Old World Primitives

While doing my blog research (translate scoping out shops on Etsy instead of doing laundry), I came across Old World Primitives. One of my goals on this blog is to feature shops with unique items, and her shop definitely qualifies. There’s just something about the stubbed legs on her Primitive Cat Doll that makes me yearn to pull on them.

After reading her blog and her profile, there were some things about Stephanie that I had to know. I convoed her about being one of our featured artists, and she graciously said, "Sure, please do send the questions over! I'm flattered that you would like to interview me - thanks! :) " I don’t know why, but I’m always a little surprised when people as successful as Stephanie agree to an interview. I guess I just think that they’re so busy that they don’t have a minute to spare. So, thank you, Stephanie, for tearing yourself away from your cute critters to let us learn a little bit about you and your art.

I adore old houses. There’s a quality and style in the architecture and attention to detail that is impossible to recreate in our modern world. What was your favorite styling in the old house that you grew up in?

The wide plank floors and the ceiling beams. I also miss some of quirks like having doors with latches instead of doorknobs and the original, slightly warped glass in the windows. It's nice to finally have some closets and insulation in my current home, though.

Were your parents antique collectors or were they blessed to have been the beneficiaries of family heirlooms?

Actually if you have seen the History channel's "American Pickers" show, that's pretty much what they were doing. Roadsides, flea markets (we had to get up bright and early every weekend for them), garage sales (we NEVER passed one without stopping), abandoned houses, bottle digging (Google "bottle digging" if you've never heard of this one!), and being that guy with the metal detector on the beach.

You have a wonderful blog that I so enjoyed poring over. How much of your shop’s success would you attribute to this blog?

Thank you! This is a really difficult question for me to answer, because I never ask my customers how they found me. I'm sure that blogging helps my business, but I can't quantify exactly how much.

Every crafter has a most favoritest piece. Of all your whimsical creations, which one is yours?

Every time I make something new, it becomes my new favorite. (Or if it's not my favorite, then it's time for a do-over.) I think that's because I am learning and growing more with each doll or ornament that I make. So currently, a primitive wolf doll named Wilfred Wolfinger is my favorite creation, but that is subject to change any day now.

Adorable, right? I knew you’d agree.

We’re not the only ones. Her work has been featured in both Celebrate 365 and Prims magazines and is available throughout the US and Canada via fine gift shops and galleries. So it’s not deja vu—you probably have seen her work before.

For a closer look, take a spin around her shop to see more of her creations. Be the only one of your friends to have a decked out Easter tree featuring her chenille ornaments!


Marla J Designs

Here comes the bride, all dressed in black. 

Seriously, I wore white at my second wedding!  And I was pregnant.  (Just barely, though.  Can you be barely pregnant?)  Um, hello, NOT a virgin!  Add that to the "It Seemed Like A Good Idea at The Time" page, lol. 

If I had seen this veil, I'm thinking I would have worn black.

If you keep an eye on the treasuries list, you are bound to have seen this veil.  It's a definite favorite, for obvious reasons.

Not only is the item stunning, but paired with this model/photo it is a head-turner.  One that will most assuredly catch your eye over the other thumbnails.

Before I go any further, I want everyone to shout "Happy Birthday, Marla!"  She's 60 today, so that's why we had to shout, lol!  I'm such a character tonight.  Must have been those 2 large mugs of coffee at 7:30.  Caffeine enchances my personality, and that can be a scary thing sometimes.

I was so intrigued by Marla and her veils that I sent her 6 questions!  Somebody stop me!  (Think Jim Carey in "The Mask".)
The pictures that are used in your black Noir petite birdcage are stunning. Did you hire out a professional photographer and model for this particular shot?

A customer who purchased this veil for a photo shoot (Alice Hu Photograpy) very graciously gave me these pictures. They're beautiful, aren't they?

I can’t help but think of disasters when I think of weddings. Do you have a "disaster" experience that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

A disaster, huh? Well, let me put it this way. I have learned a long time ago to not let anything be sent or walk out of a bridal salon unless I feel my best was done. I also ask myself if I'd want my daughters to wear the work I've done. This is such a special, hopefully once in a life time event, that brides have a right to want and expect the best you can do.

Which veil style most closely resembles the one you wore at your own wedding?

