What a ride!
It’s been just about a year since I launched this venture, and I have to say it has been fun. I have learned so much, and can’t wait to see what the next year brings.
There were oh so many challenges, so very many. From figuring out material sources, packaging, displays, to deciding what to sell, having the wheels literally falling off (my transport cart) to Canada Post and USPS losing parcels, and slow craft shows with barely any sales and shows so busy it took me 5 hours to finish eating the sandwich I brought for lunch. I had it all. I can’t say that any of it was bad, just that I learned from each and every experience.
I learned about:
The kindness of strangers – the nice man that took my Rubbermaid totes to my car while I followed the trail of nuts and bolts that fell off the cart.
The advantages to having worked with so many different people in my retail days – my very first Etsy customer was a former coworker, who was quite understanding when Canada Post sent her package on a bit of a trip. (A package that should have stayed in the city took a trip out East first.) Another work friend works for Canada Post and helped me with tracking that and another lost package. We found both!
Slow sales at a show meant lots of chatting with fellow vendors – I met so many amazing makers this year, and love that they have supported me both in sales and in sharing ideas and allowing me to do my Christmas shopping locally and handmade.
What to sell? It’s so hard to know what to sell and where to sell it. What sells best on Etsy is different than what sells at a craft fair, and even those vary from event to event. I came to realize I just need to make what I love, and let the sales come to me. My whimsical copper cuffs have done amazingly well; a simple project I started because I didn’t have my home studio space fully set up. I had a couple of big sheets of copper on hand, and they were easy enough to make without a torch, and kept my hands busy. They are my go-to project when I’m having a creative block. I adore working with copper, and I find the saw piercing of the images almost meditative. I know that not every metalsmith enjoys saw piercing, but I sure do!
So what was successful? Well, all of it, the good and the bad. I went in with an open mind, knowing that it would be hard but completely rewarding.
It’s a cliche, but slow and steady wins the race. I started out with the intention to sell my work for enjoyment, not to make a million dollars. This is my way of expressing my creativity, and the fact that I can sell my work to others is just a bonus. As I make more pieces, I am refining the skills I have and teaching myself new techniques as I go. It’s been a wonderful year, and I have more than a few people to thank.
My family – you have given me the time at home, and away from home to create, to learn, to travel and to sell. My mom, who takes the girls when I need uninterrupted studio days. My hubby, who puts the girls to bed so I can go to a class or work into the wee hours finishing up pieces before a show. My brother, who has been a great sounding board for all things marketing. My dad, who has always supported me 100% in doing what I love. You never doubted that I could do this, and for that support I am so very grateful.
My friends – the best cheerleaders ever. I won’t name names here, but you all know who you are. You are the ones that ask what I’m working on, that give me ‘New Hammer Fund’ cards instead of pedicures for my birthday, that endure countless late night texts from my workbench and ignore the crazy studio hair and dirty maker’s hands. You are the ones that send me good luck and how-did-it-go texts during and after sales. You are the ones that buy my work and send your family pictures of your favorites ‘just in case’. You are the ones that traded your own talents and resources for shiny pretty things made by me. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
My teachers – while many metal smiths have to travel far and wide to take classes, I am really lucky to have a great spot to take classes right at home. I have spent countless hours taking classes over the past couple of years, and I love that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from such talented makers. Thank you to always being supportive, for laughing along with me when I soldered things upside down and backwards, and for sharing your expertise, tips and tricks to all of us in your classes. Andrea and Robyn, you are rock stars!
My fellow makers – Artists and artisans are an interesting bunch. We all NEED to create, but many of us are introverts that wear our hearts on our sleeves. It’s hard to put your heart and soul into a piece and then put it out for all to see. I had no idea I would meet to many amazingly talented, generous and creative souls this year. Painters and potters, woodworkers and glass fusers, mosaic artists, knitters and weavers, bead makers, basket makers and soap makers and metal smiths and so many more. Every one of them knows just how many hours go into creating – the late nights, the sore backs and hands, the missed meals and missed sleep. They understand what it’s like to take a creative risk, and all the highs and lows that go along with it. The handmade community in Edmonton is truly special – I have always loved to support handmade, but now that I’ve moved from shopper to maker, I support it even more.
Last, but not least. My customers – Family, friends, fellow makers, craft show patrons and Etsy buyers. Thank you so much for your support! I’ve had the pleasure of making and sending pieces all over the world – from down my own street, to the Bronx Zoo and to the suburbs of Paris. Thank you for loving my work, and for supporting handmade artisans.
2017 promises to be an incredible year. Thank you all for your support!