Friday, June 29, 2012

T.E.S.T. Interview: Ariannelim

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 30th in our series with Arianne of Ariannelim.

What led you to begin your business as an Etsy shop owner?

I always wanted to have my own business & when I found out about Etsy few years back, seeing all those accomplished shop owners made me tell myself, "I can be that too!" I started with jewelry at first, mainly fabric covered ones, since I had a lot of left over fabrics from when I was finishing my Residential Design program. Unfortunately, that didn't do well, and I closed my shop. Then last year, I saw this cute little sewing machine online and thought maybe I should take up sewing. So, a week later I signed up for my sewing lessons, and I was hooked =D I decided to open my shop and started selling purses & handbags.

I notice that your shop is full of beautiful vibrant colours. What colour is your favourite?

I love anything pretty and bright; however, if I were to choose, I would say pink - I know, I'm quite girly =)

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Not sure how to answer this question. I don't really know...lol I guess anything that catches my attention - which is pretty much everything. But seriously, I get it from my hubby, my mom & my sisters. As you notice in my shop, most of my items are bright and colorful, just like them! They inspire me to extend their craziness to whatever it is that I make.

What have you found to be the most rewarding thing about Ariannelim?

Since I started my purse business and Etsy shop, I've had this feeling of satisfaction and independence. It requires hard work and a lot of hours, but at the same time I get to be in control of running and growing my business. All of the decision making are up to me, once in awhile I would ask my hubby or my family for their opinions, but in the end I get to decide what's best for my business.

Also, it's most rewarding to know that customers love my work. Knowing that someone is happy with the item I made, makes the extra hours worthwhile =)

To date, what have you found to be the most challenging?

For me, it's locating wholesale suppliers to make my purses. It's odd that there aren't any in Toronto (maybe there are, I just haven't found them,lol)

Obviously purses are your passion, but if you had to choose one other fashion accessory what would it be?

Earrings! I love earrings! Can't or won't leave the house without them.

How big is your own personal purse collection?

Ohhh, I'm not sure...I think I have 2 boxes full of my own bags and purses.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?

Short & Sweet: A charming tale of sweet little me. If you ask anyone I know, they'll all probably agree. Short because I only stand about 5' 1", can't even get into being a flight attendant, which was one of my dream jobs, because of the height requirements...lol. Sweet because I'm sweet & charming, haha, and I love sweets and desserts ♥♥♥

You can find more of Arianne's work in her etsy shop. Interviewed in Toronto in May, 2012, by Wendy of aTanaDesigns.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Handmade for Pride

This year Toronto's Pride Parade falls on Canada Day, Saturday July 1st, and we are mid-way through Pride Week. There are all sorts of great events in the city to celebrate Toronto’s LGBTTIQQ2SA communities.

We'd like to point out some work by T.E.S.T. members! (Any TESTies with more items for Pride, be sure to let us know, and tag your items "Pride" so we can include you.).


Choose Your Own Adventure by Steven Beckly

T.E.S.T. member and photographer Steven Beckly is part of the "That's So Gay" show at the Gladstone Hotel, 3rd and 4th floor galleries on until July 29. Check out the official Opening tomorrow night!

June 6-July 29 – Exhibition hours daily 12-5pm
Opening Reception June 28, 7pm-10pm

If your pets will be watching or marching, why not deck them out in a Doggie Pride Bandana by ShoedawgzK9Apparel? Or one of her rainbow collars or step-in dog harnesses.

For daring humans, there's Rainbow Crocheted Nipple Pasties with Tassels and Tape by SexOnAStitch

The Blue Woman's Portrait on square Wooden mirror frame with bright rainbow stripes for luck, by EarlyMorningProjects incorporates the rainbow for Pride where you'll see it every time you look in the mirror.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

T.E.S.T. interview: BLISSFULpatterns

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 29th in our series with Shannon of BLISSFULsew and BLISSFULpatterns.


Tell me a little bit about yourself

I am a happily married mom of two boys; 4 years and 6 months. I turned 40 last week and am actually pretty pleased with where I am at in my life so I feel very lucky. I grew up mainly in a small town a couple of hours north of Toronto and in Toronto and have always loved city life but possibly because I have the benefit of getting away to the quiet of my parents home regularly which keeps me a bit sane.