Actually, I eloped! I've always regretted not having a big wedding and I think I'm fulfilling some strange inner need by being involved in the weddings business for as long as I've been! I also do alterations at a bridal salon, which is another venue for selling my veils, fascinators, and jewelry . It's just fun!

Have you had any unusual custom orders? Brides these days seem to get carried away a bit with having oddball weddings.

I've created alot of custom work, and I guess I'm just getting the traditional, with a slight edge, requests. I have alot of brides coming to me with their ideas and requests but nothing too oddball. Alot of fabulous ideas actually!

Since this material is so delicate to work with, do you have lots of "oopsies"?

When I first started creating veils years ago, I was sitting at the dining room table with my old sewing maching (I have a studio AND a sewing room AND a fabulous new sewing machine now) trying to learn the lettuce edge for a veil. I wasted soooo much tulle. This edging is beautiful and soooo feminine but can be difficult to get under control.

How many orders do you expect to ship out for this year's June brides?

My sales have grown steadily thru the years. Each year has been a bit more than the last. I'm always looking for a way to expand or improve my work, and this year I'm expecting a 25% increase over last year.

Marla also sales other hair accessories for brides.  She has sold over 1200 of her products.  Make sure you do something special for YOURSELF today, Marla!

Marla's shop can be seen here.

Here is a treasury I did some weeks back that features her black noir veil.

'The Kansas Side' by MamaMellyMartin

Absence (of color) makes the heart grow fonder

Romeo and Juliet - ...

Vintage Vanity set ...

Retro Kitty Cameo N...

Noir PETITE BirdCag...

Glass Magnet Trio -...


Sterling Silver Bir...

Crackle Canvas I, 1...

Silver Stackable Bl...

Obsidian Dream Earr...

Black and White Dis...

Lucky clover earrin...

Vintage 1950s Moder...


Vintage 1950s Smith...

Book Of Hands Cover...


Beantown Handmade

I think I just woke my family up from laughing!  This dog is hilarious!  Especially this dog in these pictures:

Even if you're not a fan of the bug-eyed breed (I can say that because I am the proud owner of one!), you will definitely become a fan of these pictures.  Hence the ingenious idea of making "Bean in Hats" stickers available.  She not only offers a variety of great products, but great advice, too!  (That's a recurring theme on this blog!)  Some of her other products are collars, bows, bandanas, jackets, stickers, card, and hand-painted portraits of your pooch (or other furry friend, even ol' Tripod, even though he's not four-legged anymore.)  More than just good looks are growing this business, people!

I first noticed Beantown when I saw Bean's pictures in one of Anne's articles on http://www.handmadeology.com/

I don't care who you are, that's funny right thar! 

Let's delve into the most important question first: What is Bean's stud fee?

Haha, you may or may not be surprised but that's not actually the first time people have asked me that - and they were serious. Sorry ladies, Bean was neutered when he was just a pup.

In a private convo we had, you mentioned that you take Bean to a park to play. Is this one of your advertising means? Not that that is the sole purpose, but we all know smart business owners look for creative ways to advertise.  Everyone loves advertising in action.

We are fortunate enough to have a very large dog park on several acres with trees and a creek, so it's not so much a place for us to see other people or network. It is a great place for Bean and Lily to go and just be dogs and get filthy from time to time.

I've had many referrals from customers who've shown off their duds at dog parks in more metropolitan areas like Denver, Seattle and San Francisco. I even had a referral from a woman who saw a dog inside Bloomingdales in Manhattan with one of our sweater and hat sets on - I didn't know they allowed that! Having products seen out in the world is definitely great advertising.

When you made your first piece, was your intent to start a business or was the business something that evolved out of your creation?

I went to school for art and I got my MFA in printmaking, so when I started crocheting sweaters for Bean it was more for fun and not with a business plan in mind. I certainly hadn't planned on the scope of what I'm doing now, which is a full time business. Things started small on Etsy - I think I only posted 5 items the first month. I posted two dog hats I had made thinking no one would buy them and was totally unprepared for the enthusiastic response! From there things grew and I was constantly playing catch up on the business end. For my first year on Etsy I created mostly custom items and picked up a few wholesale clients. Last year I branched out and created my own website, attended craft shows, pursued more advertising and wholesale opportunities and made more of a financial investment in my business.

