Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Phyllis Presnell Petersen. I am a North Carolina native and lived here all my life except for some time spent in Germany as a young Army wife and 12 years in the midwest (Lincoln Nebraska). I was married for 22 years, divorced, and have 2 grown children, one of which is an Etsy seller, GollyGee (but not currently active). I graduated from University of North Carolina/Greensboro with a business degree. I consider myself primarily a calligrapher and bookbinder. As my bio states, I was calligrapher to the NC Governor’s Office spanning terms of both major political parties. I have done calligraphic work for many famous people ranging from movie/music/ television stars to national and international politicians and states (wo)men. One that stands out was an illuminated prayer, commissioned to be presented to Prince Charles during one of his visits to the United States.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Last year, I retired early. Now I do not have to do anything I do not want to do. I’ve traveled extensively in my life and now I’m mostly a homebody at heart. I do have a spoiled cat named Mac who mostly ignores me until he is ready for attention. I have been blessed to be able to attend both national and regional workshops with the world’s leading calligraphers. My most recent workshops have been at Camp Cheerio, a YMCA camp which becomes Calligraphy Camp for adults for 3 weeks each year. http://www.calligraphycentre.com/che.o.html My latest interest has been the EtsySeller Group on Yahoo where we are having a fine time, chatting and getting to know each other. So if you have an Etsy shop, come on over and join in the fun. Details can be found in the Etsy forum in the IDEAS section.
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something. I was the squirt in school who always volunteered to do the bulletin boards for the teacher for extra credit. Little did they know that I would have paid them my entire allowance to dabble with their art supply stash. I learn to sew by watching my Mother make clothes for our entire family, including my Dad’s suits. I’ve always created but it was frowned upon as a frivolous pursuit when I was young. So I did what I was expected to do as a wife, mother, and businesswoman by day while crafting at nights and on weekends. I have always needed the arts to feed my soul.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
The creativity of other sellers here on Etsy definitely inspires me. Materials of good quality of all types, whether pens, paper, fabric, paint, beads, yarns, ribbon, metals, glass, clay, wire… it doesn’t matter. Just hand ’em over and get out of my way so you don’t get knocked down in my rush to play. I’ve done so many crafts over the years (and have the leftover art supplies to prove it!). Being a member of Cyberscribes http://www.calligraph.com/cyberscribes/ definitely inspired me to try new things I never would have experimented with on my own. It’s a cyberbased, international group of 1200+ calligraphers representing 30+ countries that has to be one of the most sharing art groups in the world.
What are your favorite materials??
For me, it would be pens, papers, inks, and paints. Broad edged pens, pointed pens, quills, reeds, and even brushes, both broad edged and pointed, each imparts its own character onto a page. I love making paste papers, marbled papers, any type of decorated paper. My fave tool is a bone folder that I have used so much for so long that it now conforms to and fits my hand exactly. It’s a simple tool but versatile and satisfying to just hold.
Any tips for selling handmade stuff?
Patience. Realize that making something is just a first step and that “if you build it, they WON’T come” unless you market yourself. Every market has a “view to buy ratio” and good salespeople know that ratio in their market. On Etsy, I estimate that if your products are good and appeal to others, on average it will take 100-150 views before a buyer hits that BUY NOW button. If anything interferes with that process (poor photography, high prices, etc.), it will take even more views. Those who are the most successful on Etsy have their personality woven into their products. In other words, when you see their work, you know instantly who did it without even looking at their shop name. Their products have that *it* quality, a unique *voice* that speaks to others. Their “view to buy ratio” will be smaller than average.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I love Etsy! I love its design and I knew within seconds of finding Etsy that I wanted to be a part of it just because of its design. I’m madly in love with the flash and innovative methods of shopping. The Sampler’s RECENTLY SOLD ITEMS and TOP SELLERS are fantastic tools that can be used to gain insight into what sells. The one feature that I would love most is to be given the ability to categorize the varied types of products in my shop. It’s been discussed on Etsy’s forum and we have been told it is on the drawing boards. I am patiently waiting.
What is your favorite color?
Blue. Any shade of blue. Any other color that has blue as an undertone. I gravitate to other colors for periods of time but I always return to the blue family. My favorites currently are pink and (Etsy) orange but of course, it won’t be long before I revert to blue again. Peek in my closet and every other item you see will be blue.