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10 Crafty Questions With Jen Osborn (The Messy Nest)

messy-nest3Today, I’m speaking with artist, writer, and sewist, Jen Osborn, of The Messy Nest

1. What kind of art or crafts do you make?

I’m a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to creating. I started out in Mixed Media, but my love of making things with my hands quickly spilled over into jewelry, sewing, painting, and knitting. There is something so therapeutic about creating from the soul!

2. When did you get started – and when did you realize this could be a business?

I’m a 3rd generation artist, so creating has been a normal part of my daily life since I was very little. When my youngest started first grade thirteen years ago I needed something for myself, so I started a graphic design, website, and branding business from home. This quickly branched off into custom invitations. One day I ran across a copy of Somerset Studio while looking for wedding invitation paper. This was a GIANT light bulb moment for me; I couldn’t believe you could make a living doing something so amazing. Within a couple months I began publishing and writing tutorials about my creations, and I haven’t looked back since.

3. Where do you get inspiration for your projects?

Nature is a huge inspiration for me, and I pull a lot of my color schemes from things I see out and about.

However, I get the most inspiration from my friends and other crafters. I know some people get really discouraged when they see other artists creating amazing stuff, but if you can let go of your insecurity it can be such incredible creative fuel.

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4. What do you like best about selling through more traditional venues (craft fairs)?

For me, the best part about selling directly to the public is getting to interact with people who love arts & crafts face to face. I love getting that instant feedback, and even the criticism can be helpful if you can learn to filter out the rude comments. Every time I do this, I run across someone who has a story about something they’ve bought from me in the past; that is such a great ego boost and really keeps the creative fires burning. The obvious downside is it’s a lot of physical labor, and the older I get the harder it is to get excited about that part of the craft fair process!

5. Now, what do you like best about selling online?

I love how easy it is to sell from home messy-nest2these days. When I first started out the only place to really sell online was Ebay which can be both good and bad depending on how many computer screens you are able to reach out to. Then Etsy was born, and a whole new place of opportunity arose for the average crafter. I like having the control over how my wares are presented online, and being able to do it from the comfort of my home is a HUGE bonus.

The downside to this is there is obviously way too many people selling online these days to easily be found without a lot of promotion & a big online presence. It is also really time consuming to take photos, edit them, upload to Etsy or wherever, and create a description for every item you want to sell.

6. How do you price your work?

I have to confess that I am terrible about pricing my own work. It is one of the things I really struggle with even after all these years doing it! I generally look at how my peers are pricing their work, ask my mentors/peers what price they would be willing to pay for my work, and do a lot of finger crossing when it comes to pricing.

I think it’s really difficult for most of us to actually get what our time is worth when it comes down to it, and honestly the economy plays a huge part in what you can actually get for your creations. When families are having trouble putting food on the table they are way less likely to buy art for art’s sake. This is when creating useful items needs to become a priority over creating wall art.

messy-nest57. What has been your biggest struggle with your business? How did you overcome it?

My biggest struggle next to pricing has been promoting myself. I am a typical right-brained artist, and I find the number side of the business both confusing and extremely boring. I’m still in the thick of overcoming it right now, but two things that have really helped me is hiring an Art Coach to keep me on task with the number/promotion side of my business, and knowing how to ask for help in my weak areas.

I think we want [and even feel we should be able] to do it all, but it’s so important to know your strengths and weaknesses in this business! Time is money and you need to know when it’s more beneficial to hire someone else to do something you are terrible at and give yourself more time for the actual creating side of the business.

8. What has been the most rewarding part of your business?

Being able to share what I love with people all around the world. I’m one of those lucky artists who has way more ideas than I will ever be able to create in my lifetime, and having an outlet to share those ideas has really saved my sanity. I have met many of the most important people in my life through my art, and I cannot even imagine if I’d chosen another path and missed out on those connections!

9. What is something you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

The most important thing I would share is that it takes a lot of time, patience, and practice to get to a point where you have true confidence in what you create. We all tend to start out wanting to be amazing, and the only way to get to amazing is by creating a lot of garbage. There is a great blurb about this very thing by Ira Glass. I wish I had listened to this when I got started because it would have saved me a lot of frustration. The second thing is that there is room for ALL of us in this world of creating. The more of us create, the more attention it brings to all of us.

Don’t be tricked into thinking that anyone can take that away from you by creating their own stuff {even if it looks exactly like yours}. If your toes get stepped on speak out, but move over and make room for new artists/crafters every chance you get. You never know when they may be the one to come along and lift you up even higher!

