Friday, November 21, 2014

Get Your Creative Business Organized

Is one of your goals as a creative entrepreneur to get more organized in 2015?

Admin Guru Lisa Kelly offers administrative consulting, support and coaching for creative and conscious entrepreneurs who are too busy and/or dislike admin. In her own words, "I help small business owners achieve organization, obtain peace of mind, gain more time, and carry a lighter load." 

Doesn't that sound like a great way for creative business owners to start the new year?

Lisa Kelly has a special offer for members of the Toronto Etsy Street Team - 15% off her Organization 101 workshop being held at Artscape Youngplace. TEST members can use the discount code organizeme.


Organization 101: How right-brainers can stay on top of their admin

Thursday Dec. 4, 2014
6:30pm – 9:30pm
Artscape Youngplace
180 Shaw Street, Toronto ON
Instructor: Lisa Kelly

In this three-hour workshop, Admin Guru Lisa Kelly helps creative entrepreneurs streamline their operations and automate key areas to eliminate “admin overload.”
Admin doesn’t have to be messy. With Admin Guru you’ll learn to simplify your workflow and integrate disparate systems using the latest technological tools. Even technophobes can grasp her easy-to-learn steps to an organized business.

More info and to register:

*This workshop is part of the Business Skills for Growth workshop series, an Artscape Launchpad initiative. To find out more about Artscape Launchpad and the Business Skills for Growth workshop series, please visit

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ornament Making Workshop

Ornament Making Workshop
when: Saturday November 22, 12:30 - 2:30pm
where: Arts Market, 846 College St. Toronto

Learn how to make your own handcrafted holiday book ornaments!
In this 2 hour workshop you'll learn the basics of bookbinding and the tools of the trade.  This is a hands-on workshop where you'll create a personalized, unique book ornament. We will touch on the basics first, and then dive into the main project - you will leave with your very own handcrafted ornament!  
No previous art or bookmaking experience is necessary.  This is an easy, stress free workshop that will be sure to put you in the holiday spirit!  And it's the perfect time to start making gifts and ornaments.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Vendor call: Pop Up Christmas Market at Placebo Space

Unwrap Etsy Holiday Pop-Up

This holiday season, we're encouraging people to select something special from our fabulous local small businesses: artists, artisans, craftspeople, art and craft suppliers and vintage purveyors by buying their gifts from our Etsy sellers, rather than say, shopping at the mall. Give something unique, handcrafted or vintage. Give TEST sellers wares so your loved ones can unwrap something special!

In Vancouver, Montreal and here in Toronto, Etsy Canada is also giving you the chance to shop Etsy offline and in person at pop-ups! From November 21 to 25, at Huntclub in Little Italy at 709 College, you'll find the Etsy Holiday Pop-up featuring a selection of local sellers includint TEST's own aidebodycare, bakedsoapco, BubyNoacovensk, crassstitches, fionnahanna, GraceDesign, GreenBeanThings, handsomeandlace, herprettybird, loveatfirstblush, nathalie-roze, MaleebyNature, minouette, saidtheking, Sea & Lake Paper Company, SlashpileDesigns, stitchandspoke, and more! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

TEST Interview: FlockofTeaCosy

We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 67th in our series and is with Michaelle McLean of FlockofTeaCosy.

It sounds like your business began almost by accident, when you made a tea cosy for yourself, and then for friends. Had you ever had a business before, or did you ever intend to? Is it your full time job?

You’re right it was an accident. I’ve worked freelance most of my career but not making things nor in retail. There is art college in my training though (OCAD, Banff School of Fine Arts), and I've always made things.  When I discovered this beautiful, brilliantly coloured, crisply made wool felt it was at a time when I had some time on my hands. I can’t remember how I discovered Etsy but it just seemed a no brainer to give it a fling. Although tea cosies are very traditional my designs are not, so they’re not for everyone. But being available to an international audience via Etsy made it so much easier to finding those fellow modern-aesthetic tea drinkers. It is not a full-time endeavour for me but one that I enjoy immensely. It gives me a great creative outlet. I sometimes wrestle with making more of a commitment to it as a business, but then I get sidetracked!

I know that felt is such a wonderful material for so many things - how did you discover and begin working with it?

I’m a regular user of a tea cosy and have lots of great memories of sharing a house during college with girlfriends where there was always a pot of tea on the table, and a tea cosy on top of it. But in recent years I just couldn’t find a tea cosy that I liked and that I thought looked modern and smart on my table. Being a sewer and a maker I knew I’d have to build one myself. I first came across some thick, fluffy felt made for ironing boards. It was floppy so needed to be covered in another fabric. It did the job but wasn’t that interesting to my eye. Then I was in MacFab (a fabric store in Toronto) one day and they had a few yards of 3mm French-made wool felt – bingo! I was in love. Felt, as you know, is an ancient fabric and its density makes it brilliant at insulation. Keeping something warm like a teapot was a natural for it. I love that highly functional aspect of it, and keeping the tea cosy design very simple – but elegant -- was important. There’s an industrial-chic aspect to it that I find very appealing.

