Tell us about your previous working situation and how you discovered Etsy.
My name is Charan and I was once solely focused on software engineering. I was at my last job for 10 years, doing performance analysis on computer architecture features. To balance my professional life, I was simultaneously working with clay and had been selling at 2-3 shows a year. On attending a class from the Business of Crafts — led by Pam Corwin — I heard about Etsy. It made me think about the possibility of selling my pieces without having to take time off from work.
How did you prepare to transition into full-time Etsy selling?
When I first opened my store on Etsy, I wasn’t sure where it would take me. At first I was skeptical about selling online, because I felt pottery can be appreciated only if it is touched and felt — especially when it was about creating textures with my slip decorations, stamps and carvings. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are shoppers who prefer buying online rather than going to art shows.
Being an engineer and a very process-oriented person, I had also been making spreadsheets and plotting charts to figure out how much I would need to sell to make a living. This helped me evaluate the pricing of my work for retail/wholesale and also increased my efficiency. There is a lot more time and energy spent in selling your work than making it.
What is your favorite part about working with clay?
I enjoy every stage: I love handbuilding and wheel-throwing with soft clay, then the perfect soft stage when I can alter my forms. I really get in the zone when slip decorating my work. I put on my favorite Bollywood music and decorate. It is my meditation, and it requires all of my focus.
How did living in India influence your current work?
Most of my inspiration comes from Indian culture. I was born in Kuwait to Indian parents, and even though we were in a foreign country, my parents always surrounded us with things that were Indian. When we moved back to India during the Gulf War, my mom started a boutique for brides and bridesmaids in Mumbai. Weddings in India are something to behold — the women dress up in bright colors with elaborate embroidery patterns, each one different from the next. The colors and textures of intricate embroideries on silk fabric always caught my attention. I didn’t think about integrating this influence into my pottery until a few years back.
Another source of my inspiration is Indian cinema, also known as Bollywood. Apart from the elaborate set and costume designs, I love the music and dancing. The swaying of synchronized dancers, movement of long flowing fabrics, gestures and poses are very integral aspects of the genre. I try to capture this animated feel in my sculpture.
What are your best marketing tips?
- Take good pictures and have good descriptions of your work.
- I use my blog and Facebook fan page to share the process that goes into making my work, as well as the inspiration behind it.
- Making a connection with a customer through the story behind your work is very important to sell items and create repeat customers.
What’s been your most popular item or line to date?
Among my higher-end items, my most popular line has been my butter dishes for their unique decorative design and ability to hold a bamboo butter knife in the lid.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I think it would be giveaways on blogs where I was featured. They haven’t resulted in any direct sales that I know of. However, having your name on more blogs does increase your Google ranking and makes it easier to find your work. But so far, no regrets.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
The hardest part is the multiple hats I have to wear. I am the artist, maker, bookkeeper, sales person, advertising department, cleaner and much more. There are some days that I don’t make anything in my studio because I am doing everything else. The good thing is that I get to learn so much about all aspects of running a business.
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
My biggest challenge is time. I wish there were 48 hours in a day. I would like to include some exercise time, but every morning I greet my elliptical and say,”Tomorrow… for sure!”
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
Making my own hours. I can list my priorities and schedule them on my terms. At the end of the day, if I have accomplished something great, then I know it. I am not looking for that validation from upper management. I enjoy taking ownership and responsibility for my own actions.
What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
It is hard work, but if you are passionate about what you do, it doesn’t feel like a drag. One thing I didn’t realize until I left my job was how productive you can be when you are focused. Earlier, with my head split between my full time job and pottery, I couldn’t give anything my 100%. With focus on what you are passionate about, you can channel all your energy and efforts.
What goals do you have in store for the future of your business?
This year I am doing more art shows and have been focusing on getting my work to more galleries and gift shops. Since doing my pottery full time, I have received several wholesale accounts which I couldn’t commit to earlier because of my two jobs. I am excited to see where this path takes me and I couldn’t do it without the support of my family and friends.
Thanks for sharing your story, Charan. Check out his work in the Seller’s Items below.
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