Hi Guys! Today I’m excited to share with you the work of Jane Bowns. She’s an illustrator who is relatively new to the game and just recently launched an Etsy shop. In this interview you’ll hear how Jane got started and her tips for setting-up an Etsy shop and promote products.
Jane creates beautiful work…I should know, I have one of her adorable strawberry bags! Enjoy the interview!
Hi Jane! Please tell us a bit about your background as an artist and how you got into design.
I’m entirely self-taught, and learned to draw, screen print and sew the items I make through research, experimentation, passion and practice! I was into art while in school ( and my art teacher thought I had promise), but chose to pursue music instead. After studying music at college, I became a full-time guitar teacher. I love teaching guitar and perform locally in a band for fun.
I think drawing and painting are often linked with music in the general artistic sphere, and despite not studying art formally, I have always loved patterns, color and design. I probably inherited this from my Mum, who paints watercolors as a hobby.
As time has gone by, my interest in art, screen printing, sewing and design has increased. I taught myself how to screen print, as I love the colorful results of screen printing on fabric and cards, and just recently opened an Etsy shop to sell my wares.
How would you describe your signature style?
I would describe my style as simple, with delicate detailing and pattern work enveloped within clean lines. I’m influenced by designs, illustrations and fashions of the 60s and 70s, and embrace bright, happy colors with a contemporary edge.
I love pretty, fun and flowing designs involving fruit and flowers, but also love drawing people and faces. My musical background is often thrown into the mix, too. My designs can be mixed and matched with each other, and can appeal to adults and children of all ages.
What has the process been like discovering your style?
It has been exciting testing out ideas and seeing my style emerge. It’s a process of trial and error – lots of sketches and printing, editing and seeing what works and what doesn’t. I’m sure it will continue to evolve, and as my Etsy sales grow, I’ll be guided by what my customers want, too.
You recently opened your Etsy shop. How exciting! Can you tell us what it has been like?
I love sharing my art with others, so my husband and family encouraged me to set up an Etsy shop. I’m so excited for it to be open! I chose Etsy as it’s known to be supportive towards self makers, artists, designers and small businesses just starting out. As well, it doesn’t cost very much to set up or sell through Etsy. You get a lot of support from Etsy’s hints, tips and search engines (so helpful when nobody knows who you are at first).
I’ve been on Instagram for the past few months during the build up to opening my shop, and have found people extremely encouraging and supportive. They have given me confidence and a lot of positive feedback about my work. I also just joined Pinterest, and am in the process of venturing onto Facebook. A lot to keep track of, but I love seeing it all gradually coming together.
I haven’t seen as many sales yet, but I know it will take some time.
What advice would you give to other designers who are thinking about selling on Etsy?
My first piece of advice would be to enjoy the process. See it as part of a continuing business journey, and be aware that it will take time and hard work to build up a customer base. Sales don’t simply pour in because you opened an online shop, even if you broadcast it all over social media. Potential customers have to get to know you and trust you first before buying your products.
A few other tips:
Take Great Photos. I think high quality photos are a must. I just got a better camera, and I’m in the process of updating my product images. If you can take great photos from the start it will be a big advantage.
Link your Etsy shop to your website and social media accounts. Linking all of these accounts has been great because each one helps to drive traffic to the other.
Know it’s a steep learning curve. It took me a long time to get my shop up, and to learn everything I needed to know about selling products on Etsy. You’ll find that taking photos and writing product descriptions takes more time than you’d think.
Consider starting a blog: I’ve started a small blog on my website to help drive traffic to my Etsy shop. On the blog I share news, thoughts, ideas and projects related to my business.
Be prepared for technological challenges. I’ve found the technology associated with being online, and starting out on social media, challenging. I’m thankful that my husband is very good with these things, and helps me tremendously.
Expand your presence beyond Etsy. I’m beginning to reach out beyond Etsy to taking part in local craft fairs. The benefit of these is that people can see your products in person and see the quality of what you are selling. Down the road I plan to approach local shops as well.
How are you handling orders? Any advice for maintaining stock/keeping costs in check?
It’s too early to be rushed off my feet with orders! Although I have had a handful of first sales and received a 5 Star review a few months after opening my shop. I know new Etsy sellers can sometimes wait up to a year to get their first sale.
I have made sure to have most of my products ready to ship straight away. I have 5 of each item ready to go, and replenish items I’ve sold as I go along. I have also put a lot of effort into testing and refining my packaging, so that customers not only receive their order as quickly as possible, but also in packaging that looks good and is professional.
In terms of keeping costs in check, I maintain a spreadsheet of material costs for each product. I also keep receipts and emails from supply companies so I can track my expenses and review them later.
What are your future goals for your Etsy shop and your design work in general?
My Etsy shop started as a creative hobby – a personal outlet to offset my teaching work. As it’s still early days, I would love to take it from a hobby into a business. My plan is to see if it grows into a steady side business, with a loyal customer base of people who love my work and share my tastes and aesthetic. I would love to sell purely through my own website one day, or even to do this work full-time.
Beyond that, in an ideal world, I would develop a brand and develop other product lines such as homeware items, fabric patterns and coloring books. My main aim above all is to keep enjoying the journey of drawing, making, printing and being creative.
What advice can you give others who are new to surface design and feeling intimidated?
My main piece of advice would be that if you have a passion and really want to do it – just go for it. So many people in life say they have always wanted to do or try something, and never make it happen. So just starting out in the first place is an achievement. Life is a journey, and you never know where it might take you.
I know from first hand experience that it can feel daunting, overwhelming and intimidating at first, but I try to remember that even the most successful and established people had to start somewhere. It can be scary to put your ideas out there, but in my experience, the vast majority of people are very supportive and want you to succeed. This is especially the case for fellow creatives. They know first hand the ups and downs of the business. If you can embrace the community and forge links and friendships within it, it will help you to find courage and belief in your work, and ultimately keep going.
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