where we lived as it did with the room itself. Now that we’ve moved to Boston we live in a VERY tiny one bedroom apartment where are living room, dining room {a.k.a. the couch} and my workspace are all combined {see attached photos}. We are lucky we don’t have to try to fit The Beard’s art supplies in there too! However, the atmosphere in our new apartment more than makes up for the lack of space. My area is right under our three bay windows so it’s always full of glorious light. I used to have to go outside and set up this crazy contraption to photograph my items, now I can do it at my desk. Hallelujah! Plus I’ll admit, it’s really nice having the TV in the same room so that The Beard and I are able to be in the same room even if I have to work late. To make this answer even longer, as far as mood goes when I work, I mostly work in silence. No joke. I love it when it’s quiet. Luna {my bird} sits on my desk with me pretty much all day and he is quite the chatty Cathy so silence here is a relative term. It’s only really silent when he’s napping. Other than his talking and warbling though we listen to music occasionally but that’s it.

This next question is inspired by your “interrogations”. :) What is your favorite item in your shop and why?

Hahaha… You use my own weapons against me? That’s really a good/difficult question {not to pat myself on the back or anything}. I think my favorite items to make are my garlands because they’re the easiest to make. But when I don’t factor in the time it takes to manufacture the items my plush animals are pretty high up on the list of favorites. Speaking of my plush animals, The Beard has designed the patterns for all of them {with several more on the way!}, isn’t he the best?

He sure sounds like it!

What has been your best marketing strategy for Yellow Bird + Yellow Beard?

Honestly having the blog to advertise the shop and the shop to give additional content to the blog has made an enormous difference. My blog has been in the top 5 traffic sources for my shop from the very beginning. But as far as advertising for the brand as a whole goes, taking the time to visit other people’s blogs and comment / emailing people to make new friends has been my biggest success. I love the fact that I’ve become good friends with people in Germany, Alaska, Australia, Canada, and my own city all through my business.

What has been your biggest waste of time or money in business?

That’s a hard question too. I’ve been pretty frugal with my money as far as advertising goes. But I think the best advice I can give is, when advertising with other websites or blog, be certain that the audience of the person you’re advertising with is the same audience you are trying to attract. Advertising with the wrong person/business can be a complete waste of money. And to speak to time-wasting – I’d say that the amount of people who don’t actually read the details in my shop listings also cost me quite a bit of time. There’s not much I can do about that, other than to make sure my listings are clear and complete.

What is the best tip you could offer to someone just opening shop on Etsy and looking for their first sale?

PHOTOS. GOOD PHOTOS. Etsy has bajillions of items. The number one way you are going to make yourself stand out in the crowd is with your product photos. When you’re scrolling through listings what stands out isn’t the price or name of your shop, it’s the photos you see. Obviously you need to have an interesting and desirable product. And obviously you need to make sure your products are high quality. But don’t even bother opening your shop until you’re confident that your photos are going to catch people’s eyes. Also, treasuries. Create Etsy treasuries. It’s a fabulous way of meeting other sellers and introducing yourself to the community.

Thank you, Janee. It’s been a lot of fun! Alright friends, be sure to check out all of Janee’s wonderful offerings in her Etsy shop, as well as on her popular blog, Yellow Bird + Yellow Beard. Until next time and all the best~

Interview: Ann Kelle Designs

Please welcome Kelle of Ann Kelle Designs. In the year 2002, she quit her day job in public policy and, on a leap of faith, started a creative business. Today, Kelle creates for big names, such as Target, Barnes and Noble, and QVC.

Dive into her colorful and well-designed blog for friendly inspiration. I loved her recent post, Decorating a Shared Kid’s Room, and when I settled down with the article, I was tickled to see it linked to great handmade shops on the Etsy marketplace {I love this about Etsy, you think you’ve found all the greatest shops, yet there are thousands left to discover}. Kelle says, “I love, love Etsy. I shop there ALL the time.”

Kelle inspires you to believe that childhood dreams were meant to come true. Enjoy the interview:

 ”I started drawing this girl when I was eight or nine years old. I would draw her over and over in my sketch pad. She was a ballerina, always wore her hair in a bun and loved the color pink. It’s such a sweet feeling to see her on fabric.”

