One of my favorite parts of being on Etsy is that you have the opportunity to get to know the person you’re buying from. When you choose to buy handmade, you are not only giving yourself or the giftee a handmade and unique full of quality gift, but you’re becoming a big part of making that Etsy shop owner’s dreams come true. Hippie Peaceniks are all about supporting one an another and showcasing the art AND the artist – so we’d like to invite everyone to please learn more about all of our wonderful and talented team members. What better way to do introduce you then to hear their back story and see behind the scenes of their shop. Stop by every Monday for a new feature! Today’s feature is Fiona!
Tell us a bit about you. Your name, where you live, if you have kids/grandkids, married/single.
My name is Fiona and I am 35 years old. I am not married but I live with my wonderful boyfriend and our very large American bulldog (called Missi) in a 14 foot yurt, on a clifftop, on the beautiful Isle of Wight. We are surrounded by rolling hills and beautiful countryside and look out over the sea which is often wild and stormy with great waves crashing against the cliffs. Because the walls and ceiling are canvas we are always in touch with the weather and can hear all the wonderful creatures outside, especially the foxes, badgers and owls at night.
How did you first learn about Etsy? What made you decide to open a shop? How did you come up with your shop name? why did you decide to carry the items you sell? How did you first learn your craft?
I used to have a little craft stall selling the things I made, almost as a hobby. I never really ran it as a business. If you are addicted to making things then you have to start selling them to cover the cost of buying endless supplies! I am also a cross stitch designer for a major British magazine, but my true loves are polymer clay and beads. I love creating things using the millefiori technique to create patterns and pictures within the clay. I have been doing it for twenty years and my hands know what to do all on their own now. I stopped making things to sell for a lot of years, when I was in a very bad marriage which kind of killed my creativity, but when I started a new life I started up again. It turned into a business when my boyfriend and I wanted to go to a new festival to see a band we love and we couldn’t afford to get in. It turned out it was actually cheaper for us to go in with a small stall, so I made a load of stock in a hurry, and people wanted to buy it! I got invited to have a stall at a couple more festivals that year and The Happy Mushroom was born. Etsy was a natural next step, as I only do a few small festivals a year I needed another outlet for my work. I had heard of Etsy in an article in a major newspaper, and how popular handmade crafts were becoming, especially in America and it just made sense.
How do you stay motivated?
I love walking and wild camping even more than I love making things. I would probably spend my whole time away on adventures if my boyfriend didn’t spend so many days a week working. He is a leather worker and a cabinet maker and always in demand. I stay at home on the days he works and I make things to fill my time. So pleasure is my motivation, really. I hope to spend less time in my studio over the summer, and more time round a campfire, or out hiking in new places. I am working very hard to build up my stock and my shop in the colder months, far easier to stay motivated when it is pouring with rain outside and my studio has a great heater!
Do you have any advice for a new shop owner?
My advice to a new shop owner on Etsy would be first to really spend some time learning about tags, photography, and the best ways to list things. It makes such a difference getting your titles/descriptions/tags working together and people will find your work a hell of a lot faster. The second would be to join a wonderful team like the Hippie Peaceniks. The support and help with promoting that you get are invaluable. And list new items regularly, make small edits to your listings, and swap your featured items around. I see my views improving every time I do any of these things. Also, make sure you have great customer service, and make your packages a joy to receive!
Fast forward to next year – where would you like to see your business?
I am in two minds about wether to expand my business over the next year. I don’t really need a lot more money, that is the beauty of our simple lifestyle, although if I did earn more I could start saving, as we would love to travel more, and then one day build our own tiny little house. My main stock has always been my bright colored millefiori work but I also love beading. I used to just use beads I had made myself but I am now using more and more bought beads to make different lines. I am coming up with more products, some of which are relatively quick to produce, so I could make a lot more without sacrificing my quality or diluting my unique style. I have found some great suppliers so I could carry a lot of stock without having too much money tied up in it. But do I want all the extra work? That is the question. I love what I do, and I don’t want to expand to the point where it becomes a chore. Having said that, I can sell a lot of stock at one festival, and I hope to do at least four or five this year, so I guess I am going to have to seriously get some stock making done when I get home from this wonderful trip to Scotland. I think that I would like to double my sales in my Etsy store, a reasonable goal, as it is still relatively new, and growing fast. I like selling there as I can sell my best work at a good price and I don’t have to worry about mass production. I can make special, unique pieces, and know that they will go to someone who really loves them.
It’s a typical Saturday – how do you spend your day?
On a typical Saturday I am usually in my studio, as that is one of the days my partner works. We take our weekends on Sunday and either Monday or Tuesday at the moment. On a typical Sunday we are usually out adventuring, hiking up a big hill or wandering through a forest or cooking around a campfire in a clearing or on the beach.
What inspires you in your work?
I am inspired by just about everything, it is like a constant bombardment! I carry a notebook all the time to get the ideas down. I seem to be designing constantly somewhere in the back of my head. I get a lot of ideas from Etsy, I see a pattern, or a particular bead, or a different way of putting together a simple bracelet, or a picture of some cute little critter. I see patterns in nature too, as I am constantly surrounded by it. I once made a millefiori cane based on the colored stripes running down the back of a funky little caterpillar I found whilst out on a walk!
