|Good morning! As promised, I am featuring a fellow Etsy |
artist who also happens to be from the great state of Wisconsin,
like myself! I met Michelle of MichellesClayCorner a few months
back in the Etsy chats, and found her to be a most pleasant person!
Funny, fun, and full of personality, just like her clay figurines!
I believe Michelle has a wonderful gift for bringing these little
figurines to life, as she molds and creates them. Each character
has a story to offer its happy owner! Read more about this talented
artist below and be inspired! And make sure to check out her
shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/MichellesClayCorner
Ann: How long have you been making figurines, Michelle?
Michelle: I’ve always been interested in crafting various things
(floral arrangements, wreaths, painting wood and resin figurines) and
was looking for something else I could do. I picked up an instruction
sheet at the local craft store on how to make a clay figurine in the fall of 2007.
So I bought the supplies and made it.
I was so hooked on it right away! All these ideas started flowing through
my head on what else I could create! So I bought more clay, tools and some
books and kept going. The first ones I made were the gingerbread figurines
ice fishing…and I owe credit to my son who saw me using the toothpick to
create the eyes and mouth and I asked him what he thought the gingerbread
should be doing or holding…he said “fishing with that toothpick as the pole”.
How brilliant was that? So then we just kept coming up with other things
the gingerbreads could be doing and went from there. I still love when my
son will offer up an idea. I made lots of gingerbreads that year as Christmas
gifts for family. They loved them and encouraged me to continue.
Ann: What is your signature characteristic of your clay figurines?
Michelle: On my human figurines it’s the sitting position with the bare
feet and the toes. When I first started making angels, I made one or two
without the toes and it just wasn’t the same! I also think the hair is a
signature characteristic. I do not use any molds to create any part of my
figurines and do not use a clay extruder for the hair either. I cut each strand
and twist it before attaching it to the head. It’s very time consuming but
very natural looking. Each one comes out differently and the hair styles will
vary on each figurine because I create it as I go along.
Ann: How much time do you devote to your craft?
Michelle: It really varies. Although I have a lot of figurines that are
ready to ship, the majority of my sales are for custom orders. I think
people see what I have and get inspired to have me create a one-of-a-kind
figurine for them. I do love the challenge of a custom order! People will
send me photos of their kids and tell me to make a figurine that looks like
them or give me a few features the figurine needs to have like eyeglasses,
a hat, a pet, etc. and have me incorporate that into the figurine. Custom
figurines can take anywhere from 2-5 hours to just sculpt out of clay. Then
I have to bake them in my oven to harden the clay, let them cool, glue
delicate pieces, add accessories, paint on a protective seal, let that dry
and then package them up carefully for shipment. I enjoy the challenge and
even more so the reaction of the customer when they receive their figurine!
I look forward to reading the positive feedback and convos after someone
receives their order. I’ve even had a customer send me a convo after her son
opened one of my figurines as a gift just to tell me how much he loved it!
Making people happy makes ME happy! To know that I created something
unique and special for them pleases me to no end!
Ann: What was the process of you deciding to sell your figurines on Etsy?
Michelle: Well, after all the encouragement to continue making more
figurines, I started making lots of them….and….well…didn’t know what
to do with them all! There are only so many you can display, store away
and give away! So I tried selling them at a craft fair in the winter of 2008.
Unfortunately, there were too many “window shoppers” that year and not
enough buyers. But the compliments kept my spirits up. Then in early 2009
my mom saw an episode of the Martha Stewart show where a lady was
selling her handmade goods on Etsy and she told me I should check it out.
So I logged on to Etsy.com and saw all the fabulous things people were
making and selling. I read all the seller’s tips, do’s and don’ts, and researched
other shops. After careful consideration I thought, “I can do this!” and
started taking photos of all my figurines and coming up with descriptions
for them. I found my old Paypal account and “wah-la!” I was in business baby!
Ann: What are some marketing strategies you have used and
Michelle: I am frequently on my computer so I always answer my
Etsy convos promptly and join the Etsy chat rooms to talk with other
sellers. I also try to stay connected with people through my business
page on Facebook (http://www.Facebook.com/MichellesClayCorner).
I offer periodic discounts to my Facebook fans so that encourages them
to “fan me” and then my page shows up on their Facebook page and their
friends will see it so the advertising potential is great. Some other things I’ve
done include obtaining free business cards through Vista Print
(http://www.vistaprint.com) ... just pay shipping, ordering business cards
from MOO (http://www.moo.com ) with photos of my figurines on the front
of the card and contact info on the back (the cards are high quality and an
excellent selling tool), using an e-mail signature with my Etsy website for all
messages I send out, creating flyers with photos of products and business
cards attached to have friends and relatives display at work, tucking business
cards in magazines on airplanes, doctors offices, salons, placing several
business cards in boxes with each order that gets shipped out, and giving
figurines as gifts to my hair dresser, teachers, coworkers and include several
business cards with it so they can help me advertise.
Ann: What advice could you give to new online artists?
Michelle: Well, I think totally loving what you do is the most important
thing. If you truly love what you create, you will put the time and effort into
the work involved in marketing and selling it. If you’re trying to figure out
what exactly to sell, you’ll need to find a unique niche which can be difficult
to do. Offer personalization or customization if you can. I find that is very
popular with my customers. You have to be a good communicator with your
customers and very prompt with returning e-mails and the turnaround time
from order to shipment needs to be quick. Pay special attention to packaging
your product to insure it arrives in perfect condition and looks appealing
when it arrives. It’s fun for the customer to open a well-packaged item and
see the care that went into it. A nice note and some coupons to return to your
shop or a little extra something is always great too. Be creative and always
add that personal touch. Your customers can’t get that from a big retailer, will
appreciate your efforts and will be back for more or pass the word (and your
business cards) to other people. Also, don’t get discouraged easily. It took
me 3 months after listing my first batch of figurines before I sold one thing!
The more I talked to people and looked at other shops, the more I learned
about what types of figurines I should offer, how to price my items, etc. I
sought the advice of experienced Etsians in chat or in forums who helped
guide me. I also had another Etsian create a professional banner for my shop.
Ann: What is your goal for your business or yourself in the next 10 yrs?
Michelle: Wow…a whole 10 years hey?!? I love clay sculpting so think
that I will continue to do this for many years to come. I hope to find a
local shop that will sell my products and possibly start up my own website
as well…and, of course, to continue selling on Etsy. I would like for my son
to get involved and create clay characters to sell with me one day. I want to
be putting smiles on people’s faces for a very long time and hope to be
immensely happy with whatever life brings me.
Thanks so much for doing this, Michelle!
I wish you well in your business!