{Photo courtesy of the Ann Kelle blog, taken by Kelle}

Ann Kelle Designs

In 2002, you launched Ann Kelle Designs, and within a week you were being presented to Target. I know handmade artists around the world are wondering the same thing I am, how did that happen?

I launched Ann Kelle at the National Stationery Show, an annual trade show for the stationery industry. On the last day of the show, it was pretty slow. I was a bit bummed that I hadn’t reached my unrealistic goals. So, I walked over to a manufacturer’s booth that I had spoken with prior to the show. I gave them my catalog and told them if they needed anyone to design their packaging or that kind of work, I was available. I didn’t think much about it, and was pretty sure they probably threw away my catalog. At the close of the show, I returned to my hotel even more bummed. It was a low moment. Just as I sat down to have a good cry, the phone rang. The manufacturer I met had looked through my catalog. They had a meeting with Target the following week and wanted to include my designs in their presentation. From there, I entered into the world of licensing.

Valentine Cards by Ann Kelle

Holiday cards by Ann Kelle available at Tiny Prints

Today your designs are featured at Barnes and Noble, Office Depot, Target, and Wal Mart, among many other stores and online locations. Did you start with a business plan, or did you just allow the possibilities to unfold?

I just let it unfold. Licensing my artwork allows me to just concentrate on what I love, designing.

 

Your designs grace fabrics, holiday cards, and stationery. What’s your favorite finished product?

I don’t have a favorite product. But, I can share my favorite thing about being a designer. I love seeing people use my products. I’ve been at a restaurant and looked at the table beside me to see the baby has a burp cloth made from my fabric. Or I’ve seen people out walking around with one of my journals. I always get this goofy grin when this happens. It’s cool to see how something I created is part of other people’s lives.

Ann Kelle fabrics

Fabrics by Ann Kelle (available at Robert Kaufman)

Please describe your “zone.” What’s the atmosphere like in your studio? And what’s the mood when you’re creating?

My work space was the first room I decorated when I moved into my loft. I knew I’d spend the most time in there. It’s very bright and happy. All white furniture, with pops of color everywhere. I have a lot of accessories in my space that serve as inspiration as well. And when I need some fun, I have bubbles and water squirters sitting close by.

Design days are the best. My mood is usually over-the-top giddy. I’ve typically already done research on whatever project I’m working on. So, all I have to do is get “lost” in designing.

What’s a typical work day like for you?

My mornings start with responding to emails and putting up a blog post (if I have one for the day). Then I work on various design projects for clients. I also have a blog that keeps me pretty busy … planning sewing tutorials and projects, fabric sightings, etc., which requires photo shoots, editing photos, and writing content.

Super Heroes for Tiny Prints by Ann Kelle

Super Heroes for Tiny Prints

In your artistic career, what has been your proudest moment?

Being able to design full-time.

What is the one biggest tip you would offer to handmade artists just starting out and looking for their first sale?

Be patient, don’t give up and be sweet.

Thank you, Kelle! Your success is absolutely inspirational!

 

Photos used in this post were found at Ann Kelle’s blog and on Tiny Prints. Click here to see the many places you can shop her designs. Thank you for reading! Until next time~

Interview: Sweet Advice from Jellybeans

Please welcome Angie of the shop, Jellybeans on Etsy. Angie hails from Owen Sound in Ontario, Canada and works at her local hospital as an X Ray technician. I’m a long-time admirer of her art, and she is a proud, part-time creative–as told on her blog, Part-Time Creative. There she reveals her process and a behind-the-scenes look at her work-life balance. Please enjoy the interview:

Rain Down on Me, original painting available at Jellybeans

Jellybeans opened on February 12, 2006. That’s more than 6 years on Etsy! How has selling art online evolved over the years?

I remember when I first started selling online, Etsy was still just a baby. For me, selling my artwork has remained about the same. I have improved my own processes personally to make things flow more seamlessly. After my first couple years selling, once I had established myself, I purchased my own printer to take my print production into my own hands and ensure that the art product I was selling was exactly how I wanted to be represented. And, every year that passes, my store gets a little more polished as I gain more experience with the industry – I know I still have a lot to learn.

