Every week I like to pick an Etsy shop that I love and do a mini interview with the shop owner. Today I'm talking with my friend Robyn Wells. She makes all kinds of fun and creative things. You can find more about Robyn at her blog here and see her shop here. Click on the images for more info.
Your shop has a variety of items. Do you feel like there is a natural transition from one item to the next in your creation process or are you simply exploring different venues of making?
I used to really struggle with the diversity of items I make and sell. "Should I cut back and focus on one thing or the other?" Back in the early days of Etsy I would participate in shop critiques and admin often recommended people start separate shops for their different types of items. I really didn't want to have to manage two or more shops. Plus, I love working in a large variety of mediums and it would break my heart if I couldn't do certain things. I want to it all! But then this amazing thing happened. Completely unsolicited, people started telling me about how even though I make a variety of items that I had my own unique style and that my work was recognizable as my own across the board. It was exactly what I needed to hear because I remember chasing that elusive "Unique Style" from high school art classes through college and it wasn't until I was out of school and started making work for myself that it just happened on it's own. I have to admit a bit of jealousy towards makers who focus entirely on just one thing, but my variety is just part of what makes me who I am. I want to paint, I want to design, I want to graffiti, I want to photograph, make books, spin yarn and the list goes on. And the truth is that when I'm shopping online or at craft shows, or even being around the company of others, I enjoy makers who are also Jack of all trades.
What is your favorite thing to make? What is your favorite item you sell? Will these be two different answers?? ( :
My favorite thing to make is whatever I can work on when inspiration strikes, and where I lose all sense of time and my surroundings. AND if I have the time to just dive in. I feel pretty tortured because I work a 9-5 job and often the inspiration strikes while I'm at work. I will think about it all day long but by the time I get home, I have no more energy or I've just thought it to death and it has lost steam.
I have to admit, I still get excited and thrilled by every single sale. I know my stuff isn't for everyone, but one of the glories of having an online shop is each unique item I make is perfect for someone out there and eventually they will find it. Instead of having to change my items, my style, my joy, to suit the market, I make what I love and the market finds me. But, back to the original question, of all the items I sell, the ones that hold a special place in my heart when they sell are original pieces of artwork. The very first piece I sold on Etsy was an original art piece. Sometimes people ask how I can bear to separate from the pieces I make. When I make things to sell, I make them knowing that their purpose is for someone else. I do love all the things I make, but I can photograph and document them to remember them. What makes me sad is when a piece I really love just sits and doesn't sell.
What made you decide to join etsy?
I remember hearing a buzz about Etsy when it was first coming out. Everyone was saying "it's going to be like ebay but for handmade items", which now we know it isn't really at all like ebay.. I remember thinking "I HAVE GOT TO DO THIS" but at the same time I had a lot of hesitations because I had never made items that actually sold before. I made plenty of items that I wanted to sell, but then they would just sit there. It was a dream of mine since I was a kid that I would be able to sell the things I make. Etsy was a dream come true for me. I didn't set up an etsy account immediately because I wanted to watch and see how it worked out. A few months after it opened I created an account to make my first purchase and see how it worked from the buyers perspective. Shortly thereafter I set up a shop. I didn't list any items for almost another year though while I developed products and ideas. Still, things were so simple back then. With so few shops, if you took advantage you could easily have a spotlight directly on you. I feel like there are so many well known makers out there now that got their start in the early days of Etsy. Now, there are soooo many shops, there are so many rules, and every shop is soooo polished. If I was just finding out about Etsy now I might be too intimidated to jump in.
How long have you been on etsy? Have you noticed a lot of changes over the years?
I just counted it up and realized I have been on Etsy for 7 years! That is crazy. I don't think they use this system anymore, but each shop used to have a number and I was pretty proud of the fact that my shop number was around 5,000. Now there are probably 500,000 active shops.
You sometimes sell your items at arts/crafts market. Do you like the process of selling in person?
I actually prefer to sell online, or wholesale and consign. A dream of mine would even be to license my work. I heard something recently about how people who blog and are active online are often shy people, and being online allows these people to shine. It never occurred to me before, but I think it is absolutely true. Doing craft shows is definitely out of my comfort zone and sometimes I like to push myself. I'm the type of person who purposefully did not pursue a fine arts degree because I knew I would have to have a solo show to graduate. For the record I graduated with a Bachelors in Art. But here I am, an adult who finally had a solo art show, represents myself at craft shows and has many more goals for my future. I am growing on my own and at my own pace.
Any advice for anyone thinking about signing up for an etsy shop?
Do it! The number one thing I hear from people is that they want to start a shop but they don't think they are ready or that they are good enough. My advice would be to just leap and do it. Once you have a shop you will always be evolving and developing it anyway, might as well start somewhere. I LOVE Etsy! I may not be the bravest and most confident person at promoting my own work, but I have no problem singing the praises of Etsy. I always encourage people to start up shops and even offer to help them and give advice. I think it is a great stepping stone to getting your work out there, and it costs mere pennies to do so. Etsy has led me to great opportunities including working with individuals and companies, selling my work in stores and making new friends in real life!
Thank you so much, Robyn! Be sure to check out her shop for tons more goodies!