Interview with Artisan Beth Reiman

Today I am delighted to introduce you to Ms. Beth Reiman, the talented artisan behind BPR Designs. She kindly answered a few questions for Craftsyble readers. Before we start, I just want to let you know that Ms. Reiman makes the most beautiful glass soap dishes I have ever seen! Enjoy!

Handmade Glass Soap Dishes by BPR Designs. photo courtesy of BPR Designs

1.      When did you start BPR Designs and why? Whose idea was it?

I started my business just about three years ago. I had retired from my previous business career and had been spending even more time doing my glass work.  My house was full and it was either find a way to sell some pieces or get a bigger house. Selling seemed like the best alternative!  Of course I wasn’t sure anyone not in my family would buy anything, but I figured why not give it a try?

2.      Why glass?

I have always loved glass (stained, blown, fused) and decided about 5 years ago to take a fused glass and see where it led me. I was hooked almost immediately!  I love the colors and the textures of the glass and the fact that it is part science and part art!  You never quite know what you will get when you open the kiln, since the glass can be somewhat unpredictable.  I have had plenty of both happy and sad surprises since I started!  And the practical side of me loves that glass can be functional as well as beautiful.

Blue plaid set. Photo courtesy of BPR Designs

3.      What do you like the most about your business?

I love that is has given me the flexibility to still play in my shop, but it makes my “addiction” affordable!

4.      Having your own craft business has pros and cons. Can you please tell us about the cons of having a glass business?

I guess the biggest “con” I have seen is that it takes so much effort to promote the business that it cuts into my creative time. I think that is likely to be true in most art and craft related businesses. That’s why I try to support other artists and crafters when I can, because I think if we help each other we can all get back to our real passion — creating!

5.      Which, in your opinion, was the turning point in your business?

I took an “Etsy Basics” class here, in Portland, and I found it so helpful in condensing some key elements together: you need a great product, great photos, and promotion.  I stopped waiting for people to come find me and just got out in the forums, Facebook and lots of handmade sites and said “here I am!”  Once I started to have some sales and feedback, things just continued to build.

6.      Could you please describe a regular day at BPR Designs?

The morning looks like this most days: 1) Make the coffee!  2) Pop open the kiln.   3) Check Etsy site, e-mail and Facebook for any overnight sales and updates (keep to under an hour).  4) Package up any shipments to go out.  5) Check the light to see if it’s a picture day or not! (I live in Oregon — the winter has lots of “not” days!). If it’s not a good photo day, then I often use that as a “promo” day to network, work on ads, submit to blogs, follow up on FB, etc.

England flag. Photo courtesy of BPR Designs

Afternoons are more like this:  6) Out to the glass studio to work on projects.  7) Edit photos and/or post new listings to Etsy and FB.  8) Check e-mail, Etsy, FB, etc. for updates and convo’s.   9) Catch up on paperwork (I try to stay on top of all my accounting!)   Oh, and I usually sneak in a Pilates class several times a week, as well….(I have a really nice boss — me!)

7.      One of the questions I like to ask a lot: if you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have spent more time on my photos early on to draw people in. When I go back and look at them now I think — how did I think people would want to buy my glass from those photos? And I would have realized sooner how important networking and promotion is. I floundered around for nearly a year before I figured those two things out!

8.      Where can we find your products?

My Etsy shop: http://bprdesigns.etsy.com
Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/BPRDesigns
In Portland: at Local Discoveries on NE Alberta and 16th and at Mag-Big at SE 33rd and Hawthorne

Woven plate. Photo courtesy of BPR Designs.

9.      What’s next? Any plans?

I am always working on new lines and new methods for working my glass projects.  I have a notebook full of experiments to try!!

10.  Any piece of advice for new crafters?

There is no such thing as “your work sells itself.” Of course, you have to have a great product — that is your ticket to play. But no one can buy what they have not seen!  Promotion is part of the process if you want to sell your work. If you don’t spend some energy on it, you will get left behind. You get back what you put into it.

Interview with Designer Stacy Altiery

Today’s guest is Ms. Stacy Altiery, a very talented designer who makes unique and stylish, hand crafted stationery, note cards, invitations and other paper goodies. She kindly agreed to answer a few questions and share her experience.

1. When did you start Inkspot Workshop and why? Whose idea was it?

I started InkSpot Workshop in April of 2008 after my friend introduced me to Etsy.com Originally I was making envelopes out of pretty scrapbook papers and designing simple initial stationery to match but soon I became overwhelmed with orders and hand making envelopes didn’t seem like such a great business idea anymore. Instead I compromised and I now make my own hand lined envelopes with patters I design and make. I also continue to improve my graphic design skills.

Stacy @ InkSpot Workshop
photo courtesy of Stacy with InkSpot Workshop

2. Tell us about the mind and driving force behind Inkspot Workshop.

I have always been an extremely driven and creative individual who found herself in the field of professional sales over the past 15 years. I’ve sold everything from makeup, copiers food to my final sales position which was selling medical devices for a large company over the past 9 years. I would make “pretty” product flyers as a creative outlet, but it still was a bit limiting.

3. What kind of products or services do you offer?

I coach other women looking to get started in their own businesses or already established, figured I could help shed some light on what I’ve learned over the close to 3 years. I also do custom design work for business owners, custom design work for people looking to host a special party or event, plus just about all of my items are personalized. I offer stationery, invitations and all matching paper accessories, baby shower activities, magnets even jewelry.

photo courtesy of Stacy with InkSpot Workshop
photo courtesy of Stacy with InkSpot Workshop

4. What makes Inkspot Workshop different?

I’m a small, hand crafted business offering artisan paper goodies in small batches. You are dealing directly with me and not a large customer service department. People really like the one-on-one approach especially since personalized items or custom designed items require quite a bit of communication. I also think what makes InkSpot Workshop different is the fact I offer personalized items in small quantities. You can get a set of 12 personalized note cards, whereas most specialty retailers have the minimum quantity for personalization as 50. Plus InkSpot Workshop designs are colorful and modern and that has become our signature style.

5. If you were to describe Inkspot Workshop in 3 words, what words would you choose?

bright, modern, fun

6. Please tell us about one of your “aha” moments.

This is actually funny.. for the longest time I would trace 2 envelope liners onto a single sheet of paper and cut. It took two years to realize I could simply trace the liners on one sheet of paper and hold 2 more together and cut all at once. Now instead of cutting 2 at a time, I’m cutting 6 at a time! It has cut down my production time significantly.

7. If you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have quit my day job sooner!! Instead I was laid off just a few months ago and had a party!

8. What do you think helped your business bloom?

photo courtesy of Stacy with InkSpot Workshop
photo courtesy of Stacy with InkSpot Workshop

All of the contacts I have made in the blogging and social media world. I have gotten lots of free press. Also my attention to detail and superb customer service keeps my customers coming back and telling all their friends:) Thank heaven for that.

9. How do you advertise your business?

I do promotions with other blogs where I know it’s a good fit. I’m a big fan of using Facebook and Twitter, plus I have my own blog (see all links below) I have an e-newsletter to keep in constant contact with my subscribers, plus I purchase ad space on certain blogs where I think I might gain some new eyes.

10. What advice would you give to a crafter who has just started?

Stay true to your original idea and just go for it! Don’t over think the whole business process too much. Also try not to look at what “everyone else is doing” too much or you will eventually go crazy and end up with copycat designs. That’s just my 2 cents worth.

Here are a few places where you can find Stacy:

Site: www.inkspotworkshop.com
Blog: www.blog.inkspotworkshop.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/inkspotworkshop
Facebook: www.facebook.com/InkSpotWorkshop
Dog Lover? www.firehydrantpress.etsy.com this is my “sister site” where I donate a portion of all sales to Last Chance For Animals

Interview with Leather Artist Kara Ginther

Carved leather belts by Kara Ginther
Carved leather belts by Kara Ginther. Photo courtesy of Kara Ginther.

Today’s guest is Ms. Kara Ginther, one of the most remarkable leather artists out there! She kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Craftsyble readers.  

Before we start, here is a little bit about Kara:  

Using fine wood carving tools, she hand carves leather bicycle saddles with intricate patterns, removing the thinnest surface layer to create rich contrast and texture in the leather. Kara is 26 and is based out of Madison, Wisconsin, where she obtained a Bachelors degree in Textile Design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She uses her textile background to find inspiration for her patterns and imagery. Much of her work is commissioned privately, incorporating designs ranging from simple logos to intricate patterns that cover the seat. Prices for her work are anywhere from $99-$400. A fully carved saddle can take up to two weeks to complete.

Kara loves to work one-on-one with her clients to create unique and personal products. Her work is not exclusive to saddles. She has also embellished bags, belts, and shoes and is currently developing a line of accessories for both men and women.

Her website is: KaraGinther.com 

1. Your products are fantastic! You are so talented! When, why and how did you start your business? (I’m so glad you did!!)  

Thank you, thank you!  My business started through a series of synchronistic events, really.  I spent my undergraduate career and the following years experimenting with leather carving and all its potential.  I also teamed up with my best friend on several art installations, one of which was a mobile museum pulled behind a tandem bike.  This specific project birthed the idea of a hand carved Brooks saddle.   It was the fall of 2009 when I carved my first saddle and posted images of the final product on flickr.  Within days I was featured on some big blogs and started receiving commission requests shortly after.  

2. What’s your favorite product?  

My favorite and most successful designs happen when I can carve a really high quality, really useful product.  Brooks saddles are a good example of this.  More than anything, I want people to incorporate my work into their daily lives. Whether they sit on it, walk in it, or wrap it around their waist, I want people to experience the product intimately.  

More specifically, I especially love to carve shoes and boots.
Carved Dansko clogs by Kara Ginther.
Carved Dansko clogs by Kara Ginther. Photo courtesy of Kara Ginther.

3. Do you do only custom work or can our readers find your products in stores?  

Right now I have a line of belts available through Anthropologie.  Other than this, my work is by commission, although I will occasionally sell things on my etsy shop.  