Sapphire Dreams Print

You’ve celebrated more than 3,500 sales! That’s amazing. Do you remember your first Etsy sale and what it felt like?

Thank you! I definitely remember my first sale, it was a little acrylic painting of a girl. It was such a sense of accomplishment, like “wow, I can actually do this!” It made me eager to create more work to post, and to put greater effort into my store knowing that if I did that I’d then have my second item sold.

Do you sell anywhere else, in person or online?

I just sell online, on Etsy. I sell in person to those I know personally. For awhile I did have my art on other online art shops that were similar to Etsy, and I also tried selling directly from my webpage. I have found Etsy to be the most efficient, the easiest, and most successful to use.  When Etsy came out with Direct Checkout [new feature on Etsy that allows sellers to accept credit cards] it was almost like heaven for me, as I could point customers directly to my store on Etsy from my website and blog. I find that after I had dropped the other stores and was able to put all my focus on Etsy, my store was better organized and maintained more often.

Jellybeans has been a longtime favorite of mine. Your art is very attractive! What inspires your work?

Colours are my first inspiration. I enjoy creating attractive and fun colour palettes with my artwork. Often when I am in a complete rut, I’ll go to colourlovers.com and just look at all the pretty palettes of colour. The first watercolour tree that I had ever done was simply to enjoy a soothing creative experience after a run of exams during university. Emotions and relationships would be the next influence in my watercolour tree series, along with nature of course.

I found myself looking at trees, and thinking, “That looks like a mom with her daughter” or “That looks like a couple embracing each other.”

Spring Blossoms Original

When I first started out, I was invited to Trunkt and that proved to be successful to help me get started and get things rolling. After that, I think maintaining an online presence is the best thing for marketing – keeping your store and website up-to-date, regularly blogging and consistently contributing to social media sites keeps my name and my artwork up in the searches. To keep regular customers coming back, I try to keep things fresh in the shop and come up with new ideas and series so that they don’t get bored with what is there. At the same time, my watercolour series all relate to each other, so that ensures that people who have enjoyed my work in the past will continue to in the future. I try to use any free resource that I can at least a couple times – something that is free can’t hurt! I have also tried some paid advertising. I figure every now and then trying something different is worth a shot. Do keep your eyes on your stats when using paid advertising, to see if it is really helping or not.

I must say that when I read your blog, I walk away feeling like you’ve found a very happy balance between your professional time and your creative time. It’s as if every aspect of your life fits perfectly in its own box, like a present waiting until the next time you’ll open it! How do you do it?

Bee Hive Print

Honestly – and a lot of people who know me might agree – I have a little bit of ADD and the inability to not do anything…well, everyone has their down day. Painting to me has always been a ‘hobby’ and I’ve been blessed to have been able to turn that hobby into a business. Since it is something that I still have pleasure doing, painting after work is relaxing and lets my mind close down a little from the day. For those who might not know, I work in a hospital taking x-rays. After coming home, painting can be a great ‘escape’ from the traumatic events that might have happened during the day.

When I was a student, I had a summer where my summer job was just my art. I found that I still needed to ‘get out’ and do something different, and having a job outside of art definitely helps me separate myself for a little while. And, I find it interesting – I love taking x-rays and helping people.

What’s your mood like when you’re painting?

That depends on the painting…usually I’m painting with headphones on listening to whatever is inspiring me that day. I am usually pretty happy when I am working. I get into a state of ‘zen-zombie-calm’ where I lose complete track of time and what felt like a half hour turns out to be four.

If I start getting frustrated with a difficult piece, I will just stop working on it knowing that working while not so happy won’t create anything I’m happy with in the end.

What has been your proudest artistic moment?

I am most proud of when I was contacted by a publishing representative to have my artwork included in their line of stationery. That was when I officially considered my work to be ‘professional’.

Celebration Print, available at Jellybeans

What is the one biggest tip you would offer someone who is new to Etsy and looking for their first sale?