How do you like to work? (examples: Outside, inside, a studio, music blaring, tv on, drinking wine)
My studio is a wonderful place to create. It is a small shed surrounded by garden but with big windows. I often work in the quiet, with just the sound of the birds outside, but I also like to listen to audiobooks. I miss having the time to read but listening is almost as good.
If you could change one thing or improve one thing about your small business experience, what would you want to change?
Hmm, what would I change. That is a difficult one. I have considered getting a car or a van, as we don’t have one at the moment, as we decided to give it up. That way I could do more shows. At the moment we just do two or three day ones with camping, we get dropped off at the beginning and picked up after. Would that be a good change? I would have to have a car to do more shows but I would have to use the extra shows to pay for a car!
What’s your favorite part of owning your own shop?
My favorite part of owning my shop is, of course, getting sales. I don’t chase them by creating coupons or offers, as I believe most of us undercharge for our work anyway, I just create beautiful things to the best of my ability and put them out there. People where I live don’t like to spend money on crafts, they tend to like everything to be made-in-China prices, so I save my best pieces for my Etsy shop and I know that they will go to people who will really appreciate them.
What’s your shopping weakness, something you can’t resist?
My shopping weakness is craft materials in general. I can’t resist! I have a stock of things I have collected, and I don’t always know what they will turn into, but they all get used eventually. Right now I am buying so many beads. I am away on a trip to Scotland and every time we pass through a town with charity shops (thrift stores) I go in looking for necklaces to dis-assemble. I have found some fabulous bargains! I have also been ordering tons of beads from other Etsy shops too, ready for a massive stock making effort when I get home. Very exciting!
What do you know now, but wish you knew when you first started your shop?
I don’t know if there is one thing I wish I had known when I first started my shop, there are so many different things I have learned to get right. Maybe how useful a good supportive team can be?
If you were trapped on an island, name 5 things you can’t live without. (Food, water, air are included, don’t worry!)
Five things I couldn’t live without if I was trapped on an Island. Hmm. My boyfriend, my dog, a small library (is that cheating? ok, a couple of good books, big ones), supplies for making a couple of big cross stitch patterns, that should keep me occupied for a while, and the facilities to make a good cup of tea.
What’s your most favorite kind of item to work on for your shop?
Usually my favorite kind of item to work on for my shop is any of my millefiori polymer clay colorful items, my mushroom houses or my mushroom necklaces. At the moment though I am really into tribal and surfer style jewelry, especially mens necklaces, which is good, as they are turning out to be quite popular. I usually use mostly bought beads for these, so in some ways it is less creative, but sourcing the right beads is an art form in itself and combining them just right is harder than I expected.
What’s your current favorite listing in your shop now? Why is that listing your favorite?
Can I cheat and choose two favorite items? They are very different, showing the two different styles of my work, and I really can’t decide between them. the first is HERE, I love the item, and I am really happy with the photograph too, it shows it perfectly.
You can find the second HERE, I burned through some of the best beads in my stash making it. It came out exactly how I wanted it to. I hope I can make more to this standard, but finding the beads is hard. There was another one, different beads but same style, but I am happy to say it sold yesterday.
When you open your shop page and look at what you’ve made, what’s the first feeling that comes to mind?
When I open my shop and look at it the first thing that comes to mind is usually ‘wow, did I do that, it looks very professional’. I am always surprised and pleased, which is nice. As I mentioned before, I tend to put my best pieces on Etsy, as that is where they seem to be appreciated most, so i am always looking at the best of my work.
What’s your favorite part about the Etsy community?
My favorite thing about the Etsy community is that it is just that, a community, a rare enough thing these days. It is amazing that it is a collection of shops, but also kind of a social networking site, and I have found some good friends through it, although I only know them electronically. The other thing is getting my work seen by people who appreciate and seek out handmade, and who value it, and who live all over the world. I read somewhere that there are around 850,000 sellers on Etsy, and at least two thirds of them are women who have been able to use this as a way to start a small business from home. Isn’t that amazing? I can buy handmade goods from people just like me, from anywhere in the world! If I think of something, I can find it. I watched the film Dark Shadows (I think that was what it was called) and a woman in it was wearing macrame owl earrings. I thought they were the coolest thing ever and so as soon as it had finished I looked on Etsy and found beautiful macrame owl jewelry, and ordered myself a necklace, made by a woman in Argentina, I think it was. It is so beautifully made and gives me so much pleasure. Etsy is more than a website, it is a phenomenon (phenomena?), and can contribute to a new and fairer economic system.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed meeting Fiona as much as all of us at Hippie Peaceniks have enjoyed getting to know her! Please visit her shop and facebook page to see more of her beautiful creations! And stay tuned for next week’s member feature! Until then, smile and make the world a little lighter!
Lulu Divine of Divine Lulu Creations