Archive for traditional handcraft methods

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.

Got Allergies? Wear Jewelry!

I’d bet you know many people who are allergic to base metals like copper, nickel, lead, brass. In rare cases, and I’ve encountered a few recently, there are those also allergic to precious metals such as silver and gold. But that doesn’t mean they can’t love or wear jewelry.

There are a number of alternatives to metal clasps and chains. Waxed linen, waxed cotton and buttons made of bone, resin and other organic materials are but a few of the options for those with metal allergies.

Here are a few items from my Etsy collection that would suit those allergic to metals:

I’d be interested in knowing what other suggestions you may have for jewelry lovers limited by metal allergies. Please leave me a comment.

Goodies from My Ghana Trip

No matter how many times I travel to the Continent, I can’t resist perusing the local market for beads.  I am a bead-a-holic after all:-).  On my trip last month, I visited some of my usual stomping grounds as well as some new ones in Ghana.

Many of you may know that Ghana is known for its powdered glass beads as well as metal beads using the lost wax method.

There are fundamentally three main types of powder glass beads found in Ghana – most of which is produced in the Krobo region of the country: translucent glass, powder glass, and painted glass. All three types are made from finely ground glass, primarily broken and unusable bottles and a great variety of other scrap glasses. As such, they are also known as “recycled glass beads.”

Women pounding glass into powder and sifting

Women pounding glass into powder and sifting

The beads are made in clay molds in which a stem of a cassava leaf is placed. The mold is filled with finely ground glass that can be built up in layers in order to form sequences and patterns of different shapes and colors. Once the coloring and pigment are added to the glass, the molds are fired in a kiln until the glass fuses. During firing, the cassava leaf stems burn away, leaving a hole for stringing. Certain powder glass bead variants, however, receive their perforations after firing, by piercing the still hot and pliable glass with a hand-made, pointed metal tool.

Molds holding glass beads before and after firing

Molds holding glass beads before and after firing

Cooperative facilitator and I check out the finished product

Cooperative facilitator and I check out the finished product

Below are examples of the three main types of recycled glass beads found in Ghana that I obtained on my latest trip:
Translucent glass beads: Fused glass fragment beads which are being made by fusing together fairly large bottle glass or glass bead fragments. These beads are translucent or semi-translucent and receive their perforations, as well as their final shapes, after firing.

Recycled Glass Beads - Translucent

Translucent Powder Glass Beads

Powder glass beadscomposed of two halves (usually bicones, occasionally spheres) that are being created from pulverized glass. The two halves are being joined together in a second, short firing process.

Powder Glass "Bodum" Beads

Powder Glass "Bodum" Beads

The “Painted Beads” or “Writing Beads,” are made from finely ground glass, with glass decorations that are “written” on and fused in a second firing.

Painted Beads

The multi-colored beads are the "painted" beads; the solid colored are "transparent."

For additional information on how powder glass beads are made, please visit the following site that produces and sells glass beads:
Global Mamas: http://www.globalmamas.org/Info/10-BeadProduction.aspx

Ghana Craft, based in Senegal, also sells beads produced in the Ghana (Krobo) tradition and they have great illustrations on how powder glass beads are made: http://www.ghanacraft.com/bead-making.htm

Please visit both and support those who continue this African handmade tradition. In the meantime, I’m going to have a ball designing with my new beads.

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