You recently passed the the 1,000 sales marker. Do you celebrate milestones in your company?

Every sale is still an exciting validation and a thrill, and now that my livelihood depends on those sales it's taken on a bit more meaning. For our 100th and 500th sales I offered celebratory discounts in our shop. The 1,000th sale happened during the holiday season and that was a sleepless blur! I think I took a screen shot in between creating and packaging products and shouted something to my husband downstairs. I always thank our customers when the shop reaches a milestone, because I wouldn't get there without their continued support.

Do you feel like you finally have a handle on this thing?

I am still learning so many things about being a small business owner, but that's mostly because I keep trying to grow my business and take on new things (and eventually world domination). I feel like I have a grip on selling online, and I finally understand more about craft shows and selling wholesale. But there are always second guesses and hesitation when it comes to investing money and taking risks. A friend told me the saying, "the first year you feed your business, the second year your business feeds itself, the third year your business feeds you." Next year will be my third year and I hope that rings true!

Just incase you didn't leave this article a long time ago to scope out Bean, here is one more link to Beantown Handmade.  Enjoy the view!

Misala Handmade

If you recognize this purse, it’s because it was voted #7 in the Handmade Top 10 Bags and Purses. Pretty impressive, huh? Well, it’s especially impressive when you take into account that there were 175 other bags and a total of 70,667 votes were cast. So why didn’t I choose number one from that list? I just like Michelle Chan’s purse better! (Michelle is a store owner that I contacted directly!)

What I found most intriguing about Michelle is that she is actually an engineer-turned-purse-maker! You go, girl! After all, it’s not the dreamers that succeed; it’s the dream-pursuers!

I know that not only will you enjoy Michelle’s creations, but you’ll enjoy learning about Michelle, too!

Do you prefer Dubai over Hong Kong?

I am Chinese, so naturally Hong Kong has everything that I am familiar with. Hong Kong is also the city where I spent a good part of my youth growing up in, so this connection can never be erased from me. Having said that, Hong Kong is a beautiful but crowded city, not without its own problems. Living in Dubai is more relaxed, while it is still a city large enough that you can still have everything you need, but it never felt "home" as I would be in Hong Kong.

Do you have any special family traditions that you now celebrate in your own home?

We do celebrate a few of the Chinese festivals here. For example on the morning of the Chinese New Year we would make an early new year call to our families. We do not have as much celebrations as other cities with a huge Chinese population (like New York) but as an individual family we strife to do as much as possible to keep our traditions and maintain our root to the homeland.

How many purses do you own?

Apart from the ones I make, not so much, really. Since I started making purses and selling them as a business, it felt different walking into a boutique. I would look for inspirations of my work in their style, the fabrics used, and the pricing. My head would be so full of thoughts that my desire to own them is completely suppressed. They became the positive balance on my husband's account, which is not a bad thing =)

Do you sell your work locally?

I am a member of a local artisan group (Artisan of the Emirates, or ARTE) that organizes craft markets regularly. I join their market a few times a year to sell and to promote my Etsy shop. I am also in touch with a local boutique, trying to sell through them.

Are you working on new designs or are you going to focus on expanding your color palette in your current design series?

I browse the web regularly for new interesting fabrics and clutches to use in my products. But I am also trying to add a local twist and make use of some material that can only be found in the region. Arabic women use a lot of gold and silver embroidery laces, and they can be incorporated to make a stylish kisslock purse. On the other hand I am also looking to expand my clutch purse Zoo series and design a few more purses that resemble other cute animals!

I just love her little birdie mini clutch!  (She has an elephant, too!) And when I saw that it was named "Gigi", I formed a little bond with it. My own little birdie’s name is Gigi. But she’s more like a monkey! We just celebrated her fourth birthday! Who knew I was going to give birth to a diva? Being the proud mom I am, here are some pictures I took of her with the first bloom of a beautiful East Texas spring.

If I've got my time zones correct, Michelle should be waking up about now, while I'm getting ready to bed down for the night.  (Before 2 a.m.!)  So good morning, Michelle!  May you make the most out of this day as you have so many others!  Keep up the excellent crafting and your photography kicks major butt!

To learn more about Michelle, keep up with her at her blog. Go see more of her creations at her shop, or peruse her profile to find out what some of her favorites are.

From Junk to JENius

You should give her a shout.  She's got a great personality!  lol.  For real, though, she does!
Still not convinced?  Check out her blog's banner.  I just hope someone caught that cake!  I don't know about you, but I never waste cake.

We exchanged lots of convos, cuz we just couldn't get enough of each other.  I talked about eating organically East Texas style (i.e. hunting and killing your own), and she talked about throwing up in her mouth.  It was a great convo!
Here are some more less disgusting things that came out of our time together.

I really like your shop’s banner. Who designed/created this for you?

Thank you, so do I! As soon as I saw it, I just knew I had to have it for my shop! It just kind of reminded me of my shop's style--recycled with an Industrial Chic vibe. I bought it from a very talented Etsian, who's shop is called, Ladedainvites. It's called a Pre-Made Etsy Shop Set, and they are made by very talented Graphic Artists that sell on Etsy. It's a really great way to give your shop a professional look, quickly and without spending a lot of money.

Does your custom puppy chalkboard look like your puppy?

Yes, it actually does! It's kind of a cartoon version of my Chocolate Lab, Pup. His name is Charger, and he is a big source of inspiration and happiness to me, along with his two "sisters." Kate-Spade, who is a Chug (Chihuahua-Pug) & Fendi, a Deer Chihuahua- will also be represented in my NEW- Dog Line of Chalkboards.

My dogs are a very big part of my life, and I know that there are so many people out there that feel the same way, so I knew I'd have to expand the Chalkboard line to include them. But it won't be stopping with the dog boards. Soon you will be seeing ALL kinds of animals, owls, chickens pigs, cats & lots more doggies!

Right now I'm working on my Easter Collection, which will include a "Chocolate" Bunny Chalkboard, which is painted with brown chalkboard paint, as well as Easter Egg shaped Chalkboard Tags, that you can write the kids names on & hang them on their baskets. These are great because you can just erase them and re-use them next year.

I think that's one of the things I love most about chalkboards. They are functional decor! I love anything that helps you get organized, or that you can re-use!

What's your favorite thing to create?

Recycling & repurposing is a huge passion of mine, and it really is the reason I started my Etsy business in the first place. I was always making over pieces that I found at thrift stores or garage sales, and friends & family kept asking me to make them something like I had just made myself. So I thought I would just try it out.

My first pieces I ever listed are really my FAVORITES to create, which are my Industrial Chic- Memo Centers, and Chalkboards. I LOVE to go "Thrift-Storing" and find old things like shutters, or cabinet doors. Then I look for fun, old metal "thing-a-majiggies" and I put them all together...but I add something "functional" like a chalkboard, cork board, magazine rack, etc...finish it off with a beautiful black & white damask material, and I think you end up with something really unique and fun.

You say in your descriptions that you do your own cutting. What tool do you use?

I use an Electric Jig Saw. Oh, I'm like a ninja with that thing, and I scare the heck out of my husband!

I actually just bought a really nice Scroll Saw, but I'm too afraid to use it. I haven't had a chance to really learn what I'm doing, so for now I'm sticking with the Jig.

Everyone loves freebies. Do you send out some freebie chalk with your boards?

I JUST got a big bulk order of chalk so that I could do just that... and you are right, everybody DOES love freebies, including me!

Now didn't you enjoy that!  I know that you will enjoy her products and your shopping experience just as much!

Here is her shop, and here is her blog.  Go enjoy her some more!

The Rusty Schwinn

When I first looked at Diana's shop, The Rusty Schwinn, I was unsure of whether to select her or not.  While she had a beautiful shop with excellent photography of must-have fashion items (and cute freckled shoulders), she didn't have a lot of inventory.

For those of you who have been storming the forums, you know how much importance is placed on a large inventory (100+ items).  Diana only had 9 items. 

I sent her the following convo:

Hey! I love your products and your shop. Are you going to be adding more items soon? I know you're just getting started and sometimes it takes a bit to build up.

Love your photos, very elegant!

This was her response:

Hi there,

Thank you for the kind words.

