Hi! My name is Susan Shapiro, and I make personalized gifts and accessories for my shop, Susabellas. I live in Kirkland, Washington, with my husband Mark, our three-year-old son Ben, and our dog Pepper.
I went to college at the Savannah College of Art and Design and owned a graphic and web-design business for years, which I closed shortly after my son was born. When I began to miss having a creative outlet, my mother-in-law encouraged me to take a pottery class (thanks Margaret!). I have always loved art and being an entrepreneur, so this business was a great way to combine both interests.
My process starts with a big block of earthenware clay. I smooth it out with my slab roller, and mold the pieces. Next, I hand-stamp them and set them out to dry, which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the size. When they are dry enough, I do a bisque firing and glaze each piece before firing them one last time.
The majority of my orders are custom pieces, and I love when a customer asks me if I am able to do something different than what I have in my shop. It’s fun to see their ideas come to life, and I really appreciate it when a customer takes time to leave feedback or send me an email to let me know how much they liked their piece. I put love and care into everything I create, and I treat each piece as though I were sending it to my own family and friends.
When I got married I was surprised by all items that could never be used again, and I wanted to do something to change that. Many of my items are wedding or milestone related, so I try to create heirloom-quality pieces that can be passed down or re-used. I also like to give back when I can – I donate a dollar from every platter sale to Feeding America, which helps provide food to low-income families. I think these things set my business apart and help my customers remember Susabellas.
Etsy is such an amazing and diverse marketplace, and it has helped my business grow tremendously. Because of Etsy I have had customers in Japan, Australia, and even Dubai! I love interacting with customers and helping them with gift and accessory ideas. Because of Etsy, I am able to employ people to help with my business. My twin brother Steve works with me most days; he’s my right-hand-man. I also have a great friend who comes every Thursday to help me ship items, and I just hired a new packaging person to help on the other days.
Running my creative business has made me more organized and has taught me how to manage my time more efficiently. I work much harder and longer hours than I ever have before, but it is very rewarding. I’ve always had some type of creative business, but I’ve learned the most from this one.