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 33rd in our series with Tara of SewTara.
Tell me a bit about how SewTara started and why you opened an Etsy shop.
I started SewTara after the birth of our second son. I was feeling sort of lost in the role of Mommy and vaguely remembered I was once a crafty creative person. Despite having a 2 year old and a newborn at home, I decided to start my blog as an online creative journal for myself. Eventually things grew from there, the stuff I was making started piling up and I had this wacky idea to open an Etsy store to sell some of it.
When you aren’t creating items for your Etsy shop, do you go to a day job?
I'm a Special Education Teacher. I teach in a class with 3 other lovely ladies who are EAs. I have 10 students, the class is for grades 1-4.
I noticed in your profile and about page that you are a mom. What one piece of advice do you have to other parents trying to balance raising kids, Etsy and day jobs?
Just keep at it! It's tough to balance it all but you can have what you want. It might mean trading sleep for some extra time but I find I get energized from what I like to do so it's worth it.
Looking at items in your shop, especially the cup cozies, I see themes around pop culture and social media. Are there any other themes you incorporate into your work?
Mostly I just make what I think is funny. Since I'm a bit of a dork - zombie, horror movie, sci fi, comic book, geeky, word play lover, that tends to come out in my work. When I sew things that aren't cup cozies I use wild crazy fabrics and love cute Japanese prints.
In the age of information overload, how do you choose your designs to reflect the pop culture and social media themes most accurately? (In other words; how do you say no to one design but yes to another? Or do you have shelves of books filled with massive ‘to do’ lists!?)
Haha, I have several To Do lists and piles on the go! I usually have lots of ideas. I'm fairly new to pulling off the entire screen making process myself so I can print my designs, so sometimes that slows me down on getting a new idea 'out there'. But that's ok because it's more important to make something that I like and hopefully other people will like it too. I find if you try to make a product so it *will* sell and not because you're in love with it, it's just not going to work.
I love that you upcycle and are respectful of the environment in all your creations. Can you tell me a bit about this process?
Quite often the material used on the backs of the cup cozies is repurposed or scrap from another project. I rarely buy a pile of new buttons I just search through the stash I have from donations or scavenged off clothing. I've also started to keep every little scrap of fabric and I use them to make 1 inch magnets or fabric covered hair clips. I try not to create too much waste in my work.
Do you advertise your shop, or guest blog, or any other sort of promotion? And if so, what has worked for you and what hasn’t?
I have paid for ad spots for my blog on other blogs. I've also written guest posts and done giveaways. I find being active on social media is a great way to get yourself noticed and have your presence out there. Posting images and engaging your followers and likers is great too. It's good to show there's a real person behind that virtual store front.
Aside from advertising, what is the best thing you ever did to boost your Etsy shop?
Well the best thing that brought the most traffic to my shop was being linked on Gizmodo and Reddit. But I can't claim I had anything to do with that, I didn't even know it had happened. Taking great photos and having a nice product is a great step towards being in the Etsy newsletter or on the front page, which are also things I can't claim credit for but have boosted traffic to my shop.
Tea or coffee?
Mornings or nights?
Books or movies?
Arghgh books are awesome but I can craft with a movie on . . . .
David Suzuki or Al Gore?
Terrible Twos or Teens?
Not at teens yet so I'll go with Twos
Facebook or twitter?
I'm starting to lean towards twitter more and more.
Mac or PC?
Mac. Mac. Mac.
Check out the other items available from Tara in her SewTara Etsy shop!
You can find more of her work on her blog and twitter
Interviewed by Carolyn of SproutsPressDesigns in November 2012, in Toronto.