Friday, May 4, 2012

Mama's Magic Friday Feature

Alright, folks, we're pulling out all the glitz and glam this week! 
We've got a new article - "ask Even", exciting new content from our regular columns, our 500th SFEtsy blog post, and now....It's the interview we've ALL been anticipating! (I know I have!)

This woman has been the Mama behind all the SFetsy Magic for over 2 years. And today we get to take a look into her bag of tricks! Jen of Mama’s Magic Studio has been a member of Etsy since 2006. In 2010, she took over the role of SFEtsy Team Captain. Since then, she exponentially grew this team to an impressive amount of members, and created an entire team of leaders.  She's continuously a wealth of Etsy knowledge and a strong pillar of support. Recently, Jen has stepped down as Team Captain, but remains a Team Leader - still very active in helping us expand the quality of our SFEtsy community. I've worked with Jen these past 2 years and have been consistently wowed by her motivation and excitement for this team. She is a true inspiration to me, and to so many others.  Thank you for this honor, Jen! When I think back 2 years, I can't even IMAGINE this is where we'd be...

Enjoy the interview!

"To which Etsy Teams do you belong?"

SF Etsy is where I’m most active. I’m also a member of:
Etsy South Bay
Captain’s Quarters

"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?"

I make “Handmade Magic” – a deliberately broad label that can encompass all of my crafting interests. Because who knows what I might end up making next in Mama’s Magic Studio? My creative process is closely linked to my passion for learning new skills and exploring new designs. These days, in addition to making jewelry, I quilt, sew, knit, and dabble in whatever new craft catches my attention. At heart, I am a serial crafter who loves to learn new ways of making, new ways to keep my hands busy. I tinker and play and dream, and then I deliberately design. All this is part of my creative process, along with my joy in making one-of-a-kind and custom items. No two works of my Handmade Magic are ever exactly the same!

I’ve taken a few classes (millinery, basket weaving, machine quilting) and I’ve learned some skills from my mom and from friends who knew how to make things. But I’m mostly self-taught, especially with my jewelry skills. I discovered beading as a teenager and taught myself how to string seed beads on tigertail wire when I was in high school. I was 18 when I sold my first jewelry creations in a small boutique in my hometown, and I’ve been making one kind of jewelry or another ever since. Right now, my shop focuses primarily on handcrafted wire work and beaded jewelry: family jewelry like my bird’s nest pendants and sweet pea pods, necklaces and earrings for knitters and yarn lovers, and other baubles. 

I’m also starting to list some of my upcycled creations: flower accessories made from repurposed fabric and zipper bags made from fabrics recycled by FabMo

"Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you."

I was the first woman on either side of my family to go to college. I graduated at the top of my undergraduate class, with a double major in English and Women's Studies. I also have a master's degree in English.

Before staying home with my two amazing kids, I held various teaching jobs. I’ve taught: college composition, high school English, creative writing, and (with my husband as a partner) East Coast swing dance.

I was born in Delaware and moved to California in 2000.

"How long have you been a team leader for SFEtsy? And what has holding this position meant to you?" 

I joined what would become SF Etsy shortly after joining Etsy in 2006 – back then, it was all one big general Street Team, led by Matt (one of the original founders of Etsy). This Etsy Street Team eventually localized into the different area-specific teams. I was pretty quiet at first and then became more active over time. I became team captain in January 2010 and served as captain until January 2012. When I passed the captain role to our two new (fabulous!) co-captains, I stayed on as a team leader. I now help support the captains, run the team blog with Ash, and act as a local leader for the South Bay.  I strongly believe that with volunteer work like this “you give what you get” – I’ve given a lot, but I’ve gotten even more from my involvement in SF Etsy.

As a stay-at-home mom who was desperate for a creative outlet (not to mention adult contact!) I am so grateful for how SF Etsy has connected me to this vibrant community of fellow crafters. I’ve made great friends, discovered amazing artists and artisans, and participated in many team events and activities that have brought me both personal fulfillment and professional success. I’m deeply honored to be part of this team, and being trusted with a leadership role in SF Etsy has meant more to me than I can say. Being part of SF Etsy has given me the courage to finally identify myself as an artist.

"What struggles and challenges arise when holding a team leader position?" 

Being a team leader can take a lot of time. This was particularly true when I was the only team captain and had not yet recruited other leaders and supporting volunteers to help share the load. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to keep SF Etsy growing and thriving. For quite a while, I was doing too much of this all by myself. In addition to participating actively as much as I could, I was doing all of the administrative work of reviewing and welcoming new members, managing the Google group, updating the roster, getting the team blog up and running, managing our various team accounts and pages, and more…. Some days it felt like being the SF Etsy captain was a job all by itself, especially as the team has grown so much – it was hovering at about 100 more-or-less active members when I became captain in 2010, and now we are rapidly approaching 700 member shops! I’m so happy to have on board so many great team leaders and volunteers. (By the way, dear readers, we’re always looking for folks to help out because we have big dreams for this team and are already achieving many of them! But to reach our full potential, we need as many people as possible to participate. If you’d like to be more involved, we’d love to hear from you!)