When and Why did you start your business?

I have always loved fabric, bought too much fabric, and have all sorts of ideas of sewing fabric, putting fabric color combinations together, dreaming of sewing and cutting and making new things with fabric, ... get the idea? I LOVE fabric; mainly cottons. So I have always mended and fixed clothes and other things for my friends, neighbors etc and about 4 years ago I started making lots of custom shower gifts for my friends who were having babies and becoming moms. Then I discovered Etsy and it became a bit more formalized.

What prompted you to open an etsy shop?

My BFF told me about Etsy 2½ years ago and I remember staying up all night, surfing through these amazing shops, seeing gorgeous fabrics I had never seen before and drooling at all the wonderful things people had made. I could not believe there was such a place to make the things I wanted to make and possibly pay for my hobby. I've never really been super net savvy or screen happy so I am sure there were tons of other places I could have looked at before that but honestly it just did not really occur to me. So I ended up opening up my first etsy shop BlissfulSew and listed and started selling things I made. I have to admit, I have since kind of abandoned it as I have branched off in too many other directions.

Besides your Etsy shop, what other selling, websites or shows etc do you do?

I opened a second Etsy shop called BlissfulPatterns about 2 years ago where I make PDF sewing patterns for all the ideas swirling around in my head. My second shop makes me very happy as I get to create and improve on all these projects and then provide a pattern for someone else to do it also. I am constantly amazed when my customers send me photos of what they made with my patterns and I see these amazing creations that are now out in this huge world of ours and have started with a little idea in my head. I know it sounds silly but it really constantly blows me away. My patterns are listed on 3 wholesalers outside of Etsy in the US and Australia. I also go to craft and artisan shows with my sewing to try to make a little money. (to buy more fabric of course!)

What is your source for inspiration?

For my sewing, I am always trying to improve on the things I sew and use every day; particularly mommy and baby things as that has been my main life the past few years. For example, I put snaps on my bibs instead of scratchy velcro, add little details on my bags and organize things in my house into fabric baskets, new blinds and curtains, pillow cases, etc. Just like most crafters, I am always working on about 6 different projects at a time (usually half for us and half for friends and family which usually pays for my little personal projects. I am inspired everyday when I am out and about walking as so many things are made of fabric of some sort and I am constantly looking at everything with an eye as to how to make it. I bought an iphone two years ago and it changed my life because now I take photos all over the place of things I like that I want to make or usually make and change somehow. For example, my new Criss Cross Bag pattern stems from a bag hanging off the sun umbrella next to us in the Dominican in January on our family trip. Its a little weird how I look at things as I deconstruct them in my head to see how they were put together and which order the layers were sewn and the various steps it takes to finish something. Its kind of like engineer sewing I guess! That is what led to my patterns shop.

Do you have a bread and butter or day job?

Not anymore, I lost my job in a restructuring in the financial industry last year while I was pregnant with baby number 2. I was a sales associate for an investment firm and mainly did stock trading and I did not realize how stressful it was till I didn't do it every day. I still miss the stock market a lot, and the steady pay cheque of course but not the hectic pace. I absolutely love being at home with my boys.

What is your best marketing/selling/entrepreneurial tip for other craft artisans?

Ask everyone who does something similar to you about their best tips, shows, websites, materials, shops, and write it down. I have learned so much from so many other successful artisans at shows the past couple of years by just asking what they suggest. However, make sure you recognize that we all have different standards and make different things. I made the mistake of doing a couple of shows recommended by people doing something totally different to me, with a different target market. It was a total waste of my time and vendor fees.

Your pattern feedback is outstanding, do you have a creative process to put these together? How do you decide what instructions/tips/photographs to include?

Thank you for the kind words, I value my feedback and customers comments a lot, I feel like it does reflect on me personally as a business owner and on my products. I have a standard template that I created that I use for all of my patterns now and I try to incorporate as many photos as I can cram in as I am a visible person myself. I include the sewing tips and suggestions I have figured out over many years of sewing and I make myself available by email if someone has any problems. I have incorporated several suggestions from customers into my revised patterns. I also always offer a free pattern of their choice to the first 2-3 people who buy a brand new pattern if they will critique the new one and give any suggestions. After looking at them and proofing them for so long myself, I think another set of eyes is great.

