One of my earliest memories is playing with paper from my dad's wastebasket, sitting underneath his work desk, where he was typing away. At the age of 8, I got an origami book (which I still use!), and I have made greeting cards and invitations all my life. Even though I also dabbled in almost every art and craft while growing up, somehow paper stuck. In professional terms, I ended up mostly writing on it as I became a professor of English, but the academic job market is in a crisis, and so I was searching for something that would provide a creative outlet and more instant gratification on the side. That's how Paper Turns was born in 2014. My brand specialises in greeting cards that are all about texture and often include origami. Since much of what I do with paper involves folding, cutting, layering, and twisting, I wanted my brand name to reflect movement and texture. I'm also a dancer in my spare time, and I feel that Paper Turns really captures all sides of my creative personality.
I haven't seen origami being used on cards before. What inspired you to create cards with origami?
Why did you choose Etsy as a platform for you to use to sell your items?
I wanted to expose a wide audience to my cards, and I figured that a well-known online platform would be an easier and more cost-effective starting point than a few small brick-and-mortar boutiques. There is obviously a lot of competition on Etsy, but it's also in itself a brand that people who buy handmade trust, and that was important. It's also very convenient, especially when you don't have the time to create your own platform and do a lot of marketing.
What was the biggest goal you achieved for your Etsy shop?
I think selling on Etsy has always been more about little goals for me. To achieve the first sale. To increase sales on a yearly basis. To update the shop more frequently. To have my seasonal products photographed and copy written before people start looking for them. The last one is a hard one when you're starting out in an area as dominated by seasonal sales as greeting cards. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to make Christmas cards in August and Valentine's Day cards in November.
How do you balance teaching, Etsy, and other aspects of your life?
It's a constant challenge but I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. The joy and passion keep me going. After spending hours reading black ink on white paper for work, colourful textured paper provides a really nice balance and stimulates a different part of my brain. Also, since I work with tiny sheets of paper I can practically do origami anywhere. For example, I fold origami on the TTC all the time, and even during rehearsal breaks in the dance studio. That leaves more time for other parts of the creative process when I am at home. It also helps - I won't lie - to have a partner who is supportive and doesn't mind taking on some extra chores at home during particularly stressful times. (A shout-out to my husband here!)
I'd advise anyone to approach the process of selling on Etsy with dedication and commitment but most of all patience and an open mind. That is, do everything you can to set the shop up well (read up on SEO, provide good photos, link it with social media etc.), check out your competition, and find ways to distinguish your products from other designers'. But also, don't despair if it takes a while for orders to trickle in. In the meantime, you can do other things that will help your business in the long term: improve your products and create more stock; go to craft shows and build a local customer base that way; explore sales avenues in retail; create a blog; and network with other crafty people...
Check out more of Katrin's work in her Etsy shop, PaperTurns.
Katrin is also an instructor at the The Simple Craft Co.
Interviewed by Michelle of ElixirChicDesigns, June 22, 2016.