Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Ashley Goldberg. I am 25. I live in an apartment in St. Louis with my boyfriend/creative partner in crime Drew, our rotten/adorable cat Isadora, and a ton of art and shipping supplies. Before creating art full time I spent what seemed like a billion years in the foodservice industry (which should be a mandatory rite of passage for every person). I waited tables forever and for the last few years bartended. That’s where Drew and I met and decided we needed to high tail it out of there. Drew went off to be a production designer at an ad agency, but since I didn’t have any other “employable” skills I stuck to bartending and making stuff. I discovered and joined Etsy in ’05 but didn’t really list anything until March ’06. I had very modest goals . “Wouldn’t it be AWESOME to sell like 20 prints?” Then “wouldn’t it be AWESOME to pay our rent from Etsy?”. By July I quit bartending and, thanks to Etsy and some other great opportunities, Drew was able to leave his job in March, and we are now a full-time two-person operation. Drew is a computer genius. I know everyone says that about their boyfriends, but no — for reals. He and our fancy pants Mac Pro make what we do possible.
Drew has also taken over the packaging end, leaving me more time to create and expand our “Ashley G and Drew” horizons. Tons of ideas, but sometimes there isn’t enough time in the day, week or month for that matter 🙂 There is however, always time for long, easy afternoons drinking coffee while drawing, writing, people-watching and internet browsing at our neighborhood coffee shop. Which is by far the best part of being self employed.
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
The first thing I ever made by hand were drawings. My grandma called them cutchee coos. They were just intricate small circles on the back of scrap paper. Soon after I moved into “carving” bars of soap into animals, embroidering washcloths and making Barbie clothes of toilet paper and tape. I think creating, right from the beginning, was about making do with what was around (which was apparently bathroom supplies) and making sure the materials I was using weren’t too precious. Because I get too intimidated by them and am afraid to use and as a result “ruin” them. Even today, I can’t bring myself to use very fancy brushes or too nice of sketch paper. Sure, I have my Moleskine sketch books but it’s my Canson recycled that I’m drawing in. And my best work is always on the crappiest material. Obviously, it’s liberating to not be afraid of messing up.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I am inspired by overcast, chilly days, what it feels like right before it rains, the way I feel when I wake up really early and the day seems full of possibility, vintage children’s books, magazines, the creative energy that is in an elementary school classroom, bookstores, artists that I admire, deadlines, music, my apartment in early evening, looking at pictures of tornados and lighting and the dust bowl. Vintage black and white photos of children, patterns on thrift store dishes, a conversation with someone who is passionate about something, the creme on a strong cup of coffee (seriously), mismatched cups and saucers, blogs blogs blogs, afternoons that are quiet, the smell of toast, a new pen, looking through old sketchbooks, being around creative people, competition, origami, lovely paper, interesting and unexpected color combinations, other people’s apartments, homes and studios.
What are your favorite materials?
11 x 14 Canson recycled sketch book, 4H pencil, Millennium 03 or 01 pen and Photoshop… to be specific 🙂
What is your favorite color?
Bright white, pink, and any color that resembles tea-stained.
What are your most and least two favorite films?
This is my most dreaded question. Much to the chagrin of every person I know (especially Drew) I am not much into going to the movies or seeing movies in general. I am MUCH more into them now because I watch them on DVD while I paint or draw. I don’t know if I really have any favorites or least favorites — and this is coming from a girl who in the last week saw both Citizen Kane and The Fast and Furious” Tokyo Drift. But I will say I do really enjoy the worlds created in Amalie and V for Vendetta.
What are you reading right now?
Always a zillion magazines. It’s a problem. No I take it back — it’s research. Real book wise I am reading Dogland by Will Shetterly and Twentieth-Century Pattern Design by Lesley Jackson.
Any tips on selling handmade stuff?
Stop with the self doubt and list stuff. Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking to you. What I try to reiterate is that even if your Etsy shop isn’t wildly successful or even if you don’t sell one thing, someone somewhere is looking through Etsy as a giant online portfolio and just might think your work would be the perfect addition to their shop/ gallery/ whatever.
Also, customer service is equally important as the product you’re selling!! I often compare this place to virtual waiting tables. Be courteous, professional, responsive, appreciative, and timely. Keep your customer updated, but don’t bombard them with info either. I like to contact the buyer as soon as possible, thanking them for their purchase, answering questions if they had any, and letting them know when their order will be shipped, then actually sending it on that date with a thank you note and a tiny little sumpin sumpin extra.
And lastly, having a blog I think is hugely important and helpful. I just happen to have one (cough, cough, www.kittygenius.com), but seriously, I think it really enhances the personal buying experience, connecting the buyer and seller on an entirely different level. I can’t quite describe it except saying that for me going from having an Etsy shop alone to an Etsy shop in addition to a regularly maintained blog seemed to transform me from 2D to 3D, and it’s that 3D that everyone seems to be looking for, you know?
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
The aforementioned coffee drinking, thrifting, watching shows on DVD, pointing out cute things my cat does, talking about cleaning my apartment, eventually actually cleaning my apartment, spending part of every day outside, shopping online so I can avoid stores, going to the stores I do have or want to go to at off peak times. Tuesday afternoon? Here I come, Target. Hanging out with friends, answering tons of e-mail, singing the praises of Etsy and Uline, daydreaming about moving or doing some serious traveling, going to our neighborhood restaurants and creating easy vegetarian recipes when we’re at home. And although this question is “what do you do aside from creating things” but really THAT is what I do all the time. In addition to etsy stuff I am preparing for a couple of shows and attempting to work on a children’s book. Oh and I spend waaaaay too much time on the computer, especially on Etsy and design/craft/ art blogs.
How can Etsy be improved? Any feature requests?
Ummm… not too much. My one controversial request is for the sampler to return. I miss the top sellers list and not just for the obvious reasons. With all the buzz surrounding Etsy, I believe people are curious what exactly it means to sell above average on this site. I think it speaks to possibility more than anything and I don’t believe it was ever the intention to give anyone an advantage or to keep the current top sellers on top. And I can speak from experience that it didn’t. My sales are higher since it went down.
That and sometimes I think everyone could benefit from taking a collective deep breath. The site is growing. We all want that. It means more members which means more sales. So, site maintenance and updates are going to happen. And this isn’t a brick-and-mortar shop that can make improvements after hours. Etsy is here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and that means sometimes the site is going to have to go down. And mistakes are going to happen. I of all people understand the urge to freak out. But it’s OK. It will all be OK.
My only actual concern right now is that I want the focus on Etsy to remain tight (but I am not by any means saying rigid). For instance, I think Etsy Labs is an amazing social program and I plan to visit it one day soon. But 99.9% of us aren’t there. I think the vision of Etsy being an ONLINE marketplace and ONLINE community need to remain number one. And Etsy Labs is a fantastic supplement to that and wonderful advertising tool, but sometimes all the talk of Etsy Labs on the main site and blog leave the rest of us feeling like it’s a super fun club we have no way of belonging to. And since Etsy Labs is what we are SEEING all the time lately (because obviously it’s more fun and interesting) it makes it appear that that is where the focus is right now. But I think the online tutorials will help merge the actual and virtual community and the separate Etsy Labs blog is a move in the right direction. And truly, I hope my love, admiration, and utmost respect for all things Etsy come through in this interview. Who knew a word I hadn’t even heard of two years ago would be coming out of my mouth like fifty times a day?