Thursday, April 28, 2011

Discover Handmade (Start to Finish)

Glorious Grazers is a wonderful crafter from Issaquah, WA, who takes her fiber through all stages of the process herself - from raising the Alpacas and carding their fiber, to dying, spinning and finally knitting!

In a highly entertaining (and often hilarious) interview, Caryn from Glorious Grazers talks to us about her day job as a video game interface designer, her four feisty fiber boys, and World War II propaganda...

Describe yourself in 5 words.
Crafty, adventurous, bold, snarky, impatient.

What made you want to become a crafter?
I've loved making things ever since I was a kid; I don't even really know where the desire originally came from. But I've always been in love with the idea of self-sufficiency, the ability to make something completely from scratch using only the most basic raw materials. So once I learned to knit it was only a matter of time before I moved on to spinning, and then only a matter of time after THAT that I moved on to owning the animals that would provide those raw materials.

So you have Alpacas! Tell us about them!
I have four alpacas. They're all fiber boys, which means we don't breed them, but they provide me with fleece.

We have Silverton, a beautiful gray alpaca with a white face who is shy and sweet; Cinnamon, who's nearly all white except for some brown on his face and tail, and who's our bossiest and funniest alpaca; there's Benz, who looks like a Holstein cow with big black-rimmed eyes, and he's a super sweet and friendly boy; and finally we have Indie, our small rose-gray rescue alpaca who became the newest addition to the herd a couple of weeks ago when we took him in as a rescue from a farm that could no longer afford to feed their alpacas.

How did you pick your Etsy shop name?
The name Glorious Grazers came about because it sounded a little like the old squadron names of World War II. I've always loved propaganda art, World War II-era slogans, military jargon, and the like, and I thought that since the DiY movement always had that World War II-style "rah rah" feel to it, it would be a great name.

Tell us more about your business. How did it get started?
I've been a knitter for about 20 years and a spinner for about 10. I love spinning yarn but could never knit with everything that I spin, and I loved the idea of being able to create something really unique that someone would pay money for. When I got the chance to own alpacas I figured that having my own small herd as a fiber source was a good chance to try selling the yarn that I make from them.

What is your favorite item in your shop right now?
Right now it's the spinning batts I call Cinnamon's Fiery Jade. I've really had to resist the urge to de-list them and just spin them myself, but I'm dying to see what the finished product might look like in another spinner's hands.

Where do you get your inspiration?
The most common source is nature, of course. It's hard not to look at a beautiful Japanese maple and not want to bring those colors into some yarn. But I also get to work in my day job with a lot of talented artists, and sometimes seeing the work they do will give me ideas for color palettes I've not tried.

What are your favorite materials to work with?
I love to blend different fibers with my alpacas' fleece. Right now my favorite blending fibers are Tencel and bamboo. Both of these fibers when combined with alpaca make a yarn that has all the best properties of both: the warmth and softness of alpaca with gorgeous sheen and drape.

What’s your favorite crafting spot?
I have a room in the house that is my fiber studio and I do love working there, but really I love working out at our table by the pasture where I can see my alpaca boys. It doesn't get sunny that often here in the Pacific Northwest, so when it does and I love taking my spinning wheel or combs and cards out there to work.

The other place I love working is down at the coffee shop on alternate Saturdays with the Eastside Spinners group. It's an informal group of spinners who get together to spin for an afternoon at Starbucks, and I love not just the chance to hang out and talk with some fun spinners but also the opportunity to educate those who walk up and are fascinated by what we're doing and want to know more.

What handmade possession do you cherish most?
Probably my drumcarder. Last year my father-in-law took an interest in the equipment I use for spinning. He's a hobby machinist and loves to build things.

He saw my spinning equipment as an interesting challenge because he'd never seen it before, and I had a Louet Junior drumcarder he thought would be fun to re-create with some design modifications. So we sat down and I showed him what I use it for, how I use it, and what features I wish it had or what I wish it did better.

I ordered some carding cloth for him and a few months later he returned with a drumcarder that is one of the best pieces of spinning machinery I've ever seen. It not only looks great but is a dream to use.

