Tell us a little bit about yourself and your craft.
My name is Anna, and I work with contemporary embroidery. I usually have to say to people… “it’s not your grandma’s embroidery” when I utter the words, “I make embroidery.” I have my BFA in Drawing and Art Education and spent a few years after school mainly focused on getting my work in galleries. Financially the gallery scene wasn’t making much sense for me so I decided to veer in the direction of “craft” and a bit away from “fine art” with embroidery and started an Etsy shop. While I still consider my work fine art I price it so that more people can afford it. I has been so fulfilling to be actually selling my work and see it go into people’s homes.
What was your AHA moment?
I feel like I’ve had a lot of AHA moments in my work, but the most recent one was when I began my studies of native Colorado evergreen trees. I’m always seeking ways to relate to my land through my work and this one has been the most successful for me so far. I get to research and investigate these behemoths of trees throughout the stitching process and by the end I really feel as if I’ve come to know them in an intimate way.
Where do you draw energy and inspiration for your work?
I would say most, if not all, of my work is inspired by the land I live on in Northern Colorado. I grew up in Upstate New York and was devastated upon moving west because I missed the trees and the comfort of the forest. To my surprise over the past 10 years or so I’ve fallen completely in love with the plains and mountains of Colorado. There is endless inspiration in the colors and textures of its grasses, plants and animals. I believe that as a culture we have lost touch with our land through our modern conveniences and I seek to cultivate a personal relationship with it for my own sake and as something I share with my husband and will pass on to our children.
What’s one of your favorite moments of the creative process?
I’m going to cheat and give you two of my favorite moments. The first is when I begin a piece. It’s gives me the same kind of refreshment I feel after doing something like taking a shower. It is fresh and open to a thousand opportunities, and I find that so exciting. The second is when I finish a piece. I love seeing the fruition of hours of work and putting those final touches on it that make it ready to be sent to a new home.
As small business owners, I think it’s safe to say we learn as we go! What’s something you’ve learned from operating your business that you wish you could have told yourself when you started?
BE PATIENT! Even though “I knew better,” I hoped that as soon as I started my Etsy shop I’d be making a lot of sales. When I did have a bit of success, like let’s say making a decent batch of sales in one week, I’d assume that the following week would be the same or better. I have to constantly remind myself that sales and customer engagement ebbs and flows, and reading “the market” is hard if not impossible to do consistently and accurately. So I’m slowly learning to be patient with myself and with my shop.
What roadblocks have you hit and overcome as a small business owner?
I think the biggest roadblock I’ve had so far was keeping things going through a rough first trimester of pregnancy this summer. I was so sick and had a toddler to take care of too. I started doubting my ability to keep doing this and had to remind myself that I wouldn’t be sick forever, and it was ok if I had to sleep for a few hours during my son’s nap time instead of getting out to the studio. As a stay at home mom and maker/artist it’s sometimes hard to balance both jobs, but I think I’m getting the hang of it… slowly but surely. As I’m sitting here typing this as fast as I can my son is crying to get up from his nap… slowly… but… surely.
What are your go-to podcasts, books or blogs?
I use the Etsy Seller’s Handbook a lot. There is so much information in it I have to take it in in bits and pieces, but it’s the one thing I keep going back to over and over.
What is your favorite thing about the handmade community?
I like that it feels as if we are watching out for one another and cheering each other on. Early on I contacted Lauren Holton of Lark Rising Embroidery (do yourself a favor and check her out on IG: @larkrising) through Etsy and basically asked how she made her shop viable. Without hesitation she gave me a huge list of incredibly helpful tips despite the fact I was taking up the same craft as hers. In most other worlds I would have just been considered competition and not given the time of day, but in the handmade community there is a certain comradery that makes it pretty unique.
What do you have planned for your business in the months to come? Any new projects, collabs, collections you can hint at?
I feel as if I’ve found my niche with my new tree studies. They are fulfilling to me and different from other embroiderers work so I see it a sustainable route for me to go down. I plan to continue in this vein with other plants and maybe even animals that are native to Colorado and the Western US.
Tell us about a small victory! The little things are so worthy of celebration! (Anything that made you do your happy dance.)
This would definitely be when I made my first sale to someone I didn’t know. It happened after I’d fallen asleep the night before so I woke up to it the next day. I think I literally lept out of bed with excitement.