Try not to be everywhere at once. Pick one thing to start with and focus and polish that one thing until it sparkles. If you try to stretch yourself too much at once, you might not be putting 100% into the things that matter most. Once you have it sparkling, then expand. And, never underestimate networking with other sellers. Join a team, get to know a few others and share feedback. A second set of eyes might see something you didn’t.

Thank you, Angie! It’s been absolutely delightful. To see more of Angie’s beautiful artwork, please visit Jellybeans on Etsy! Until next time and all the best ~

Interview: How Taradara Made It!

Please meet Tara of taradara on Etsy! When I found her blog, I quickly realized that Tara is a terrific resource for handmade artists. I learned so much by looking through her posts; she’s involved in creative events, workshops, conferences, and groups that I’d never even heard of before.

I was intrigued by Tara’s achievements, and the more time I spent researching for this interview, the more everywhere she seemed. I hope you find as much inspiration from meeting her as I have! Enjoy the interview:

ipad cover by taradara

Tara, you opened shop on Etsy in February of 2010. How long had you been making your covers and cozies at that point? Was opening your shop on Etsy the first time you’d sold online?

I had started making wallets at the beginning and basically added to my line as the iPads, the Kindles, and the iPhones were launched.  When I see something that might fit my style and my product line, I will make it and see how they take in the shop.  Etsy is the first time I’ve sold online.

Do you remember what that first Etsy sale felt like?

I do remember.  Well, I remember my first ‘non friend’ or ‘non family’ sale!  LOL!  It was really self fulfilling as if ‘they found me and they really like my product!’  I called my mom in Canada and told her!!!

On your blog you say, “I now make my art and our home in Colorado.” How do you harmonize work life with home life? And how does that work-at-home freedom taste?

I have essentially accepted that my home life takes precedence over my work life during the day.  I say this because my boys are young and I really do believe that they are only young once and I truly do love doing things with them.  When they go to bed, that is when my ‘work day’ begins.  Like now, I’m answering these questions as 10:30pm.  I wanted to be able to stay home for a reason and they are the reason.  So, when they go off to school, I will find more daylight to work.  My harmony is everflowing.  I never can stick to a schedule as we are pretty spontaneous with our outings or just our day to day activities.  So staying flexible has really helped me to not stress out and to enjoy working from home.  Being accepting and welcoming of my work at home life and challenges has helped me get through some challenging moments.

taras studio photo by farrah jobling photography

Please describe your “zone”. What’s your studio like, and what’s the mood when you’re creating your products?

My zone can be clean one minute and a disaster the next.  I’ve actually posted pictures of what the ‘zone’ is like during my creating time for the 2012 Golden Globe swag bags … it was a disaster ‘zone’, it should’ve had yellow tape!  But then, I tidy up and something else will hit, and I mess it up again.  It’s a vicious cycle really, but I’m okay with that {I blend in with the boys!}

I love an artist with a cause. You donate 10% of your profits to Girls with Sole, can you tell us about the organization and how you got involved?

I was looking through a Traditional Home Magazine, believe it or not, and found that they honored 5 Classic Women.  They were all women who founded non-profits.  I got their addresses and sent them each a card holder and a card expressing how proud I was of them for believing in something so real and following through to such a high level.  I told them that they have done so much for others, that I thought that they should have a little gift for just themselves. They all responded with a thank you of some form.  Liz Ferro, founder of Girls with Sole, and I ended up communicating and becoming ‘friends’.  I have wanted to donate something my mine back to a fundraising entity, but could never decide which one.  Breast cancer, lung cancer, and Heart and Stroke are all big in our family and I thought about donating to them.  I just never did.  I really wanted to donate to a smaller organization that needed funds as well and that would go to a good cause.  So, as I learned more about Girls with Sole, I decided that this was definitely something I wanted to be a part of and to contribute my hard earned money to.  And since I started contributing, you would not believe the amount of wonderful things that have happened for my business!  It’s really something. Coincidence, perhaps.  But, I love what Girls with Sole does for abused girls and how it incorporates athletics into their lives to make it positive and turn their lives around.

taradaramadeit dot com have your pin it button ready

I’m drooling over the opportunities, accomplishments, and awards you mention on your blog. { Dear readers, you must check out Tara’s In the Press Page. She’s an inspiration of opportunity!

