etsy // minusOne.
as i mentioned a few weeks ago, i love etsy. for those of you not familiar with the site, etsy’s motto is, “buy, sell and live handmade.” etsy’s mission is to enable people to make a living by making things; they connect makers and buyers.
i prefer buying handmade goods — they’re so much more personal and special. etsy makes buying handmade easy. it’s really amazing to connect with artisans from all over the world, check out what they have to offer, and make exchanges from the comfort of your living room.
when you’re on etsy, you can type in words to describe the item you’re looking for, select if you’re interested in handmade or vintage items, and in return you’ll get a listing of goods that match your criteria. i just typed in the words “pencil holder” as i’m looking to spruce up my home office a bit, and etsy came up with 2,073 handmade results. pretty awesome. the most frequent word i search for is “paris”. today that gives me over 26,000 items to browse through. le sigh.
etsy also makes it easy for you to support artisans in your area and shop local. just type in your location, and shops in your area will pop up. pretty great!
one of my favorite etsy shops, introduced to me by a friend, is minusOne. jen wofford is the talented and creative woman behind minusOne, where the tag line is, “just old fashioned jewelery.” jen was kind enough to answer some questions to give us an inside look on her life, jewelery (and pin cushions!), and what it’s like to be a seller on etsy.
has your style always tended towards old fashioned? what’s your attraction?
I have always been interested in old things. I started collecting vintage and antique kitchenware (depression glass, enamel tin, etc.) in high school, and that grew into an addiction to estate sales and flea markets. I brought home a lot of stuff, and it was all old. Finding a great vintage piece is a real rush, like a blossoming romance when you think, hey this could really work. When the find is an original, rare piece of jewelry, I get the same rush every time I put it on.
in your etsy profile you say, “i can create something that changes everything about getting ready for work the next morning.” i love that! how long have you been making jewelry, and do you still//always get that pleasure from it?
Making jewelry is new for me. I started out knitting, and wanting to have a self-made piece of clothing that no one else would have. But knitting takes so long, and I’ve ripped more sweaters than I can wear. So I started sewing. But, again, there’s a lot of room for error in making a dress, and I don’t have the time to dedicate to learning how to do it well. But learning to make jewelry was an unexpected pleasure. I have gotten on good footing with fashion only recently, so until now, I wore the jewelry I had or what was given to me. Now I am always on the look-out for jewelry I can make or buy to spice up an outfit I’m almost tired of. I have a lot of opportunities now to play dress up – both at work and at home.
is there one piece you’ve made that stands out as your favorite? what was it?
Right now my favorite pieces are my large pendant necklaces. I love wearing them large! The domed glass necklaces are all one of a kind or limited editions and hard to make because of the size of the glass. The vintage cabochons are also fun to wear. I wear my black cabs at least once a week with a red top. But my favorite to date is here.
where do you get the materials you make your jewelry with? and, how long do you typically spend on one piece?
I get nearly all of my supplies from the Etsy community. I have favorite supply sellers who I return to again and again. My favorite supplies come from sellers who live in New England. The abandoned jewelry factories there are giving up loads of unused vintage stock.
The domed glass cab necklaces take about 45 minutes to make, if they turn out. It’s a sad process. I can make a beautiful one of a kind pendant and be very excited about it. But the glue takes 2 days to set, so air bubbles have 48 hours to show up, and they do about 50% of the time.
knowing that a lot of your pieces are made from vintage items, do customers ever ask you the story of where their piece came from?
No. More often buyers will tell me the story of why they’re buying the piece and for what occasion.
you have another etsy shop, bluehairknits, featuring pin cushions. can you tell me about that? when/why did you start making pin cushions?
I started making pin cushions almost three years ago and sold them on Etsy as bluehairknits. I was on maternity leave and bought myself a beautiful Bernina sewing machine. I found the pattern for these old fashioned tomato style pin cushions and, right away, I could not stop making pin cushions. I made about 40 different patterns, using vintage fabric and buttons. It’s such a simple, useful project, and they take only about an hour to make. But I can make design decisions that fundamentally alter the character from piece to piece. And they mean I can always buy more vintage buttons and fabric. I moved my pin cushions over to minusOne and still sell them there.
for those of us who are always on the buying end rather than the selling end of etsy, what’s it like to run an etsy shop?
Etsy takes a lot of time. Both because of the practical needs of running a shop (creating designs, taking pictures, editing photos, writing copy, and then publishing it all, and then of course marketing, marketing, marketing). But being successful on Etsy means being part of a community. The sellers on Etsy support one another quite a bit. And it’s so much fun to make something that you know is for someone’s bridesmaids, or sister or girlfriend, wrapping it with care and shipping it off.
if someone was considering opening their own etsy shop, what advice would you give them?
Do a lot of planning upfront. Pay attention to the shops you admire and try to emulate their aesthetic. By this, I mean pay attention to pictures. What do the sellers use as backdrops? Are the backgrounds a bright white or a dramatic black or red? What do they use as props? Then do a lot of research. Look into other shops already selling what you want to sell. How long have they been open? What are their price points? How many items do they sell in a month? Then do the math.
what are you doing when you’re not working on items for minusOne?
I’m married with two young children, and I work full time at Ithaca College as an academic administrator. So I keep busy.
what’s on your ipod playlist?
I listen mostly to audiobooks. I have been listening to the Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters. The series features two married archaeologists in the late nineteenth century. I’m also listening now to the Life of Cleopatra.
For music, I like (right now) singer/songwriter Emily Arin.
thanks so much to jen for taking the time to answer my questions for this post! before i sign off, here are a few more items from jen’s shop that i’m loving right now: