Saturday, November 26, 2011
Dana Gibson from SevenGill
-how you selected your name:
I knew I wanted my name to be a species of shark. As you can probably tell from my art, I am a huge shark lover, and much of my work is shark or ocean themed. Naming my shop "Great White" or "Hammerhead" just didn't appeal to me, there was something more fun about choosing a shark that not everybody necessarily knew about. The sevengill shark seemed like the perfect choice because Sevengill Design has a nice ring to it I think, and the shark itself is particularly badass. The sevengill is a primitive shark, having not evolved much in millions of years...probably because he was built so well to begin with! And hey, built to last, I can put my name on that! He has 7 gill slits on each side, while most sharks have 5, awesome. Sevengill, I went with that, and I'm glad I did!
-describe your studio
Right now, my studio is in the basement, which is actually great! I have lots of room to spread my stuff around, and no worries about making a big mess. I have various boxes with little labels on the outside keeping my products stored and organized. All of my things are centered around my little work table, so depending on what I'm doing, I can work on t shirt printing, or making books, or packing things up to ship. I have my laptop downstairs with me, so I can listen to podcasts while I work...currently obsessed with "Professor Blastoff", but I'm almost out of episodes!! My ornaments I make upstairs, they're so small that I can pretty much bring my little ornament making set-up to any room in the house, which can be a nice break after too much time in the basement!
-talk about your work
I make a bunch of different things, that can seem rather unrelated, but I love it all! My love of nature and my sense of humor are themes running through everything that I make.
I make these cute little animal ornaments. I think that out of everything I make, they MAY be my favorite. I started making them the first year my husband and I decided to have Christmas at our house (then in California), instead of going to visit our parents. I realized that we didn't have any ornaments to hang on our tree, and I wasn't about to go out and buy some when I had a perfect excuse to make stuff! Once I started making them, I was hooked! The next year, our tree was already full, so I decided to try to sell some!
The t shirts were a the same basic story. I wanted to make some t shirts for myself, and once I started making some designs, I had people asking me to make a shirt for them too. In the back of my mind crept a little voice saying, "perhaps people will buy your shirts?" A couple of years passed before I gave it a try, but once I started listing things, they started selling!
The books that I make are, I think, the most different from my other work. While the t shirts and the ornaments are loose and free, the books are much more structured. Making a book is much more rule oriented, angular, and clean. These things, while I am good at them, were never really my style...that is, until I got a job making photo albums and boxes by hand. For five years, I worked in a studio making books by hand, and I developed, not only the skills, but also a love for the craft of book making. I left that job only recently to pursue my own crafting career, and I simply could not leave my book making skills behind! I try to bring my love of nature and silliness to my books through choice of fabric and papers for the covers.
-where you sell
I sell on etsy primarily right now. I am planning on getting involved in craft shows this spring, so keep a look out for me in Baltimore and DC! There is also one store in Philadelphia called "Square Peg Artery and Salvage" that is selling a dozen of my ornaments this Christmas, which is super exciting to me, but aside from that I'm just on etsy at the moment.
-what are you doing now, where do you want to take this business
I'm just starting to do this full time, so right now I'm tying to expand my stock, take any and all custom orders I can, and think about ways that I can streamline my process. I'm hoping to grow my business in the next year enough to keep it going full time, and be able to make a living with my own art! I've got a long way to go before that happens, but I've had enough success doing it part time, that I am confident and optimistic about the year(s) to come.
-obstacles you have faced
I would say that the biggest obstacle I have faced is myself. It was very difficult to convince myself that I am ready to go out on my own and make this happen. With all of the amazing art out there, sometimes it's been hard to think that I measure up. Luckily, I had the support of my husband, friends, and family, urging me to give it a try. Once i started, the positive feedback that I received from customers made me realize that there is a market out there for my work, all I have to do is find it.
-good things that have happened
The first good thing that happened was a guy who bought 3 octopus ornaments from me the first Christmas I was on etsy. I was nervous and excited when I shipped them out, hoping that he would like them! When he got them in the mail, he promptly left feedback for me, and it felt great!! "Fantastic work-highly recommend. They are so happy on our tree!" I should really write to him now and thank him, his feedback was what first encouraged me to keep going with etsy. I really didn't know what to expect when I started listing things, I had no idea whether I would ever sell anything, and I had no clue how great I would feel to have a happy customer!
-bad things that have happened, what did you learn from them
Nothing really bad has happened to me doing this. I have, of course made mistakes along the way. I've learned, for instance, not to get too excited about a new design and print up a million shirts just because I think it's the best thing ever. Turns out that, even though I THINK I can predict what will sell well, I really need to put it online and see how it actually does before declaring that I won the world and I will soon be a millionaire! I really care about my work, and I care about sending people the highest quality of work possible, and making them happy. Sometimes in dealing with people, I can get stressed and upset, trying to make everyone happy can be difficult, but everything seems to work out in the end. As long as I keep my standards high, I am proud of my work and everything I ship out. If I know my work is good, then my confidence stays up, and everything else falls into place.
The thing that has surprised me the most about selling online is the personal communication that is involved. I thought that selling online would be an experience of extreme anonymity, and that I would think of my customers as firstname.lastname@example.org...but that isn't how it's been at all. I think I have etsy to thank for that (along with everything!). People are emailing me all the time, asking if I can make custom items for them, telling me how much their son loves his shark shirt, or just leaving a note with an order like, 'this is for my niece who loves squids'. I feel very connected to my customers, even though I've never seen them or even spoken to them on the phone, you can really get a feel for someone through email. Etsy is a place that feels welcoming, and communication is fun and easy. I love the etsy community, both sellers and buyers (and those of us who are both), I feel proud to be a part of it.