Today we have a guest blogger, Oksana from SanaGem, and her interview with fellow Ingenuity team mate Anna. Please enjoy!
We all love getting to know the people behind the work, what inspires them and what drives their business. Today we hear from Anna from ALFAdesigns.
1 - Please, tell us about yourself. What magic turn brought a computer worker to doing crafts?
Actually, I was indulging in various crafts since elementary school, when I learned knitting from instruction booklet and made myself a knitted vest. The yarn was salvaged from my Dad’s old sweater that I carefully unraveled, and the vest turned out a little (OK, a lot!) lopsided, but I wore it proudly :D
I was an avid knitter and crochetter until bad wrists (a professional affliction of many programmers) made it too uncomfortable. I also dabbled in sewing (not very successfully), decorated furniture and picture frames, etc. My job as a computer programmer was always rather demanding, and crafting was my rest and retreat.I started making necklaces on a large scale pretty much by chance. My house was burglarized, and I lost all my jewelry. Since I already knew how to string and finish a necklace, I decided to use the insurance money to buy plenty of beads and make plenty of necklaces. It turned out that there are a lot of beautiful beads out there, and that I really like experimenting with them. As a result my stash of necklaces started to grow out of control. I was wearing a different necklace to work every day. I was giving them as gifts to friends, relatives, relatives of friends, and friends of relatives. And I kept buying new beads, long after the insurance money ran out. And then I looked closely at my credit card statement… Well, $10 for the string of nice beads does not sound like too much, but when you buy a lot of these strings… At this point my smart and practical daughter asked me a simple question: Why don’t you start selling your necklaces? Have you ever heard about Etsy?
2 - Do you remember the very first jewelry piece (necklace?) you have ever created? What was it's story?
We were invited to a wedding, and I bought a beautiful evening dress for the occasion. However, when I looked for a right necklace to wear with it, I could not find anything suitable in my price range. So I went to a bead shop, bought some bright red Swarovski crystals and beautiful black Czech beads in different shapes and sizes, and made pretty stunning extra-long necklace that was turning heads all evening, and then came apart spectacularly during the last dance. Picking up small rolling beads from all over the dance floor was not a highlight of the event. But I learned my lesson. From that time on I was using only quality stringing materials, good tools, and correct techniques. When I re-strung the necklace with the beads I managed to collect, it came out much shorter than the original, but I am pretty sure that a woman who got it after “my” burglary (hey there, Burglar’s Girlfriend!) is still wearing it.
3 - Why did you choose semiprecious stones as the main material?
I love natural semiprecious stones because they are imperfect. Slight, almost unnoticeable variations in shape, size, and color of natural stone beads make the necklace feel “alive”, unique, warm. This is a feeling you don’t get with glass or metal beads, although I love working with them, too.
4 - How would you describe the style of your works? Do you have your style ideal in the world of fashion, design, movies, literature, any art?
I am afraid that I don’t have one. The pretty term for what I do is “eclectic”, but in truth that means just that, no definite style. This is because I am having way too much fun with my necklaces. I create different color combinations, I mix the materials that are usually not used together, I try different techniques. The only thing I don’t do is correct, classic, usually very expensive necklaces of perfectly matched uniform high quality stone beads just strung together. These could be very beautiful, but they are not much fun to make, so I don’t do it.
5 - Your start on etsy is impressive: over 100 sales within first 6 months! Great achievement, especially in the jewelry market! What do you think is important for new etsians to succeed? What helped you most at the beginning?
I believe that I got a sale just five days after opening my shop because I had a pretty large inventory. While many new jewelry shops open with 20 or 30 items, I had almost 200 necklaces ready for sale, and I have posted them in the course of a 2 or 3 weeks. If I am not mistaken, my first buyer saw my necklace on the front page among “recently posted” items, clicked on it, entered my shop, and bought two necklaces. I feel I was lucky in this respect, because I could afford to buy the materials and made a lot of necklaces before I even thought about selling. Many sellers do not have this luxury.What I do take credit for is my customer service. I try hard to make buying from my shop a pleasant and memorable experience. I ship immediately, I have nice packaging, I often include some “extras” with large orders (matching earrings or bracelet), I follow up. Now I have some great customers, who keep coming back to my shop.
6 - Can you describe your craft area? What are your must-haves for creative atmosphere?
I have a large table that is MINE (nobody, and I mean nobody, is allowed to touch stuff on it). Plus a couple of bookshelves with see-through boxes containing my bead stash. Plus several large boxes with finished necklaces. Plus a couple of large boxes with packaging materials. Which means that I essentially took over the family room. From time to time I feel a pang of conscience and move most of my clutter to the closet. And a couple of days later it somehow creeps back out.When I am making jewelry, I usually have the headphones on and listen to lectures or good mystery novels on my iPod. The only other thing I need is a good lighting.
7 - Making and adding new items daily, you must be very good at time management. What is your typical working day like?
Here again I have an unfair advantage, because I have just retired and got much more free time than I had before, and than many people have. Before retiring, I did not do any promotions, did not participate in any teams, and did not make any treasuries. I just made the necklaces when I had a spare time, and posted them. Now I spend a couple of hours a day at my computer doing all the Etsy networking stuff. I try to control amount of time I spend on this so it does not take over my life. I make the necklaces when I have some kind of great inspiration. It could be several hours a day, or could be none.
8 - Where do you find inspiration?
Sometimes from looking at beads I already have. Sometimes from seeing some great color combination in “real life”. Sometimes I go from situation, like what I think a young woman would like to wear at her first date. I like to dream up the short stories to go with my necklaces, imagine a woman who will wear it.
9 - What do you do "for a change", to relax, unwind? Do you do other crafts or hobbies?
I read. I play with my grandson. I spend time with family and friends. I go on long walks. I work out. I cook. To unwind, I make necklaces ;-)
10 - What are you currently working on?
I have just recently entered a mysterious world of Search Engine Optimization and realized that all my titles, descriptions, and keywords are totally wrong. Slowly and gradually, I am fixing them up. I have also heard from several of my customers that my necklaces look “even better in person than in the pictures”. When I heard this for the fifth or sixth time, I realize that my pictures are just bad, so I am gradually re-shooting all my necklaces. Plus making new ones. Plus doing customer orders.
11 - Please, can you name other arts or crafts that you admire and would like buying products?
There are people on Etsy who make great hand-made beads. I mean real artists who create one-of-a-kind beautiful beads and pendants. When (if) my shop grows big enough, I would like to start buying these beads and using them in my necklaces.
12 - Anything else you want to add/share and where we can find you.
I wish my teammates a lot of luck with their Etsy adventure, and a lot of fun, too. I think crafting or antique hunting are very much about having fun and enjoying your own creativity. I do not do FB or Twitter. Maybe I should, but again, I am afraid they will take over my life. I have seen it happen, and I know I get addicted easily. So you can just find me in my Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/shop/ALFAdesigns
Thank you for interviewing me. It was a new and interesting experience.
I would like to thank Anna for taking the time to write this wonderful interview and give us an insight into her world!
Oksana - SanaGem