Today's Friday Feature is a new SF Etsy member -- Alexis of Sew Smashing!
I received some of her beautiful butterflies for Christmas this year, and they are my new favorite hair accessory. I love her eye for color and her exquisite designs!
Enjoy the interview!
1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make?
How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?
It's funny to me that the origami I did as a child would influence me as an adult, and allow me to create wearable art. Origami was first introduced to me by my parents when I was a child. It was one of the many activities that would keep me entertained during summer vacation road trips.
A couple years ago I had first noticed paper origami being turned into wearable jewelry. I thought how lovely it would be to try and make the origami creations out of something more durable. It so happens I had just bought my first cuttings of silk fabric, and I had this epiphany of "Well, why not?" I searched through dozens and dozens of origami patterns until I found one that I thought would work well. And this is how I started my line of silk origami butterfly accessories.
What started out as a brooch available in a handful of colors, has quite literally morphed into a full line of accessories available in over 70 colors of silk!
My creative process isn't much of a process...it's a series of random epiphanies. I suppose I get the most ideas right before I fall asleep. I started keeping a pen and paper beside the bed. I'd roll over in the dark and write down my ideas, and with luck I was able to decipher my writing the next morning. However, I do have a new creative tool. I never thought staring at sunsets would be included as a tool of my trade, but it has been quite helpful! I've found wonderful color combinations in various sunsets that I never would have thought of on my own. The end results has been beautiful multi-color butterflies.
2. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.
Hm...interesting things about me? Well, I used to do taxidermy as a part-time job in college. My first task was to make a study skin of a donated deceased bird; it was going to be used by an drawing class.
After I was finished preparing the bird, which entailed removing all organs and tissue, I couldn't eat chicken for a month! Each time I did afterward I realized I could identify which part of the bird I was eating and what joint it was located next to. That took a while to get over.
Before I started my own small business, I got a master's in Museum Studies and for a few years I worked with the collections at a natural history museums. I loved the idea of preserving the past for the future generations to see. However, I loved even more the idea of creating something from nothing. When I think of a new item to make I quite literally get this little tingly sensation in my brain! I once told this to a friend of mine who was in medical school, he laughed and said "Yes, when I think about what I'm working towards, I get that same little tingly feeling too. It means that what you're doing is right for you."
3. What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
The creative process in developing your shop or your business takes so much time, and can feel discouraging. It took me a year to find my niche. I started out doing hand bags and scarves, but found it difficult to get noticed. I started out with my silk origami butterfly line and when people took notice it made me thankful I didn't give up.
Something else I realized is the importance of appealing photos; quite literally the need to create a pretty picture. I still haven't figured out the best way to photograph all of my items, but with time I'm slowly finding better angles or more interesting props. And I can tell when I have a good photo, because that's the item that I will repeatedly sell.
Taking the time to brand your shop and your business is also important and well worth the invested time. By branding you literally create the identity of your business and give your business a presence. I feel the same way about packaging. How you present the item to your customer is a direct reflection on your business and matters just as much as the quality of the item.
I'll get off my soap box now...
4. What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?
I would love to crochet! My mother in law has sat down and tried to teach me, but I always get the tension wrong and get the different chains confused. I would love to get it right one day!
5. What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening your Etsy shop?
My proudest moment came one day via an Etsy Convo. It was written by one of my previous international customers. She wrote to tell me how much she loved her custom silk origami butterfly hair barrette. Her son was in the hospital and it was the one thing she wore every day when she went to visit him because it made her happy to wear it. It was that moment when I realized the potential that something I make could actually positively affect someone. It was in that moment that I actually felt I was a real business. To have an item I made, now halfway
around the world, bring joy to someone's life...well, it was an incredible feeling. Since then I've had similar experiences with my customers, where I was able to make items for them that held special meaning. It's the interaction with my customers that gives meaning to the things I make.
If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Jen from Mama's Magic Studio about joining SFEtsy!