You have built and named your business around one specific product. Have you ever been tempted to expand into different products?
Again, by accident really. Because the wool felt is so dear, I keep practically every little scrap (waste not, want not) figuring something would emerge in my little brain that would be perfect for them. Because I’m drawn to the functional quality of this felt – its density makes it brilliant at insulation – I am drawn to create things from it that exploit that quality. This year I started puzzling the pieces together into trivets and table runners which I’m having fun with – although the tiny pieces and tiny cuttings do create a lot of tiny fuzz which gets up my nose. I also run some tiny pieces into long rows to make holiday garlands for the tree which has absolutely nothing to do with its insulating quality but looks pretty.

I know that felt fabric can be quite difficult (and expensive!) to source. Did you have trouble finding just the right stuff for your cosies, or did you stick with that first French stuff that you found at MacFAb? MacFab didn’t continue to carry it I assume because there wasn’t much call for it, and it is dauntingly expensive. Although there are no longer any fine decorative wool felt makers in Canada (that I can find) there are still a few in the USA but the best is really in Europe. The internet is helpful for tracking down things and that’s how I found the stuff I use now.

You are a certified tea sommelier. As a fellow tea lover, that sounds amazing! Exactly what does it entail? I recently heard of someone travelling to India in pursuit of a specific tea - have you ever travelled for tea? And do you have a favorite tea?

Let’s hear it for tea! I’ve always enjoyed tea and noticed that George Brown College had a series of Tea Sommelier night courses as part of their Culinary Arts program. At the end there’s an exam presented by GB and The Tea Association of Canada and so I have a Tea Sommelier Certificate. I took it for pleasure not business and have been thrilled with the world of flavour and variety it’s opened up for me. And yes, last year I went on a tea tour to China with four fellow-tea lovers led by a fellow who owns a tea store here in Toronto – a very, very special trip.

My favourite tea? Ha, all of them. (Although I must admit that the charms of white tea rather elude me). I was raised on black tea and was thrilled to discover the Yunnan Golds and various black teas called Golden Monkey from China which feature lots of teeny golden leaf buds which impart warm caramel notes to the tea. Yum. I was hooked on Japanese Gyokuro green tea for a while which I was getting at a local Japanese grocery store. It has a distinctive silky mouthfeel and a sweet marine flavour. I was just given some Taiwanese oolong which is pretty divine too and a perfect afternoon tea. Okay, I’ll stop now!
You mentioned the international aspect of selling on Etsy - what's the most exciting (for you) place that you've sent one of your cosies?

The first cosy to anywhere is pretty exciting really, but it is fun to think of these little cosies making their way to teapots all the way across the seas in Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, etc. 

Check out the other items available from Michaelle in her etsy shop.   You can also follow FlockofTeaCosy on Twitter and Pinterest, and see more of the flock on her own website

Michaelle was interviewed by Julie Sinden of JulieSindenHandmade, November 11, 2014.

TEST Interview: JulieSindenHandmade

We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 66th in our series and is with Julie Sinden of JulieSindenHandmade.

I love your hats!  I notice you studied textiles at the Kootenay School of the Arts in B.C.  Is JulieSindenHandmade and the hats the focus of your textile work or do you work in other textile areas too?
For the moment, the hats and scarves are definitely the whole focus of my business, in large part because it keeps me so busy that I don't have time for much else.  The work that I did at KSA was largely focused around weaving and natural dyeing, two things that I am very passionate about.  I teach workshops in natural dyeing at The Workroom which I absolutely love.  It gives me a chance to share the fabulous world of plant dyeing with others, and also to connect with so many creative folks from all walks of life.  I have attempted once or twice to create a line of naturally dyed goods for sale, but it is a very labour intensive process, and would also require a proper dye studio set up if one really wanted to make a go of it.  So for the moment, my focus is on the hats!  I do hope in the next couple of years to expand to include a line of interiors, since boiled wool is such a great material for upholstery and cushions, and all sorts of housewares.

Did your Etsy store and an online presence coincide with the beginning of your hat making, or did you start with other kinds of outlets – craft markets or retail?   

