The Business of Making

10 Things I Learned From My First Wholesale Order, Part 1

10 Tips For Your First Wholesale Order -- For Makers, From Westervin

Last month, I received my first request for a wholesale order. Thrilled, I immediately replied saying something to the effect of, “WHAAAAT ERMERGOD OK YESPLZ SURE LET’S DO THIS!!!!!” Or something slightly more professional. It wasn’t until after I hit “Send,” that I realized I had some things to figure out. Namely, how to sell wholesale, exactly. I understood that the basic wholesale arrangement involved selling a larger quantity of goods to a retailer at a reduced price, and it seemed like I’d seen somewhere that a 50% discount from the retail price was the standard. But was 50% a hard-and-fast rule, especially for small producers of handmade wares, like myself? If so, would that be profitable for me? And how much was a “larger quantity” exactly? My blinding excitement quickly diluted to a mixture of hope and hesitation. So I set about uncovering the mysteries of wholesale with help from the internet, a calculator, and some very smart people I know. Here’s what I learned.

1. Pricing Is Everything

An initial search of “how to price for wholesale” left me a little overwhelmed. It seemed the industry standard was indeed to offer wholesale items at half the retail price, but I worried that wouldn’t work for me. Then I decided to ask an actual person. Two actual persons, to be exact — two lovely women I knew with experience as a buyer. Jess Mott Wickstrom is the former Gallery Director of Lillstreet Art Center and co-founder of DesignEgg, and Claire Hurwitz Staszak is the current Manager & Buyer at Neighborly. Boy, am I glad I asked these two! I found this piece of advice from Claire particularly empowering:

“You should remember that you have the control.”

Right! My business, my prices. I determine what works for me.

“We don’t make 50% on everything,” she continued, “and sometimes we carry an item just because we really like it. The margin isn’t always a priority, especially if it sells well.” Retailers may understand that small producers can’t always accommodate the traditional 50% markdown.

Jess agreed with Claire. “When dealing with Etsy sellers,” she said, “I was never surprised if they wanted to sell me items at prices a bit higher than the typical 50% wholesale. I think 60/40 is fair. If a retailer wants a bigger discount, ask for a higher minimum order.”

Yes. I think can work with that.

Next, I wanted to be sure a wholesale discount, even one slightly less than the standard 50%, still allowed me enough profit for my time and materials. According to Etsy, it all starts with your costs: “A solid understanding of how much it costs to make each of your products will allow you to adapt your supplies, workflows and minimum order quantities in order to strategically price for wholesale and ensure that you’re still making a profit.” Etsy shares this helpful formula for determining your prices:

  • Break-Even Price = Supplies + Overhead + Labor
  • Wholesale Price = Break-Even Price X 2 or More
  • Retail Price = Wholesale Price X 2 or More

You can read the full Wholesale Pricing Guide from Etsy.

Finally, I was ready to whip out my tiny calculator and crunch some numbers. With my trusty data in hand and my advice from Claire and Jess in mind, I followed up on my first wholesale order request with some solid pricepoints. Through this process, I realized I was undervaluing my work. I decided to adjust the prices on a few of my current designs, and the results have been pretty positive. It was scary, but I feel more confident about my line now. I’ve also started plans for new designs and production techniques that allow for greater profitability.

Westervin Packaging (From 10 Tips For Your First Wholesale Order)

2. Pay Yourself

This is an extension of #1 but an equally important and separate point to make. This wisdom comes from Tim West, Associate Professor of Accounting at Northern Illinois University and World’s Greatest Father-in-Law.

“One thing I always tell people,” he mentioned to me over the phone, “it’s easy to give away a good living. I suspect this can be a problem in the craft world, because people are so passionate about what they do.”

So true, Tim, so true. I see this all the time. It’s like an epidemic in the craft world; so many makers aren’t paying themselves enough. Not only do we not know how to price our work so we make enough to live, but we must compete with the impossibly low price-points of mass produced merchandise. Tim suggests starting by calculating how much you need to make in order to pay your bills, eat, and have a place to live.

