qr Get Crafty B Local artists, crafters and jewelry makers

Get Crafty
Local artists, crafters and jewelry makers
find an online audience for their creations.
by Kristen Senz R photography by Douglas K. Hill
y the time shoppers arrive,
vendors at the region’s many craft
fairs often have already spent hundreds of hours and dollars renting
and setting up booths, traveling to
events, and creating their wares.
Although selling art and other handmade goods on the craft fair circuit
is a fun, personal way to make
money doing what they love, because
of the high overhead, many talented
artists find it nearly impossible to
earn enough to pay the bills.
That’s why so many artists,
locally and across the country, have
turned to Etsy, an online marketplace of handmade and vintage items
Artist Linda Gould of Claremont, N.H., uses Etsy to sell her signature eyeglass loops (left) under her
shop name Lindy’s Loops. Gould sells vintage jewelry in addition to her upcycled designs.
Kearsarge Magazine • Summer 2013 • kearsargemagazine.com
that’s open 24 hours a day
to shoppers all over the
world. For artists willing
to spend time developing
their virtual storefronts
and marketing them
through social media and
other online channels,
Etsy provides a powerful
means of earning supplemental income.
Shop local online
Erica Walker of
Walker Silverworks in
North Sutton, N.H.,
learned about silver
smithing from her father,
who always encouraged
her and her two sisters
to pursue their creative
passions. A designer and
maker of sterling silver
jewelry with clean lines
and unpolished beauty,
Walker set up her Etsy
storefront about seven
years ago, when the site
was in its infancy.
“When I first started,
it was a much smaller
community of people who
were really supportive,”
says Walker, a full-time
silversmith for the past
eight years. “It helped me
New London, N.H., artist Laura Chowanski sells gothic, steam punk and fantasy-style jewelry (left)
through her Etsy store, Madame Bijou Beads.
gain the confidence and courage in
building my business.”
Between photographing her
work, listing it for sale, and marketing, Walker, 46, spends several hours
each week maintaining her online
shop. She treats it as a part-time job,
which makes sense, because it’s now
responsible for about one-third of her
annual income.
“It took a couple years to get off
the ground, but now it’s a really successful business, and Etsy has been
a big part of that,” she says. “They
have the built-in customer base, and
it’s grown so much, so that it’s really
a worldwide customer base.”
A global audience
Etsy — a nonsense word the
site’s founders invented
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— grew by about 70 percent between
2011 and 2012, logging more than
$895 million in sales last year. Artists
and crafters use the Etsy platform to
set up stores with built-in payment
and message functions. The site attracts shoppers who place a premium
on buying handmade items, and the
site’s “Shop Local” feature makes it
easy to find local sellers. Etsy collects
3.5 percent of each sale and a fee of
20 cents per item listed on the site.
The low cost of doing business
on Etsy, combined with the ability
to log in and work on her store at
her convenience, is what drew Linda
Gould of Claremont, N.H., to the site.
Gould, who was chronically misplacing her glasses, started making her
signature eyeglass loops when she was
unable to find holders that appealed
to her sense of style. Soon friends and
acquaintances were requesting them,
and demand started to grow.
A speech language pathologist
with a private practice that spans
most of northern New England,
Gould needs her hobby to fit into
her busy schedule. She tried selling
at local craft fairs, but the cost, time
commitment and limited market made
it difficult to break even, especially
given that she was only able to accept
cash payments. “I was looking for
another way to market my jewelry,
and to be able to do it in the time that
I had available,” Gould says.
Her vintage upcycled designs
found a following on Etsy after she
set up her shop, Lindy’s Loops, in
late 2009. She started buying vintage
jewelry in lots at auctions and using
elements from the pieces she found
to make her eyeglass loops and other
jewelry. In addition to filling dozens
of Etsy orders for her own work, she
started selling her unused vintage
jewelry on the site.
“I love that Etsy has allowed me
to do this,” she says. “There wasn’t
any other venue that would’ve allowed
me to do it and to make money at it.”
she’s now getting a couple of orders
per week. “Once you get going, it’s a
pretty easy process,” she says.
Treasuries of favorites
North Sutton, N.H., artist Erica Walker sells her
sterling silver jewelry, such as these earrings,
on Etsy.
Online, Gould has branched out,
both in terms of the jewelry she’s
making and the audience she’s reaching. “I would say a quarter of all the
sales I do are international, and I
would never have that market otherwise, so that’s a huge piece of it.”
