Sarah makes beautiful handmade jewelry using gemstones, glass and crystal beads, and various metal materials. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did!Don’t forget to check out her Artfire shop FindingCharm.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve always had a thing for fun, whimsy jewelry pieces. I especially love over-sized cocktail rings. I would go to Dallas three times a year. I lived in Kansas City, Mo at the time. I would stock up on fun and affordable jewelry from Sam Moon and other fun hideaway shops on Harry Hines Blvd. These were things I’d purchase, wear and was able to toss or sell on Craigslist. In Christmas 2008, I moved down to Dallas for a new job. I found living in Dallas is much different than visiting. It is harder to meet people and just haven’t found that welcoming group yet. I found myself with more time on my hands and thought one day at one of my little jewelry shops, I could make this. One piece led to another and I started meeting people because of the jewelry I made. People would ask me where I got my bracelet, earrings, or whatever I was wearing at the moment. Then a couple of gals mentioned Etsy to me. I hadn’t a clue! So I thought, what the heck. I’m a marketing manager full time, I could do this. I love the consumer marketing best anyway. I had no idea the competition out there for jewelry. I had to work extra hard to compete with those that have been established. In my first year, I have had over 40 online sales and double that in person to person sales. I’m pleased with my efforts considering it’s a hobby. Right now, all my profits go into my savings account toward my first house. I opened my Artfire shop late fall 2009.
When I’m not crafting I enjoy water aerobics. I just love the water and it doesn’t feel like working out when it’s play! I also love watching movies. I’m particular of the movies I watch. They’re not always blockbusters, but I love movies for the technical aspect of writing, casting, effects, etc. In college I took film appreciation classes. I get every movie channel possible. So I don’t miss too much. I’m also a reader of genres all over the map from romance to murder mysteries.
2. What inspires you to create?
Creating is a fun challenge for me. Since I make budget friendly jewelry, I can’t always buy expensive beads. Or sometimes, there are just a handful of unique beads. So I can spend hours in a bead store, online shop or show looking for bargain beads and findings. I let the beads guide the creativity. Maybe I just find 3 focal beads that are out of this world. I may work one as a focal pendant and then create complementing earrings. Rarely do I sketch out a design and then find beads to go with it. The beads find me.
3. Can you take us through your design process?
Living in Dallas opens the doors to a lot of possibilities in shopping. A lot of times, they have made pieces to entice buyers to buy a certain bead or two. I can also find inspiration in catalogs, magazine ads or people walking down the street. I never copy, but I will use a magazine ad for inspiration whether it’s color combination’s or outfit inspirations. Recently I had some purple beads leftover that I couldn’t decide what do with them. I was watching TV and someone referenced the ladies group, Red Hat Society. Then it clicked! I had a variety of leftover red beads. I was able to design a Red Hat inspired choker. An important rule of thumb of design is odd numbers and I had 5 focal beads left over. I have a tray I use to set out the pattern ahead of time that way I can put my pieces together quickly. I then price the piece and then photograph. I use a macro setting on a Canon with the same background. I have an old wood barn stool I use to photograph on. It is placed in front of the window in natural light, but not direct sun. Overcast and even cloudy skies are the best.
4. How many hours a week are you able to dedicate to your craft?
When I was working, I worked 3-4 hours a day and then about 10 on Saturday and Sunday. Now that I’m out of work, I work on it full time.
5. Is your craft a hobby, a business or a little of both?
I think my craft is a little bit of both. It keeps me busy and my mind off things. And it doesn’t hurt to make a little money from it either.
6. Other than Artfire, where else on the web can we find you? (etsy, blog, twitter, etc)
7. What advice do you have for other artists/crafters interested in selling online?
One word – commitment. I had no idea the amount of time and energy it would take. You definitely get out what you put in. It took me several months to watch, figure out, learn from etsy blogs and forums. Got on Twitter and watched what the successful shops were doing.Learned I needed a Facebook page. These handmade artists are savvy! The whole handmade community was a surprise to me from a marketing perspective. I had no idea this was going on! At this point I felt there was no turning back. But once I start something, I don’t stop. I invested money and I’m going to get some back, plus some.
I’m fortunate to have my marketing background so that I can catch up with the full time crafters. I also share tips for the handmade community as well on my blog.
I’ve discovered systems and created some so that I’m working even when I’m having to be away from the house. Twaitter and Hootsuite have helped me with my commitment. I attribute most of my sales because of social networking. That is key for the handmade market. It takes a lot of time. You can’t just list something in your shop and expect to sell like mad.
8. What are your future goals for your craft?
I would like to expand my large wrist bracelet inventory. I think there is a need in the market place for it. I also want to add to my accessory line as well. This year I added lanyards and eyeglass chains. I want to add key rings and bookmarks next. I have an idea to play with some memory wires for a home decor item. I also keep saying I’ll start making my own beads too. With those, they would be eco-friendly/upcycled that involves magazines and bread. That’s all a secret!