“For example, if you need $4,000 each month, you will need $48,000 for the year. Remember, that’s after tax so multiply $48,000 x 1.4 to approximate your before tax ‘salary.’ In this example, you need a ‘profit’ on your orders of $67,200. How many hours do you want to work during the year? If this is a full-time gig, you might consider 2,000 hours (50 weeks x 40 hours per week). The result, for every hour you work, you should should charge $24.00 per hour ($48,000/2,000 hours) in addition to your material cost.” So, that’s how you can calculate your labor costs for use in the pricing formula above.

But as Tim cautioned, this is just a starting point. Just because you need to earn X dollars for every scarf you make doesn’t mean someone will pay X dollars for your scarf. “Don’t forget the opportunity cost,” Tim continued. “If you take on too many intro priced jobs, you won’t have the time you need for better projects.”

3. Consider Consignment

If you aren’t getting as much interest from retailers as you’d like, or if there’s a particular store you REALLY want to get your items into, consider offering a consignment arrangement. This reduces the risk for a store.

“We do it occasionally,” Claire explained, “when we aren’t sure how well something will do, or if it’s a high-priced item. It makes it much easier to say ‘yes’ to someone.”

Offering consignment can supplement your wholesale revenue and help to generate more interest in your goods and brand. Just make sure you have a solid system for keeping track of what you send out, when you get paid, and if unsold items are sent back to you. Be clear about shipping costs and who is expected to cover them. Remember, also, that a consignment experience can be a great opportunity for market research. Keep an eye on what does or doesn’t sell and where. You could find that you’re targeting the wrong stores.

4. Incentivize Sales

Give a retailer more reason to order from you. Clare Yuille, founder of Indie Retail Academy, explains that, “there are probably a couple of extra things you can do to tip the scales in the shop-keeper’s favour, without it affecting you too badly.” Some examples include:

  • RISK FREE TRIAL. Let retailers carry your products for a specified period of time (e.g. 45-90 days) at no charge, but keep a valid credit card on file. At the end of the trial, they can decide to keep the products and be charged the wholesale price or return the items in like-new condition.
  • PRODUCT SWAPS. Like a risk-free trial, you can give retailers the option to swap a product that isn’t selling well for something else more promising, after a specified period of time.
  • SAMPLES. Offer to send a free sample of your items to retailers you really want to work with. This will get your figurative foot in their door and show them the quality of your creations. Just make sure it’s financially feasible for you to do so.
  • EXCLUSIVITY. Create an exclusive line for a favorite retailer or agree not to sell similar items to a retailer’s direct competitors.
  • DISCOUNTS. Calculate appropriate discounts (in addition to the 50% wholesale discount) for placing holiday orders early or making a sale at a particular trade show.

Westervin's Sample Linesheet Page -- 10 Tips For Your First Wholesale Order

{ sample page from my wholesale linesheet for the Westervin shop }

5. Make a Linesheet

This was completely new to me. A linesheet, I discovered, is basically like a catalogue containing all the products you offer that are available for wholesale. It contains basic information about your business, your available products, and ordering policies that a retailer needs to know and, ideally, allows them to quickly and easily place an order. In general, this information should include:

  • product name, number (if applicable), and description (e.g. sizes, colors, materials, etc.)
  • the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) for each product
  • the wholesale price for each product
  • contact and ordering information
  • payment methods and terms
  • shipping methods and costs
  • order minimums (per item or per order)
  • lead time

“Okay, got it,” you’re probably thinking, “where do I get started?” Well, unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all template for creating a linesheet, and I’ve seen oodles and gobs of variation in all the samples I’ve found. I did not let this stop me. In fact, I found it liberating to design my very own linesheet, something unique to Westervin. I used my basic photoshop skills and some photos I’d already taken for my online shop. In the end (because once I get started, it’s hard for me to stop), I created three different documents:

  • A multi-page CATALOGUE with full-page images, a mini bio about myself and business, and detailed ordering information. This will serve more as a marketing tool than strictly a tool for placing a wholesale order.
  • A one-page CHEAT SHEET, including thumbnails of all available products (shown previously in the catalogue) with the basic ordering information. This offers a quick reference for buyers when they’re ready to place their orders. This idea came from Claire after I sent her a proof of my catalogue. “I personally like looking through well-done multiple page catalogues,” she assured me, “but it can get annoying if you have to flip back and forth a lot to figure out your order.”
  • A branded ORDER FORM. This will be optional, as I understand some retailers may want to use their own forms. Either way, make sure every wholesale order has an order form — for safety and clarity.

This is what I believe will work for me as I build my wholesale offerings. Before you get started on your wholesale tools, think critically about your specific needs and do a little research of your own. I found Etsy’s Wholesale Guide to be one of the best references (no surprises there). Their “Wholesale Policies and Linesheets” document, for example, included some great samples linesheets.

Westervin Newsletter

Welp, that’s it for tips 1-5! Visit again next week for Part Two of 10 Things I Learned From My First Wholesale Order. I’ll share tips for attracting retailers and the importance of having a “little black book.”

Join the Westervin mailing list to be notified when the post is live!

You’ll also receive the Westervin monthly newsletter, which includes shop updates, highlights from the blog, and exclusive news + opportunities from Brian and Sarah.

Shopping Sherpa

Mug Mania

My name is Sarah, and I have a problem. I can’t stop collecting mugs.

My slow descent into mug-mania started in college. I’d hit up the local thrift stores, prowling for vintage mugs featuring bold, ’60s prints in bright reds, blues, and greens. Before long, I had amassed a reasonably sized collection of mismatched but beautiful vintage mugs. Then things got a little out of hand when Brian and I got married. We spent weeks leading up to our nuptials collecting even more mugs to use during the reception meal. We served breakfast for dinner with a doughnut tower and fresh coffee instead of a traditional wedding cake. This prolonged mug-hunt really solidified my habit. After the big day, I was able to part with a few, giving some away to friends, donating several more, but then we put the rest in storage. The added sentimental value has made them hard to part with…

To make matters worse, my mug-lovin’ has recently expanded to include the uneven shapes, rough edges, and unusual patterns of handmade mugs. I’ve been able to sneak a few into our already unwieldy stockpile, and I’ve got my wandering eye on a few more. More than a few, really. I want ALL THE MUGS.Westervin Roundup: handmade mugs from  Self Press Studio, Leah Ball, Laurie Goldstein, and Recreation Center Ceramics

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: { Self Press Studio } { Leah Ball } { Recreation Center via More & Co. } { Laurie Goldstein }

There’s nothing like a sweet little mug in soft blues to greet you in the morning. The one above from Self Press Studio seems to say, “Good Morning! High five!” The marbled swirl pattern of Leah Ball’s mug reminds me of whispery clouds, and Laurie Goldstein’s collection of “couples” mugs would make for a perfect cup of coffee from your partner. Brian surprised me with one of these Recreation Center mugs for my birthday! It is perfection.

Westervin Roundup: handmade mugs from Jake Vinson, Meilen Collaborative, Tabby Both, and BTW Ceramics

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: { Jake Vinson via Pour Porter } { Meilen Collaborative } { Tabby Booth } { BTW Ceramics }

I want to get lost in one of Jake Vinson’s constellation mugs, filled to the brim with dark, swirling coffee. For weekend mornings when Brian and I get to lounge about together, I’d happily share either of the above sets (by Meilen Collaborative and BTW Ceramics) and a seat at our bay windows. This odd and exquisite mug by Tabby Booth, however, I would not share. It would be mine, mine, mine! Gimme.

