Introduce yourself, tell us where you're located and describe your work:
I’m Kristin Perkins and I live in Ypsilanti. I make glass and sterling silver jewelry in my home studio. I make the glass in my jewelry with the lampwork technique, which involves melting glass with a special torch and winding and sculpting it into various bead shapes. I mount my glass into sterling silver settings that I design and fabricate.
Kristin's home studio
How did you get starting crafting?
I have always enjoyed making things. My mom, dad, and one of my grandmothers enjoyed arts and crafts as hobbies. The things I remember most about growing up involved spending time with my family sewing, making Christmas ornaments, and making other craft projects. Our home was always decorated with things they made by hand or bought at arts and craft shows so I have always had a strong appreciation for handmade. When I was growing up, my mom made a lot of my clothes and I had a lot of handmade toys made by her and my grandmother.
The first craft I began to seriously pursue was jewelry making. I took my first classes in jewelry making and design in high school. I made jewelry off and on since then and in 1999 my classes in glassblowing inspired me to combine handmade glass with my jewelry. The minute I started making glass beads I planned to make it my career. I started by consigning jewelry to Michigan galleries and expanded by bringing jewelry on vacation and selling it to stores in the cities I visited. I searched for galleries online and looked at the type of work they carried to see if my work would be a fit. If I thought it was, I would call them. Gallery owners were amazingly receptive to these calls and I continue to maintain some of my accounts that I found this way. In 2004, I did my first Buyer’s Market of American Craft show in Philadelphia, from this show and each one after that I was able to generate enough business to devote full time to my work.
How did you find Etsy?
In 2006, before she joined Etsy’s staff, I met Danielle Maveal (also a jewelry maker) at a local show and she told me about Etsy. At that time, more than 90% of my business was wholesale and consignment. I had resisted selling online because even though I was pricing my work the same as many of the galleries I was working with, some had already told me they would not order from me if I sold online. In June of 2007, when the economy was causing more of a dip in my wholesale business, I finally decided to set up an Etsy store. I carefully set my prices so that they would not compete with stores selling my work. I found, what I suspected (or hoped) would be true…having an online presence has helped the galleries sell my work and rather than competing, we are working together. It has also helped me develop successful designs quicker because feedback from the end customer is much quicker than it was with wholesale. For instance, by the time I design and make a series of jewelry, it is some time before I can market it to the stores, they buy it, I make and ship it to them, they sell it, and I hear about it. Selling online is much more immediate and this helps me to suggest to them with confidence my best sellers.
What's your favorite part of being a Michigan Crafter?
I am learning more and more about this as I do more retail shows and now that I’ve joined MICE. I mostly enjoy the small shows I’ve done, such as The Shadow Art Fair in Ypsilanti and the Etsy at the Market in Ann Arbor. I am always so appreciative of the support I get from local shoppers and what the organizers of these smaller shows have done to generate appreciation and excitement for buying handmade locally. I am doing my first Handmade Detroit show next week…Craft Revival. I am really looking forward to getting together with other Michigan artists again!
What advice would you give to others who are interested in starting an Etsy shop?
I know I can be doing much more to improve my success on Etsy, but here are some of the things that have helped me. Having professional looking photography is very important and has helped me stand out on Etsy. When it was clear that I was struggling too much with getting great photos, I hired someone.
I also work each day to generate traffic to my Etsy store. Posting a new item as often as I can is a good way…renewing is not as effective as it used to be, but I do still notice instances when that leads to a sale.
I am also doing more art and craft shows than before I joined Etsy and I do get a lot of Etsy sales that were generated from those shows. A lot of customers also tell me that they received my jewelry as a gift and are now buying more. This all tells me that I could be doing much more to get my work in front of people and direct traffic to my store.
What are your plans for the future of your craft business?
I would love to have my business continue to grow and I’m happy that I now have more of a diverse business (wholesale, online retail, and retail shows). This helps because when one sales channel is down, another seems to pick up. I’ve never wanted it to be a big business and I’ve never wanted to hire people to help me make the jewelry.
What is you favorite inspirational place to visit in Michigan?
My favorite place to visit in Michigan is Frankfort. My family has a cottage on Crystal Lake and I have been going there for years. Many of my friends have wondered why I don’t travel much and I really don’t feel much of a need to. I look forward to going to Frankfort a few times a year.
Thank you Kristin, for sharing with us. It is great to get some insight into a successful crafting business. Some great tips for all of us. Have a great weekend, happy crafting!
Posted by Ashley