Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Interview with M.I.C.E. member Jill Hamilton-Krawczyk

Hello fellow M.I.C.E. members, I am happy to post an interview with our new logo designer Jill Hamilton-Krawczyk. Jill has to date 4,249 sales from her Etsy shop BarrelOfMonkeys and has 2190 hearts. As such a successful Etsy seller she has some great advice for us all.

Introduce yourself, tell us where you're located and describe your work:

My name is Jill Hamilton-Krawczyk and I currently live in Redford with my husband and our mischievously adorable black pug named Buddha.

By day, I am the graphic designer at Madonna University in Livonia. By night, I design and create pinback buttons, pocket mirrors, button necklaces, magnets and button charms. My button designs vary greatly – funny and whimsical, sarcastic and serene, animals and quotes, cameras, pets and much more. I have created countless custom buttons and I offer wholesale pricing for large quantities. I use professional button machines and quality button parts to make all my items.

How did you get starting crafting?

I have always been artistic – I can't remember time when I wasn't creating one thing or another. About fifteen years ago I photographed local rock bands – it didn't pay a whole lot but it was a lot of fun. In 1996 I discovered the world of art dolls. I attended a number of conferences and competitions where I won many awards. I wrote articles for Art Doll Quarterly magazine and Soft Dolls & Animals, taught classes and gave lectures in the US and Canada. I also organized an art doll exhibit at the American Sewing Expo for seven years. The dolls I created took about 4-6 months to complete. In 2005 I decided to go back to school to earn my BA is graphic design so with studying and homework, I no longer had the time to dedicate to art dolls.

About two years ago, my husband asked me what I would like for my birthday. I had always wanted a button machine – I didn't know why – it just sounded fun. He bought me one, I made a few buttons, listed them in my Etsy shop and they sold right away. Pretty soon I was creating new designs and selling them just as quick. I upgraded my machine and added another for larger buttons and pocket mirrors. My two-year anniversary of button making is coming up in July and I now offer well over 200 different button designs. I love creating pinback buttons because I can combine my skills as a graphic designer with crafting. Button making is perfect for my busy schedule – if I only have a half hour to spare one day I can still get a lot of items made. Some days I spend all day in my studio making buttons and filling orders.

How did you find Etsy?

When Etsy was still pretty new, a friend posted a thread in a discussion group about it. I checked it out, opened a shop and started selling miscellaneous items – handmade bottle cap jewelry, photographs, instructional booklets and other things. It wasn't until a couple years ago when I found my niche with pinback buttons that my shop really took off.

Etsy Addict or Etsy Widower pinback button

What's your favorite part of being a Michigan Crafter?

There are so many great crafters in Michigan… I have met a countless of them the short time I have been involved with the indie scene. Also, there are so many great shows to be a part of. You can go in any direction in Michigan and find a show to participate in that is unique. Michigan is very diverse… that makes it so much fun!

What advice would you give to others who are interested in starting an Etsy shop?

Before you open a shop, develop your name – make that the name of your shop AND the web address on Etsy. It makes it easier for people to remember your shop.

Develop an identity and follow it through on you banner, avatar/icon, business cards, etc. I have a lot of customers who know my booth at shows before they even see my merchandise because I use my monkey logo on all my promotional materials (banners, business cards, signs, etc). It’s good to be recognized!

Take good photos of your items and be sure to give a good description including size and materials used. Many times it’s hard to tell the actual size of an item if there is nothing else in the photo to reference it to.

Have fun with your shop! It only costs 20 cents to list an item so take a chance. Even if the item doesn’t sell right away it may still be bringing customers to your shop to view and purchase other items.

Happy Face Girls - Pinback Button

What are your plans for the future of your craft business?

I would love to add a square button machine to my collection, but those machines are pretty pricey. I'm sure I will talk myself into it someday soon though. I have also been exploring the idea of adding bottle openers to my shop. These are a lot like the pocket mirrors I currently offer but instead of a mirror back, there is a bottle opener on the back and a key ring at the top.

I would also like to do more indie craft shows. Two of my most successful shows last year were the Detroit Urban Craft Fair at the Fillmore Theater and the Shadow Art Fair in Ypsilanti. I have had a number of customers come to the show looking for my buttons as a result of being on Etsy. A number of them contact me afterward to purchase more items or to place a custom order.

But for me, it is not just about the money I make. Of course as a seller it is important to make money with your craft, but what really makes me happy is the fact that people enjoy my work. I want to see somebody wearing one of my buttons as I'm walking down the street one day. That would be so inspiring!

Squid Lady - Great Tasting - Pocket Mirror

What is your favorite inspirational place to visit in Michigan?

I would have to say up north – in the Grand Traverse Bay area. I haven’t been up there in quite some time, but my family used to rent a log cabin each summer. I just loved the smell of up north and being by the water.

Anything else you would like to share with MICE?

I have had so many opportunities come my way in the short time since I have joined the M.I.C.E. group that include meeting other Michigan crafters and designing the new M.I.C.E. logo. I have told a number of Michigan Etsy friends about this vibrant group in hopes that the member count continues to rise and that more events and opportunities become available for everyone.

Thank you Jill for letting us take a look inside Barrel Of Monkeys. Also a big thank you for designing the M.I.C.E. logo (above) which you can download from the file section at In addition Jill has also made some M.I.C.E. pinback buttons for us at a special rate of 4 for $3.00, I already have mine!
Happy crafting!

Posted by Ashley