You have both a pattern shop and a handmade shop - is one easier to maintain than the other?

The pattern shop takes more regular work as I renew and email out orders throughout the day, but its less time overall as I am not packaging and going to the post office. However, mainly its less work because I have been ignoring my handmade shop to get the pattern shop going. [Editor's note: While Shannon has been focused on her pattern shop, there are still handmade items available in her sewing shop, so be sure to have a look at both.]

You can find more of Shannon's work in her Etsy shops BLISSFULsew and BLISSFULpatterns, and you can 'like' her BLISSFULSew Facebook Page.

Interviewed by Steph of stuffbysteph77 in May, 2012.

Made you Laugh - treasury

Any day is a good day to laugh.  Check out these TESTY members - sure to make you laugh or smile!

Friday, June 22, 2012

It's summer!

Summer is here! Get out there and have some fun. Stay cute with these offerings from the Toronto Etsy Street Team!

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T.E.S.T. interview: Stuffbysteph77

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 28th in our series with Steph of stuffbysteph77.


Tell me a little bit about yourself

I was born & raised in Northern Ontario, the winter months could be bitterly cold and needing indoor activities to entertain myself, it seems I turned to crafts to keep me busy. I can remember trying to learn many different crafty hobbies but nothing really interested me more than paper and cards; I liked the happiness my handmade construction paper cards brought to the people I gave them to and my love for paper really took off from there. I have a pretty impressive paper collection and love hunting down just the right piece. Colour, weight, texture, age - it all matters when I’m planning a layout (card design or scrap booking). Paper makes me happy.

When and Why did you start your business? what prompted you to open an etsy shop?

Several years ago I faced a major health crisis, lost a significant amount of my vision and was unable to continue working full time, this severely affected my ability to contribute to the charities I was/am involved with. I had been getting such positive feedback from friends and family with the greeting cards I made for them that I was ready to take the risk of offering them for sale. When I discovered Etsy, it was the perfect venue for trying to sell my creations and I very quickly learned that I could use this as a tool to continue to raise funds and support my charity work.

What is your source for inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere! Inside, outside, online … I feel very fortunate to have had the vision I had for the first twenty-something years, I know colours and textures and what looks nice together. I don’t think I’m really influenced by any person in particular, for me it is all about the paper and what I can see it being made into. The kids in my life really inspire me to get down and see things from their eyes and I think this does play a part in where I get inspiration from. I’m also hopelessly addicted to Pinterest and can spend a lot of time browsing & pinning. My Pinterest address is pinterest.com/stephaniess/

Besides your Etsy shop, what other selling, websites or shows etc do you do?

One of the reasons Etsy works well for me is as I am painfully shy (ridiculously, some might say) which doesn’t allow for a lot of activities where I actually have to speak to people. There have been a few occasions where I’ve brought my creations to get-togethers or house parties and was successful but other than that, I stick to Etsy. I also have a twitter feed: @stuffbysteph

Do you have a bread and butter or day job?

At this time, no. I do some consultations and behind the scenes paperwork and program planning, but not on a full time basis by any means.

What is your best marketing/selling/entrepreneurial tip for other craft artisans?

Love what you do! The biggest ‘lesson’ that being an Etsy seller taught me was to stick to what’s in your heart and love what you do. I fell behind and kind of lost interest in creating when I had a spell of ‘what can I make that will sell?’ It showed almost immediately in my shop success, views were down and sales were like tumbleweeds. Once I went back to simply making what I like to make, it made an instant difference.It is still not what it once was before illness took over, but is getting better every day

How does being legally blind affect your work processes/extra steps?

Because I have vision left in the upper portion of both eyes, it’s quite a sight when I’m deep in creating - I flip myself upside down and generally work with my head on the floor so I can get the best view… it’s a lot of planning and staying organized but I knew I had to find the best way to continue and so far, this works! The hardest part still is the photography, I haven’t found a way to work around the blind spots and using the screen on the digital camera is the only way to take pictures ( I cannot see through the older camera view holes) For every picture that I get to use, there’s usually about 20 more unusable ones and that can get frustrating. But I just wait for ‘good light days’ and take as many as I can and sort through and edit for the next couple of days.