10. Do you mind sharing a business goal that you hope to accomplish with your business?

Up until a year ago, my big big dream was to publish my own book. It took lots of time and patience to achieve that goal {almost a decade}, but I totally did it! My next big goal is to start licensing my artwork for home-goods and fabric. I love both of these things, and it would be such a gift to be able to sew with my designs or decorate the homes of complete strangers with my art. Wish me luck!

10 Crafty Questions With Michelle Stolz (Upcycle Your Life)

10 Crafty Questions With Michelle Stolz of Upcycle Your Life


mcb-11. What kind of art or crafts do you make? 
My main focus is creating accessories from found materials, primarily unisex wallets created from upcycled vintage neckties.

2. When did you get started – and when did you realize this could be a business? I started crafting and repurposing things as a pre-teen; creating better uses for the things I found around the house, garage sales and thrift stores. I began focused projects in 2005 when I was gifted a sewing machine. The first time I showed my handmade items publicly was at a local craft show in my neighborhood park that same year. I ended up selling everything I brought with me at that first craft show; I couldn’t believe it! Throughout the day everyone kept asking me where my physical store was located, and it was then when I realized that this is something I could grow into a business.

3. Where do you get inspiration for your projects? I am inspired by vintage fabrics and prints, and the satisfaction of being able to create something useful out of something that has been stuffed in a box for years. My inspiration is usually fueled by necessity. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.”.

4. What do you like best about selling through more traditional venues (craft fairs)?

mcbThere are so many things to love about selling at craft shows. I love Love LOVE meeting clients face to face at craft shows. Seeing their faces light up when they realize that the item they’re admiring visually, used to be something else entirely. I also really enjoy planning for and merchandising my display and always dedicate time for that in my pre-show planning. Another part of craft shows that I enjoy tremendously is the camaraderie with other makers and the event staff. I’ve grown to really cherish and rely on that creative network over the years.

5. Now, what do you like best about selling online? I am a creature of habit, structure, routine and symmetry. I enjoy the structure of an online shop, being able to write my own descriptions and market my products exactly how I like. And the reports…the analytical side of online selling really gets me going!

6. How do you price your work? Just like most sellers, I take into consideration the time it takes to design, create, photograph, package, and list a product as well as the cost of the materials. After working those numbers, I think like a buyer and ask myself if I would be willing to pay more or less.

Upcycled Vintage Tie Wallet Red Stripes7. What has been your biggest struggle with your business? How did you overcome it? As a single mom with a child at home 24/7, I am constantly struggling to find time to make enough products to stock for upcoming craft shows, enough inventory for my online shop, as well as consignment and wholesale orders. Sometimes I get way ahead and other times my inventory is really low. Until my situation changes, I simply just try to make the most of it.

8. What has been the most rewarding part of your business? I’m not just a crafter, or a maker of handmade things. I also live a creative lifestyle, and enjoy sharing it with others. In turn, I feel rewarded in two ways: 1) the positive energy I feel when friends and fans mention that they not only noticed, but have been inspired by my creativity at some point, and 2) watching my son naturally integrate upcycling and creativity into his daily life and conversation.

9. What is something you wish you knew when you were first starting your business? More information on the legalities and process of running a business.

10. Do you mind sharing a business goal that you hope to accomplish with your business? About six months ago I moved from Michigan to Florida. Once my schedule opens up a bit, I will be focusing on building my inventory. Until then I am working on establishing new craft show and retail networks in the Tampa Bay area.

 

10 Crafty Questions With Carey Gustafson

10 Crafty Questions With Carey Gustafson

1. What kind of art or crafts do you make? Most of the crafts and projects I work on for “Glass Action” are more fun than traditional: Night lights, jewelry and tie clips, boxes and picture frames, and custom orders.

2. When did you get started – and when did you realize this could be a business? I got started working in stained glass right out of high school and was a designer and fabricator for many years. It’s a very, very small market in metro-Detroit and suddenly I found my self an unemployed in 2004. Being a homeowner, I knew it was time to convert that basement room and do my own thing!

3. Where do you get inspiration for your projects? Originally it was out of boredom and from what I’d been working on all those previous years- Birds Of Paradise, Grape clusters, tulips and the like. I wanted to make art for people that have outgrown hanging posters in their bedrooms, but will always love pop culture.

4. What do you like best about selling through more traditional venues (craft fairs)? Walking up to a display and seeing that piece of art that grabs you or makes you smile, and the immediate thought of who it would make the perfect gift for. It’s a feeling I love to have and love seeing when a customer approaches my table.