The main challenge for all
“Etsians” — as they often call themselves — is figuring out how to be
found by shoppers awash in a sea of
more than 400,000 shops on the site.
Chowanski recently set up pages on
Facebook and Pinterest with links to
her Etsy storefront, and like many
Etsy sellers, she started blogging as a
way to promote her work.
The staff at Etsy headquarters
in Brooklyn, N.Y., added features to
the site to assist artists in marketing
themselves. Featured and just-listed
items scroll across the home page,
providing visitors with a direct link
to the stores where they are for sale.
Etsy also allows artists and shoppers
to mark an item as a favorite, which
can impact its ratings in the › › › › ›
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Finding your tribe
Laura Chowanski is a member
of the League of N.H. Craftsmen for
her work with fabrics, which includes
wall hangings, bags and stuffed
animals. But she recently shifted her
focus from fabric arts to beading,
partly in response to the recession.
“I guess I needed a little bit of a
break, and with the way the economy
went, I decided to do something I
could make more reasonably priced,
because it doesn’t take me as long,
and the supplies aren’t as expensive,”
the New London, N.H., resident says.
Chowanski’s Etsy store, Madame
Bijou Beads, sells gothic, steam punk
and fantasy-style jewelry that features
skulls, aviation themes and crystals.
Each piece has its own fictional narrative that explains her inspiration
for it.
“These are not big subcultures
up here,” says Chowanski, a native
of New Jersey who has lived in New
Hampshire for 13 years. “I’m trying
to find my tribe, and so I’m venturing
out on the Internet.”
Chowanski, 45, describes herself
as “computer illiterate” and says it
took “days and tears” to set up her
Etsy shop. But a year and a half later,
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site’s search engine. And sellers curate
“treasuries” or lists of favorite items
grouped by category or theme, some
of which are showcased on the home
Walker says some Etsy sellers create long titles for the items they list
on the site using keywords to improve
their chances of appearing in search
results. But one of the best marketing
techniques is still good, old-fashioned
word of mouth. When a respected
artist features another Etsy store on
his or her blog, traffic tends to spike.
“I’ve been featured on other Etsy
sellers’ blogs a handful of times, so
that can be really great exposure,”
says Walker. “I feel fortunate any
time I even get a sale and someone
finds my shop.”
Networking for newcomers
Lindsay Newman of Sunapee,
N.H., crochets scarves and other
winter wear to sell in her Etsy store,
Black Wolf Wovens. She incorporates
used clothing, such as a customer’s
favorite worn-out T-shirt, to create a
unique look.
The 27-year-old, who set up the
shop last fall after moving back to
New Hampshire from Colorado, says
she has found a supportive community of crafters on Etsy.
“I haven’t done a lot of big
sales, but I’ve definitely done a lot
of networking,” she says. “I’ve met
some bloggers, and I’ve found past
acquaintances on there, so it’s just a
really good support system for starting a business.”
By bringing the local craft fair
into the virtual sphere, Etsy has made
it possible for artists and crafters,
even those in the most remote areas,
to sell the products of their creative
expression to a global network of
like-minded shoppers, and to do it
all without leaving their homes. All it
takes to start a home-based business
today is a computer, some dedication
and a little bit of tech and marketing
Kearsarge Magazine • Summer 2013 • kearsargemagazine.com
But for all the benefits of having
an online storefront, where just about
anyone in the world can browse by
day or night, there is one inherent
danger — to your wallet. As someone
who makes and therefore appreciates
creative, beautiful things, Walker has
experience with that risk. “I do as
much shopping, almost, as I do selling on Etsy,” she says.
Kristen Senz is a freelance writer
based in Newbury, N.H. She also
works part time as a development
specialist at West Central Behavioral
Grantham photographer Douglas
K. Hill has worked as a commercial
photographer for more than 20 years,
specializing in architecture, advertising, and professional portraiture.
To see a sampling of his work, visit
Find a Local Artist
Erica Walker, North Sutton, N.H.
Walker Silverworks
handmade fabricated silver
Linda Gould, Claremont, N.H.
Lindy’s Loops
vintage upcycled eyeglass loops
and jewelry
Lindsay Newman, Sunapee, N.H.
Black Wolf Wovens
creative scarves, mittens and hats
Laura Chowanski,
New London, N.H.
Madame Bijou Beads
baubles and jewels
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