Part of my research for a new craft shop includes finding successful shops on Etsy that I admired. Not to steal their ideas, but to assess what makes me and others attracted to this shop and then to aspire to get to that level. I was looking for another paper-goods store that successfully found a unique niche, had a cohesive feel to the shop, and jumped off the search pages. Boy did I find one that hit all the marks! When Crafterall comes up on your search you can not help but click over to her products. The vibrant colors, the intriguing shapes, and the incredible photography not only blows the surrounding competition away it pulls you further and further into her shop, into her profile, and ultimately into the checkout. You want to own her work!
Admire is not a strong enough word for what I feel for this talented artist, Crafterall’s work is truly inspired! So I took my research one step further, I contacted the artist, Marnie Karger, and asked if I could feature her shop on my blog. I am very excited to announce not only did she agree, she let me ask her a few questions as well!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Crafterall!
My name is Marnie Karger. I live in a western suburb of Minneapolis, with my husband, our two clever daughters, and a retired racing greyhound. I think I have always been creative and crafty, and I’m thankful for the many opportunities growing up and in school that have allowed me to try new things and learn new skills. While I feel a very real need to be creative every day, I know that I can do that through many different outlets from cutting paper to reading a book out loud to my girls.
My inspiration to craft comes mainly from nature and the way the plant, animals, and even the rocks change and adapt to one another. The more I learn about any part of our world, the more brilliant and downright crafty I see it. I am also inspired by artists, poets, writers, composers, scientists and philosophers past and present who show me my world in new light. This may all sounds pretty corny, but it’s truly the root of it. Sure, it might be a photo of a sunset across a rippling lake that sends sparks of inspiration to my brain, but it’s that inherent wonder of the natural world that makes the idea stick as something worth pursuing.
I think my niche found me! Creating layered papercuts evolved from a happy accident and a series of deliberate evolutions. If people hadn’t responded to it so enthusiastically, I likely would have moved on and tried something else. Thankfully, the subjects for my work are nearly limitless and I still geek out over the geography, topography and bathymetry of the places people ask me to recreate. For the past 6 months or so, my tag line has been “Everybody’s Got A Lake” because, while it may not be true everywhere, here in Midwest and especially Minnesota, everyone either lives near, vacations on, or has a special affinity for a body of water around here, and I’m happy to play along with that sentiment.
Is this your full-time job?
While I would certainly consider being a decent Mom and a good wife my first and full-time job, it doesn’t pay the mortgage. So, instead, I happily declare that making and selling my artworks is my full-time job. It became more than just a hobby and “fun money” only about two years ago when the demand for my work became stronger and sales became steady. When, in the middle of filling two sizable wholesale orders, prepping for a big two-day craft show, taking in several requests for custom pieces each day, and chipping away at the bulk of daily sales before the winter holidays, I broke down in tears from the stress and exhaustion. It was then that I realized that this was indeed my capital “J” job, and that, as stressful and tear-inducing as it might be at the time, it was still way better than anything else that I could see myself doing. The tears dried, the seasonal sales waned, the orders were delivered, and I was about as proud of myself as I’ve ever been. Can’t beat that!
Can your work be found outside Etsy? If so, where is your work featured?
There are a number of retail shops and boutiques that currently carry Crafterall, some of them also sell their inventory online as well. Working west to east, there’s Oaklandish in Oakland, CA, Tilde in Portland, OR, FrameUps and Gallery 360 here in Minneapolis, MN, Anthology in Madison, WI, Greer and Orange Beautiful in Chicago, IL, and the MoMA store in New York, NY. Working with many of these reps and shop owners have been some of the brightest parts of my job as they are wonderfully supportive, human, and enthusiastic people. I should also note that most, if not all of these shops first found my work via Etsy, so I’m grateful for the exposure Etsy’s granted that has lead to my off-Etsy retail connections.
What do you enjoy the most about being a small business owner?
I agree with what a lot of the Etsy Featured Sellers and Quit Your Day Job folks have said that the best parts of being a small business owner and being your own boss are also the worst parts. I love setting my own agenda, but if I stray from it I feel doubly guilty. I love profiting directly from my sales, but taxes are scary. I love feeling proud of my accomplishments and the positive feedback I receive, but sometimes that success came from many, many late nights and groggy mornings of effort. In a nutshell, I love being the sole person responsible for my own success, AND it can be quite daunting being the sole person responsible for my own success. Really, though, blasting tunes in my basement studio while filling orders from enthusiastic patrons, not a bad gig at all!
What do you find is the most difficult part of being a business owner?
See the response above!
Do you have any words of encouragement for other fledgling shop owners such as myself or anything else you would like to add about your experiences on Etsy?
There is so much to learn about selling your work on Etsy, or anywhere for that matter. Do your homework before and during your selling expedition! Etsy can seem like a horizon-less ocean of shops and items, and it can seem like you need a miracle or a front-page appearance (or both!) to make a sale, but remember, just like the US Internal Revenue Service, Etsy WANTS you to make money, and they are there to help. Read through the How To Sell Guide, the Featured Seller and Quit Your Day Job interviews. Attend the webinars for newbies and watch other videos on photography, tagging, writing descriptions, and social networking. If you do this, certain key points will pop up over and over again that boil down to a few essential to-dos:
1. Make something awesome. If it’s not something people would want, trying to sell it is going to be really hard.
2. Take amazing photos of it. Since internet sales are so visually based, you need to show off your awesome thing as well as you can so that people don’t just get what it is, but they want to show it to all their friends, blog about it, tweet it, and ultimately find that they can’t possibly live without it.
3. Be a nice person. Sometimes making a sale is less about the item itself, and more about you bring a cool person from which to buy something. If people perceive you as being an inviting, engaging, fun, creative, quirky, [insert your most prominent and positive attribute here] person, there’s a pull to want a piece of that. You can shine through your product descriptions, your tweets, your blog, your photography style, and, of course, in the quality and care you put into your product itself. Along these same lines, pack your item well and ship it quickly so that you wow your customer with the kind of service that would impress yourself. Reinforce your coolness factor at every opportunity.
Marnie’s shop Crafterall can be found on Etsy here: Crafterall.Etsy.com
and here blog can be found here: Crafterall.com
I can’t thank Marnie enough for her time answering my questions so thoughtfully!