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June 15, 2011
Next up in the interview series is London-based illustrator James Ward – aka. JimBobArt. James’ work caught my eye on Etsy where he runs a successful shop selling his curious animal drawings and custom illustrated ceramics. I fell in love with his Mr Badger print (below) which tells the story of seven-year-old Viv and her badger toy, and was eager to find out more about James’ ideas and inspirations.
"Viv, 7, is never seen at a birthday party without Mr. Badger. He is her ruin and her foil, often taking the rap for the destruction they both leave in their wake. Viv has a penchant for Victoria sponge cake and party bags."
1. Can you talk us through your journey from studying illustration at Westminster University to Etsy success with over 700 sales?
The experience I gained from Westminster University was invaluable. We were given freedom to find our own style but also encouraged to find new ways to communicate. Illustration can be a difficult industry to get into so I wanted to supplement my income by selling in markets and local shops. I had to find a product, and so I started with plates.
It took a couple of months for sales to get going at first but I kept adding more and more products and sales eventualy picked up. My most popular illustration is probably the first plate I drew which is the 'Hungry Bear' plate (below). I think it is popular because we can all relate to someone finishing off the food on our plates, plus the bear looks a little aggressive which works with the text.
2. Your work depicts animals in striking detail, what inspires your illustrations and why did you decide to work with ceramics?
I’ve always drawn animals - I enjoy creating an emotional content with their expressions or with text. I first decided to work with ceramics on a visit to Stockholm – the range of natural history surface design inspired me to want to create similar products but more quirky or humourous. I have always loved the Table Stories plate range by Tord Boontje (below), which is a big inspiration.
I love looking out for quirky illustrations on Etsy my favourite shop at the moment is Retrowhale, loads of brilliant artwork!
3. How did you start selling through Etsy and what have your learnt from the experience?
A friend, who is also a designer-maker, introduced me to Etsy just over a year ago. It was simple to open up a shop and there is so much help for sellers in the hundreds of blogs and workshops.
I have learnt so much in the past 12 months and there is a real community of sellers out there so just speaking to other people has been a huge help. My main piece of advice to new sellers would be to get a space other than you own home to do your work. I’ve just recently moved into a new studio and it’s made such a difference. I can leave work at work and relax at home.
4. How do you market and promote your business?
I’ve been lucky with some great promotion from blogs early on. I often send my work to editors and art designers from magazines and have Twitter and Facebook pages so I can post any new work and let people know about the various markets I’m selling at. I'll try and devote a couple of hours a week but it can quite boring, so sometimes if I am stuck in a project it will get forgotten about.
6. Tell us about your work space, and an average day in the lift of Jimbob?
I share a studio space in Angel with three fellow Westminster illustration graduates. I get in early to go through my emails and plate orders; the quicker I do them the more time I have to create new illustrations. I’m currently working on a pen and ink drawing of a bear, and also have a seven foot pencil drawing of various animals playing musical instruments in a forest to finish! I generally set aside one day a week to focus on marketing, and also aim to create two new products a week.
June 1, 2011
Morning friends, now we're settling in to our new online home, I can share that the blog is getting an exciting revamp with some fun new features. While it’s still firmly focused on interiors, I’m going to be introducing more creative areas of life, style, shopping and inspiration.
I think we all adore finding out about creative people who are doing things they love, so an interview feature seemed like the perfect fit. I really hope you enjoy it.
We’re kicking off with an absolute corker – Etsy’s UK Community Manager – Amity Roach. I must start by saying that I absoluely adore Etsy - we have recently opened our Ruby Rhino shop, and I frequently buy all kinds of amazing and unsusual goodies. There's nothing quite like buying direct from a seller where it is clear that their love, thought and time has gone into everything from the product itself, to their shop, styling, photography and packaging. It really is special.
Surrounded with so much inspiration every day, Amity seems to have a dream job, so I was curious to discover what her role involves and if she has any Etsy secrets to share (she does!). So grab a cup of tea, sit back and read on (and maybe hide your credit card).
Amity's stunning hand-crafted recycled fine silver jewelry is a huge success - she made a massive 1,177 sales before taking a hiatus.