Wester Roundup: handmade mugs from Eeli Art Studio, Pigeon Toe Ceramics, Vegetabowls, Connie Licthi

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: { Eeli Art Studio } { Pigeon Toe } { Vegetabowls } { Connie Lichti via Gorman }

While I don’t usually drink tea, I could make an exception for this precious dotted teacup from Eeli Art Studio, which reminds me of dewey marigolds. This cubism-esque tumbler from Pigeon Toe Ceramics perfectly reflects my view of the world before I’ve had my coffee — it doesn’t make sense and I don’t care. For this amazing cantaloupe mug from Vegetables, I would split its duties between that sweet, sweet bean juice in the morning and fresh fruit juice in the afternoon. And Connie Lichti’s mod speckled mug is so pleasing to the eye, I kinda want to string it up and wear it as a necklace. Would that be weird…?

Westervin Roundup: handmade mugs from Creature Cups, Bridget Bodenham, Covet & Ginger, and Dahlhaus

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT:  { Creature Cups } { Bridget Bodenham via Mr Kitly } { Covet & Ginger via Scoutmob } { Dahlhaus }

Wouldn’t it be funny if you bought this crocodile surprise cup from Creature Cups for a friend/lover/partner-in-crime and made them a cup of coffee really early and then they drank enough to reveal the croc’s snout and teeth but they didn’t notice for a while because they’re still pretty drowsy and then they look down and see its terrifying face and for the tiniest of brief seconds they were shocked and thoroughly confused and let out a little shriek with a bit of jump? Wouldn’t that be funny?! If you don’t think so, I’m sure you’d still appreciate any of these other subtler handmade mugs (from Bridget Bodenham, Covet & Ginger, and Dahlhaus), in soft reptilian greens with speckles, spots, and dots.

Westervin Roundup: handmade mugs from Ben Feiss, Jenn Erickson, Xenia Taler, and Red Raven Studios

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: { Ben Feiss via Leif } { Jenn Erickson } { Xenia Taler via Leif } { Red Raven Studios }

And now for the sherbet-inspired portion of our mug collection! I’d let any of these happy numbers pull double-duty for a little summer-time dessert. I’m imagining Ben Feiss’ mug filled with mango smoothie, Jenn Erickson’s holding a delectable lemon parfait, while refreshing froyo and more candy toppings than you can shake a stick at fill Xenia Taler’s eye print mug, and Red Raven Studios’ mug brims with sliced peaches drizzled in honey and smothered in whipped cream. Mmmmm….. *wipes away drool* What were we talking about? Coffee! Right. Well, any way you fill ‘em, these handmade mugs would surely fill your day with a little extra sunshine. I’ll take one of each!

A Westervin Wedding, Blog News

Put a Ring on It, Part 2

handmade wedding ring set

You may recall that way back in September we celebrated our second anniversary. However, we forgot to tell you about our rings! Each year we get a new set of rings to celebrate the ever changing married life we lead…and for fun. If you haven’t been following along, be sure to check out our original rings as well as our first anniversary rings.

oxidized silver wedding rings

For our second anniversary Sarah picked out three different rings that go together as a set, two of which are oxidized silver. I have a simple oxidized silver ring that goes along with hers. It’s one big happy ring family!

set of handmade silver wedding bands

Clockwise from Top Left: {Epherielle } { Patrick Irla Jewelry }  { Lady Faye Jewelry }  { ANDYSHOUSE }

 

Blog News, Westervin Shop

Westervin Shop Now Open!!!

peach and gray handmade pompom hat by Westervin

Hello dear readers! We’ve been quiet here lately because we’ve been transitioning through some big changes. I’m no longer working full-time, and I’ve finally decided to embrace my creative, entrepreneurial aspirations. These hands were made for crafting!

After a few (too many) years of school and a short career in business administration/marketing, I’m finally following my crafty fingers to a more fulfilling life as a maker and craft-focused blogger. Leveraging what I know and love, I’ve just launched my shop on Etsy as an extension of our blog, creating crochet accessories and home goods. I hope to soon add other textiles-based goods using embroidery, quilting, and dyeing as I expand my fiber arts repertoire.

Check out the Westervin shop!