5. Now, what do you like best about selling online? Ugh, it’s a mystery to me! Truthfully, I’ve had way more success through my Myspace page than on esty or ebay. In the latter two I’m a needle in a haystack, and haven’t quite learned how to “work it” correctly! People will write me for quotes and send me ideas through Myspace. Sadly, it’s slowed down a bit, but it’s still the best for directing people to a photo gallery of work (when you don’t have a website up yet).

6. How do you price your work? I base it more on what I think people can afford vs. what it’s worth in labor. I try to make a lot of one design at the same time which cuts the time down. When I make Michigan necklaces for example, I try to cut a million out, then grind them into shape, etc. Making a few at a time slows me down!

7. What has been your biggest struggle with your business? How did you overcome it? I’ve had to train myself to keep track of hours, form a budget, and figure out what I spend on supplies. I want to run Glass Action like a lemon aid stand, but my CPA advised me otherwise!

8. What has been the most rewarding part of your business? Having repeat business, great word of mouth and people really seem to like what I make. Not just the “quality,” but my ideas and designs. That means so much and keeps me inspired!

9. What is something you wish you knew when you were first starting your business? I would have been serious sooner – I wasn’t consistently making and designing as much as I am now. I think I would have a broader range of projects. But there isn’t much i’d change. It’s been so fun year by year working in glass and doing shows!

10. Do you mind sharing a business goal that you hope to accomplish with your business? www.glassactionhq.com is the next big challenge. I have a very talented and patient friend that’s helping me.  And I’m getting into the “wedding” game! I’m designing custom jewelry for brides and bridesmaids, and reception gifts. That’s a direction I’d love to explore more!

10 Crafty Questions With Megan Green (Stinky Bomb Soap)

10 Crafty Questions With Megan Green of Stinky Bomb Soap

1. What kind of art or crafts do you make? My husband and I have a mom and pop shop named Stinkybomb Soap. We have created a line of bath and beauty products that take irony to it’s sudsiest form. Our soaps resemble hand grenades and our cassette tapes appeal to anyone over the age of 10 who remember tape decks. All of our soaps are created by us by casting molds from their real life counterparts, therefore carrying all the detail that the original product contains into our soap. Our beauty products appeal to the ladies but continue our militant theme with products like bath bombs and napalm lip balm, which is vegan friendly. My husband, Rob, makes all the molds and while he is a silent partner, he offers support and continued inspiration.  I manage the day to day operations, handle all the production, marketing and sales.

2. When did you get started – and when did you realize this could be a business? I should state that I have all ways been a crafty minded individual.  My grandmother gave me my first lesson with a sewing machine. I’ve dabbled in candle making, beads, and created a line of plush dolls.  It wasn’t until after the birth of our daughter that the Stinkybomb line came to be. I should also divulge that Rob has a side business where he makes replica knives and grenades out of resin. He had a bunch of old grenade molds lying around the house and I just kept telling him that I thought those molds would make some sweet bars of soap. So with nothing but time, and diapers to change, I went to work sourcing out different soap bases.  Once the recipes came to be, then it became searching out containers and creating labels. As soon as I started telling my friends I knew from their response that we were really going to have a lasting product and brand.

3. Where do you get inspiration for your projects? Our inspiration comes our general interest, Rob’s being military history, mine consisting more of pop culture and movies. A good deal of ideas come from our friends. We saw an artist friend speak the other night about her body of work, she resculpts and transforms plastic baby dolls into sculptures. It immediately gave us the idea of baby doll head soaps. It took less than two days for Rob to come back with a mold ready for soap production.

4. What do you like best about selling through more traditional venues (craft fairs)? First, would be the networking of other crafters and artist. I spend so much time in my work room or behind a computer, I love getting to talk them in person and seeing what they have been creating.  Next, is seeing the look on people faces when they walk by my booth. People either fully embrace our Stinky personality or walk away in disgust. I love engaging with those people in particular. They tend to walk away with a better idea of what this whole indie art movement is all about.

5. Now, what do you like best about selling online? Attempting to work from home while my daughter explores the house.

6. How do you price your work? This is always so hard. I do take a mark up from my cost of supplies. Every item used for the creation of one soap has been measured. From the colorants to the crinkle paper used in our packaging. I then have timed each step of the production process, that includes pouring soap to shipping. All of this factors into the product cost.

7. What has been your biggest struggle with your business? How did you overcome it? My husband plays such an integral part to Stinkybomb but it comes down to him finding time to create new products for the line. I am currently starting to learn more about his process so I can rely less on him and start making my own molds.

8. What has been the most rewarding part of your business? Hearing customer feedback. People love our soaps but are not likely to use them as the shape gets washed away with each use. So when people actually use them regularly and rave about the soap itself, I get warm fuzzies. REALLY PEOPLE: wash, rinse and repeat!

9. What is something you wish you knew when you were first starting your business? It takes time to grow a business, nothing happens over night. Also constantly apply yourself. Oh and relish in the parts of the process you love most.  I guess that was three things.

10. Do you mind sharing a business goal that you hope to accomplish with your business? We hope in a years time to attend a wholesale mart as a vendor. A very scary thought for many reasons but one that could lead to an exciting new place.

10 Crafty Questions With Katie Hellmuth (Katie-James)

10 Crafty Questions With Katie Hellmuth of Katie-James

1. What kind of art or crafts do you make? I make things from fabric and pixels. Wow, if I could ever physically combine the two that would be cool! Hmmm…For now I suppose I’ll stick with glitter as the pixel part. But I make accessories that are useful and pretty. I call it fengtual – the merging of function and beauty. This includes cat toys made of good fabric they already destroy such as velvet and sequence.

2. When did you get started – and when did you realize this could be a business? It all ignited after I took a fashion design course at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) here in New York. I was a closet drawer, and sketching out outfits inspired by non-clothing, like lipstick bottles, was really fun for me. Pattern making, however, is not part of my brain, so it became too expensive to think I could launch a clothing line. I’ve always liked making things that work, so I started designing accessories. To make the patterns, I worked with a friend’s sister-in-law who was a seamstress/designer at the time for a store in Brooklyn, and is now a rock star on Etsy.

3. Where do you get inspiration for your projects? From my needs, and the needs of others. I wish I could think more abstractly, but I’m purpose driven, so I get to unleash in creativity with unusual fabric and color combinations, and uses for something very simple that no one thought of before.

4. What do you like best about selling through more traditional venues (craft fairs)? I get to see the personal reaction to my items. It helps me realize if I’ve got a winner or (sadly!) a dud. For my dog treat pouch, an accessory I designed at the request of a dog trainer, I had always thought it would make a nice pocket-purse to just drop in credit cards and a phone and go to the grocery store. So when someone bought it as a binoculars case for her bird watching, and then another woman bought it to hang from her baby stroller for her own little items, that confirmed for me that it could have dual purposes.

5. Now, what do you like best about selling online? I love selling online. I love the freedom it has. I love the challenge of trying to reach people. I love the little email I get when something sells. i love packaging the order! I loved designing my site, and I love the ability to expand on my site whenever I want to. It helps that I designed it myself, so I have a little more freedom there, but… :)

6. How do you price your work? Well, I look at the price of the materials and labor, first and formost. Currently, a woman in Alabama makes my accessories for me because she’s better at it than I am – plain and simple. But, if I made them myself, I’d still factor my rate in there to pay myself for the time it took to make it. I use high quality fabric that is closeout, meaning, there is no more left of it, and sometimes it is designer fabric. Then I look at the beauty factor, and if it’s unique enough to have higher price. I imagine what I would pay for it in a boutique. My jewelry bag for travel, for instance, gets a lot of nose turns from people online because they want one for $10 that an Amish woman made. This isn’t an Amish jewelry bag. It’s a carefully thought out one with square pockets and secured ring loops for easy access, funky color and fabric combinations with beautiful fabric that you’ll never see anywhere else.

7. What has been your biggest struggle with your business? How did you overcome it? Pattern making, I’d say. I am dependent on someone else to help me make prototypes. I did take a class at FIT to help me in this department, but fitting pieces together that didn’t look like they went together just gave me stomach aches. I am still overcoming it, because I need to find someone I have good synergy with to crank out new inventions. I don’t actively look for this person, however, so it takes a while. :) So far, I have left it to fate.

8. What has been the most rewarding part of your business? Producing the design, and someone buying it. I love matching all of the trimmings (and by matching, I mean unusual matching), sending them to who will make them, and getting them back in a box full of color. I also love growing my business in different directions. When I launched the website division of my business, Katie James Pixelated, I put up free desktop art and Twitter paper on my site, and the possibilities for where that can go is like a new frontier.

9. What is something you wish you knew when you were fist starting your business? You know what I wish I had? www.Collective-E.com. This is my second business I co-founded with two other hands-on partners, and it’s such an expansive outlet and learning center for business owners of all kinds – indieprepreneurs, craftypreneurs, etc. I’m so function happy, so we built with lots of ways to answer all kinds of needs from getting your own PR to building out your website for SEO, to business development in other areas, so many things. It’s also an online and offline group connector that has proved invaluable to growing my little Katie James in all sorts of directions.

10. Do you mind sharing a business goal that you hope to accomplish with your business? Boy oh boy, where to start! And what secrets to entice you with? I want to really launch Friends of Katie James on my site. I have my first designer on the site – Perry M Tote Bags. She hand draws super detailed designs on canvas totes. Hours of work. I want to transform my blog, www.FashionMista.com into a…blog with more dimension, let’s just say. It’s had many makeovers in my mind, and it’s time to put thought to pixel!

10 Crafty Questions With Beth Nixon (Reware Vintage)

10 Crafty Questions Featuring Beth Nixon of Reware Vintage

1. What kind of art or crafts do you make? My most popular craft is my Record Notebooks – they are made using vintage record albums in uncollectable condition, and use the cover of the record as the cover of the notebook, are filled with locally made paper, and include the record itself as the last page of the book.They are a lot of fun to make and customers all over the world  love them! I make lots of other crafts, too – jewelry made from records, pouches and purses made from vintage fabric, reconstructed clothing, and necklaces from found objects…I dabble in a lot just for the fun of it!

2. When did you get started – and when did you realize this could be a business? I’ve always had a fascination with vintage clothing, and with records. For years I would customize my own clothing that I’d found in thrift shops, and people would stop and ask me where I got my outfit…that’s how it all started! My husband and I started building a website to sell vintage clothing and items that I’d put my own touches on. I’d read a book a few months before the website launched that had a couple of projects made from records in it, and I made Christmas presents for our friends with the ideas. Everyone loved them, and I was so hooked with records as a new craft material. I worked for a while on the notebooks and gave them away to a few friends to try it out, and the response was overwhelming. I started getting requests from friends and friends of my friends, and from then on I knew that I would always have a destructive relationship with vinyl.

3. Where do you get inspiration for your projects? I love to learn and try new crafts! I’m also the type of person who focuses on function. I love to look at something that might be junk or trash or just something to look at to the average eye, and try to find a new purpose for it that will make it better or more usable in a way. It’s a puzzle to me, and I just need to figure out what to do and how to do it – the process is the best part for me!

4. What do you like best about selling through more traditional venues (craft fairs)? I love selling at craft fairs to see the response to my items! It’s so great to meet people and see their reactions to what I make, and it is very inspiring. There have been many craft fairs where I have sprouted a totally new idea of something to make based out of a customer’s comment or conversation. It is incredibly rewarding to have that customer interaction from time to time!

5. Now, what do you like best about selling online? Selling online is great because I am able to reach audiences all over the world! I’ve sent items to Japan, Greece, Australia, Great Britain, Mexico, and that would never be possible without my website. I love the idea that someone in Tokyo is using a Michael Jackson record notebook that I made in my home – It’s a pretty amazing concept!

6. How do you price your work? I personally am a very price-conscious consumer, so I price according to what I think is a reasonable cost for the item. I also take into account the time and energy that I put into it, and the cost of my materials. It’s not an exact science for me, and it’s always a battle in my mind!

7. What has been your biggest struggle with your business? How did you overcome it? My biggest struggle is definitely the self-promotion aspect. Having an online store is so different than a brick-and-mortar store. No one is driving past you on the street. You have to create your own opportunities every day, and you have to find the people in the world who are really going to love what you do and make yourself known to them! I work at it every day, and it is a learning experience every day.

8. What has been the most rewarding part of your business? The most rewarding part of my business has been all of the friends that I have made over the years because of a similar interest and passion for the crafting community, especially my fellow members of Handmade Detroit. It really is an amazing, massive, and awe-inspiring network of people and I am so happy to be part of it!

9. What is something you wish you knew when you were fist starting your business? I wish I would have had a DeLorean and a flux capacitor to know that it all worked out later. The first year was difficult for me, and I repeatedly questioned whether or not it was a good idea to quit my job and go for my dream job of working for myself. I knew I had some great ideas, but I wasn’t sure it people would really “get it”. The day of my first craft fair – The Detroit Urban Craft Fair - was the day I knew I had made the right decision, because I almost completely sold of my notebooks, but until then I sometimes doubted my sanity! My advice to anyone starting out is to just be confident in themselves and go for it without fear!

10. Do you mind sharing a business goal that you hope to accomplish with your business? I have so many goals and dreams for my business! This year my goal was to do a few out of state shows, and I’ll be traveling to Cleveland, Ohio in a couple weeks for my first! My main goal is to always keep waking up excited for work, and to live passionately for my work and the friends I’ve made through it every day. Oh, and I want to send Mickey Dolenz a Monkees notebook, because he’s my favorite!