Among other things, you were named one of the Top 100 Leading Moms in Business your product was included in this year’s Golden Globe swag bags, and you sold your products at West Elm

I’m so glad that I’m following you on your website (taradaramadeit.com), and on Twitter and Facebook so that I can find out what you’ll accomplish next! You’re doing things that most of us have never thought of, and what I really want to know is, how in the world do you think up or expose yourself to all of these wonderful opportunities?

I truly cannot give you a definitive answer.  I wish I could.  Asking questions could be my number 1 answer.  If someone is doing something that I thing is pretty cool, I’ll ask them how they got involved or who the contact is.  All they can say is no or I don’t want to share this with you, but most times you won’t run in to that.  If you do, then you just need to be more creative and go at if from a different angle.  If I’m at a conference, I ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS connect with the event organizer, the keynote speakers, or the attendees I know who are going that I NEED to talk with.  Sometimes it happens intentionally, but a lot of times, it happens organically.  I collect business cards and will often write on them if they are someone I need to connect with and WHY.  Networking is a huge aspect of business and I make every moment count when I’m in a time sensitive atmosphere.  I often know who I need to connect with, I have my ‘elevator pitch’ ready, and I have my game face on.  It’s go time from the moment I walk in the door.  Yes, I sound all ‘BOOM’, but in real life I’m very relaxed and cool.  It’s about making the most of your time and being focused.Another way I expose myself is that I am not afraid to put myself out there.  It’s in me to be a go getter, always has.  If there is something big happening in my business, I will send a press release out and FOLLOW UP on it.  I don’t wait for them to call or email me back, this could take weeks or not at all.  Press receives a ton of emails daily, so I really stay on top of it and make sure that I’ve done my work to ensure they received and saw my email.  Goodness, I’m on a roll!  I could go on and on, but the point is that YOU are your own marketer!  You need to OWN your business and truly OWN it, deep down in your core.  Once you do this, you know that nothing can stop you and that EVERYBODY should know about your product!

So, go do it!  Go OWN your business and make sure EVERYBODY knows about it!

Tara was recently invited to apply for the television show, Shark Tank. Did she make it? Find out here:

Shark Tank Update!

embellished wallet by taradara

What has been your proudest handmade moment?

There have been many.  Hard to choose one.  Being chosen to be in the 2012 Golden Globe swag bags was a big one.  Being in the Celebrity Mother’s Day gift bags that went to Beyonce, Uma Thurman, Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson, and 21 other celebrity moms was another.  And, of course, being *this* close to being on Shark Tank is the most recent cake topper.

What piece of advice would you offer somebody who is just starting out and looking for their first sale?

I would say to have good pictures with good lighting and good backgrounds.  Don’t have busy backgrounds for your products to compete with, people are buying online so your pictures are your 1,000 words.  They cannot touch or feel your product so you have to make it LOOK the most appealing to them as you can though the lens of a camera.  Do your research!  Look around for your price points for your product and your materials you’re using.  Do your research on your POSTAGE pricing!  This can make or break your first sale!!  I did a story on this to help Etsy sellers understand shipping pricing.

Thank you, Tara. It’s been incredibly insightful. Check out the taradara shop and read more about her adventures on her blog. If you’re a blogger too, grab a cup of coffee and sit down with her page dedicated to Blogging Tips. If you’d like to see more Tara on Marketing Creativity, check out her guest post: Free Marketing Techniques for Your Etsy Shop! Until next time and all the best ~

Interview: The Whimsical World of Bealoo

I’m thrilled to welcome you for a closer look inside the whimsical world of Bealoo Kids. If you haven’t met already, I would like to introduce you to Bea, the artistic painter and creative mind behind these creations. I think you’ll be as absolutely taken with her talent as I am! Join me, as we explore her magical domain of fairies and pirates …

enchanted fairy castle by bealoo

You opened your Etsy Shop in 2007–more than 5 years ago! How has the online, handmade marketplace evolved over the years?

Well, like everything to do with technology it has definitely become more sophisticated.  When I started selling on etsy you could really only edit your tags to determine how people found you.  Nobody talked about having correct titles, using phrases in your tags, and of course, there was virtually no social media to worry about.  Instead, everyone talked about posting in the forums to gain customers.  I never bought into that, since it seemed like my target demographic wasn’t going to be found in the forums.  There are a lot more apps associated with etsy now as well, which is something I haven’t delved into too much, except for “Etsy On Sale”.  SEO has definitely changed over the last few years, and it is continually evolving.  If you don’t pay attention and keep up you’ll definitely get left behind!  And of course through social media there are way more avenues to market yourself.  The only problem is there are still the same number of hours in a week, and that is what I find the biggest challenge now, to balance selling, with creating, with marketing and raising three kids.

I went back to your first Etsy sale on May 2, 2007. Do you remember what that felt like?

Gosh, I remember back to when I first started the etsy shop and we didn’t sell anything for what seemed like a long time, although it was probably only a month or two.  I was trying to strategize how I could entice people to buy  and decided that if I had some positive feedback it might help.  My sister wanted to buy some of my art for a gift and I had her purchase it off of etsy instead of my website.  This gave me a sale and a chance to have at least a tiny bit of feedback!  Once I made that first sale other orders started to trickle in and that’s what felt good.

the bealoo work place photo by bealookids dot com

Please describe your “zone”. What does creating feel like for you?  

For starters, if you had asked me 10 years ago if I would have seen myself  in my basement painting fairies and pirates I would have laughed!   I never thought I would be an artist, although I really was already an artist in the computer graphics industry making cartoons, but I was more of a computer geek.  Having a family changes the mindset though, and once I had kids I started painting for them, but it takes me a long time to think about something in my head before I actually get started on it.  I think that’s because I rarely have a large gap of time when I can work on something.  Even once I get started painting or drawing I am often interrupted, but it feels good to get something out onto a canvas, especially when I’m pleased with the result.  Sometimes I don’t like what I’ve painted but put it online for sale anyway and it’s a hit.  The good thing about art is that it’s so subjective.  Some people like what I’m not so fond of, which is good for sales, but in my head I always swear to myself that I’m going to redo that particular piece in a different way.

What’s your mood like when you’re painting?  

As I mentioned before it takes a while for an idea to stew in my head before I get it out,  and once I’ve started it’s like the flood gates have opened.  I have to force myself to take my time to paint, so that layers have time to dry and I have time to think more thoughtfully about what techniques I’m going to use.  In that way it’s good that I have my family around me, because it forces me to leave something I’m working on to go drive to piano lessons, or pick up from school.  When this happens I’m always flustered because I have to stop what I’m doing, but in the end I know that when I come back to it I will have a new perspective or idea about how to proceed.

In addition to Etsy, you host a shop on your independent website(along with a blog). Do you get more sales independently

seas by bealoo

or on Etsy? 

For the longest time I sold more on my website. I’ve had my Bealoo Kids website since before I started my etsy shop, but a little over a year ago I entirely re-did my website to make it look a lot nicer and include a blog along with it.  Since etsy changed the way people search for items and offered instruction in ways of doing your own SEO with titles and tags my sales have steadily increased.  I definitely spend time editing my titles and tags to ensure that I’m being found.  That is a lot harder to do on my own website where I have to ensure there is some way I’m being found in the millions of sites that might sell kids wall art. Last Christmas season was definitely a turning point for my etsy shop and now some months I sell more on etsy, some months I sell more in more on my online store.

Do you sell your art anywhere else?

Before the recession I was selling wholesale to a lot of stores here in Canada.  Mostly I sold my stretched canvas, but over the last couple of years I’ve slowly stopped.  Business has been bad for a lot of the stores I was selling to and because my product is made in Canada I wasn’t able to drop my prices enough for sales to be worth it any more.  I am continually being told by experts that I should never stop selling wholesale, since it’s part of how I should be able to increase online sales as well, but  I was spreading myself too thin and was beginning to feel overwhelmed.  For the same reason I stopped doing trade shows as well, which hasn’t seemed to effect me that much either, although everyone said that it would.  I  live in western Canada and almost all my sales come from Eastern Canada and all over the U.S., despite doing local trade shows, so I didn’t feel I was giving up too much, and my online sales have been steadily increasing despite all this.  To me it doesn’t matter so much what I should be doing, what matters is whether or not I can balance family with work.  I  am also a designer for a company in Rhode Island that makes canvas and plaques that they sell to department stores, and I do also do freelance work on a regular basis.

sparkle star fairy bealoo kids etsy

What is your most effective technique for marketing Bealoo Kids?

