With a degree in Experimental Concepts in Art, Jen is no stranger to the fascinating world of art. She uses her creativity, love of color and passion for handmade to create gorgeous clutches, wallets and handbags. You can find her on Artfire and Etsy.
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Jen Phifer. I live just north of Dallas, Texas with my husband and two daughters. I have a BFA in Experimental Concepts in Art. A few years ago my husband got me a sewing machine for Christmas, one thing led to another, and in May of ’08 I launched Little Ellie.
2. How did you learn/get started with your craft?
I’ve always been artsy/crafty. As I said before I got a degree in art in college. So far as sewing goes, my mom taught me as a young girl and I sewed off and on for myself, especially in high school. After falling away from it for a while I began sewing again when my husband bought me a machine for Christmas a few years ago. I somehow fell into designing and sewing purses & wallets, and still love it!
3. What inspires you to create?
Being immersed in the hand crafting community is extremely inspiring. There are so many gifted artists and artisans out there that I have gotten to know by selling online. I also get inspired by music and fashion design. And fabric! There are so many beautiful fabrics out there – I can’t help but get ideas when I look at them!
4. Can you take us through your design process?
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to design new items, something I hope to get back to in the next few months. Most of the time I just sketch out ideas of things I would like or what women I know would like, and those ideas evolve until I am eventually able to get to the pattern drafting phase. Even when I am not able to spend as much time as I’d like drafting new patterns, it’s very fun picking out new fabric combos for the products I already offer.
5. How many hours a week are you able to dedicate to your craft?
Right now I am a work at home mom, and am homeschooling my oldest daughter, so I never feel like I have quite enough time for the shop. I put anywhere from 20-50 hours a week in with my shop. It varies by season. Summer is always the slowest season and the Holiday season is crazy!
6. Is your craft a hobby, a business or a little of both?
My craft started as a hobby and grew into a business without my ever intending it to. What’s great about it is that I get to do something I love. The downside is that there are a few things I would have done differently if I had set up to go into business initially. There is a huge learning curve to running a successful online business, and I am still learning new things every day.
7. Other than Artfire, where else on the web can we find you? (etsy, blog, twitter, etc)
I am relatively new to Artfire. My primary shop and full product line can be found at Littleellie.Etsy.com I hope to expand my Artfire shop in the coming months.
8. What advice do you have for other artists/crafters interested in selling online?
Research, research, research! Learn as much as you can about running an online business before you jump in! Creating is the fun part, but there is a lot more that goes into it. Read up on local tax laws. Research your potential customer base. Look at what’s selling. Look at what’s over saturated. If you’re a jewelry designer making something similar to what 50 other sellers are making, it’s going to be hard to break into that marker unless there is something that sets you apart. Get inspired by other designers but by all means do not copy them. The other key element is photography. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your item is in person – if it doesn’t photograph well it won’t sell. Learn how to take clear, simple photos in good light.
9. What are your future goals for your craft?
I am taking this one day at a time. My short term goal is to start building more wholesale business, but I can’t say where I want to be one year or five years from now. When both of my girls are a little older and in school I might be able to form some long term goals, but right now my primary job is being mommy.
10. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks so much for you interest in my shop! You can follow me at www.twitter.com/jenniphifer or www.facebook.com/littleelliedesigns. I hope to be utilizing those resources more in the coming months to advertise sales and introduce new products.