In general, I think it’s really important for team leaders to feel supported and not overwhelmed by their positions and responsibilities in SF Etsy. But it can sometimes be a challenge to find that balance between being a passionate and involved volunteer and a successful entrepreneur. I find that the sort of people who step up to help out with organizations like SF Etsy are also the kinds of people who like to give everything their all. Great as that is, we each of us have only so much to give, only so much time and energy. It’s important not to burn yourself out!

"What was your favorite sfetsy event since being a team leader? Why?"

SF Etsy has had many really great events since I became a team leader, but my favorite is still the first one that I helped put together: the SF Etsy Sampler, which was the first SF Etsy team trunk show. I think this show really sped up the momentum of the team and gave us an idea of what we might be able to do with in-person team shows and events. It was also a big learning opportunity for me, since it was the first time I’d helped to organize an event like that. It was quite a success, and it even made it into the Etsy blog!

"What inspires your creations?"

I believe that something truly magical happens when an artist's hands create. Most fundamentally, it is this magic that inspires my creations. When the hands finish the work, something new and beautiful exists in the world. To me, that's magic -- even though I know and experience the effort and skill required by every step of the process. Handmade Magic is not the result of a wave of a wand! It's a labor of love, and (aside from being a Mama) the most satisfying thing I know. I opened my Etsy shop to share that magic and love with the world.

I am also inspired by my children, by the natural world, by poetry, by literature, by other artists and crafters, by the joy of learning new skills, by my love of textiles, by the zen of the creative process, by the way that colors play off one another…. truly, this list could go on forever! Lately I’ve been very inspired by the challenge of repurposing materials that still have beauty left in them, creating items that give new life to something that would otherwise be discarded.

"How did you get involved with Etsy? "

I joined Etsy back in 2006, when the site was still in Beta and being run by the four founding guys out of their apartment in New York. I stumbled across a discussion of Etsy online somewhere – it’s been so long I don’t really remember where, but it might have been craigslist. I remember reading about Etsy, clicking through to the site, and immediately falling in love with the idea of opening my own shop.

"What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?"

Like so many other Etsians, I struggle to be found on Etsy. As the site has grown, this has become more and more challenging. I am learning all I can about SEO and relevancy and the like, and I’m improving, but I still have a ways to go.
 It’s definitely been a challenge to see Etsy changing in so many ways since I first became a member. When I joined, it felt very much like a sort of Handmade Field of Dreams: “If you open it, they will come.” (It being an Etsy shop; they being customers.) Exhibit A: the fact of my first sale in my first shop ( Back then, I did no promotion of my shop, no SEO – I just made the item, took the (embarassingly bad) pics, put up a listing, got a sale. No way would that have happened today!

Back then, Etsy felt very much like a small village of like-minded creative folk. Now, Etsy is truly worldwide, with a population to match. This has its benefits and its drawbacks, and Etsy’s growth has not always happened smoothly. But in spite of some of the growing pains that I’ve witnessed over the years, I still have hope that there’s a place for small shops like mine in “the world’s handmade marketplace.” It’s sometimes difficult to figure out what that place is, and how to make the most of it, but I’m still up for the challenge.

"What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?"

I love making custom designs of my family bird’s nest pendants. It is such fun to make a nest especially for a customer, representing a particular family. I can do up to six pearl eggs in each nest, and the pearls can be large or small (to represent parents/children or children/grandchildren). I also customize the pearl color – white, blue, or pink. Each one is unique, just like each family is unique.

(Shameless plug: by the way, today Friday 5/4 is the last day to put in Mother’s Day orders!)

"What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?"

Don’t get me started! Weaving, woodworking, welding, throwing pots, silversmithing, painting, book making, paper making, tatting, drawing, spinning, felting… I want to learn how to crochet and how to make chain maille, how to make furniture and how to work with art glass. I’d love to learn costume design. I dream of making huge, elaborate art quilts and enormous metal sculpture. (Then I wake up and look at my 2 feet by 7 feet corner of the bedroom that is my “Studio.” And I think, “Someday. But not today.”) I am hopeful that in the coming year I’ll be able to join TechShop San Jose and cross some of these items off my big bucket list for craft skills.

"Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations? "

website (work in progress):

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Katy or Steph about joining SFEtsy!


evenhoward said...

So great to hear more of your story Jen! You've been the magic behind the scenes with so much effort, it's awesome to finally have some celebrating of your hard work and great results. Thank you for growing the SF Etsy team, it's really what helped me take my own shop from a little random presence to the home of an active artist, the main reason because I wanted to be more of my true self as I participated in this team... You've supported all of us beyond imagining :)

Chase Clark said...

I love those earrings, so adorable!

Jen (Mama's Magic Studio) said...

thank you, Even and Chase! I was honored to be featured and I appreciate all the kind words so much!

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