I think I’m still trying to figure that out!  I do etsy search ads regularly, and I have tried facebook ads.  My advertising budget is pretty low, and usually my best business comes from being featured or talked about by other people.  Social media is definitely important.  I try to get my name out there by commenting everywhere I possibly can. Sometimes I ask myself if it’s really worth it, but if I neglect SM for a few days I see a definite decrease in sales.  Sometimes I get sucked into the vortex of technology and go off in tangents trying to read every article on how to increase sales using social media, or how to make a million dollars off of pinterest, but there just isn’t enough time in the day to figure it all out!

Is your creative business a full-time job for you?

No, it is not.  Part of me wishes that it was because I think I could do so much more if I devoted more time to it, but I made the decision a number of years ago to stay home with my kids.  I had a great job to go back to at one time, but it would have involved working more that 40 hours a week and so I chose to create Bealoo Kids instead.  It’s almost another job trying to figure out how to balance it all, but I have only one more year until my youngest goes to school full time, so we’ll see what happens after that!

What has been your proudest handmade moment?

Bealoo Kids was featured on the cover of Costco Connection magazine in Canada in May 2010, which was an issue featuring  Mompreneurs.  We received a lot of business from that article, as well as a lot of fan mail!  That article came about because of hours that were spent trying to get our name out there.  We entered a contest posted in tiny print at the bottom of one of the pages of the magazine and this is what came of it.

What piece of advice would you offer somebody who is starting out on Etsy and looking for their first sale?

Learn everything you can about etsy SEO optimization!

Thank you, Bea. It’s been absolutely enchanting! And thank you all for reading! Please be sure to check out Bealoo Kids’ website and Etsy Shop for more amazing artwork. Until next time and all the best ~

Interview: Runaway Success with One Clay Bead

 
 
I was delighted to score an interview with Lee of the very popular One Clay Bead. Her work is often featured on Etsy’s front page, and she’s the first to admit that  the success of her Etsy store is like a “runaway train.” She’s on Craftcount’s top 25 list for ceramic and pottery sellers, as she’s raked in more than 1,700 sales since opening in 2009.
 

www.oneclaybead.etsy.com

 
Your pottery is so vibrant, yet earthy! What inspires these beautiful creations?

My work emerges from the colors and organic form in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where I live, and from east coast beaches where I vacation.

Please describe your “zone.” What’s it like when you’re creating your pottery?

I use my studio as a sanctuary, a retreat. I put aside all of the left brain biz side of my work and open myself, with prayer and Buddhist mindfulness meditation, to this crazy joy that I get from creativity. A deeply intuitive part of me evaluates the work and directs its course. I make weekly production lists that are flexible, as I allow myself to follow experimental impulses. I will scrap a thrown shape if it doesn’t feel right, even if the dimensions are accurate. The subtle gesture of form has to feel right, has to feel alive.

Do you have your own kiln and studio space?

Yes. I have 2 kilns, 2 wheels, a hand building and glazing table, an area to recycle clay, and another to mix glazes from raw materials.

  
www.oneclaybead.etsy.com
 

What is your typical day like?

I drink coffee and do Etsy biz from 7am- til mid morning, exercise by taking a nature walk or on my elliptic, and then work in the studio. My husband now comes home from work and packs pottery for several hours while I work more after dinner, but this has got to change! My Etsy store, and that of my teen daughter, are like runaway trains. I’m training someone to handle some of the business and packing so that Ken and I can get back to having a home cooked dinner and having free time together. We used to contra dance and waltz several times a week and I miss that.

You have racked up quite a few sales in your two years of business. I appreciate all of the information you share about your success on your blog. What was that first Etsy sale like for you back on January 27, 2009?

I started my Etsy store after my husband lost his job in the 2008 recession. At the same time, credit to galleries was frozen, and my wholesale buyers couldn’t place orders. We were almost paralyzed by fear at the time, and the first few buyers that I had felt like angels shining beacons of hope and saying ‘it will be okay.’ Rationally, I know that they were just people who wanted a piece of pottery or jewelry, but it impacted our lives greatly. I’ve had a huge sense of appreciation for all of my buyers since!

What piece of advice would you offer an Etsy newbie waiting for their first sale?

Don’t passively wait!

The successful Etsy stores are not accidents, they are the result of shop owners who are learning and evolving constantly. Work on your skill levels, design something original and then learn how to present and promote it.

I loved your blog article that featured the behind-the-scenes of your home business. You look quite busy! Do you have any big leaps in store for your handmade business?

Right now I’m catching up to the unexpected leap that my Etsy store has taken. I had planned for a 20% increase in sales but it looks more like my gross sales will double this year, ie, a 100% increase. I’m training help now for the holiday season. I can’t let customer service or quality slide; I value my buyers too much, and want them to get a handmade piece that they really truly love. That’s the whole point of what I do!

   
Bridal Registry at One Clay Bead!
 

You offer a bridal registry in your shop, which I think is both fantastic and clever. How has that category opened up your shop to new business?

I love Bridal Registries! I cannot handle all of the requests that I get for them, and only take one couple at a time. Each one brings at least 30-60 new buyers to Etsy, and to my store. Many later purchase pieces for themselves, so it always grows my business.

What has been your best marketing strategy for One Clay Bead?

The more time that one spends on new and unique designs, the less time you need to spend marketing. I have focused on learning the photography and staging, so that my images are immediately eye catching. Those who are seeking work for blogs, treasuries, and magazine features have been kind enough to feature my work. I also make treasuries filled with the things that I love, and have joined Etsy teams with other shops whose work I enjoy promoting. They, in turn, feature me. I formed Artisans Gallery Team using my 35 years of experience in gallery management so that we can collectively keep fine artisan work visible on Etsy. This team in particular has helped me connect with the buyers who use Etsy to find works of exceptional value.

I’m taking a question from one of your interviews: Do you think artists are born, or made?

lol, it’s a great question, isn’t it! I will disagree with many when I say that I believe that great artists are born, although many will never use those innate talents. If you are one of those people who feels like you are on fire with creative ideas, who instantly begins to make something when given certain raw materials, or who has a narrative, a story, in your head about your daily life, I think that there are gifts inside you waiting to emerge. An artist is someone with that inborn talent who can learn to master and ride the wild untamed energy.

 
 
www.oneclaybead.etsy.com
 
 
Your daughter was featured in Seventeen magazine for her pottery shop, MarciG. How proud are you?!

I’m proud of Marci for many things, such as her willingness to work and play hard, to give generously of her time, and to explore her individuality through creativity at a time in her life when conformity is so highly rewarded! I am very grateful to Seventeen for seeking out young girls such as Marci and holding them up as role models. It encourages teen girls to develop their talents and use their brains, and to take pride in who they are on the inside. The feature in Seventeen came out a few days after Marci’s 17th birthday, and gave her the courage to pursue a major in the arts as she begins college this fall.

What is your proudest handmade moment?

I hope this doesn’t come across as maudlin or stupidly sentimental. Last Christmas a buyer purchased a Peace Conference bowl and wrote me a note that her son in law was being deployed to Afghanistan, and she was giving it to her daughter to help her focus on the vision of a peaceful end to the war. A similar moment came when another buyer wrote that she had been quite depressed and was feeling that heaviness lift when she drank her tea from my mug. These things convince me that some of the energy of prayer and meditation that I create with passes through the pieces that I make. I am proud to consider myself a vessel for peace, joy, the healing quality of beauty and creative wonderment. That’s where my passion lives. The awards or sales are all good, don’t get me wrong! But they are not what give me the greatest pride.

Thank you, Lee! It’s been amazing ♥  For more beautiful pottery, be sure to visit One Clay Bead on Etsy! Until next time ~