AND take advantage of our Cyber Monday Sale: FREE SHIPPING on all orders worldwide placed Monday, December 2. Use coupon code: CYBERSHIP13

mint and brown handmade pompom hat by Westervin

teal and maroon pompom hat handmade by Westervin

teal and brown handmade pompom hat by Westervin

Shopping Sherpa

Come On, Spring…

handmade art, accessories, and housewares inspired by Spring

{ 1. Mini Macrame Planters }  { 2. Custom Portraits on Wood }

{ 3. Butterfly Temporary Tattoos }  { 4. Cat Chase Wallet }  { 5. Compound Ring }

{ 6. Snow & Pearl Cup }  { 7. Lemon/Mint Scarf }

Blog News

2012: The Highlights

Yesterday was Brian’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Brian! As a result, I reflected, as one so often does on such occasions, on how quickly the past year seemed to fly by. He’s 27 years old? Already? Didn’t he just turn 26…? I guess the year flew by because it really was chock full of fun and fantastic-ness. We just hopped from one milestone to the next.

Brian turned 26

Please join me, if you will, on a look back at the past year with the Westervins, starting with Brian’s 26th birthday on January 31st, 2012. That joyous celebration saw a cookie cake—Brian’s favorite kind of cake, obviously—as well as a few choice presents and a relaxing break with the Wests outside of the city. We were all so happy that this sweet man was born just 26 years prior.

Grace Steinel Jones started guest blogging

Soon after, we welcomed one of our dearest and most talented besties, one Mrs. Grace Steinel Jones, as a guest blogger for Westervin. Cooking away in her hot Austin kitchen, Grace whipped up such delicioso creations as the above carrot cake with honey-ginger figs, homemade granola, and some super tacos!

Sarah West Ervin started working with Lillstreet

Later in February, I started working with the Lillstreet Art Center. For class credit, I offered my newly acquired marketing skills to Lillstreet to help spread the word about their many amazing services and products for the creatively inclined and curious. In exchange, I got some professional experience, an invitation to a screenprinting workshop, and an opportunity to work with them again on another fun marketing project.

Westervin got a makeover

In March, Brian exercised his creative muscles and unveiled a new look for Westervin.com. He’s so talented. Note to self: keep him around.

Newby Treasury GIveaway

We celebrated the redesign with a very special giveaway from Newby Treasury. This giveaway had been in the works for a few months, since around the first time I met Sarah Newby. I latched on to that cool lady like white on rice, determined to make her my friend. BTW, it worked.

Brian West got a new Job

In April, Brian started working at Columbia College Chicago…one floor above my office! Now, we get to go to work together and get coffee together and eat lunch together and go on walks together and go home together and BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!!!!!!!

Debbie Carlos starts guest blogging

In other tremendously exciting April news, Debbie Carlos started guest blogging for Westervin with her series A Sunday Ritual. I don’t think I need to say much about this, other than: apricot pie, coconut corn fritters, ratatouille, sesame pea-shoot salad, cochinita pibil, and savory bread pudding, and 60-second gooey chocolate mug cake. Oh, and I should probably also say, “OMG! Thank you so much, Debbie! You are sooooooo awesome!!!!”

Celebrated World Party Day

Also that month, we were invited by BIG THINGS, Kitiya Palaskas, and The Adventure School to participate in the fun DIY-ness of World Party Day. We made some margarita jello shots for the festivities. I think they were appreciated…

Columbia College Chicago Manifest: Please Generate Art

As I wrapped up my first year of graduate school last May, we rounded out the semester with our interactive art installation, Sound Collective, which was part of PGA: Please Generate Art, the graduate Manifest project at Columbia. It was a disgusting amount of work coupled with some poor timing (damn you, finals!), but I think it was all worth it for the delirious giggles and slaphappy bonding among the Sound Collective team: Caitlin O’Meara, Laura Bock, me, and (unofficially) Brian.

Westervin Honeymoon

Brian and I soon recuperated on our Dollymoon. That is, we took our belated honeymoon at Dollywood! Best. Trip. Ever.