Right after I graduated from KSA, I was experimenting with all sorts of techniques and materials.  I was living in my hometown of Port Dover, and participated one fall in the fantastic local studio tour, where I was selling naturally dyed handwoven baby blankets, and boiled wool upholstered ottomans.  I also had a few boiled wool purses and hats.  To my surprise, the hats were a huge hit - people loved them.  So I kept making them, and people kept loving them.  I spent that Christmas season doing smaller craft shows in Toronto, and by the following year I participated in the One of a Kind for the first time.  I opened an online store around that same time (2006), but for some reason I didn't list the hats on Etsy until last fall.  And once I did, I realised that I should have done it way sooner!  I've been thrilled with the response on Etsy - with my previous online store I made sales primarily within the GTA and Ontario, people who had seen my work in person or in a store.  Etsy has allowed my to expand my business to the United States and internationally. And it's also been a great place for networking and connecting with other makers and fans of handmade.  I'm not sure why I didn't join earlier!

Right on Etsy for that international reach!  I notice you do some wholesale business, in-person craft shows, and online at Etsy and your own website.  Have you found the balance of those for business has changed over time and do you prefer one or the other? 

It has definitely changed over time.  I started out mostly just selling direct, through craft shows, and at a few small retailers in Toronto.  I then began selling online, but like I said, most of that business came through people who had seen me first in person.  A few years ago I did a few wholesale shows, mostly in the States, and that was great experience, and really helped to broaden my market.  But those types of shows seem to be dying with the advent of the internet, and so I'm back to trying to expand my online business.  I had a baby almost a year ago, so online is also a great option, as I'm not really able to travel to shows like I had been for a couple of years.  My big challenge is that I'm not great at social media, which I know is one of the best ways to increase your online presence and sales.

Was it a big step to take on the One of A Kind show – it can look dauntingly expensive for a small craftsperson.  How did you decide you could do enough business there to warrant the cost?   (And, I imagine, the sore feet ;)

It was definitely quite unnerving to do the One of a Kind for the first time, but I'm so glad I did.  I was waiting tables at the time, and making quite good money, so I was able to use my tips to invest in the business, and lucky to not have to go into debt to try it out.  But the biggest challenge was knowing how much stock to make.  I had brought what I thought was sooooo much product, but after the first two days it became quite clear that it was not going to be nearly enough.  I sold out on day four or five, and just kept samples of each piece for people to place orders.  Then when the show was done, instead of recovering, I had to get crazy busy making again.  It was nuts, but also amazing.  Afterwards I totally understood why people do only half of the show for their first time.

FYI, Julie will be at the Christmas One of a Kind Show, November 27-December 7, 2014, booth U43 for the full ten-day show.

It sounds like you are working with knitters and helpers to make your orders.  Is this a full-time business for you or does it flow seasonally?  And how did you find the knitters/helpers?

I do have helpers!  Couldn't do it without them!  They are actually all friends (and family!) who I have trained over the years.  I joke that I have my own personal scholarship program - whenever someone I know goes back to school, they end up working for me, usually knitting.  It's great work for a student, since it's piecework, so they can do it whenever they have time, and don't have to commit to specific hours.  The funny thing is that my knitters are all, against stereotype, men (including my husband).  And none of them knew how to knit before.  And they still don't, really - they just know how to make one pattern - my hats, and they make it over and over again.   

And the business is indeed full-time for me.  I quit waiting tables right after that first One of a Kind, and haven't looked back!  Since they are only winter hats that I make, you are correct that it is quite seasonal, but it keeps me busy all year - I just do different things at different times of year.  Right now is the busiest season, when I work more than full time, packing, shipping and billing wholesale orders, and getting ready for the One of a Kind - finishing up the embellishment of lots of hats, re-jiggin my booth, etc.  Right up until Christmas it's pretty nuts, then I take a couple weeks off for the holidays and when I go back in January I work a bit less than full time, still filling wholesale and online orders and just reorganizing and regrouping from the madness of the busy season, and doing my books and things like that.  By early April, I get going again on serious production, so that I can have stock ready again by the end of August, when wholesale starts going out again.  I usually take a few weeks off in the summer as well though, since my husband is a teacher, and, well.... I can.  These days I'm juggling having a baby at home with my while I work, so it's all gotten a bit crazier, but we're figuring it out!

As a trained fabric artist do you collect pieces?  Do you have a weakness?
I don't necessarily have a specific weakness, but I do have quite a stash of both yarn and fabric.  Teaching at the Workroom can be majorly hazardous, as the fabrics there are so amazing.  Pretty much every time I go there I end up buying something, and then don't always have the time to actually use it, so the pile is....growing.  But now that I have a little girl, I'm excited to start making some clothes for her, like my mom used to do for me.

Check out the other items available from Julie in her Etsy shop! You can find more of her work on Facebook and Pinterest and her own website.  And she'll be at the Christmas One of a Kind Show, November 27-December 7, 2014.

Julie was interviewed by Michaelle of FlockofTeaCosy, November 12, 2014

Related Posts with Thumbnails