What I have listed in the spring 2011 collection. I will be adding more products in June to launch the summer collection, then more again in September for the Fall collection. It may seem like a long time but I am "teaching" my customers to get used my shop's timeline. The timeline matches what the timeline from the apparel industry (my fulltime job

I am also an avid blogger if this helps:

Are you only interested in a shop with tons of inventory?


After reading her response, I thought, "Wow!  That's an awesome concept!"  Here are some more outstanding insights, both about life, Diana, and her very own rusty old Schwinn.

(Her responses are in blue.)

Oh my goodness, these questions are hilarious and awesome! Boy, you are a bunch of fun. lol. Here we go:

Did you grow up riding a Schwinn? I have my own old, rusty Schwinn propped up against the house.

Unfortunately, I did not grow up with a Schwinn. I got my first Schwinn from my dreamy surfer boyfriend on my 30th birthday. I always wanted one, but not just any cheesy beach cruiser. I wanted an old Schwinn. Luckily, Surfer Boy found my Schwinn in very good condition, very little rust actually.

It was a time when I truly realized, you can have everything you want. That same year I managed to...(I can't believe I'm admitting this...blush) finally grow into a B-cup. Dreams do come true. LOL! Must have been all those push ups!!

You seem to be a healthy sort. Do you have a daily commitment to exercise?

As a kid I was a worry-wart, thus attracting a lot of sickness and stress-related disease. When I was 19, I started practicing yoga and then Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), and everything changed. At that time in young adulthood I had been living with chronic asthma and Alopecia (women's hair loss disease). It literally vanished, and I realized the value of exercise and eating well. I still train Capoeira about 3 times per week and yoga here and there at home with Surfer Boy. I'm also part of a lunch-time running group at my full-time job.

You have a definite leg up on most of us, since you actually work in the fashion industry. What is the best piece of advice that you can give clothing and accessory-minded Etsy store owners?

Create a brand that people want to be a part of. Not only that, create a world people want to be a part of, and let it speak through your product, photos, your policies and your customer service.

One of my greatest inspirations comes from Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco. Their mission statement starts like this, "Café Gratitude is our expression of a world of plenty. Our food and people are a celebration of our aliveness." Who wouldn't want to be a part of that? I certainly do and adopt a similar mission statement for my shop, although I've yet to post it publicly.
Another great tip is to create a "line" each season that your fans will get stoked about and anticipate season after season. For example, right now I have only my Spring 2011 product listed. I will then launch my Summer 2011 line in June and then my Fall 2011 line in September. Sounds like a lot of extra work, but it actually keeps the creative energy flowing.

I noticed that even though you joined in October 2010 that you didn’t have any sales until January 2011. Were you just hanging out in the background, preparing your shop before going live?

Yes. I was doing A LOT of observing at that time. I read blogs, the Etsy forums, and lots of threads to get familiar with the community. I was also brainstorming ideas for my brand, what products I would sell, and market research. Not to mention countless hours studying business management and finance articles. I didn't want to jump into this naively.

How do you handle living in a 500 square foot apartment there in sunny San Diego? And, just because I’m the curious sort, how much do you have to pay for that prime piece of real estate?

I used to live in a 49 ft sailboat for many years, as I traveled through the South Pacific and New Zealand, so you can imagine my joy moving into a 500 square foot apartment with a toilet that flushes. Not to mention I don't have to hand wash my clothes anymore.

Ahh, yes San Diego, California is crazy, but we love it. I don't feel bad paying $950 for my 500sqft apartment with Surfer Boy and our two sheep dogs, because we spend a lot of time outdoors. We live smack in between the beach and San Diego Bay, so there are plenty of places to go running. And with a Border Collie and Australian Shepherd, they need to run everyday! Plus we have a garage underneath that is the same square footage as our apartment. We've converted it to a workshop/fitness room/surf locker, so it feels like our place is actually bigger than it is.

Wasn't that a breath of fresh air?  Diana definitely represents the personality and perseverance that it takes to be successful, both on and off of Etsy.

Check out Diana's shop here

Don't forget about her blog!

Summer will be here shortly, and I expect each and everyone of you to have perfectly freckled shoulders by the time it's over!


A little profile snippit: Cubit's is your online source of high quality organic, rare and heirloom seeds. We believe that everyone can grow their own delicious organic produce. We have a special interest in urban gardening and local food.

Sadly, my vegetable intake is limited to the corn in tortilla chips, but after reviewing this outstanding shop, I am going to get me a topsy-turvy and grow some tomatoes. I wonder what kind of salsa her purple tomatoes would make? I’m sure if it’s on a chip, I’ll like it. Oh, and there are real carrots in carrot cake. It’s all about balance, people!
There is so much wonderful information here that I’m just going to let the rest of this article write itself.

Watching your video on  youtube, I couldn’t help but notice your camera. What model is it and how much did you pay for it? (Your pictures are terrific, by the way.)
My husband Ryan and I met in film class. We both have art degrees from The Ontario College of Art and Design. Before selling seeds, I sold art. That said, we tend to have a nice camera and equipment.

I shoot with a Nikon D300S. It cost us about 2000 bucks. Although I don’t think you need a pricey camera to sell on Etsy, I do think you need to have stellar product photography. The little clichĂ© of "write a description like there is no photo and use photos that don’t need a description" comes to mind every time I post a new listing. Really, no matter what you are selling on Etsy, you are sort of selling images first.

In the video I think I was using the Nikon 18-200mmVR DX, which is a zoom lens and good for the farmer’s market. Lately I’ve been using a prime 35mm DX, which does some nice close-ups, both for veggies and babies.

Being a stay-at-home mom myself, I sometimes finding myself giving my business my attention when I should really be preparing dinner or holding my diva. Have you gotten yourself on a schedule or do you find that the same thing happens in your business/home?

Working at home with a toddler certainly has its challenges, especially right now during our busy spring season. There are simply not enough hours in the day. Although its far from a perfect system, I do have a rough schedule of my Cubit’s jobs, that I try to follow, although if Rebecca decides its time to paint or have a dance party that tend to trump most things. I have certain days for certain things, for example making treasuries, blog posts, or going to the post office. I’d love to ship everything the next day, but it’s just not realistic.

Then I have a list of morning tasks: answering convos, commenting on treasuries, printing yesterday’s orders, updating social media. Afternoon nap time is filled with what ever is most pressing (new listings and the light is best for shooting photos), and the evenings with what ever tasks are best with two people (picking and packing orders, packing seeds, printing and designing).

I also keep huge lists and lots of notes, all posted on the wall so everyone can see what’s going on.

Truly beautiful produce! Was a love for homegrown produce instilled in you as a child or did you have to break free from an unhealthy diet?

Growing up we always ate well. As children, my brothers and I certainly had our fair share of pickiness but we ate a varied diet of home cooked whole foods. We also grew veggies and herbs, not to the scale I do now, but there was always a tomato or two and an herb garden.

With my own little family we do things much the same.   The best statements I can think of to describe our family’s eating habits are "Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible." Which is one of La Leche League’s basic philosophies and also that "kids who grow carrots eat carrots". It is as simple as that. A satisfying relationship with our food begins with knowing the origins of our food and a general understanding of the world around us.

Do you have a favorite salad mix that you put together out of your rare, heirloom produce?

We have a gorgeous blend of greens for salads. It’s a combination of Freckles lettuce, Black seeded Simpson, Red salad bowl, and Astro arugula. I like to just throw it in a terra cotta pot and leave it on the sunny patio table all season. If you plant a few times a few days or weeks apart, you’ll have lettuce all summer. If you eat it all, just start again.

Have you tried the topsy-turvy grower for your tomatoes or other viney produce, since you work from a small section of property?

I have not tried the topsy-turvy but have friends who have had great success with it. I used to grow hanging baskets of strawberries, and now that I think of it, I should do that this year. I do a combination of planting both directly in the garden and into containers, including a giant cast iron bathtub that is currently full of kale but also is great for growing carrots and potatoes. (This is some kale in the tub.)

This year we are hoping to grow radishes and lettuces in eves through along the side of the house. Check it out here.

Last year we tore up the front lawn and replaced it with veggies. What’s grass for anyway?

And if you took notice, topsyturvy.com is running a two-fer!  Have an experience this year and grow your own tomatoes!  From Cubits, of course.

Check out Wood Elements (featured yesterday) gardening supplies while you're at.  This has the potential of a winning combo for Mother's Day.

