T.E.S.T. Interview: Halyard

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 100th (woohoo!) in our series and is with Liza Wallman of Halyard.

Tell us about your shop. What do you sell?

My shop is called Halyard which means the rope that hoists a flag. I make hand painted flags and signs on reclaimed or locally sourced wood. I cut the wood and paint on a flag or custom design. There are a few key finishing touches that I incorporate. I sand and stain every piece so it has a rustic, weathered look. And, of course, all my pieces come ready to hang with hardware installed on the back.

What made you start this business? Tell us about how you started your shop.

About three years ago my mom asked me to make a very big rustic looking Canadian flag for my parents’ basement. We’re talking 4 feet by 8 feet kind of very big. We found some scrap wood in the barn of the apple orchard my parents live on and I used that as my canvas. Friends and family saw the finished product and asked me to make them their own. After some revelations, I realized that I love making things with my hands. I had heard about Etsy and decided to try my hand at it and I’ve loved it ever since.  

How has your Master's in Contemporary Art History influenced your store and your products?

My Master’s in Contemporary Art History has made me very aware of the importance of visual representation in creating and unifying nations. For example, Canada’s flag has the ability to bring together such a wide variety of people who all call this country home. I like thinking of flags as a means of inclusivity. I take this one step further by combining flags, like my Half American Half Canadian flag, for people who call multiple places home. Of course, I want all my customers to feel a sense of pride about their heritage so I’m happy to paint any country flag even if I don’t have it listed.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I’m inspired by Canada and my family. I’m inspired by nature, as my Camping Signs line suggests. I’m inspired by people and their passion for their countries. It’s a surprisingly global feeling, finding pride in one’s country, in whatever way they define their home country.  

What did you learn about yourself since you've embarked on this entrepreneurship journey?

I’ve learned that I have the ability to motivate myself more than I ever could have realized. I learned at the beginning that I didn’t have a thick skin (the first time I received negative feedback it really stung). I’ve learned that, like anything, developing a thick skin takes practice and now I have it and can use the rare negative feedback I get constructively instead of destructively.

How does the store fit into your life and what role does it play?

Currently, Halyard is my main job. I can live off of what I create and I really never thought I’d be able to say that. Since it is my main source of income, I treat it like a regular job. I keep the same studio hours every week (7-3, Monday to Friday) and do administrative work from home. Keeping regular hours is one of the best ways to keep myself motivated.

What is your favourite item in your shop?

My favourite items in my shop are the camping signs. If I had to pick just one, I think I would go with the Portaging camp sign as it was the first one of that line that I made. My brothers both love going portaging in Algonquin Park. My oldest brother, Andrew, asked me to make this portaging sign for my other brother, Evan, as a Christmas gift.  

Outside of various country flags, you have camping signs, and sports flags. What made you choose these two categories and how do they fit into the overall theme of your store?

As I said, I tend to draw inspiration from Canada. A large portion of what forms my idea of Canada is my family. Sports, both watching and playing them, are an integral part of how my family spends time together. As a child, we spent many summer vacations camping at Pinery Provincial Park. The overall theme of my store involves expressing one’s identity through hand crafted art and I think that, much like the country one is from, people readily identify with their hobbies like camping or sports.  

Do you plan to include additional product lines in the future?

I’m always thinking of new things that I want to create. I’m hoping to introduce high resolution prints of my work to my shop very soon! I want to do this to offer a less expensive alternative to my hand painted pieces.  

How do you promote your business?

I use a few platforms for promotion. Etsy is such a great resource for promoting small business and I make sure to take full advantage of that. I’ve also done a lot of craft shows in and around Toronto. Potentially my favourite way of promoting my business is through social media because the price is right (free). I have Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest all @halyardflags.  

How do you stay motivated?

My main motivation is the customers that I encounter whether it be online through Etsy or in person at craft shows. Customers’ positive reviews, stories of flags being given as gifts and the recipients being brought to tears, these sweet little bits of information keep me going. Some days, I’m just not motivated. On those days I have to remember the basics to get my butt out of bed: I need to pay the bills.  

What are your upcoming plans and what is the next big goal you would like to achieve?

I’m planning on going back to school! Of course, I’m going to continue Halyard and creating, but my thirst for knowledge just cannot seem to be quenched. I’m really looking forward to learning something new all while knowing I have an amazing creative outlet in Halyard.

You can check out more of Liza's work at her Etsy story, Halyard or on these social media:
and her own website.

Interviewed by Ivana Musich of AllofTheThingsTO in Toronto on August 10, 2016.


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