If you don't know who Aimee Ray is, maybe you recognize the name merwing? If not, surely you recognize her wonderful embroidery:
If that's not ringing any bells you may have been under a non-crafty rock!
Besides her fabulous contributions here on Craftster, she has an etsy shop called little dear, a website called dreamfollow, oh yea, and there that little issue of being a published author! She wrote the fabulous embroidery book Doodle-Stitching!
So Aimee, when you started your business did you set out with a business plan and funding? or did it grow organically from your hobby?
It basically grew from my hobbies. I've always loved making stuff, and I've been lucky to be able to sell some of what I make! I started small, with my etsy shop. (www.littledear.etsy .com) Etsy is great, it's inexpensive, and has allowed me to try out lots of different things. If they don't sell, you're not out much.
Do you have a preference in selling online or in brick and mortar stores? If yes, why?
I mostly only sell online, and it's been really good so far. I feel like there is a much larger audience. I do have some wholesalers with real stores, which is fine too. I'm sure there is an advantage to people being able to see/touch an item, but overall I've sold lots more online.
How do you promote your items? What is your most effective marketing strategy?
I post my work for free online wherever I can. Besides craftster, I use flickr, myspace, livejournal and deviantart regularly. I think the more places you can get your stuff out there the better! I am also a firm believer in the Sampler, (www.homeofthesampler.com) they are great and super cool to work with.
What is your pricing method?
This can be a challenge, I don't really have a set method. I come up with a price based on several different factors, such as: how long I spent making the item, cost of materials, comparison with cost of similar items by other crafters, or just what I feel like it's worth to me. Sometimes trial and error is a good way to find out what people would be willing to pay.
Being a published author is huge! How did your book deal happen? Was the idea presented to you? or did you initiate it? Did you use an agent? How long did the process take from start to finish, concept to shelves?
I was very lucky to have been contacted out of the blue by my publisher (Lark Books) and asked if I was interested in writing a book! They had seen some of my embroidery online and thought I would be a good choice. I had never written anything before, but they were very helpful in assigning me an experienced editor who helped me with the technical stuff, while still allowing me full creativity. It was really a fun and very challenging experience. The whole process took about a year and a half, I had to first do up an outline with my project and pattern ideas, then take one project at a time, making it and writing the instructions. I also did all my own illustrations. After I turned everything over to them, they took photos, did the book design and handled the printing.
Was there a moment when you felt "I've hit the "big time"? What was going on in your business at the time?
Wow, I don't feel like a celebrity or anything! It was super exciting to have the first copy of my book in my hands, and to see it in the marketplace. Crafting is still not my full time job (yet), I will really feel like I've "hit the big time" if I can reach that goal.
Can you describe a "typical" day in your business?
I still have a full time, "real" job! I do all my crafting on the side. I work a normal day as a greeting card designer, and when I get home, I pretty much devote all my free time to making stuff. I have a hard time doing nothing, so I usually have some project in hand even just sitting on the couch watching movies.
I have to say, not being a full-timer is very inspirational! I'm sure a lot of Craftsters don't want to or don't feel they can give up their 9 to 5s! How do you handle the times when crafting does feel like a job and doesn't feel as enjoyable?
Well, so far I've been lucky. I've only felt overwhelmed a few times, and I've had to just make a list and take everything one project at a time until it's all done. I still love everything I do, and the things I make are kind of diverse, so if I get burnt out on embroidery for instance, I switch to some digital art or painting my NOM gnomes for awhile.
What is your biggest piece of advice to those craftsters who are reading this interview and just starting out in their own crafty business ventures? What has helped you the most?
Just find something you love to do and do it! Try not to make things just because you think they will sell, make them because you like them. Start out small, try lots of different things, don't get discouraged. Use the internet! We are so lucky to have so many opportunities to get our work out there, right at our fingertips. You never know who might see it.
What are you favorite crafting tools? What was your best crafting tool purchase?
A needle and embroidery floss seem to find their ways into almost everything I make. Embroidery is so versatile, I love that I can add a little piece of stitched artwork to things. One of my favorite tools was actually given to me, it is a book of samples of all the embroidery floss colors available from DMC. I love that thing.
What inspires you?
Everything inspires me. Especially nature, animals, other artists on the internet! My dreams also inspire me.
What is your favorite material to embroider on?
Any plain cotton fabric, or felt.
Do you still find time to craft for yourself? If so, how do you find the time?
I kind of look at everything I make as for myself. Sometimes my work is hard to let go of! I do make Blythe clothes pretty much only for myself, I'm not good enough at it to sell them yet! As for time, as I mentioned before, I'm pretty much always working on something, but it doesn't feel like work.
And finally, what do you want embroidered onto your tombstone?
haha, that is a tough one. I would appreciate some embroidered artwork rather than flowery words I think.
Thanks so much merwing!!