Wood Elements

 As for me and my house, we weren’t allowed to use certain words growing up. But in Jackie’s house, you’ll hear wonderful, Mary-Poppins-esque words like "spurtle" and "dibble".

These are both items that Jackie makes out of wood for the kitchen and for the garden, respectively.
When I think of wood-working, I think of little old men carving horses on their front porch. Not only is Jackie not a little old man, he ain’t carving horses either. Does his work even include carving? Let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth.

I noticed that you were a "featured seller" back in August of ’09. Did you see a huge increase in any of your shop’s aspects as a result of that article (sales, views, added as favorites)?

Yes! There was a definite bump in sales. For that month, our orders tripled over our typical sales per month. That bump carried us into the Holiday Season and I’m certain is still responsible for an increase in the number of people who view our shop and "favorite’d" us.

It also piqued my interest that you have started an Etsy shop with your grown children. In this day and age where so many families are divided, it is so refreshing to see a family united. What would you attribute the success of your family to?

We are a family divided—geographically. We are in Tennessee, and the kids are in Louisiana. In our household, it’s always been "acceptable" to create. As the kids were growing up, we were always making art together, collaborating on the same sheet of drawing paper, so it was natural and it was encouraged. And permission to be creative was not required.

We actually introduced Etsy to our children, and it took a while to convince them to get involved. We are still in the "exploratory" phase of figuring everything out. We may come up with some wood turned item that will be available exclusively to the family store (The Johnson General Store | www.etsy.com/shop/workagencies)

With all of this dibble and spurtle making, do you still have time to do the other things that you love? And what are some of those things?

Not much! We both have full time jobs, and Sally is pursuing her master’s degree at this time and will be finished soon. Things that we like to do, when we have time: Sally likes to knit, sew, and garden. Jackie likes to draw and paint, listen to music, and occasionally we will sit down together and watch a movie, most of the time at home.

Is there any cutting/carving involved in wood-turning or is it just simply allowing the grinding wheel to do all of the work?

In wood turning, the grinding wheel only comes into play for sharpening tools. In woodturning, unlike most woodwork, the tool remains relatively stationary while the wood spins at a high rate of speed on the lathe. Most of my woodturning is done at 3200 rpm’s (rotations per minute). That translates to 53 revolutions per second (I do not recommend that lathe speed to everyone!) Carving off the lathe is done by some wood turners in addition to other decorative embellishments such as wood burning and painting. I have done some carving but not on a regular basis.

Did you have immediate success with your Etsy shop?

We made our first sale 18 days after we opened our Etsy store. That first sale, we later discovered, was because one of our items, a maple wooden biscuit cutter, was featured in a blog at "the kitchn." Click here to read the article.

Of course we were very excited, and that sale only served to encourage us, as did the sales that followed. So we consider it a success. We are very honored by the fact that nearly 900 people have taken our products into their homes all across the US and several foreign countries.

Paper Pot Maker for Planting
What an encouraging read! Personally, I love the fact that it was the older generation that had to encourage the younger generation into online selling. That is a feat in and of itself!

One thing (but there are several!) I think we can all learn from Jackie’s successful shop is to find a few things that you do and do them well. You don’t have to be a variety show to earn top sales numbers, as showcased in Jackie’s shop.

Click here to go order your own dibble, spurtle, rolling pin, or one of the many other beautiful wood-turned creations that Wood Elements offers.

Apropos Roasters

What good is a coffee mug without some coffee to put in it? I actually found these two shops (see yesterday's article) on the same day when I searched for "coffee" on Etsy. That search alone inspired such a wonderful treasury!

It may surprise some of you to know that not only did I not grow up in a coffee-loving home, but I am relatively new to this addiction. And I will stand and say, while drinking my coffee from a mason jar, that I do have a "coffeine" addiction. My husband always drank this stuff called chicory coffee. It’s made from tree bark. (He’s from Louisiana. They do lots of weird things there.) Just smelling of it made me need to go to the bathroom. (Hey, everyone keeps telling me they love my transparent honesty!) I swore I would never drink coffee!  Classic example of never say never!