How is your business going so far?
I've only had a couple of sales on Etsy, but I've had about fifteen or so sales to people I actually know, like coworkers and their wives or just friends. In fact, most of my sales have actually been to coworkers or colleagues in the video game industry, which is my day job.

Tell us more about your day job!
My day job is being a user interface designer at Uber Entertainment, a video game developer near Seattle. We just released a game called Monday Night Combat that we're especially proud of.

Any other hobbies?
I have way too many other hobbies. In addition to my day job and spinning, I'm a tribal-style bellydancer who performs and occasionally teaches with Skin Deep Dance in Seattle. I'm also a gamer, and my husband and I really like to hike when the weather gives us a chance.

5 shops from your favorites list that you recommend?
Oooh, I love the shops in my favorites list!

AHPeele: I ADORE their t-shirts. I've bought several of them. They fit great and they have unique designs!

Down to the Wire Designs: I love his jewelry. I asked him to make some commissioned earrings for my tribal bellydance costuming (and just to wear outside of that) and he was easy to work with and had some creative suggestions I love. The result was a design he now offers in his shop (the raindrop earrings).

Woolgatherings: this is a local indie dyer and I love her colorways. Her stuff is a dream to spin.

Mincingmockingbird: absolutely the cutest bird art.

EllieAdorn: this shop is owned by a friend of mine and I think she has a really unique product on her hands: jewelry that moms can wear that can withstand a baby's grabbing hands.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?
I'm not really sure yet, that's so far away! My life has always been very free form and planning too far ahead never seems feasible. I like the surprises that have made my life awesomely unpredictable. I DO know that in ten years I still want to have alpacas, and it would be great if I could have more.

Funniest Alpaca story?
When my husband and I first moved into our place, Google Maps had an older picture of our place that didn't include our alpacas. Recently a friend looked up our address and happened to look at the satellite view and said, "hey...are those your alpacas?!" Google had updated the image and sure enough you could see them.

But the funniest part was the way they were posed: the alpacas were sunning themselves in the grass, so they were laying on their sides with their legs out in front of them, which made it look like someone had made cute little alpaca cut-outs and then pasted them onto the image. Our alpacas are even adorable FROM SPACE!

Read more about GloriousGrazers and her Alpacas on her blog!
Like her on Facebook!
Follow her on Twitter!

Use this special coupon code (created JUST for our lovely blog readers!) "heartalpacas" for 15% off in her Etsy shop!

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Doing What You Love (For A Living)

KDemARTe is an established artisan from Pennsylvania, USA. She makes stunning pewter and copper jewelry, featuring wonderful nature, animal, and ranch-life scenes.

KDemARTe tells us about quitting her day job, living the incredible ranch lifestyle, and the keys to her phenomenal success...

Describe yourself in 5 words.
Animal lover, outdoorsy, homebody, somewhat of a workaholic, a little antisocial

Do you have Alpacas or another kind of ranch/farm?
I do not have alpacas but I do have 2 horses. We live in a old farm house on 20 acres.

Tell us about your jewelry!
I make rustic hand cast pewter jewelry incorporating a lot of hand hammered texture. I wanted to try something new, so I started working with Art Clay Copper. It's similar to PMC. I like having another process of creating that I can do on days when I don't feel like casting. I invested in a small kiln and I enjoy working with the clay & the whole firing process. So now I have added copper jewelry to my shop too.

How did you get started?
I quit my “real” job in January of 2007 without much of a plan. I started my Etsy shop in September of 2007 after a friend showed me an article about the site in one of her knitting magazines (before that I had never heard of Etsy). I wouldn't recommend doing things in that order. But somehow everything worked out for me.

That's wonderful it worked out! How many sales do you have now?
My Etsy shop has 2,640 sales. I also do quite a bit of "off Etsy" whole sale work, with several companies that sell items for "horse people".

Tell us about your first sale!
My first Etsy sale was about 2 weeks after my shop opened. I remember being really excited about it and heading directly to the studio to make some more pieces.

How did you pick your shop name?
My shop name is KDemARTe. I picked it because my name is Karen DeMarte. I taught middle school art for 12 years before running away. My students used to capitalize the ART when they wrote my name on assignments. I always thought that was pretty neat.

What has contributed the most to your success on Etsy?
Making unique items and having great customer service have contributed the most to my success on Etsy.

