Issue: Spring 2009
Etsy Fairy Tale: Kristi Marcille-Smith’s Intriguing New Venue
Written by Rachel Turiel
Photos by Kristi Marcille-Smith
Kristi Marcille-Smith doesn’t know much about this recession. Perhaps she’s been too busy pounding out orders for her handcrafted silver jewelry in her Dolores, Colorado studio. Kristi, a Dolores resident since 2001, has held every job a small town has to offer, including teacher, tutor, waitress, retail employee, and, most recently, staying at home with her two daughters, ages three and one.
The need for more family income and Kristi’s dream of creating silver jewelry have combined and blossomed into a business. This one-woman show, Silver Sparrow Designs, has taken flight, leaving Kristi holding on as the orders pile up.
The story reads like fiction: One local gave Kristi all the silversmithing equipment she needed to get started; a Dolores friend loaned her a torch; another friend gave Kristi a refresher course on silversmithing; and the town mayor put building supplies for Kristi’s work studio on his charge account and did much of the construction work in exchange for babysitting. The happy ending is that less than a year later, Kristi has had over 400 sales.
If Kristi’s success is a fairy tale, one of her fairy godmothers is surely Etsy, an online emporium where artists showcase their work in personal, online “shops.” Etsy has become a shopping mecca for people who seek unique, handcrafted items – from clothing to jewelry to fine art and much more. There are 170,000 sellers on Etsy and a search for “silver jewelry” yields fewer than 249,000 items. Sixty-four of them are from Silver Sparrow Designs.
How does one achieve the fortune of a sale for every day of the year? Kristi has learned a few crucial tools for making sure her jewelry doesn’t get lost in the vast sea of Etsy jewelers. These tools for success have, remarkably, been learned from other Etsy sellers. Rather than breeding competition and stinginess, Etsy has modeled itself after a community in which ideas, tips and suggestions are shared freely on online forums. The Etsy administration is quick to respond to questions, and Kristi feels like the spirit is one of collaboration. “They really want to help you succeed.”
Whenever possible, Kristi buys supplies, like glass beads and necklace chains, from other Etsy artists, even though there are cheaper options. This year her daughters got handmade Halloween costumes and gorgeous knitted hats from Etsy. Kristi admits that since her tremendously successful holiday season, “I’ve been buying myself a lot of cute skirts off Etsy.”
In addition to jewelry, Kristi has been making and selling unique silver guitar picks. The first pick was for Glenn, Kristi’s husband. She handstamped some Jack White lyrics on the small wedge and posted a picture on her Etsy store. The Etsy administration noticed this lovely item and bam!
Kristi was, as she says, “all over Etsy for awhile.” During the holidays, Silver Sparrow Designs guitar picks were listed in Etsy gift guides, described in an article about personalized gifts and showing up as links on other seller’s blogs. By Christmas, Kristi had crafted 211 guitar picks, each with a personalized message. “It was a bit surreal,” she remembers, “staying up until 2:30, stamping out people’s strange and mysterious words.”
Although Kristi loves to think of people all over the world making music with her guitar picks (she has shipped to London, the Philippines, Japan, Finland, Yugoslavia and more), she is thankful the seasonal rush is over. With an average of five sales a week now, she has enough time to create new items, spend quality time with her daughters and make a sizable contribution to the family finances. Maybe fairy tales do come true. •
You can view and purchase Kristi Marcille-Smiths work at http://www.silversparrowdesigns.etsy.com.
Friends who helped Kristi also sell online: http://www.kellybaldwindesign.etsy.com and http://ironmaegan.etsy.com.
Tips on selling your work on Etsy:
- Go to http://www.etsy.com. In the upper right corner, choose “Register.” Create a username (which cannot be changed) and set up your account.
- Take fabulous digital photos of your work, using natural lighting and interesting (but not too busy) backgrounds. Go to “your Etsy.” Click on “Add New Item.” You will be walked through the process. Very simple.
- Renew at least one item in your shop daily (by clicking on “Renew Items” in “Your Etsy”). To do this costs only 20 cents and will bring your shop to the top of searches.
- When you have sales, email your customers to thank them. Email them again when you ship their item. Do whatever you can to “connect” with your customer; it makes the sale personal, even though it is online.
- Be active in forums (by clicking on “Community” at the top of the Etsy homepage) and make treasuries (choose “Treasury” on the home page and it tells you how at the bottom). The more you connect with other ”Etsians,” the better.
Rachel Turiel is a freelance writer who has lived in Durango for 13+ years. She writes a column called Adventures in Motherhood for the Sunday edition of The Durango Herald. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.