Friday, December 4, 2009

Internet Artisan Interview - Custom Designs by Nancy

Nancy's use of materials are commonplace, but her fabrics are truly beautiful. She sent me some photos of items that are not in her Etsy shop, but you will have the address to visit her there. These would make fantastic gifts for the lady of the house, who enjoys cooking and decorating.

  • What's the name of your business/shop?
The official name of my shop is Custom Designs by Nancy. I know, not the most original or creative name but it just stuck in my head.

  • Do you have a registered domain name and/or a blog?
My shop site is on etsy at, and I blog on blogger at

  • What type of handmade products do you sell?

At my last job I had access to many different fantastic beautiful fabrics that I just couldn’t say NO to. I started collecting the left-overs and bolt ends, bought a sewing machine and voila! Here I am being interviewed! I used to sew my clothes when I was in high school, and now I sew tablecloths, bedspreads, pillows, and other goods. Because the size of my fabrics may only be about 1-yard lengths I piece together similar or complimentary fabrics to create a larger piece that is unique. I cannot duplicate the exact piece, but I can make lots of similar pieces, as you can see in my toile tablecloths. I have the same Laura Ashley toile in different colors and dye-lots, and different cloth weights and textures, so I can really play with them. The great thing about the toiles is I can cut out the different scenes and make individual placemats, which can also be folded into napkins. I can sell these at a much lower price point than the tablecloths, and I’m hoping because they are versatile and less expensive they will become a best-seller. The toiles also make great colorful aprons, where I can show off the entire toile in one piece.

The silk I use is also in limited quantities so again I piece together complimentary colors and textures to create bedspreads and pillows. I really enjoy the creativity, and let the fabrics speak to me to make something wonderful. I use a simple log cabin style to piece the fabrics together, as the finished product will be enough to catch the eye without being “busy” with a complicated piecing. Also, because the cost of the materials is nominal, what I’m selling is my labor and artistry, and I need to keep that affordable.

  • Show us a piece you recently finished

  • What are you working on right now? Any sketches?
My favorite piece is always the one I’m working on, no matter how simple or complicated. Right now I am concentrating on placemats/napkins, and aprons. I recently did a crafts fair and the one and only apron I had was the first sale. All the ladies loved that blue toile apron and wanted it in different colors and patterns. If I had had more I could have sold them, I’m sure. And they loved my toile tablecloths, but they were too expensive. $30 was the high selling price point, which is why I am working on simpler pieces that I can actually sell. It’s all very well to make beautiful $300 bedspreads, but if no-one buys them I’m not making an income. And I truly do enjoy sewing, so even a $10 apron has my love and joy sewn into it as if it were a huge gorgeous bedspread. Now that I know my price point, I know I can meet it and make more sales. I will be making more lavender sachets, and will be making potholder trivets to match the aprons. I have TONS toiles, and can have fun with them.

  • If you have a website or blog, tell us about your favorite widget.
On my own blogspot all my widgets are my favorites. I love to see who’s following me, I love to see My Favorite Things changing, and I really enjoy the phases of the earth and moon, and the NASA shot of the day. I should blog more often. I am working on an interview with an etsian buyer. We all want to sell our goods on etsy, so talking to an actual buyer and discussing how she selects a shop and product will be very interesting to a lot of other etsians, and hopefully will draw more people to my blog and shop.

  • Which online selling vendors do you use? What do you like best about each one?
Honestly, I find etsy, blogging and sewing to take up so much time I don’t have the time and/or energy to sell on another website. I recently did my first ever crafts fair, where I did pretty darn well, so I am researching near-by fairs and in-person selling venues. People come to fairs to purchase, and I think touching, feeling and seeing goods live and in person is the best way to promote my store and products.

  • Are you involved in social networking? What's your favorite and why? If you're not involved, you must have a good reason!
I do facebook, and leave comments on people’s treasuries and their blogs, and invite everyone to read mine and leave comments and follow if they wish. Since I was laid off from my full-time job in January 2009 I have basically become a full-time etsian. I’m on the promotion forum daily. I remember reading one person’s interview where she said “Not a day goes by that I don’t promote myself” so that’s what I do. I was recently inducted into the etsy bloggers, and am looking forward to participating in that activity.

  • All of us can use a helpful business hint once a week. What's yours?
I wish I had a good business tip. Would someone please give me a good business tip? I read the business forum and follow their advice, and recommend others do so. I’m sorry that’s the best I can come up with, but this is a learning experience for me, too. I buy from other etsy sellers and promote them in my listings and on my blog, and let them know about it. Also, I hired an etsy graphic designer to design my avatar and banner, and business cards, and hired another etsy vendor to print them. I am pleased with the results, and slowly but surely I’m building awareness and a following, but it takes time, time, time and constant effort.

I have 5 sales on etsy, and one of those was a trade. I asked another seller with hundreds of sales how she did it, and she just said she promoted like crazy, blogged and participated in every activity, so that is what I am doing. I am hoping with the holiday season fast approaching more buyers will actually purchase. I LOVE waking up to an email from etsy and paypal saying an article was bought and paid for. I always – all 5 times! – send a little something extra, usually tea from one of my favorite etsians, Teaman, but for my last sale – one of my toile tablecloths! – I included 4 matching placemats/napkins. That was per the advice from the business forum; give the customer more than they ask for, so I guess that’s my business tip.

  • We'd love to see your little corner of the world, where you create.

  • Where do you see your artwork in one year? Any plans in the works?
I can see myself doing this for a very long time. I love to sew and be creative, and am thrilled with sales and feedback. I want a real studio space NOT in my studio apartment, and am looking forward to my business taking wings and flying! Flying! Flying!

  • OK, the storybeader's turn!
I think Nancy's pillows are beautiful. I couldn't pick a favorite, but not to worry! Here's a variety from her shop. This "item" is from her buy three pillows, at a discounted price. Sweet!


Anitra Cameron said...

Lovely, and inspirational. I'm so glad you do this, and let all of us meet so many wonderful artists!

BeadedTail said...

Another wonderful feature! Her work is lovely and the fabrics are beautiful!

Splendid Little Stars said...

I love this interview! You do such a great job with these, Deb! Now I'm off to check her out.

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