Sarah West Ervin made some videos for Lillstreet Art Center

When we returned, I began working with Lillstreet again on the Make It video series. I’m a producer, y’all! I’ve shared a few of the completed videos, and there’s a few more still to come…

Westervin gets juiced

In June, Brian and I started juicing! The good kind, guys. In an attempt to circumvent my general disinterest in most foods of the vegetable variety, Brian got us a juicer and started sneaking nutrient-rich vegetables into my diet, disguised by the sweet nectar of fruit juices. Let’s face it: everyone knows that vegetables are gross. Also fact: fruit is nature’s candy. So, if you mix fresh fruit juice with a little vegetable juice, like carrot, celery, spinach, etc., you can barely taste it! Since our juicing ways began, I’ve increased my vegetable tolerance and we’ve been drinking several servings of fresh juice every day. As a result, we generally have more energy, my hair and skin feel healthier, and I barely drink soda anymore. I’m serious. The power of juice has broken the hold that sweet, sweet soda had over me. Get juiced!

Sarah West Ervin learns to screenprint at Lillstreet Art Center

In other self-improvement news, I built up my crafting repertoire by learning how to screenprint! Laura Bock and I went to a screenprinting party at Lillstreet, wherein we sipped wine, ate fancy snacks, and got our crafty on with the help of instructor and textile artist Nora Renick-Rinehart. If only every month could include such craft parties…

Westervin was Published in Design: Paper

Perhaps the most exciting development in June, however, was being published! Our handmade save-the-dates were featured in the beautiful book Design: Paper. We loved making those little postcards, so we were overjoyed to see them in a book!

Sarah West Ervin blows up on Pinterest

In July, I got a lot of Pinterest followers, and we’ve had a lot of fun together since then…

Sarah West Ervin turns 26

And, in August, I finally caught up to Brian and turned 26 myself. I doubled the fun by joining forces with our local bestie Laura, who turned 24 a few days after my birthday. The fantastic festivities included a potluck brunch party and a trip to Six Flags. Brian also fulfilled one of my lifelong wishes by getting me an edible arrangement, delivered to me at work. All together, it was a dream of a birthday.

First Anniversary

That milestone was followed by an even better one in September: our first wedding anniversary. We celebrated with a delicious dinner, a nice walk, and a new set of handmade wedding rings! I gotta say, this marriage stuff is great.

Renegade Craft Fair Chicago

Later than month, we hit up the Renegade Craft Fair. As the highlight of my craftventures for the year, much fun and shopping was had by all in our party, both new friends and old.

Sarah West Ervin went back to school

And, to balance out the fun of September, my second year of graduate school began. Fitzgerald and I felt the same way about it: Meh.

Brian West is Famous

But soon, things were looking up again! In October, Brian was commissioned to create the signature cocktail for Poetry‘s centennial celebration. He expertly crafted the bubbly and well-balanced Hippocrene, inspired by a Keats poem. It was written about in the New York Times, guys. Note to self: seriously, keep this fella around.

Sarah West Ervin is Famous

Soon after, I saw my five minutes of fame as a guest pinner for Etsy, my other love.  Ok, famous is a strong word here…  but I’ll use it just the same! LOOK AT ME! I’M AN INTERNET CELEBRITY! Would you like my autograph?

Sarah West Ervin went crochet crazy

In November, to combat the stress of sudden stardom (but mostly that of homework and impending finals), I got into crocheting. REALLY into crocheting. I went a little crazy with hats there….

Going to Louisiana

For Thanksgiving, Brian and I took a roadtrip to Louisiana to visit my family. Highlights included: gramma’s twice-baked potatoes, playing with my little brother, cracking pecans, and stopping in Little Rock along the way for a quick catch-up with my forever-valentine, Megan.

Westervin turned 3

And then it snuck up on us—-Westervin turned three. We’re pretty proud.

