Happy Friday, Folks!
Remember when you were fresh out of college, driving across the country with the whole world ahead of you, and anything was possible? Well, if not, feel free to live vicariously through this gal! This week's interview is with Zoe Christimas of The Variety Store. This spunky shop owner fills her store with photographs, eclectic vintage goods, and authentic 'zines. After barely 6 months into her etsy endeavor; read below for the charming story of how she got there, then head over to check it out for yourself! Enjoy!
1. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?
As of right now, I'm joined to the Etsy Success and SF Etsy teams.
2. 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?
Currently, I mainly sell vintage clothing, accessories and books. I select items that I would want to wear myself or see worn on other people. I love vintage clothes because, not only are they so unique, but wearing second-hand means you're doing something good for this old planet! I tend to shop for items at bargain thrift stores, but I've also acquired a few items from my mother and grandmother.
Apart from vintage, I sell photographic prints and art zines. I became interested in photography only a couple of years ago and I've come out with some pretty lucky shots. I shoot exclusively with film – using 35mm and 120 – because I like the effect it gives the images. I also do not edit my photos once they're on the computer, which I think gives my images a quality of authenticity. (However, inevitable changes occur when an image is digitized. Can't win 'em all!)
So far, my zines are themed collections of my photographs. For instance, one called "Living Beings" is a series of photos of people and animals that I took from all over the world. Another one – "Through Glass" – is a collection of photos of things that I found behind glass, mostly neat window displays. I set the images out on a template using Photoshop, and print them at a copy shop. The covers I usually make by hand using a Sharpie marker, stamps, glue, and the like. Finally – my favorite part – I staple it all together with a long-arm stapler and fold it in half. The final result is always so satisfying!
The idea behind the "Variety Store" is that I can sell a variety of things! I think the name allows me to be limitless in the scope of my products and items on Etsy.
3. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.
Well, most people get a kick out of my real last name – Christmas. I go by "Zoë Hawaii" on the internet, though. Which name is more absurd?
I also have a B.A. in Philosophy, which I guess most people would think has not much to do with vintage and photography! While I was in school, I worked for the Betrand Russell Research Center. My university had the largest collection of Bertrand Russell material in the world – from his original and complete library (including his desk and spectacles), to hand-written letters to and from Albert Einstein. I also got to see his original Nobel Prize plaque and medal, which was really neat. So you could say I'm an expert in all things Bertrand Russell! But most people probably don't know who he was.
4. How did you get involved with Etsy?
Though I opened up my shop in March 2012, I didn't post any items until about a month after I graduated (May). I really wanted to get involved in something that I loved – like vintage clothes – instead of something I had to do – like write essays. Plus, I felt like I needed to do something somewhat profitable and practical, as I could no longer use the excuse of being a student.
I also know someone who makes a living off Etsy (Rebecca from replica), so I thought I'd give it a shot too! Though I certainly haven't reached her heights, I still find using Etsy a lot of fun. I enjoy everything about it – from taking pictures of the items, to writing amusing descriptions, to making a sale! Even if it is just a little $3 zine.
5. What is your favorite item in your shop? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite item for sale is my favorite photograph, called "Lake Lady":
In September 2011, when I acquired my father's old Nikkormat camera, I made a lot of mistakes. I ruined a few rolls of film, and took a lot of worthless shots. And for one particular roll, I accidentally double-exposed it. That's how "Lake Lady" came about.
The story for this is long, and sort of complicated for people who aren't familiar with film cameras... Basically, I improperly loaded a roll of film, and while I thought I was taking 24 photos, I was actually just exposing the back of the first few inches of film 24 times. When it took 2 rotations instead of 20 to roll up the film, I knew I made a mistake. So I asked my boyfriend – who, at the time, worked at a photo store – to pull that first few inches of the roll out again so that I could reuse the rest of it. However, that roll got mixed up with another, properly completed roll that I had taken. So he pulled out the first few inches of the completed roll, and processed the unused roll. We didn't realize this until I had already finished the pre-used roll up again! I thought to myself, well there's 2 rolls ruined! Yet, when I got the images back from the double exposed roll, almost all of them turned out super cool! "Lake Lady" – as well as "Lake Lister Block," "Double Exposed Flora and Cherry Picker," and "Double Exposed Flora," as seen in my shop – are some of the results. Basically, "Lake Lady" is a shot of a tacky nail salon graphic and a body of water! But the final result looks so cool. It was the best mistake I ever made.
Nobody has bought a "Lake Lady" on Etsy yet (though I sold one in person), because I don't think they understand it. Even still, it's my favorite!
6. If you had a gift certificate to Etsy for any one item you wanted, what would you buy?
It would be a pair of ear-earrings from percylau: http://www.etsy.com/listing/96315436/little-third-ear? They're so cute, clever and detailed!
7. What crafting skill(s) do you wish you had or hope to learn someday?
A little over a year ago, while I was still in university, I had a sudden desire to learn the cobbler trade. So many people buy cheap crappy shoes that last 6 months, but I love nice, old, leather shoes. Not only do they look better, but it's so much better for the environment to repair shoes than go out and buy a new pair. So I hope one day to learn the skill and open my own shoe repair (and vintage) shop! I'd love to learn how to make shoes from scratch, too.
8. What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening your Etsy shop?
Selling my first photographic print. It happened at the beginning of September 2012 while I was driving across the country to move to San Francisco. Coincidently, it was a photo I took in San Francisco!
9. Tell us about your first sale ever?
It was about a month after I started listing things. A lady from New York state bought a pair of vintage slippers and a brass mouse ring holder. I was ecstatic! I immediately wrapped it up and made a shipping label. I also included a hand-written note.
Upon reflection, I wish I had charged more for those items. I didn't realize how much work I had really put in – photographing, listing, and obsessing over the view counts of my items. But we all have to start somewhere!
10. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
My photography blog: thevarietystore.tumblr.com
My twitter: https://twitter.com/ZoeVarietyStore
If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Katy or Steph about joining SFEtsy!