amandajocrafts

November 27, 2012

On Pieces of Elise’s.

Well, last weekend, my fiance and I were watching Singing in the Rain, and as usual, I couldn’t get enough of the old-style singing and dancing. They just don’t make movies like they used to!

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks so! Elise, the creator and mastermind behind Pieces of Elise’s, makes darling paper dolls from the “good old days,” like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. (Why don’t men know how to dance anymore?!)

However, she doesn’t stop there!

Pieces of Elise’s is a virtual treasure trove of fun drawings in Elise’s own unique style, craftily re-made into paper dolls, magnets, stickers, puppets, and custom drawings, not to mention jewelry and masks.

I can relate to Elise quite rapidly; like me, she’s an office administrator by day and an Etsyian by night and weekends (and any other time she can slip it in there)! It takes great dedication to maintain a shop while having a day job, and it’s great to see her persevering with such fun, interesting creations!

In order to make it all work, she schedules her Etsy time, “tweaking things, adding products, answering conversations, a couple of times a week, mainly on my days off.” She even has her mom get in on the fun by messaging clients and creating forms. Says Elise, “She’s a real lifesaver!”

When asked, Elise said her favorite item in her shop is her “portrait of a lady with big hair :)” This drawing is so expressively done, and so full of confidence and vigor in both the figure and in Elise’s own pencil strokes, that it’s not hard to see why this is a favorite!

However, her favorite items to make in her shop are her articulated paper dolls. She likes “that they are movable and interactive. They appeal to kids and adults. The classic Hollywood articulated paper dolls I make can be posed and are cool miniatures of the actual celebrities.” Most importantly, “I just love drawing people and I feel like I’m bringing something to life.”

With options from Adele to Alfred Hitchcock, these are truly unique creations that I can honestly say I haven’t seen before. What a great idea for a gift–especially since her dolls cover such a wide range of pop culture references. And, if there’s something you want in particular, she always does custom orders!

(I just love the way she drew his face–it’s exactly the expression I picture him to have.)

It’s clear that Elise is talented, and it seems that it runs in the family. “I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mom was a graphic artist and studied abroad during college in Italy. She spent time drawing with my brother and I when we were little and it became something we both loved to do.” That passion stuck with her as she grew older. “When I went to high school I took three art classes: pottery, art, and jewelry class. I liked them all, but I think drawing always came easiest to me.”

Of course, I have to finish up by asking her where she sees her shop heading in the months and years to come. In the short term, she plans to keep right on trucking along: adding items, doing custom orders, and having fun with her shop. For the long term, she wants to spread the word about her shop, quit her day job, and be an artist!

So, if you’re interested in some Pieces of Elise’s, head on over to her shop. You can also check out her blog for some personal pieces of Elise, as well!

September 11, 2012

On Jen’s Tangled Threads.

What better way to start bundling up for fall and winter than by thinking of some nice, warm feet! As you know, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the weather change, as I am much more of an autumn than a summer type of girl, and Jen’s Tangled Threads is the perfect shop to get me in the spirit of the changing season.

Jen is a one-woman operation–though her son is her official color coordinator–working in her spare time (which, as all mothers know, is a farce of an expression) and taking moments between dance competitions and caring for her son to crochet her invention: flip-furs. Flip-furs actually originated from attending dance competitions. She noticed many of the dancers did not have a simple alternative to the dance shoes they wore onstage, and would stay in those uncomfortable shoes or just go barefoot (even in the bathrooms, which I’d agree is pretty yucky) when they weren’t dancing.

As a former (not-at-all-professional) dancer myself, and with fifteen years of ballet, tap, and jazz under my belt, I can definitely attest to that issue. With tap, you certainly can’t wear those shoes around after you perform, and with jazz or ballet, you wear out the shoes much faster if you keep them on when you don’t need them. And as to the barefoot option–no, thanks. (Have you seen the research on all the foot diseases??)

So, to offer another option, Jen created her flip-furs. Girls had a warmer, comfier option than just flip-flops when they weren’t onstage, and they, and their parents, didn’t have to worry about what they might be picking up while they strolled around. (I wish I had heard of these when I was dancing!)