Goodbye to Sarah Newby and Ryan Glenn

Then, in December, we were forced to say a tearful goodbye to our sweet, interesting friends, Ryan Glenn and Sarah Newby. We shared a brunch with these two, gave them a little going away gift, and shooed them on their way to L.A. Expect a visit this summer, guys. Sunshine, here we come!

We got a new kitchen

When we were away for Christmas break, our landlord updated our kitchen. I really feel like the beauty of our new wood floors and clean, white cabinets has changed my life. I actually enjoy being in the kitchen now! And, I’ve even been helping Brian out a little in there with this thing they call “cooking.” It’s not as terrible as it seems! We’ll share some photos soon—-of both the renovation and my delectable (not really) creations.

Rang in the New Year

And finally, Brian and I rang in 2013 with our sassy frands, Laura Bock and Jonathan Thomason. Never underestimate the enjoyableness of pie, boardgames, and an all-night slumber party.

If you twisted my arm, I’d have to say that the last year was a pretty good one. Here’s to the next!

Maker's Remarks

Arlie Trowbridge of Urban Revisions

Oh man. I’m excited. Why? Because I’m about to share my mini interview with Arlie Trowbridge, the stupidly talented woman behind Urban Revisions. I’ve loved her work for ages now! Arlie was sweet enough to answer a few questions — some silly, some serious — for the latest installment of my Maker’s Remarks series. And the timing couldn’t be better, because she’s just released her Spring/Summer 2012 collection. Oh how these sherbet colored pieces make me wanna run outside and chase an ice cream truck!

handmade glass and leather purses by Urban Revisions

How did Urban Revisions start? Did you have a “quit your day job to start an Etsy shop” sort of moment?

Urban Revisions started in early 2009 by accident. I had just started getting into reading fashion blogs and the DIY shredded t-shirt craze was in full effect. I gave it a try and was immediately addicted to the process of “revising” the most basic article of clothing – a tee. My friend started modeling them in “urban” settings around Richmond, and the Etsy shop was born. Shortly after my first couple of sales, I was awarded a fellowship by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Couldn’t have been better timing. This allowed me to “quit my day job” and really pursue selling my work.

Arlie Trowbridge of Urban Revisions

Your shredded T-shirts are so unique, and it seems like your beautiful glass jewelry requires a lot of skill to create. What’s the inspiration for your pieces and the process for making them?

There’s no doubt that I love things with an organic feel to them. Almost anything that I’ve ever created and really loved came about by accident… there’s something really special about working with glass and distressed fiber. You can melt and shred forever until something amazing comes about. In the end, everything always has this delicate look but in actuality, cotton and glass have really strong qualities.

shredded cotton scarf in orange sherbet

Would you say you’re more of an urbanite or a nature-lover? Or a perfect mixture of both?

Both! I’ve lived in or very close to a city the majority of my life. I need to be near the sound of people’s hustle and bustle but I also need our long camping trips in the middle of no where and our afternoons hanging down by the James River.

shredded cotton t-shirt from Urban Revisions

What’s a typical day in the life of Arlie Trowbridge? Take us through a brief snapshot of your day, from morning to night?

Wake up, stumble to the coffee pot, fill the largest mug available, stumble to the studio and slowly open my eyes over emails and blogs.
Thats the first step, and then it’s either …

a. start shredding
b. start torch working
c. start dyeing
< or >
d. start day dreaming

I’m really all over the place, and it feels awesome.

handmade glass cluster rings from Urban Revisions

Would you rather have the ability to breathe underwater or the ability to fly? Explain.

Breathe underwater!!! In fact, this is something I’ve dreamt about many times. I spent many days at our local pool pretending to be Ariel from The Little Mermaid when I was little. Some people have commented on my cluster rings and leaf earrings, saying they remind them of coral. I love that. Marine life is fascinating.

handmade shredded t-shirt from Urban Revisions

What’s your favorite part of creating & selling your handicrafts?