What is the best advice you can give to new sellers?
Stay true to yourself (make things that you like), offer quality items at fair prices, and stay positive (even though that is hard sometimes).

What do you like the most about selling online?
The thing that I like most about selling online is definitely being able to work from home and having the ability to sell pieces to people all over the world.

What do you like the least?
The thing I like the least about selling online is keeping up with changes. I feel like I just get things figured out and then they change....but change is supposedly good....right?

Tell us about your product photography. What's your process like?
I take all my product photographs myself outdoors on slightly overcast days. I put my pieces on a granite rock right outside my back door and take pictures from various angles with my digital camera on macro setting.

After loading them into the computer I do some photo editing in iPhoto cropping the photos and adjusting the light & color.

Taking photos has been a learning experience for me, they didn't start out so great but have gotten much better and I think they could still use some improving.

Where is your favorite crafting spot?
My favorite crafting spot is my studio which used to be a sun porch. I can look out and see my horses in the pasture and being surrounded on 3 sides by windows makes for great light to work in. It's not a huge space but it's organized (or at least I try to keep it that way) and it's a comfortable place to work. When I'm in there working I'm always joined by my dog Kalli who is the best boss ever.

What do you do to relax?
To relax I enjoy trail riding, hanging out with family and friends, taking walks through the woods with my dog, and gardening.

Where would you like to be in 10 years?
In ten years hopefully I will still be running my business and enjoying what I'm doing.

For more about KDemARTe, check out her Etsy shop!

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alpaca Treasury Challenge #3

4/24 - 4/30

A fun treasury challenge, hosted by the 1000 Things Alpaca Team on Etsy!

Anyone on Etsy can participate! You do NOT have to belong to the team, to participate or win the challenge!

Simply create a treasury featuring the "Inspiration Item" and following the guidelines listed below. If you WIN, something from YOUR shop will be our Inspiration Item next week!

This week's wonderful Inspiration Item...

Check out her stunning winning treasury, from last week's challenge, here.

To Participate...

Read the rules carefully, especially if it's your first time with us!

Create a treasury (or two... or three...) that follows the "Challenge Requirements". The theme can be anything at all, as long as you follow the guidelines. You may create as many treasuries as you'd like and enter as many times as you'd like!

This week's Inspiration Shop will select a winner, at the end of the challenge. The winner is completely up to them! Create the best treasury you can, and maybe... yours will be their favorite!!

You have until Saturday, April 30th...

Challenge Requirements:
  1. Include this week's Inspiration Item, anywhere in the first 3 rows (NOT as an alternate in the fourth row).

  2. Do NOT include any of your own items, or more than one item from the same shop.

  3. In addition to the Inspiration Item, your treasury must contain at least 4 items that are related to Alpacas, camelids, fiber, fiber arts, or are from 1000 Things Alpaca Team members. These items can be placed anywhere in the treasury. The theme can be anything you'd like, as long as you include 4 team-related items and the inspiration item! For a list of team members, click here.

  4. While the challenge lasts, be sure to change out any items that disappear from your Treasury! But... Do NOT replace the Inspiration Item if it sells!!

  5. Tag your Treasury "alpacateam" and "ALPACAchallenge3" (#3, NO spaces). If your treasury isn't tagged correctly and doesn't show up in the Treasury search results by the judging deadline, it will not be judged.

  6. Leave a link to your treasury in the comments of this blog post. This isn't mandatory, but it is very important and HIGHLY recommended! It helps participants and judges find your treasuries easily!

  7. Leave a link to this blog post in your Treasury description (or in the first comment). If you're not sure what to say, feel free to copy and paste this:
This is an Alpaca Team Treasury Challenge entry! Anyone can play!
Find out how to participate:

***And before you participate... Make sure you'll be available to judge next week's challenge on Sunday! The winner this week, gets to pick the winner next week!***

  1. Follow this blog!

  2. If you have Alpaca-related items in your shop OR just love Alpacas, join the 1000 Things Alpaca Etsy Team! We'd love to have you!

  3. Members - You can post your treasuries in this week's entry thread, on our team forums. And DON'T forget to tag your items "alpacateam" to make it easier for participants to find you!