Expanding your horizons, they would also make some awesome dorm slippers for those college kids you know. (Back in my day, I would have JUMPED on a lime green pair. Everything was lime green for me–sheets, rugs, lamps, lightbulbs….drove my now fiance crazy then, I’m sure. He’s dark blues and browns all the way.)

Although her flip-furs are her favorite item in her shop–I’d be proud of them too, they’re so unique!–her favorite items to make are her baby blankets. She uses Caron Simply Soft for them, and finds it more friendly to work with than other yarns. (I myself am a huge Caron Simply Soft fan–I’m using it for the knitted, hooded scarf I was chatting about last week!)

Right now, there’s a beautiful rainbow blanket in her shop, customizable for whatever colors you want!

Look for some more baby blankets, as well as washcloths and doilies, to be peeking their way in amongst the flip-furs in the upcoming months, as having more ready-to-ship items in her shop is one of her long-term shop goals. (That and marrying a rich man, so she can spend more time crocheting, of course!) The first of her new items is already up: a crochet shawl wrap perfect for those cool fall nights. Again, it’s made with her favorite Caron Simply Soft yarn.

In addition to selling on Etsy, she also sells at her son’s dance studio and has begun branching out at craft fairs. It’s a rough market to be in, and I give her kudos for taking the time to try craft fairs. I’ve only done one, myself.

Finally, I asked her to weigh in on my “pricing for profit” debate (click here if you haven’t read about it yet). Like many other crocheters, she’s been struggling with the balance between fair wages for her and inexpensive prices for her customers. “Somehow I can’t make myself raise my prices beyond what they are now….my biggest customer base is my dance moms, and they spend so much [already] on dance lessons.” It’s a rough decision to make, but I applaud her for addressing the issue and tackling it; it’s something each crocheter has to decide for herself.

So, if you’re digging Jen and her tangled threads, you should check out her shop. And if you’re looking to find out even more about her unique Flip-Furs, you can learn more and follow her on Facebook, Twitter (@jtangledthreads), or Blogspot. Expect a giveaway from Jen via her blog once she reaches fifty followers! (So it’s the perfect time to go on over there and start following!)

Want to be featured yourself? Click on over here for the submission form.

August 23, 2012

On The Sun and the Turtle.

Owls…owls…OWLS!

That’s the first thing that strikes me about The Sun and the Turtle, a Finland-based Etsy shop. I also have a weakness for really cute owls, so (of course) I got hit head-on by “want, want, want!”

With her partner, John, Jennifer keeps The Sun and the Turtle full of crocheted and knitted pieces. When I asked her which she prefers, she was split: “Tricky question :). I like to crochet the amigurumis. It’s a great feeling to see them form in my hands. Almost like magic, they form with my hook as the wand.

“At the same time, I make winter hats and mittens for the long winters in Finland, and I can knit for hours listening to audiobooks or talking with my partner John while we work with The Sun and the Turtle.

“I cannot choose! Both of them have their magic.”

Knitting, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult disciplines to sell on Etsy. It’s so very time-consuming, and since a majority of Etsy knit buyers are those who don’t know how, they don’t always realize how much work goes into a piece. In addition, amigurumis are a sub-market. Although they are, essentially, really adorable dolls and animals, some people don’t know that name for them and, therefore, don’t know to even search for them on Etsy! (For more about amigurumis, click here for an earlier post.)

So, I’m particularly pleased to have the opportunity to learn more about The Sun and the Turtle, because I’m all about increasing amigurumi exposure! And who wouldn’t want one of these adorable amigurumis? Jenn’s heart goes into them: “I love to be crazy with my amigurumis. Now it feels very fun to crochet them because I have hooked so many that I feel confident. I usually make a drawing first and then I start hooking them. The imagination is the limit. :)”

Once you get the hang of crocheting in the round, it’s simple! Try out this strawberry pattern as a good starter project.

In addition to the adorable strawberry, The Sun and the Turtle recently launched a blog, where there are some awesome free amigurumi patterns. You can check it out here.

Jennifer’s favorite item in her shop is her Knitted Owl iPhone pouch.

I seriously hope she’s using one herself, because I think just walking around with that would sell itself! She has a great feel for combining the essentials of an owl with her own splash of creativity; they’re recognizable as owls, but they’re also uniquely The Sun and the Turtle’s. These animals “come from our admiration for animals and nature. We spend a lot of time in the woods, and there you learn how to appreciate every single living form. Through that admiration and the crystallization of our ideas we spread a message of awareness because we want animals and nature to be treated with dignity and respect.”