The people I have had the pleasure to “meet”! The internet is such a powerful tool. Knowing that there are ladies all over the world wearing Urban Revisions is incredible to me.

handmade glass cluster ring from Urban Revisions

BTDubs, if you’ve read through this interview, you’ve got a special treat coming. You can enter Arlie’s giveaway on Facebook to win the spectacular glass cluster ring pictured above. Get on over there and enter!

Shopping Sherpa

Tropical Tango

tangerine tango fashion, art, and accessories

{ 1. Vintage Owls }  { 2. Neon Vegan Leather Handbag }  { 3. Vintage Glass Beaded Necklace }  { 4. Girl Painting by Jennifer Davis }  { 5. Leia Floral Blouse }

Crafty News, Featured, The Business of Making

Who Buys Handmade?

If you’ve been with us for more than a few months, you may remember when I asked you to take a little survey about your Etsy shopping habits. Well, many of you did, and I was forever grateful, because I was able to gather some really interesting information! Though the data was a little skewed–it wasn’t a completely random sampling of Etsy shoppers–I think it still provides a bit of insight about the average craft consumer, their motivations, and their interests in the handmade movement. Taken with a grain of salt, this information could be particularly useful if you sell your own handmade goods on Etsy.

embroidered postcard saying "Buy Handmade"

These results created a profile of the average Etsy consumer. She’s an adult woman, between 25 and 34 years old, and considered a member of the working or middle class. She makes a few Etsy purchases a year, usually jewelry or accessories costing between $21 and $40, and often purchases them as gifts for others. Though she doesn’t sell her own craft, she values handmade goods, enjoying the occasional craft fair, and appreciates the variety that Etsy offers. She’s more likely than her male counterparts to value the eco-friendly goods that Etsy offers, but she finds Etsy’s check-out process less appealing than younger consumers.

The graphs below provide more detail about a few key results.

The majority of respondents were female (84.3%).

All respondents were between 18 and 34 years of age, while the majority (70.6%) were 25-34.

Most respondents made less than $50,000 a year.

Jewelry and accessories are popular selling items on Etsy.

Respondents were more likely to purchase gifts for others than items for themselves.

Respondents were more like to purchase items costing $21 to $40, but items in the $11-20 and $41-60 ranges were also fairly common.

Over half of respondents (51%) attended one or two craft fairs in the last year.

Most respondents (58.8%) do not sell their own handmade goods.

So what can a crafter learn from this data? It’s always important to keep your customer in mind when designing, pricing, and promoting your goods. If you feel that this profile is consistent with your typical customer, below are some tips that might help attract more buyers. These pointers are based on the above information, as well as some more complex statistical analysis I performed in the original case study, but which I omitted from this post for brevity.

  • Utilize social cause marketing messages to leverage the target audience’s appreciation for handmade and eco-friendly product offerings.
  • Feature moderately priced products ($21-$40 range), as products below $5 may not be valuable enough to outweigh shipping costs or other intangible costs (e.g. time, effort, etc), and products above $40 may be too high considering the average consumer’s income bracket.
  • Promote products as “gifts”.
  • Sell products at local craft fairs and markets if possible.
  • Market to possible secondary targets: 18-24 year old women or those who sell their own handmade goods. The latter could be reached through marketing messages that appeal to their sense of community (e.g. through social media or support networks like Etsy groups).
Who Are You Pairing?

Who Are You Pairing: 2012 Oscars

Michelle Williams at the 2012 Oscars red carpet

{ Michelle Williams }  { Victoria Ulrikke Iles }

Rooney Mara at the 2012 Oscars red carpet

{ Rooney Mara }  { Kate MccGwire (via My Love For You) }

Missi Pyle at the 2012 Oscars red carpet

{ Missi Pyle }  { Callen Thompson }

Kate Mara at the 2012 Oscars red carpet

{ Kate Mara }  { Cassia Beck }

Kelly Rippa at the 2012 Oscars red carpet

{ Kelly Ripa }  { Margaux Kent }

Kristen Wiig at the 2012 Oscars red carpet

{ Kristen Wiig }  { David Welch }