Monday, June 2, 2008

I got interviewed!

One of my customers, Om Shanti Handcrafts, recently asked if I would be willing to let her interview me for her blog. I was flattered of course and said yes. The interview took place via Etsy Convos (like emails but within the Etsy platform) over 3 sessions, I believe. Today she placed the interview on her blog and this is how it turned out:

Quoted from:

I’ve been meaning for a while to start a series of interviews featuring various indie folks like myself. Well, I’ve finally got off my butt and done one — and I have a couple more in process.

This one’s with Mary, proprietress of two Etsy shops: PlaysWithBeads and ElegantByDesign. I’ll let her explain in her own words, further down, why she has two shops:

How did you get started playing with beads (so to speak)?

This answer is sort of complicated but I’ll try to make it make sense:

Shortly before Christmas 2007 my coworker came in with a really cute charm bracelet on and I asked her where she got it. She told me she made it. We talked a little and she told me she would show me how to make them but we never really connected or had a plan. So during Christmas break (I work at the university) I bought some books and some beads and wire and started teaching myself to make jewelry. I loved it right away and it became a passion, sort of a therapy. I made several things during the break and even gave 5 Christmas presents of jewelry I had made. The response was very favorable, which just fueled my fire :)

Shortly after Christmas a couple different people suggested I try selling my jewelry on Etsy. I had never heard of Etsy but I checked it out and fell in love with the site and the concept. I opened my first shop (this one-playswithbeads) and sold a necklace within a couple weeks. That felt AWESOME! I found that shopping for beads and supplies was almost as fun as making the jewelry and soon had spent several hundred dollars (that I didn’t really have) worth of supplies, tools, and books (to be followed soon by a decent used camera and used laptop computer). I justified all this by telling myself that I would sell the jewelry and at the very least it was all a tax write off. I was really developing an interest in the elegant and beautiful jewelry made with pearls, crystal, sterling silver, etc and began thinking I wish I had a more elegant name than ‘playswithbeads’ so, since you can’t change your shop name on Etsy I decided to start another new shop with a name that reflected the image I wanted to portray. I called my shop Elegant by Design ( and really got into the jewelry making aspect.

Sales on jewelry were slow and every once in awhile I would put some beads or stones on to sell and it seemed like they would sell right away. I started thinking maybe I could supplement my income by selling supplies and beads. So I re-opened my original shop-playswithbeads- to sell just supplies, and it is the shop you are familiar with. I ended up buying quite a bit from my coworker (the one who put the idea in my head in the first place) who was liquidating her stash, and also found some really great deals on some online websites. Now when I buy beads and supplies, I decide up front if I’m buying them to make jewelry, or buying them to sell. I’ve been very happy with the response to my beads shop but I still love LOVE to make jewelry. I’ve taken a bit of a break the past few weeks as I’ve been moving and traveling but plan to make some new stuff as early as next week!

Does it bother you to sell beads you could be making jewelry out of — or do you only sell the ones that don’t appeal to you?

I guess I sort of answered this question above. I probably sell beads that are actually nicer and more appealing than the ones I keep because I feel they are marketable. :)

You’ve made a quick start — do you see your business continuing to grow? What are the chances it’ll turn into what you do for a living? Would you want that?

I would love to see it continue to grow to be a nice supplemental income. But I LOVE love my job and have said in the past that even if I won the lottery I would still do what I do because it is very rewarding and I have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of college students every single day. But someday I am going to have to retire (in about 20something years) and would love to have my business to the point that I could make and sell jewelry fulltime after retirement.

Ahh! A tidbit about the rest of your life! It’s clear you find it fulfilling — what do you do for a living? How did you come to it? What would you want people to know about what you do?

I’ll try to make this brief (I don’t think I have a brief answer to anything, to tell the truth).
In 2002, at the age of 37, I decided to go to college for the first time. I wanted to major in Psychology and then get a master’s degree in counseling. I had always wanted to be a counselor, as long as I can remember.

I was married and in a pretty good place to be able to quit my job and focus on my studies. At the beginning of my second semester my husband asked for a divorce, (that’s another LONGer story) so I was on my own with 4 kids, 3 still at home, the oldest was in college with me, we started together and graduated on the same day. Very cool…

Anyway I had to find a job so I looked for openings on campus. In our classified section there was an ad for a Peer Advisor. I wasn’t sure what that meant exactly (I hadn’t been to an advisor personally) but from the job description, it sounded like something I would enjoy and would give me experience working one on one with people, much like I would be doing as a counselor. I applied and was offered the job the same day. And from the beginning, though I had a LOT to learn, I loved it. I knew I had found my niche. I worked there for four years, and as my graduation day approached, and since only students can be peer advisors, I knew my advising days would soon be coming to an end. I was very sad, and at the same feeling slightly unsure about what my next step would be. My desire to be a counselor had waned some, and my attachment to the college, the students, my coworkers, etc, had increased a lot. There is not a counseling program at BSU except for school counseling and that was not what I wanted to do so I would have had to transfer.

