The Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs of Opening an Etsy Shop

I love arts and crafts with my whole heart. Truly, I am never happier than when I’m doing some kind of fun craft, no matter what it is. I’ve made things with clay, paint, resin, fabric, icing, felt, wool, paper mache–anything really. If you’ve seen it on Pinterest, chances are I’ve given it a try. Crafting has been a love of mine since a very early age. I drew constantly, and my favorite activity to do was go pottery painting, an outing my mother hated, until she decided to simply leave me at the pottery studio for a few hours while she went to work so she didn’t have to wait for me.

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Me, age 10, painting pottery.

My crafts have ranged from pretty damn impressive, to downright hilariously bad. One of my personal favorite dumb crafts was when my family and I came home from a holiday to see that our zucchini plant had birthed two monstrous zucchinis… and I decided to name, dress, and craft faces for them. Why? I really don’t know.  Are there photos? Oh yes. I posted them on Facebook at the time. I was very proud. And also way too young for Facebook. 

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However, I’ve also had a… pretty obvious tendency to start craft projects, become hyper-focused on those for about a week, and then never touch them again. In fact, twice throughout my childhood I had the grand idea to start a business selling my crafts. Obviously, if I’m so amazing at crafting, and I enjoy it so much, why shouldn’t I get paid for it? Well, twelve year old me found out pretty damn fast. My first foray was making woollen hats. I had received a round loom set for a birthday, and decided that was it for me, the craft to end all crafts. Before I had even finished creating my first small hat, I had asked my whole extended family to “please place your orders, I’m a small business now”. I remember having a little notebook where I diligently kept up with all my commissions, and forcing my mom to go to Michaels with me to buy me all the wool I needed. This all sounds great, except that that wool is still in the closet of my childhood bedroom, stuffed waaaay at the back with the rest of my shame. So yeah, I finished that one hat and never made another. About the same thing happened a year later when I got my caricature drawn during a trip to the Zoo.

Of course, thirteen year old me, in her ultimate wisdom, had still not learned her lesson, and she thought “Hey! I can do that!”. This time I embarrassingly made a Facebook page where people could order them, and added my entire middle school class. I’m sure I got a fair amount of orders, but I can count the number of people who actually received them on one hand. 

This pattern of picking up and immediate putting down of crafts continued into my teens and all the way to the present, but at least I learned my lesson and never tried to make a business of it again, as that was obviously bound to fail due to my less than remarkable follow-through skills. Until, you guessed it, COVID-19 quarantine. During the first few months of staying home due to the pandemic, I crafted my little heart out. I found all kinds of things in my house to make craft projects out of, including my denim jacket! This only happened because I ran out of canvasses one day, but still wanted to paint, so I figured, why not do it on my jacket? After looking up a quick painting-on-denim tutorial on Pinterest, I made this jacket:

It was a cute quarantine project, but I didn’t think much of it. Until one day I wore it to the mall (matching mask and all!) and a wonderful lady working at the Pandora jewelry store stopped me in my tracks. “OMG, where did you get that jacket?!”, she downright yelled at me. When I told her I made it myself I swear she jumped a little. She immediately asked me what my Etsy handle was, if I had a business, simply where, WHERE, she could get one for herself. I was pretty flustered, and told her I don’t live in the US, so it would be hard to get her a jacket, and also, I don’t have an Etsy, nor a business, nor have I ever taken commissions (I prefer to ignore the hat and caricature events). She was understanding, but told me I really should do something about that, because she would love to have a jacket like mine. I again thought nothing of it, still too afraid to even accept the possibility, until I repeated this story to my sister and boyfriend, who both pounced on the idea, and helped me build my confidence to a level where even I thought it might be a good idea. 

I was going to do it, really do it this time: start an Etsy shop. Gosh, that sounds lame! All this build-up, to culminate in opening a simple Etsy shop. The truth is, I had been holding myself back, telling myself that I wasn’t a real artist, didn’t have enough follow-through skills, nor did I know anything about having a small business. The leap to even decide that this was something I wanted to do was a big one for this lifetime crafter. I opened ‘BecksArtss’ in June, my own little Etsy shop, with one listing: ‘Custom Painted Denim Jacket of Famous Painting’. I love the idea of wearing art: everyone enjoys expressing themselves with their clothing, so why not add some real life art to it! 

Now I spend a lot of my free time doing only one craft, instead of about seven different ones. When I receive an order through the Sell on Etsy app, my first step is thrifting an appropriately sized jacket, which I do through various thrifting apps, like Vinted. This takes some searching, as my customers often have specific color and size requirements, and I want to make sure the back panel of the jacket is large enough for a painting. When the jacket comes in, I spend an evening painting a few layers of white acrylic mixed with fabric medium over it, and allowing it to dry overnight. Then I start the process of painting! It’s been almost half a year of Etsy-ing, and I’ve had some amazing moments. Someone wore one of my jackets at their wedding!

Photo credit: @framedbyemily

That was incredibly fulfilling, and really helped me accept that yes, maybe people do like your art. I’ve painted such a variety of different paintings, and, wow, I’ve actually followed through. I’m still here! The joy of making art for someone, who is excited to receive, wear, and love it has added so much to my love of the craft. Sure, sometimes I groan and say ‘urgh, I have to go paint’. But I always stop myself, because how amazing is it that I can call that a ‘job’! 

My advice to anyone like me, who has always thought about the possibility of making something more professional of their hobby, will now always be: take the leap. If you don’t enjoy it, Etsy has this wonderful button called ‘delete’, and it’ll always be there. I’ve promised myself that the minute this shop takes away from the joy I’ve always had doing arts and crafts, I’ll quit immediately. But for me, my little shop has only added to the fun I have creating, and I still craft beside painting jackets, too, don’t worry! The little girl at the pottery shop lives on, she just feels a lot more confident doing it now, and spreads that joy around the world. 

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