  4. Message the shops featured in your Treasury, letting them know about the Treasury and the challenge!

  5. Promote your treasury and the challenge! Tweet, Facebook, and share with friends. And don't forget to visit the 1000 Things Alpaca Team Facebook page, and share your Treasury link on our Wall!

  6. Use themes from Etsy's April Merchandising Desk, to increase your chances of getting a Front Page Treasury!

  7. Support other participants! Click, comment, and share other ALPACAchallenge treasuries.

Important Notes: Only shops that abide by Etsy's Rules & Regulations are eligible to win. Past winners are eligible to win again. Well Criated (the team captain) is the only person who is not eligible to win.

If you have an Etsy account, but not a shop, you can still participate and win! If the winner doesn't have a shop, they'll be asked to select their favorite treasury from the "Honorable Mentions" list, to be next week's Inspiration Shop.

This challenge ends... April 30th at 6pm EST.
The winner will be announced... May 1st.
The next challenge will begin... May 2nd.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Challenge 2 Winning Treasury!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the Alpaca team's 2nd treasury challenge! I hope you all had fun, and I can't wait to see what you come up with next week!

Below is this week's winner, chosen by FallingLadies.

Here's what FallingLadies had to say about the challenge and the treasuries!

I just wanted to thank everyone who participated in this challenge! It was so much fun to check them all out. I loved so many of the treasuries, and was surprised to see how differently everyone thinks.

I have to say my favorite [this week's winner] is...

I loved the kiwi greens and whites and I thought it was so original to just have my pendant as the center of attention, normally not someplace I like to be but in this challenge it's fun!

As a runner up I chose...

I love the soft colors and the way she related the towers in Paris to the shapes in the pendant!

4 Honorable Mentions are:
For Mom by BarefootBananas
Skin & Grass by GreenFoxDesigns
Peach Beach by FeltBugg
Blushing Blossoms by Leebweeb

Congratulations to GrandmasCrochetCotta and all the honorable mentions!!
The next challenge will begin... Monday, April 25!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Discover Uniqueness... LuluKnitsNYC

New to the 1000 Things Alpaca Team Blog...

LuluKnitsNYC is a wonderfully talented, fresh new seller from New York City, quickly becoming known for her incredible unique designs and meticulous craftsmanship.

LuluKnits talks to us about texture and color inspirations, her music background, the japan relief efforts, and healing through crafting and art...

Describe yourself in 5 words.
Wooly wonder with the knitty gritty (OK that’s six words but ‘the’ isn’t quite a word, so it’s kind of 5 and a half!)

What made you want to become a crafter?
Arts and crafts have always been part of my life. My sister and I used to crochet, sew and knit clothes for our stuffed animals and dolls. I’m in general a pretty creative person. I also like to play jazz guitar and sing and my undergraduate degree is in music.

You're in NYC - I'm assuming you don't have Alpacas!
Unfortunately not. But I’ve loved meeting all the alpaca ranchers on the 1000 things Alpaca team, and am totally fascinated. I love reading their blogs and looking at the photos of the farms and the beautiful animals. They’re super cute and seem so gentle and lovable.

I also really appreciate seeing the animals being treated with such love, care and respect. As a knitter, a lover of natural fibers AND an animal lover, this means a lot to me.

Ever considered owning a farm?
As a city girl, the romance of country life and the connection with nature really appeals to me. So yes, a part of me would like to. On the other hand, I’m afraid that I don’t have a realistic view of farm life, and it would totally kick my butt.

Tell us about your business! How did you get started?
I sell my handknit creations which are my own designs. I have always knitted as a hobby, but never thought seriously about selling any of my handknits.

A few years ago, some coworkers started inquiring whether I could sell them some of my handknit hats, and from there, and word of mouth, I started getting sporadic custom orders. People started asking me for my card, and asking whether I had a website, which of course, I did not.

How did you find out about Etsy?
I had heard about Etsy and had looked at the site before I started selling on it, and honestly, I was a little intimidated, because of the high quality of a lot of the products (and the photography). But once I investigated it further, and saw how reasonable it is to list, I said to myself “what do I have to lose?”