To my surprise, the week before I graduated in May 2007, my director informed me that there would soon be 3 openings for professional advisors in our office and she asked if I would apply. I was thrilled, I didn’t even have to tell her yes, she knew the answer. In the meantime, since it’s about a 3 month process, she offered me a temporary professional advisor position through the end of the year (last year).

During my summer temporary status I had the opportunity to work with one of the VPs of undergraduate studies to implement a new program for at risk students. Students who fail two semesters in a row are placed on academic probation (after the first semester) and then dismissed from the university for one semester. I had the pleasure of contacting these students and inviting them to participate in the pilot Facilitated Early Reinstatement program, which meant they would be able to return without having to sit out a semester, be given their financial aid (if they were otherwise eligible) would have regular advising, and would be enrolled in a class that would help them get back on track. I was initially the one who contacted them, then was invited to co teach the class. That was the turning point for me in my career. I felt this program was created just for me to facilitate, and during that semester, I had applied for the permanent professional position, and from 106 applicants, I was selected, along with two other awesome individuals.

I am the At Risk Student Program Coordinator at Boise State University, as well as an academic advisor. I now supervise other peer advisors. I just completed my first semester of facilitating the program and teaching the class on my own and had fabulous results. The students bond like they are family, and I feel like they are all my kids. They are all 21 and under, and have so much potential and so much to look forward to in their future, but often just need a little extra guidance to get everything in place.

In a nutshell, that’s me. See why I love my job? It’s like I get to adopt about 20 new kids every semester but I don’t have to feed them or buy their clothes. :)

What’s the tool you use most often?

I use pliers, wire cutters, and most important, a VERY good craft light (I’m not getting any younger and neither are my eyes) hehe

I won’t ask you where you get your beads — that’d be cheating. But where do you go to shop for tools? A big chain store? Small local ones? Online? Where would you recommend people new to jewelry making look?

This is funny because when I first got started I had no idea what difference the tools made so I bought some needle nose pliers and wire cutters at a pawn shop for $1 a piece. They were old and rusty but I had no idea what I needed to get started. Shortly after that I found a great deal on a set of jewelry tools at Joann’s (craft store). Now I keep my eyes open for good deals on tools that I need. And if you sign up to be on Joann’s mailing list they send coupons for 40-50% off any item in stock about every other month or so. I take advantage of every cost saver I can.

I don’t usually buy tools online because of the cost of shipping. In fact that is why I offer free shipping in my Etsy shop because it doesn’t make sense to buy something online and pay more for shipping than I could actually buy the beads for in person. Sometimes the shipping makes the over all cost unreasonable. To a person new to jewelry making, I recommend they buy the basic tools, according to what they want to make, then add more tools as they go, or when a project calls for something more specialized. I spent about $10 for a mandala (for making rings), used it once, and discovered I really didn’t enjoy making rings so now I have a nice mandala that hangs on a hook. I just thought I needed it, so I bought it.

I am really lucky to live in a town (Boise, Idaho) where there are several craft and bead stores, not to mention WalMarts, etc where I can go for my beads, tools, and supplies.

And speaking of your local area, do you sell locally as well as on Etsy? Craft shows? Consignment at local shops? How’s the indie art culture in your area?

So far, I have only done two craft shows because my schedule has been really busy lately. I moved and traveled for work within a weeks time. I’m still in the process of moving and haven’t made any jewelry since the beginning of May :-( I plan to do more craft shows this summer, though. A local diner is having a Farmer’s Market type thing in their parking lot every weekend through October. Their rates are pretty cheap so I think I’m going to go that route. Also, once in awhile my Etsy Street Team (Idaho Indie Works) has events and more often than not, they are free. Actually the two craft shows I have done have been with them. Which brings me to the next part of your second question. The Indie Art culture in Boise is booming. People in our community are very “Green” oriented and really support local eco friendly business and the small mom and pop, home made, etc shops.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell me (and my vast listening audience) about you and your business?

I guess one thing I’d like to add is never to stop growing and learning new things. I have always claimed that I don’t have a creative bone in my body but when I learned how to make jewelry (at age 42) I realized I was wrong and that I’m still “teachable.” I found a passion in creating and I have noticed a difference in my daily life. Because I no longer think of myself as being not creative, creativity seems to blossom where I least expect it (although I still can’t draw a stick figure) lol. I just think everyone should continue to explore new things and develop passions that will get them through these trying times.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my story. It’s been very enjoyable for me.


P.S. Original said...

good interview and great blog!

Grooveycrafts said...

I love chatty interviews plus it really shows how passionate someone is about their work :). Hopefully this is the start to many more

BeadedTail said...

I love reading interviews and yours is really great! Thanks for sharing!

Kristie said...

Great interview! Nicely done. :)

LittleSun said...

thanx for stopping by maryso I would assume when "christie left her comment she was logged into efa
and I cannot find her if u know her plz tell her to stop by

Jewells (Vickie) said...

Great Interview. I would love to get together on our blogs.

SpinachNPeace said...

great interview. your stores are awesome!

Nessa Monster said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog!