It’s time again for our First Friday interview with a new Etsy shop owner. This month I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Kim, the artist and creator from Unemployed Designer on Etsy. She took some time out of her busy week to answer a few questions for us which I think you will really enjoy. Kim has professional fashion and design experience and is kind enough to pass on some of that wisdom to us (as in me) lay-creators.
Kim also has offered to host a contest here at the Nest, so be sure to check back on Monday. You can win a free handmade leather business card case, handmade by Kim.
1) I read a little bit about you in your profile. It says that you are an apparel designer and a fashion illustrator. Do you find that you use those skills when designing items for your Etsy store even though you aren’t sewing clothing? Is there a reason that you don’t sew clothing items for your store?
I do find that I’m using some of the same skills that I use as an apparel designer and illustrator, not only in designing items for my shop, but in running my shop as well. For instance, my eye for color and composition is something that’s been in development for many years, and it comes into play when doing things like choosing leather colors. Apparel design and illustration require both visual presentation skills and an eye for composition, and I find that those skills come in handy when composing item photographs. Designers often have to present their ideas to bosses and buyers and getting their buy in – in the case of buyers, literally. Few come into the industry with this skill under their belt, but after a while, you get the hang of speaking about your creative vision, inspiration and telling the story behind and the benefits of your ideas. That is definitely a skill I find useful when writing about my shop and the items in it!
As far as why I don’t sew clothing items for my store, I can only say that I don’t sew clothing items for my shop right now. That may be something that changes down the road. To tell you the truth, I don’t sew much recreationally, other than the odd Halloween or school play costume (my kids always have the BEST costumes!). My recreational crafting and creating tends to focus in other areas. I think most apparel designers have other creative interests outside of clothing that they do in their spare time, though, and that’s what my shop has grown out of – my current spare time projects. If I had started this shop two years ago, it would have been full of crocheted scarves….
2) You said that you learned to sew from your mother when you were a little girl and have been crafty all through life. Obviously then your family has been an inspiration to your work. Are there any artists that you particularly admire? Anything else that really inspires you to create?
My mother was an awesome inspiration when I was a kid she cared not only about the style and design of the clothing she made, but the quality as well. She was an excellent seamstress and she inspired me to create with quality in mind as well. My dad was also a great hobbyist – he used to build and fly those big balsa wood model airplanes. He’d spend months crafting these things, and I would be so nervous that all the work would be ruined when he flew them! My Grandma was also a great creative inspiration – she’d quilt, embroider, latch-hook and crochet, all crafts that I picked up in my childhood as well. I think that from them, I developed not only a need to create, but also the sense that creativity, utility, design and quality go hand-in hand. At a bizarrely young age, I became disenamored with construction paper crafting and macaroni necklaces (all the stuff I’ve saved from my own children!), and moved on to things that I thought people might actually buy (translated want) like soft sculpture dolls and cross stitch Christmas ornaments.
3) You are a wife and mother as well as designer and shop owner. How do you juggle all of those tasks? Do you find that the creative field changes the way you view your roll in your family life?
The eternal question! I’m still looking for ways to juggle all of these things – if anyone has suggestions, I’m up for hearing them! As far as how the creative fields I work and play in affect my role in family life, all I can say is that I encourage my children to see things and do things, think about things and solve problems. I don’t think children today (my own included) spend enough time making things and appreciating things made by others. I credit my creative upbringing with giving me the ability to solve problems and come up with solutions and otherwise creatively work things out. I worry that the next generation has spent their childhood being so passively entertained that these human abilities are getting lost in them.
4) This piece is great! I really love this “vase.” How did you come up with the design for the it, and when can we hope to see more similar items in your shop?
That paper sculpture was the result of a lot of trial and error. I came up with several vase designs until I discovered one that was both easy enough to cut and that I liked the finished shape of. Since I come up with the design of only one half, and it’s difficult to determine the finished diameter of the piece until after the pieces are finished, so I lost a few pieces to both aesthetics and skill. I do have plans to work on more, but I need to find good sources for old books. It’s difficult to find books that are used enough to warrant cutting up like this, but that have pages that are still in relatively good condition and securely attached to the spine. I appreciate the written word, and I still believe that the best use for books is to be read – I don’t have the heart to cut up a book that might still be useful to someone! Still, I do hope to have more, and in other shapes created and listed in the near future.
5) These book ends are another amazing item. I see that they were in the running for a Father’s Day Gift Poll on I just thought I’d tell you that they really deserved it, they are one of a kind and look wonderful.
6) Lastly, Do you have any advice for other start-up etsy sellers?
I think my biggest piece of advice would be to set up your shop as professionally as you possibly can, and make it as shoppable as possible for potential customers. Use big retailers or galleries who represent or sell work similar to yours and/or to a similar audience to find examples of how you can communicate with and your shop can appeal to those customers. Do everything you can to clearly and completely represent your items, to let buyers know what those items can do for them and to address any potential reservations they might have ahead of time. And do all of this in your own genuine voice. Also, remember that one of the great things about Etsy is that it allows you to do this all at your own pace. Once you get one aspect of your shop “ready” to be unveiled, you can debut it while still working on or improving other things. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your shop be. Relax, it’ll all get done. And by then you’ll have a new list to worry about anyway!