T.E.S.T. interview: Zippster/kltrocks

We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the third in our series, an interview with Zippster, also known as kltrocks.

Tell us a little about you and your shops:
About 3 years ago I decided to turn my sewing hobby into a small business. I opened my first Etsy shop (kltrocks) about 2 ½ years ago, focusing on clothes and accessories for Blythe dolls. As I became involved in other crafts, I decided to open a second shop (Zippster) for non-Blythe items – this shop has a little bit of everything: purses, pouches, pins, magnets, cards, vintage sewing supplies. My other hobbies, such as photography and fabric design, influence what I make.

What do you do as your "day job"?:
During the day I work as a librarian in downtown Toronto, which I find very rewarding but can be mentally demanding. Having a creative hobby helps with the life-work balance.

How did you get started sewing/making buttons/making magnets?:
While I’ve always been involved in something creative, I became more serious with sewing about 3 years ago after I bought my first Blythe doll and I realized I really enjoyed making clothes and accessories for these unique dolls. From that I branched out onto other sewing projects, inspired by both of my grandmothers’ fabric stashes. I really enjoy making small accessories, such as the coin purses and zippered pouches. As a librarian, I also have an interest in printmaking, so after taking a printmaking course I became involved in paper crafts. That then led to the button making. There are so many things I am interested in learning how to do (crochet has been on my list for a while), that it’s a challenge sometimes to stay focused.

How do you choose your imagery?:
Many of my button designs are taken from or inspired by vintage reproductions from books, newspapers and magazines. Some of the designs are born out of necessity, such as the food-themed buttons (No Gluten, No Nuts, etc.). I myself have a severe food allergy, so these buttons are fun but also practical.

As for sewing projects, I really love retro fabric prints: two of my favourite fabric sources are Repro Depot Fabrics and a Toronto company called Tonic Living – they both specialize in vintage and retro reproductions. It’s so easy to get inspired when you have such amazing fabrics to work with!

My greeting cards make use of my own photography, linocut prints or silk screen prints. We’re very lucky in Toronto, to be part of a vibrant city but to also have access to large green spaces, such as High Park and Edwards Gardens, where many of my photos are taken.

How do you promote yourself?:
As an introvert, self-promotion is not something that comes easily to me, but I do make use of all the online options, such as Flickr, Facebook, a blog, and message boards. I’m actually in the process of setting up a website, which will bring all the pieces together in one spot.

Do you have any upcoming craft shows or other events you'd like to tell us about?:
For the last 2 years I’ve been fortunate enough to participate as a vendor at quite a few craft shows. This spring and summer I’ve decided to focus more on wholesale.

Any advice for new sellers on Etsy?:
Patience: it may take weeks or even months to start getting regular sales. There may even be weeks or months in between sales. Don’t take it personally, it’s not something you have control over.

Inform yourself: read Etsy’s DOs and DON’Ts, read the FAQs, read the Storque articles, read the forums, learn everything you can about how Etsy works so are fully prepared and your shop is properly set-up (including filling out your shop policies – do this! Please!).

Have some sort of a plan: Decide how much time you want to spend on promotion, and where (Google Analytics helps with this). Make sure you have packaging and shipping supplies and familiarize yourself with postal rates and services. Keep on top of upcoming international holidays, seasonal trends and other special days (have a sale or create special items).

Oh, and have fun creating!

Check out more of Karen's work at Zippster, kltrocks, on her blog 'librarian karen', and in her flickr photostream.

Karen also wrote the wonderful, thorough, and extremely useful Tips for Indoor Craftshows article for the T.E.S.T. blog in November.

Interviewed by SoRad, January 27th, 2010.

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