1. Could you tell us more about your role at Etsy and how you got involved?
I've always been a big Etsy fan, it feels like such an exciting place. Back in 2006 I began selling my own mineral photography on stationary . The cards did really badly, (I still have stack sitting at home!) but getting involved in the community taught me so much and inspired me to give jewelry making a go.
I found a niche by trusting what was exciting to me, and before long I had a successful business on my hands. My jewelry shop is now on hiatus so that I can focus on my work with Etsy and other creative avenues, but I'm learning completely new skills and hope to be selling something very different in the not too distant future.
I was going along to the Etsy UK meet ups back then, so when the call was put out for a London-based blogger, I literally jumped. I spend a lot of time conversing with community members one-on-one, giving live workshops and developing tools for new sellers like the start-up manual I'm working on at the moment. There are so many different things I can find myself doing from day to day, it's never boring
2. The UK Etsy market seems behind the US, why do you think this is and how can UK sellers help to raise the profile of Etsy here?
I think it's simply because Etsy is newer to the UK than it is to the US, but things are changing rapidly now. I'd recommend that sellers keep producing amazing and innovative work, and tell people about your shop at every opportunity.
I'd really love to see more groups set up local meet-ups all over the country and drag their friends along for fun evenings. There's a lot to be said for word of mouth, as I think that's gotten Etsy where it is today, but we're also working on several large press drives to put the spotlight on sellers.
3. Can you share some top tips for new Etsy sellers?
Be true to yourself, get involved in the community, take amazing photos of your products and be sure to make use of the Location Autosuggest feature in your profile so that we can find your items.
That's it in a teeny, tiny nutshell but honestly I think the main thing is to keep looking at all of the incredible resources we have at Etsy, and keep asking for help. The UK & Ireland Seller Support Team is already a hive of activity - I really encourage local sellers to join and jump right in if they have questions. There's a thread about the top five things sellers wish they had known when they first joined Etsy, which is so good.
Hand-painted antlers from Cassandra Smith are firmly on Amity's Etsy wish list.
4. The wealth of choice on Etsy can feel a little overwhelming for new buyers – what advice would you give on how to search and find what they’re looking for?
Totally, and we're working on ways to make that experience much, much better. To start with, the more specific you can be when searching, the better. Adding or changing words in a search result will bring you lots of interesting things. I often order my search results by highest price first, and the Local Items filter is brilliant for finding nearby sellers (see below).
The Taste Test is an awesome tool if you just want to explore exceptionally cool things that suit your style. Another great way to explore Etsy is to look at other people's favourites and add them to your circle. If you come across a gorgeous shop, chances are that you will love everything in that seller’s favourites too and you’ll have lots of goodies your Activity Feed in no time at all.
5. What are your favourite Etsy buys, and what new finds are on your wish list?
My latest purchase was an instant favourite. This bag (above) by hoakonhelga makes me weak at the knees - it is upcycled from an old leather jacket, and buttery soft to the touch. My walkman iPhone case from tovicorrie (below) is another super cool leather piece, people comment on it all the time.
I have a host of pink and turquoise vintage glass mugs from various sellers which I love with a passion (below). Several of them are now little plant pots, which look really cute in the kitchen. The Lunatic print from brandistrickland is quite literally prescribing a look for my living room.
I long for an antler MadeByCassandraSmith and some modern concrete planters. I'd really love an upcycled book lamp like the ones by typewriterboneyard. There are lots being made in the US but getting the wiring converted for the UK is a bit of a palava, so I'm holding out for now and hoping that a UK seller starts creating something similar. I say a little prayer for that every night.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to Amity for taking part in the first interview, I hope she's inspired you to get buying or selling on Etsy.
May 3, 2011
Our garden is a hive of activity for birds at the moment, attracting all sorts including a couple of robins who have made themselves at home in the hedge. Birds have been popular in the interior design world for some time, but while I do love a printed fabric or cushion, it's detailed pictures of birds that I'm into at the moment.
In fact it's vintage bird book plates that are particularly catching my eye, something Etsy seems to have in abundance. Here's a collection of my faves, which I may snap up but I'm also on the hunt for an old bird book on my treasure hunting travels.