Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reflecting on a Year on Etsy

A year ago yesterday I opened my shop on Etsy. Like many people who handcraft, this is something I had dreamed of for many years. I started with several crochet patterns that I had designed over a few months for a contest on the Instructables website. I started designing crocheted animals because I was finding it difficult to find pattern creators who would allow sales of the finished item. I don't have young children or relatives and I couldn't justify the cost of the patterns without being able to market the finished products. I decided I would allow unrestricted sales of items from my patterns provided that I would be credited as the designer and the items would not be mass produced. As soon as I listed the patterns, I had sales and I continued to renew over the weekend. Crochet patterns are still my biggest sellers. Even though I only have 8 designs, they have accounted for 89 of my 173 sales in my first year. The opossum is by far the favorite, although it is not my personal favorite:

I strive for realism, and he turned out more cute than realistic. The opossum sample also sold, even before he was completed, to a woman who saw him in progress at the Jubilee bear show in Kansas City. I have joint pain which affects my wrists and fingers and can make crocheting difficult, so I have not been working on any new patterns recently. I have lots of ideas for patterns and will hopefully be able to design more in the future.

Over the course of the year, I added some of my beaded jewelry to my shop. Jewelry design is by far my favorite hobby, but it is one of the most difficult categories to sell on Etsy because of the sheer volume of items and sellers. Newly listed items are quickly buried under pages of newer listings. Still, I have sold 6 of my designs, and also 2 dichroic glass pendants. My rubber stamped recycled tile pendants have done a little better (18 sales). I really enjoy making these, but have a lot of trouble getting the tiles since they are not always available and I have no control over colors.

I have been scroll sawing for 12 years and discovered Steve Good's Scrollsaw Workshop, which is one of the best scroll saw resources on the web. He allows sales of items from his patterns and many of the items in my shop are either his patterns or adapted from them. The key chains have been popular (33 sales), especially the ones of various dog breeds. I have also used the dog silhouettes for wood pendants.

I can't draw at all, so the wood key chains and pendants use elements of patterns which allow sales of finished products or are from public domain clipart. I try to be very careful to respect copyright law and also to credit designers of the patterns I use. The aardvark pendant was from OpenClipArt.:

I just started adding the wood pendants recently and they have been doing well (8 sales). The hardest part is getting the hole for the bail drilled in the correct location. I have a few I can't sell because they tilt to either side.

I also recently began making wood toys after I discovered John and Cynthia Lewman's Toymaker Press patterns. These are adorable, easy to make, high quality plans designed for the scroll saw. John saw the toys I had made from his patterns on Etsy and has been very supportive. He has featured me on his blog and his email Toy Stories. I have only sold 6 toys so far, but am hopeful they will be popular over the Christmas shopping season.

Over the past year, I have been contacted several times about custom orders or designs. One of the most unusual request was this pair of earrings cut from matboard. I have cut simple shapes from matboard to use for cards or scrapbooking, but this was my first piece of jewelry. The matboard I use  is recycled from scraps from a framing shop or Leftovers.

The best part of selling on Etsy has been the people I have met, both my customers and the other sellers. I have been fortunate to participate on a couple of Teams and everyone is very supportive and encouraging. I am especially grateful to Team Discovery, whose members have taught me a great deal about what it takes to be successful. I was not aware of how much time and effort it would take and how much networking is required. I am not a social person by nature and still struggle with all the social networking aspects. Still, I feel the past year has been a good start and hope I can continue to grow my shop and sales.