Archive for Handcrafted

Etsy Success: 3 Things You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered why some Etsy sellers flounder while others seem to flourish? I have. So I asked several dynamic Etsy sellers three essential questions:
1. What marketing or sales strategy do you attribute to your volume of sales?
2. Is there anything that you changed since you began your shop that resulted in increased sales?
3. What advice do you have for beginning Etsy sellers?

Here is what they had to say.

Quiana Taylor of Soul and Substance creates African- and Native-American- inspired art and jewelry. She says, “You are your own best marketing. I wear something that I make as often as I can because if someone admires it, it opens a door to introduce them to your items.” In terms of strategies to increase sales, she says that “social media is amazing because it links you to many many people who may have never even heard of etsy. I am an avid instagrammer (@soulnsubstance and @_readysetglow).” As to advice she has for beginning Etsy sellers, she says, “Don’t expect to just know it all. Because you won’t. Link yourself with people who are successful at something and glean from them.”

Sheryl of Hand Painted Petals makes original, heirloom designs on wine glasses, glassware, jewelry, and keepsakes. With over 500 sales since November 2009, she attributes her success to narrowing her market focus to maximize search results. “That means I work hard on my tags, titles and descriptions to keep up with trends, SEO, seasons (current and upcoming), competition and my own new designs and listings. Also, about a year ago, I expanded into the wedding and anniversary market, which has been fruitful for me — and a lot of fun, too!” The most important thing that’s contributed to her sales is improving the quality of her photos. “My photos are like a ‘shop front.’ If my photos look dingy, dark or unclear about what’s being sold, I can’t expect people to take time to explore my shop. Instead, I have to (metaphorically) meet them at the front door with reasonably clear and inviting photos.” Shery’s advice to new sellers is “to get involved in teams and learn as much as possible; ask lots and lots of questions and then be willing to spend the time to make the suggested changes.”

Zoe of Diaspora Designs opened her shop featuring jewelry from the African diaspora in August of 2010. She attributes her 1500-plus sales with “staying in touch with my customers the old fashion way–I send them post cards in the mail every time I have a coupon code or sale happening. I think it is important to stay in contact with them and garner repeat business.” Improvements that have contributed to her success include what she calls the “countless changes” she’s made to “frequently go through my listings and update them with new and improved photographs, tags, and new items. I am never satisfied and I try to keep updating every time I have a new idea.” Zoe’s advice to beginning Etsians is “not to give up! It is easy to want to close up shop after weeks or months without turning a sale. But, if you continue to make new and improved items the customers will come. Once you gain momentum it tends to have a snowball effect.”

Esther Prat’s Wrapped in Leather shop features Unique Leather Wrap Bracelets. Esther says that she feels it’s important to be part of Etsy teams “that are pro-active in supporting team mates.” What’s helped her increase sales is improved photos. “Although I’m still learning to take better photos, [there’s been] a great improvement from the initial ones.” Her advice to new Etsians is to “join a proactive team, learn to take good photos,” provide excellent customer service and integrity, and deliver quality [products].”

This is advice we can all take into 2014 as we endeavor to improve upon what we accomplished in 2013. Stay tuned for what other Etsy artisans have to say in Part 2 of this post. If you’d like to share your Etsy success, please leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

African “Trade Beads” – Meaning Behind the Name

“Fake trade beads.” That is how I heard an artist friend refer to recycled glass beads. There is some truth there in that some recycled glass is made to look like Venetian glass beads. But though the Venetian glass beads that made their way to Africa and were traded for a variety of goods, including slaves (hence, the name “trade beads”) are beautiful, people often don’t understand what they are getting when they covet them.

The slave trade trade involved a triangular system (by which manufactured goods, such as jewelry, guns, liquor, etc., were transported to Africa; African slaves were exchanged for the European imports; slaves transported to the Americas were exchanged for goods produced in the New World (cotton tobacco, sugar, etc., which were then sent back to Europe to begin the process all over again). Though the origin of the jewelry transported to Africa came from many sources, it was the Venetian beads – particularly the millefiori (literally one thousand flowers) that were highly sought in Africa. Given their popularity as well as the object of their destination, these beads came to be known as African Trade Beads (sometimes known as slave beads). But they were not fabricated in Africa. In fact, it is most likely that Venetian glass arrived in Africa as a result of someone having been traded for them – or as a part of a deal that included, slaves as well as other goods.

Don’t get me wrong. I possess “trade beads” and find them beautiful. But I wear them fully conscious that the beads are part of the legacy of the slave trade. Though we may choose to wear clothing made in sweatshops and sold in big box stores because they are a “bargain,” I think we should make conscious choices. Same goes for what we choose to adorn ourselves with.

That’s why I am excited about sandcast, recycled glass beads. Recycled glass, primarily fabricated in West Africa, notably in Ghana, are more affordable, are made from reused materials and provide income to communities that have thrived on this craft which has been handed down to generations for centuries.

African Recycled Glass, Powder Glass Beads

African Powder Glass “Bodum” Beads

African Trade Beads

Venetian glass “trade beads”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more on African recycled glass beads and how they are made, see my previous blog post on this subject. You can also find jewelry made with recycled glass on my Etsy site or my Web site.

Evolution of a Style

I was looking through my designs and thought it interesting how they’ve evolved over time. Here’s a glimpse:

First I was focused on beads, beads, beads. I still am to a large degree. But then my focus was beading, pure and simple:

Turquoise Blue Necklace

Turquoise Blue Necklace – Handmade turquoise-colored 10mm recycled glass beads from Ghana

Desert Flower Necklace

Desert Flower Necklace – Fulani wedding beads, trade beads, seed beads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I started varying my techniques with beads by using waxed cord, knotting and playing with a variety of closures.
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Recycled Glass Knotted Bracelet Recycled Glass Knotted Bracelet
Suncast recycled glass necklace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suncast recycled glass necklace

I started to get bored with just beading and wanted to take my craft to another level so I started dabbling in metalwork and wire wrapping.

Trapezoid copper and recycled vinyl earrings

Trapezoid copper and recycled vinyl earrings

Trade bead hoop earrings

Trade bead hoop earrings

Copper wrapped swirls and Fulani wedding bead earrings

Copper wrapped swirls and Fulani wedding bead earrings

Variegated oval hoops

Variegated oval hoops

metal clay pendant

metal clay pendant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still have a passion for beads, but I’ve grown from just beading to incorporating metal work and wire into my creations. Learning new techniques keeps me fresh and keeps the work interesting. It’s all a part of my journey and …..Who knows where it will go from here?

Tell me what you think about how my style has evolved as well as how your own creative journey has evolved.

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