Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mom's funky fashions makes sewing cool again

A young mother passionate about the environment and vintage materials has set out to make sewing cool again.

Jillian, 26, of Oregon says she is drawn to vintage fabrics and loves making outfits for herself, her mother and children — and her little girl's Barbie dolls.

Jillybeanvintage opened Nov. 3, 2007, offering a wide variety of Barbie clothing in bright retro colors.

Jillian, who is a fervent recycler, found a giant bag of small fabric remnants at an estate sale in her community.

"I spend the majority of summer cruising in and out of flea markets, estate sales, thrift shops and garage sales in my area searching for the elusive, musky, forgotten fabrics," she says.

About the same time, the grandmother of Jillian's husband gave her several vintage Barbie clothes patterns. "That's when the light bulb came on! I made a couple of outfits, plus a Barbie quilt for one of my friend's daughters," Jillian says. "She went insane over the gift!"

Word got out to a friend who makes jewelry with her husband and sells it on Etsy, Nicholas and Felice.

"They kept telling me at our kids' play groups that I should start a shop on Etsy, but I was too insecure," Jillian says. "To make a long story short, after giving birth to a little girl, I decided to open a shop and fill it with funky, retro-inspired items for little girls."

Having deferred her career to care for her children, Jillian's dream is to write and illustrate children's books. But for now, she gleans satisfaction from her Etsy creations.

Jillian's schedule is tight, taking care of her 6-year-old son and 16-month-old daughter, so Barbie clothes are the perfect quick project.

Besides, it reminds her of when she was a little girl, whip-stitching onto her own Barbies tube dresses that could only be removed by scissors.

"I sew because it makes me feel cozy. I love the nostalgia of the retro lifestyle," Jillian says.

"I stay home to take care of the babies, cook, clean and sew. I feel that sewing for the family (like grandma used to do) is a lost art. I'm here to single-handedly make it cool again," she laughs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Soul reader right on target

An accomplished painter and experienced reader of souls, Kathy Crabbe of California offers detailed readings with helpful advice and so much more.

Originally from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, Kathy Crabbe lives in California with her dog and husband. She says she has been making stuff forever!

Opening on Etsy in March, Crabbe has made 206 sales already.

She offers lovely, flowing silk paintings, card sets, prints, silk earrings, psychic readings and lefty card sets.

I took her mini reading, which is free to anyone, and she got many things right. I have a grandfather John whom I never met but have pictures of. She described him as tall with long, artistic fingers. The photographs reflected this. I was, at the time, angry and confused about my father. She got that right. And she mentioned a theme that I have scribbled in journals about for at least eight years: Letting go of what's already gone.

Some details were off, but the main points she picked up were dead on.

We're all curious. Whether or not you believe in psychics, why not give Crabbe a try? She is discreet, experienced and seems to genuinely care about her clients.

Crabbe has been an exhibitor at The Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach for 7 years, home of the original hippy-fun festival; appeared on HGTV at the Sawdust Festival demonstrating silk painting; earned a bachelor of arts degree in Art History from Queen's University and a degree in graphic design from St. Lawrence College.

She has been a full-time artist, writer and free spirit for 15 years.

Her fantasy fabric blocks and teas are available hereand here.

The name 'LuLu' is the name of an alter ego/cartoon character Crabbe created in graphic design school.

"She helped me stay sane and joyful through many a sleepless night!" Crabbe says.
Take a look at Crabbe's Etsy shop at

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Skilled potter shares secrets of trade

Successful Etsier and offline studio potter, Deb Babcock of Steamboat Springs, Colo., has worked with clay for seven years now, but each new piece often is her favorite.

She admits, though, teapots hold a special place in her heart. "I love making teapots because of the animation and personality that you can put into one," says Babcock, who started working with clay after she left a corporate job in Michigan.

"I love working in clay -- it's very meditative." Babcock says. "I especially love working with porcelain on my wheel because it can be thrown very thinly and then altered in beautiful ways such as softly rolling over the rim on pieces. Glazes on porcelain are so clear and bright."

Having studied under such renowned potters as Clary Illian, Meira Mathison, Sylvie Granitelli, Julia Galloway, Bonnie Seeman, Sarah Jaeger and Sandi Pierantozzi, Babcock says she is grateful for the the skills she's learned from each potter.

"From each of these wonderful artists, I usually take away a new technique or way of creating that I then incorporate into my own pottery voice," she says.

Babcock has taken classes at Anderson Ranch in Aspen, Colo., and at Laloba Clay Ranch, as well as some college courses at different universitites in the state. "What I've liked about each of them is their willingness to share techniques and their philosophies about the art we make. For the most part, they were all very approachable and down to earth despite being so well-known and sought after," Babcock says. "I'm still in contact with many of them."

Living in a town of only 10,000 people, Babcock says she loves the extra reach Etsy allows her.

"In terms of reaching people throughout the world, the comraderie among etsy sellers, and the opportunity to sell my work to such a wide audience," she says.

Her advice to other Etsiers: "Communicate well with your customers; they like reassurance that the purchase they made from you was a great choice and that you'll stand behind your work. Promote yourself, because if people don't know how to find you, they can't see or buy your work."

She has a Thomas Stuart electric wheel. "I throw standing up. And an L and L Kiln that I love."

Babcock says she makes most of her own glazes and has experimented with layering the glazes to achieve some deep, rich color combinations.

"I've recently started experimenting successfully with crystalline glazes, which require Lithium in order to grow crystals in the kiln," she says. "It happens that Steamboat Springs is home to one of only two above-ground Lithia Springs in the world (the other is in Germany). I use water from this spring to make my crystalline glazes."

Babcock has words of wisdom for those who want to work in clay but don't have equipment: "Most towns (even small ones like mine) have art centers where you can go and use their facilities and equipment. If that's not available, go online and find classes or workshops you can take at art centers in other cities. Or, make friends with a local potter...she might let you use some of her equipment and/or fire work that you made at home!"

Babcock says she loves hearing feedback from customers on Etsy, and with nearly 500 sales under her belt since she opened shop in August 2006, she's gotten many responses.

"Probably the one that stands out most in my mind is a woman who bought one of my handmade cups for a friend who is going blind," Babcock remembers. "She told me that the feel of a handmade cup like mine would help her friend always be able to tell which coffee cup was hers even if she couldn't see it. Doesn't that make your heart race a little faster?"

Babcock's work is available at

She has graciously agreed to a giveaway. Here are the rules: For one week, from Nov. 17 to Nov. 24, anyone who makes a purchase from her shop and mentions seeing Babcock's profile on this blog will receive a porcelain holiday lapel pin.

And the winner of the drawing among those who comment here will receive one of Babcock's dragonfly anything dishes.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Dollmaker offers modern twist

Belinda, better known as Bee to her friends, makes clothespin dolls in her Victoria, Australia, home.

The 30-something mom was searching the Web one day, found the pin dolls and thought, "Wow! I would love to give that a go!"

Always ready for a new challenge, Bee started making her own style of pin dolls a few months and found a whimsical release in the making.

"The first lot were kind of OK, but by the time I had the second batch done, I was happy with the style and clothes, faces, etc. and had a great time making them." Bee says. "They are addictive. They all have different little personalities and the end product surprised me sometimes."

Sorting out personalities and looks for each doll is a joy in itself.

"I'm not into prim style, so I have made them more to my taste and put a modern twist to most of them," Bee says. "And I LOVE fairies!"

As many Etsians can attest, posting on the site often leaves sellers buried in troves of new items posted and reposted every hour.

"I love selling on Etsy, but being such a large site you seem to dissapear a bit," she says. "I also sell on a smaller Australian site and offline to friends and family."

Her flickr site is available at

Bee's target market for her charming dolls is collectors or young adult girls. "The dolls are not really made for playing with, more as a keepsake/collectors type of thing."

Asked her favorite thing about selling on Etsy, Bee says: "I really love when someone receives their item and takes the time not just to leave feedback but to email me to tell me how happy they are with it. I get a buzz out of that."

Now you can own one of these great pin dolls! Bee has graciously agreed to a giveaway. Simply comment on this post or tell us about your favorite creation by Bee. Between Nov. 16 (today) and Nov. 23. Leave your comments here. We will choose a winner at random.

So which adorable doll will the lucky winner get? Maisy!!

She is the little fairy pictured at left.

A talented go-getter, Bee has a few words of advice for dollmakers just starting out on Etsy: "Just make what you love in the style that you love, and it will show through in your work.

"Work on your own style and get them to a stage where you are completely happy with them, and go for it! It's wonderful when someone loves your items enough to purchase them."

Bee's shop is at

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Scrabble tile pendants

I just got my Scrabble tile pendants from Home Studio in the mail. They are perfect! So well done! They are having a great sale: 4 pendants for $25 or 4 pendants and chains for $35.

At left is my favorite. I'm giving away the other three as gifts. Sterling chains at Home Studio are only $5, which is a great price.

The chain I got was superb, looks just like the one in the photo. It takes a great eye to pair the chain to a pendant. It's a subtle but important, and they do a great job!

Check out Home Studio at and my shop at

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Featured artist: Made from scratch

Beth Merriman whips up a unique and romantic product at her Etsy shop, Chicken Scratch.

"Massage candles burn like beeswax candles, but you are able to use the melted wax as massage oil. Burn the massage candle for 20 to 30 minutes, then extinguish flame." Merriman said in her shop announcement. "Pour a small amount of melted wax into your palm and apply to sore muscles and dry skin. Perfect for aromatherapy, too."

The single 30-something, who works in backstage theatre as a dresser in San Diego, opened her shop in May but started seriously trying to promote her shop in the past month.

"Some of my best customers are the actors and crew, who are always looking for opening night presents or something to send home to their loved ones," Merriman said.

The name of her shop was the first thing she thought of when a prospective customer asked about her company name.

"My grandfather always called my sister and I 'chickie' when we were little; and I needed to make some scratch (cash) quickly. Plus, of course, my candles are made from scratch," she said. "I listed my shop on Etsy the next day."

Selling a scented product online is tough, but Merriman has found ways to work around it.

"It's so hard! My apartment sometimes smells like I've just baked 12 dozen gingersnaps and my mouth waters," she said.

"I try to be as descriptive as possible in the listing. I've also ordered additional supplies to make tealight-sized samples, which I'll send out as a promo with each order." Merriman also is considering putting together a sample pack for a small fee.

Customer testimonials are helpful as well.

"Wonderful!" said one Etsy buyer. "My candle arrived today and it smells so good! I'm burning it now and can't wait to try out the massage part. Thank you!"

Merriman found the original recipe for massage candles online, but found the finished product too greasy. After consulting with her sister, who has studied herbs, Merriman added therapeutic essential oils and tweaked the ingredients.

"My candles are vegan, meaning no animal products are used," she said. "The soy wax melts at a lower temperature than beeswax, so it won’t burn you, and the shea butter just melts into your skin."

Merriman recommends her candles as gifts for others or for yourself. "And, of course, if your romantic partner needs a hint, you can leave one on their pillow and see what happens next," she said.

Merriman is working hard to promote her store, creating accounts on Facebook and Twitter and buying ads with Project Wonderful.

"My postcards are up in all the coffeehouses, yarn shops and massage/yoga studios in my neighborhood. I always carry business cards," Merriman said. "I've joined Etsy Team Veg and stay active in the chat rooms and forums."

Merriman said the thing she loves most about Etsy is that she is able to take custom orders

"If someone really wants a dill pickle candle, I can make one, but I'm not obligated to sell 50 of them to cover my costs. It allows me to be flexible and stay creative."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Call to Etsy artists!

Alters will feature one new profile a week about an etsy artist. To be considered, please convo me at my shop! I've been an editor and writer for 10 years at a large daily newspaper. My aim is to promote artists who are buried under endless etsyers. I plan to be picky and thorough.