Do you have any special tools/software etc. that help to make your work easier?

Yes, I have software from the CNIB for my PC that enlarges both type and images and a setting to contrast only to black and white (the easiest colours to see when reading type) I do also have some handheld magnifiers and extra large print rulers for taking measurements and even spacing.

Find more stuff by Steph in her shop, or follow her on twitter and Pinterest.

Interviewed by Shannon of BLISSFULpatterns and BLISSFULsew in May, 2012. Shannon writes, "Steph's story is a great one to share. I have learned a lot from her and we have not even met. We have been swapping ideas on how to make her creating process easier to utilize the sight in the top portion of her eyes so she does not need to lie down and work above her head to make her cards! Makes my mad dash up to my sewing room when the kids are sleeping seem like a breeze!!"


Monday, June 18, 2012

Etsy meet-up

Nada the Canadian Etsy admin hosted her first official Etsy meet-up at Oz Studios, at Ossington and Dundas, last Friday night. The evening included a panel of speakers: Arounna from bookhouathome, Sarah from thehouseofhemp and T.E.S.T.'s own Alison of gracedesign with Q&A, food and drink, DJs and photographers in the crowd. It was great to see a large turn out from TEST and meet many other lovely local sellers. It was a fun night and we're looking forward to more Official Etsy events in Toronto in the future.

If you were just introduced to TEST at the event, welcome to our blog! You can find us in the forums and we'll try to process applications as soon as we can.

Look for more on this event on the Etsy blog soon, including some familiar TESTy faces!

Candy Carnival

TEST's own Krystyn of CalliopeKitten and Fredrick Prince are having a jewellery launch/Candy Carnival party! The party is Tuesday, June 19 and it starts at 7pm and ends at 9pm. It takes place at the Homegrown Boutique shop at 16 Cumberland St (lower level). Krystyn will be set up with all sorts of jewelry! Plus, look out for bowls of candy and takeout containers so you can take it home with you! There may also be awesome carnival games.

There will be a magician doing close-up magic too! If you like card tricks, coin tricks, and disappearing silks, you will be delighted.

For more info see the Candy Carnival Facebook page.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Vendor Tips: 5 tips to attract visitors to your booth

Author: Jacqueline

It's summer festival time.  So you've set up your booth and are eagerly waiting people to visit.  Now what?  How do you encourage more visitors to stop at your booth? I thought I'd share my article: 5 Tips to attract more visitors to your Booth.


1: Smile/Friendliness :
Something so little as a SMILE can go a long way.  Be sure you are always look happy to be at the show.  Uphappy exhibitors will likely turn away potential customers.  Be energetic and outgoing enough to start a conversation.

2. Stand Up (don't sit behind the table):
Customers are attracted booths where exhibitors who are standing and engaging people.  Better yet, get out from behind the table and stand in front of your booth.  Sometimes holding a product and asking people as they pass have you heard of "your product" is a great conversation starter).

3. Offer Something (freebies are great):
There is no doubt that customers love to get free stuff.  Offer customers a free sample or a free promotional piece (ie. pens, magnets with your company information.  At past shows, I make little goodie bags with a business card, promo flyer and a candy, sample, magnet or pen).  For example, at a past show I made 100 handmade gift tags (which I was which I included in the goodie bags). 

4. Hands-on or Demos: (linked with 3)
Customers love to touch, feel or taste.  Offer customers a demo, taster or a hands on opportunity.  While at a past show, I witnessed an exhibitor offering customers to make their own string bookmark with a few loose beads.  This was a great way to draw customers, and while they are there that's your opportunity to pitch.

5.  Entertainment/Contest: (linked with 3 & 4)
If your booth looks fun, it attracts people.  Entertain visitors with a fun game or balloon pop (for a discount or free gift).  I'm always attracted to booths where I get to participate.  Sometimes winning a 'coupon, discount or that free gift with purchase' educes that impulse buy.  How about a free contest 'enter to win', not only does this make a good conversation started, but it also helps build your mailing list.

Remember the more people who visit you booth, the more potential customers and sales you could have.  I hope these tips help increase traffic at your booth. 

Happy Crafting.

~ Jacqueline
(source: originally posted on the Made by Hand Show website)
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