4. One question we like to ask a lot: if you were to start your business all over again, what would you do differently?  

My business per se started quite unexpectedly, literally overnight.   Looking back, it could have been no other way.  If I would have had time to think about the journey I was embarking on, I would have undoubtedly talked myself out of it.  If you choose to jump into something like this, however, you must be prepared for a lot of on-the-spot learning (i.e. stressful google sessions).  If you are not good at being put on the spot, I would highly recommend having a fundamental knowledge of small business and all it entails.  Have someone around who can answer your questions.  Do not be too proud to ask questions that are really basic.  Most important, stay professional and confident.  No one needs to know that you’re doing this for the first time.  

I would recommend spending a lot of time mastering your craft.   Mastery is important for a couple reasons:  first, it will be what separates you from your competition and second, it will eliminate having to learn new techniques under pressure.  You should have complete confidence in your skill level when you promise a product to a client.  It can be very stressful to have to learn a new technique while your client waits.  Let your craft become second nature and be discerning about what projects you take on.  You must continue learning, of course, but do it at your own pace and with your own motivations.

Finally (and what I feel is most important) do not consider one kind of work to be more important than another, especially when you work from home.  It is just as important that you spend time being playful as it is to spend time being responsible or organized.  I have used a lot of energy trying to analyze the most efficient use of my time, only to discover the best thing you can do for yourself is to forget that time exists.  Indulge yourself in the seemingly unrelated projects.  Wander, both physically and mentally.  On the surface it may seem like you are unfocused, but I guarantee that you will soon be able to see the common thread that weaves its way into everything you do.   In this way, you will always know your next step based on what excites you.  You won’t always be able to make sense of it but that is okay.

5. Some of our readers are business owners (crafters); what word of advice would you give to a beginner in the leather carving industry?  

 Leather crafting is an ancient practice, but much of what we see today fits into very specific aesthetics that appeal to very specific products.  Yet leather is very prevalent in today’s fashions.  Every day I think about the numerous ways I can bring something completely fresh and new to leather goods.   When all is said and done, there really isn’t a whole lot of competition in the leather carving field.  There is definitely room in the world for more leather artists.  Focus on creating leather products that veer away from the typical.  There are people other than cowboys and Harley fans who would like to wear leather.   

Custom saddles by Kara Ginther
Custom saddles by Kara Ginther. Photo courtesy of Kara Ginther

 6. What are you up to these days?  

To be honest, I currently find myself at a crossroads.  This past year has allowed me to experience small business on many different levels.  I have worked intimately with individuals to create products based on their unique motivations and inspirations.  I have also worked with large companies, creating multiples of one product to be sold internationally.  It is time now that I pause and decide which of these aspects are most important for my work and lifestyle.  Right now, you can find me trying to take my own advice (see #4) to be playful, spontaneous and happy.  I’ve been checking out stacks of books from the library and going on walks.  I’ve been doing some traveling and indulging in my other obsession (cooking).  I’m working on launching a website called Do Nothing Design (donothingdesign.com), which will explore the creative process in the context of nature and returning to the source of creativity.  And, of course, I am still carving, working on refining my skill and experimenting on new products.  

Sometimes I feel as if I’m forging ahead blindly.  That being said, I have no doubt that this will be an exciting and successful year.

7. Any events coming up?  

A few projects are in the works, but nothing I can talk about quite yet.  I will do my best to keep you updated via Facebook and Flickr!

Carved leather products by Kara Ginther
Carved leather products by Kara Ginther. Photo courtesy of Kara Ginther

Interview with Grace Anker

photo courtesy of potterswheelny.com

Today’s guest is Ms. Grace Anker from “The Potter’s Wheel” in Kew Gardens, New York. I absolutely love her work and I want to share her story. Here is our interview:

What made you choose ceramics?

Raised with old-world values, I was introduced to needle crafts at the age of four or five.  It gave me great pleasure to use my hands to create intricate patterns and to construct  decorative and functional pieces – everything from toys and clothing, to wall hangings, to table linens and bedding.

By chance, while in my early twenties, I happened upon a pottery studio in midtown Manhattan.  I immediately took to it, but soon found little time for it when raising a family.  Nearly, thirty years later, I found myself enrolling in a wheel class, and I haven’t stopped since. The clay inspires me and helps me center focus my energy and imagination.

2. If you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?

Easy! I would have never stopped potting, but then again, it may have all happened for a reason.

 3. What’s the best advice you would give to someone who is just starting pottery?

What I tell beginners is to have patience and give themselves time to develop their style.  Patience means to focus the “now” – creating in clay being a lengthy process – each step is important.

soap dishes by Grace Anker
soap dishes by Grace Anker

4. What accomplishment is the closest to your heart?

That is so hard to answer because I am so passionate about creating, however, what I deeply prize are the stamped cylinders I’ve created over the years. I often incorporate the textured surfaces some of which resemble textile and others that evoke the graphic patterns of Gustave Klimt, the Austrian Impressionist.

5. What are you up to now? What are you working on these days?

My work centers on three distinct forms – platters, vessels, and tiles. It is constantly fresh for me and recently animals and landscapes are figuring into the designs.

6. Where can we find you?

I can be found at graceanker.etsy.com , on Twitter @platterpotter and at the teaching studio potterswheelny.com