But I was so tired all of the time. It didn’t matter how healthy I ate, how much I exercised, or how much sleep I got. My husband says I was just born tired. Then one day he made me this most delightful concoction of freshly ground coffee in our new grinder and shaken with goat’s milk and sweetened with sugar. OMWow! I’ve been hooked ever since. We also use a percolator, which really brings out the fullness of the bean. I drink two mason jar-size servings in the morning and one in the late afternoon. Some of you may have noticed the time on my posts.

Yeah, yeah, it’s not about me today. However, it did make for a great segway into my interview with Apropos Roasters.

(Her responses are in blue.)

Of course we don’t want to give away all of your trade secrets (a.k.a. spill the beans), but where do you get your beans?

I buy coffee from pretty much everywhere and anywhere that I believe carries quality beans and is a transparent company (meaning they tell me everything about the coffee and send documents for organic and fairtrade certification). There are lots of distributors out there, big and small, and I like to go to trade shows like Coffee Fest to meet them and get an idea of their product. I meet the people that deal directly with the growers. They are usually very passionate and have a lot of knowledge. Someday, hopefully, I will be able to go along with them and meet the farmers as well.

Was it difficult breaking into the coffee delivery business?

Yes! I'm still working on it, truth be told. Coffee, over the last few years, has changed a lot, and I have tried to change with it. You have to stay on your toes and try not to get too bogged down by the cult-like following that springs up like wildfire around things like food, wine, etc. People are very loyal to their brands and are quick to snub a new product. I joke about being part of the coffee mafia around here! I wish roasters were more supportive of each other but right now it's simply a highly competitive field. I like to keep things simple. I want extremely good coffee to be accessible to people that stick to Folgers, because it's too overwhelming to change. I love that I go from showing a hesitant customer how to use a grinder to hearing them tell me that they like the natural nutty, sweetness in the Fair Trade Mexican when it's lightly roasted. And who doesn't like coming home to the smell of fresh coffee? It's slow-going but very rewarding.

How much of the chocolate and caramels that you make do you eat?

Luckily, I don't have a big sweet tooth, because I love making sweets. On the other hand I have to hide it from my business partner, my boyfriend, and especially my father who called in a panic once when he ran out of the mocha sea salt caramels I'd given him as a Christmas gift.

Is the other "rather small girl" your sister?

The other "rather small girl" is one of my best friends who currently is studying creative writing in Chicago. When I re-did my business plans (for the millionth time) after a few small disasters and one large one, she offered her assistance as a taste-tester. That quickly turned into a partnership. I talk to her multiple times a week, bouncing ideas off of her and sending her new things to taste and when she comes to Richmond we go out to find new accounts. Our plan is to one day open a coffee shop with an office above it where she can write. We also want to start a band called "Pattern on Pattern" but neither of us knows how to play an instrument yet :-)

Okay, more about me for a second. I taught myself to play the piano within the last two years. Go to my other blog and read the article, "Let Me Introduce You to Myselves" which is me doing an interview with myself. You can hear me play (and sing if you listen real closely) and learn a little bit more about me. It’s the coffee, people! It makes me do strange things!  And I like it, haha!
And I’ve been saving the toughest question for last: How does your coffee compare to Fourbucks, I mean, Starbucks?

The hardest part about the "Starbucks" word is that they've trained people to like very dark *ahem, burnt* coffee. I get a lot of people asking for "you know...a really, really dark roast, like Starbucks!" and I oblige but then always send them a sample of something lighter as well. There is nothing wrong with a bold roast but you can have a bold coffee without roasting the bejesus out of it. (Am I supposed to capitalize "Jesus" in that word?)You actually get MORE flavor with a lighter roast, and I've learned that when people ask for "strong" I can give them a medium roasted coffee with a high acidity and they will love it. Starbucks created a language and a standard of taste in the coffee world that you have to learn to speak; there's no getting around it. I think of it as a challenge that I have come to enjoy. Besides, without Starbucks, I wouldn't have the great business market that I do. They created the "fast-food" of coffee, opening the doors for the "four-star" coffee boutiques and shops.

I have learned from my mistakes, and so I am not going to go make coffee right now at 10 p.m. even though I really, really, really want some after looking at all of this wonderful goodness. But I can go eat some Blue Bell Happy Tracks. It just makes me fat, not hyper.

Click here to learn more about her coffee, I mean, her shop.  She's got other coffee-oriented goodies in there!
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