I wasn’t really aware of any other site that catered particularly to handmade items. I have heard of Artfire since then, but don’t know a lot about it. A friend also told me about Folksy, which is similar to Etsy, but in the UK. There are a lot of great shops on Folksy!

Favorite thing about Etsy?
I have to say that an unexpected ‘side effect’ or maybe I should say ‘perk’ has been meeting a lot of great people! I had no idea that would happen, but I must say, there are a ton of really nice people on Etsy – and of course super-creative and talented.

How did you choose your Etsy shop name?
I named my shop after my cat LulĂș who passed away in 2007 at age 18. I miss her so much. In the picture, she is relaxing atop some knitting.

The NYC of course stands for my adopted home of New York City – love it here!

What makes your shop or products unique?
I think my knitwear is unique simply in that I put myself into each piece. I think about it, I conceptualize it, and somehow it has a little bit of my personality in it. I like certain colors, textures, shapes, and my work reflects those preferences.

What are your favorite materials to work with?
I prefer natural fibers, and love all sorts of handcrafted yarns. Like all things handmade, they are special, and have in them a feeling that only something made by hand contains... There’s a touch of that human being in there, that makes it unique, special, one-of-a-kind.

I love the softness of alpaca and the shimmer of silk.

Where do you get your inspiration?
A lot of times I find that I get an inspiration from the yarn itself. I look at it, touch it, and get an idea…

There are other inspirations also. The whimsical pixie, for example, was my husband’s idea. I don’t know if it was exactly what he had in mind, but he described it to me, and I took it from there.

What is your favorite item in your shop right now?
I’ll have to go with the whimsical pixie. I think it’s cute and different.

5 shops from your favorites list that you recommend?
There are SO many talented people on Etsy and so many shops I love. It’ll be hard to choose just five, but here goes…

I love the Ideal Board. I bought some handcrafted wooden buttons from him. They’re so pretty and really well made. I put them on one of my newsboy caps, but it’s kind of hard to see in the photo just how cool they are.

I also love Cathy Peng who does all sorts of wonderful things with her cat designs. I’m a cat fanatic, and proud owner of one of her “clever kitty” tees.

I’m just crazy for Jenya2’s doggie sweaters and stylish doggie sweater dresses.

There are so many wonderful spinners and dyers on Etsy, but I do love Pancake and Lulu’s wonderful colors. I’ve bought some yarns from her, and they’re just as gorgeous, if not more so, in person.

Also, I must mention niftyknits, because her store is completely unique and she really makes me laugh. I just love her knitted trekkie meerkats.

What do you do to relax?
Other than knitting, I like to cook, read cookbooks, and watch cooking shows on TV. I also love going to the museum, especially the Museum of Modern Art. I love playing music with my husband who is a wonderful bass player. We also love to check out the various good restaurants and jazz clubs around town.

If you HAD to choose… Eco-friendly and manufactured in a foreign country? Or handmade locally but not eco-friendly?
I would have to choose handmade locally.

Where do you want to be in 10 years?
I’ve never been particularly goal directed, and I’ve always just followed my heart.

Other than arts and crafts, my various ‘day jobs’ have always been in the helping professions, as a licensed massage therapist and as a social worker. For me, there is a connection between creativity and healing. Arts and crafts and my creative expression have certainly been my therapy.

It is my dream to one day be able to combine my love for creative expression with my passion for helping others in some kind of way. I believe there is something incredibly empowering about creating. It is a way of saying “I’m here.” It is affirming, often beautiful, and frankly, miraculous. This is where I believe the healing nature of creativity and arts and crafts lies.

Tell us an obscure fact about yourself.
I am half-Japanese and half-German and was raised in those two countries. I moved to the United States as a teenager. Not obscure to me, but it might be to others. ;-)

My parents live in Japan, and so the recent earthquake/tsunami there really affected me. Several items in my store are on sale for disaster relief in Japan; the proceeds will go straight to the Red Cross.

Find out more about LuluKnits...
Follow her on Twitter!
Like her on Facebook!

Coupon Code just for our wonderful blog readers! Use "ALPACAS" in LuluKnits' Etsy shop and receive 10% off some amazing unique knitwear!

Follow this blog for more interviews from the Weekly Discovery!