It’s a lofty responsibility, but one that Jenn and John treat with pride. All the more admirable, because Jenn runs her shop while also attending school. She doesn’t see it as an added chore, though, but a “fun” responsibility. “I just make our products and post them once they are ready and well done. Then I continue with the gazillion things I have to do. It is a matter of organizing your time and not get too stressed about everything.” Words of wisdom I should take into my own heart as I go back for my master’s this September!

Finally, I brought up “The Great Etsy Christmas.” Etsy sellers have already begun preparing for this annual event, stocking their shop and buying extra supplies to ship out the upcoming high demand of items. In The Sun and the Turtle, expect to see some woolen winter hats rolling out in early October. My personal favorite is the one with the mermaid!

So, if you’re enjoying these unique creations as much as I am, come and check out The Sun and Turtle. The best part? Even though they’re in Finland, the internet brings them right to you! “Etsy is a global community where people appreciate all the wonderful creations despite nationality or borders. It is awesome when someone who believes in what you do can have it via post, and are willing to wait a few days more for the product to arrive.” I completely agree!

As always, if you’re an Etsy shop with personality, attitude, and a passion for creating, feel free to submit to be featured on amandajocrafts!

August 17, 2012

On ChatterBlossom

Filed under: On Features. — amandajocrafts @ 11:24 am

Today, I hung out (online, of course. The World Wide Web is a magical creation.) with Jamie Lee, owner of one of my new favorite Etsy shops: ChatterBlossom. She sells accessories for weddings and other special occasions. Her wedding fascinators are fresh and plucky, and her upcycled bows and bobby pins are vintage chic.

(No touching; I have dibs on this one as a reward for my next sale!)

Opened recently (May 22 of this year), ChatterBlossom already has a strong sense of shop style. So many new Etsy sellers have trouble at first with creating a coherent, professional look to her shop. Jamie, however, brushed off my compliment and said: “I really tried to make the best of what I have. I don’t have a studio, an amazing camera, or even a model. I just try to take clear photos without too much fluff. And I spend HOURS trying to take the photos of the pieces in my own hair. Just set timer, run, repeat!”

What first really struck me about Jamie’s shop is how much she knows about her creations; she doesn’t just tell you what they are and how they were made, she tells you who you are if you like that piece. Her favorite piece is the “Let’s Fall in Love” fascinator, which is also a great example of what I’m talking about:

I don’t just get to read about what it looks like (in beautiful, yet succinct, detail–I should be taking notes from her!), but I also get the following:

Personalities: The Dreamy and Affectionate
Places you’ll find yourself: Moonlit, romantic walks along hidden woodland trails

What a unique way to describe a piece! And the most beautiful part is, I can see it. It’s a dreamy, ethereal world full of delicious nature surprises budding around every corner. It makes me desperately want to be wearing that fascinator in the woodland trails with my fiance, relishing in the intimacy of the moonlight. In two lines, she has painted that complete picture for me.

Her favorite item to make in her shop is her “Golden Buttons” bobby pins:

When I asked why, she told me “I love to hunt for them and find a little work of art each time. Pairing them with other treasured buttons is liking reuniting old friends.” The buttons do look like old friends; although they’re all found different places, the combinations posted really seem as though they were meant to be together.

 She obviously takes pride in her work product, and rightly so. Even though she claims she’s an amateur photographer, her photos do a great job of giving value to her piece, and I think we’re all getting a huge bargain. But, she has different aspirations. Although she would like to have steady, consistent sales, and is building her stock steadily toward that goal, mostly “I would just like to know there are fun, beautiful women walking around with my fascinators in their hair.”

I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that I will be one of those women!

Before I let her get back to her shop, I asked her one more question: what is her Etsy weakness? (All Etsy sellers have one; we spend way too much time building networks on that site not to fall in love with something: a style, product, or genre.) Hers, hands down, is vintage clothing. (I’m with her.) “I heart vintage hats, dresses, and shoes like it’s going out of style (and coming back in again! 😉 )”

You can find ChatterBlossom right here on Etsy. And, if you think Jamie is pretty cool too, you should definitely check out her blog, as well. I’m a follower!

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