Lyndsay of idlehandsdesigns, a self-taught silversmith, knew she wanted to develop jewelry making into her full-time gig but waited until the time was right, financially. To pay the bills, she held managerial positions in the skate and snowboard industry and the medical makeup field! Since quitting her day job, she’s enjoying a slower-paced life and is setting new goals with the growing success of her Etsy shop.
It sounds like you held some pretty eclectic jobs in the past. What’s the backstory?
I started working full time in high school and became a manager of a board shop at 19. (So I guess being responsible squashed my creativity there, for a while. But it’s cool ’cause I got it back!) I spent my twenties working my way through the skate and snowboard industry, learning from great minds. I had the chance to travel representing some awesome brands. I was dealing with horrible acne and eczema at the time, and I began a quest to heal my skin holistically. That led me to pursue aesthetics. It was super rewarding to help others with their skin. I became a trainer and territory business manager for a Canadian medical makeup line. All the years spent running others’ businesses provided me with the skills to start my own.
How did you originally get into jewelry making?
My sister and I would make jewelry all summer while my father counseled at summer camps, and I’ve always made my own pieces. Shopping for vintage items and frequenting thrift stores with my grandma has inspired much of my style. I started working with reused materials — taking something old and making it new. In 2005 I got to know metal and enrolled in a silversmithing design course. Short of that course I am completely self-taught.
The program worked with basic mediums, including precious metal clay, which resulted in sculpting the first sutured heart as my class project. I made a necklace and wore it to work; my friend Alicia asked if I would make her another and I have been mending broken hearts ever since.
Your sutured heart line is so popular. What’s the key?
One of the best decisions I made last year was to rework my signature piece and present a more affordable variation. The classic sutured heart was $130, and with the doom around the economy I knew that limited my customers. Now I have eight different options and a price range of $50 – $152.
When you first started selling on Etsy, was your goal to quit your day job?
Yes, but I wasn’t in any hurry. With a mortgage to pay I didn’t want to be in the position that I needed to sell my jewelry. I continued with my day job until I basically couldn’t handle both anymore. When I found myself cannibalizing my makeup kit for art supplies, I knew it was time.
When I left my job in 2009 — well, I gotta admit I felt a little bit-o-crazy. People were being laid off left and right and I was dancing off into the sunset to make jewelry. But everyone was really supportive. My husband and I really trimmed down our lifestyle and are happy to only require one car now!
What are your best marketing tips?
- Great customer service is key. Focusing on the quality of my product, communication and the overall experience has worked out.
- I know that winning back each customer with important features is crucial to keeping momentum rolling.
- I frequent Facebook and really enjoy building relationships with my customers and friends on my page. Fans enjoy free shipping and exclusive specials. It’s also a place were I share photos inside my studio and life.
- I picked up a practice from when I worked at a major retailer that started here in the Pacific Northwest — that you should walk your customer’s purchase around the counter, not passing it over. I’ve carried that service philosophy on to my own business and don’t stop at the sale to win my customers over, like adding personal touches to make sure their package is fun to open.
You seem to always be on the verge of the next big trend. What makes the mustaches, owls, and vampires so irresistible?
Well, vampires are sexy, and all three only get better with age. I’ve always frowned upon trends and almost didn’t pursue my metal mustache visions for that reason, but I’m really glad that I did. It’s so much fun to meet people all over the world and make them a fancy mustache!
What’s a day in the life of idlehandsdesigns look like?
- My day starts somewhere between 8 and 9 a.m. I roll out of bed and check out Etsy’s Finds on my phone. Coffee is a must! I’m a zombie in the a.m.
- Music is a constant source of inspiration around our house. The mix starts pretty mellow, like folk or something, and evolves into nerd-core later.
- After spending some quality time with my computer, replying to emails and communicating with customers, I enjoy an early walk with my two crazy sidekicks: Boston terriers Ruby Sue and PJ. We are blessed to live near a beautiful creek and trail that brings me constant inspiration and clarity.
- Lately there are two squirrels that I’ve been feeding outside my studio, and that reminds me to also feed my husband and myself.
- After that I spend 2-6 hours fondling the metal in my studio. A good portion of my business is made to order and I always have a special ring in the works.
- Twice a week I ship out orders. On those days the majority of my time and energy is spent gift wrapping and packing. One of the two days I walk to the post office; it’s really relaxing.
- I’m on my computer throughout the day and night spanning time in Etsyland, blogs and Facebook. I really couldn’t tell you how much time that adds up to in a day. I don’t even want to know myself.
- At dusk we take a family walk.
- I come alive at night and have a hard time winding down before 2 a.m. We break for family, shows and crusty vegan joints!
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
I enjoy a slower pace of life. In my previous position I would travel and visit multiple stores (at the mall, yuk!) and would be sent as far as Omaha. There wasn’t much energy for idle hands after all of that. Etsy has brought everything together for me. It’s also the reason “quality of life” entered my vocabulary this year! Anything I miss? Well, I have a sweet collection of vintage dresses and don’t get to wear ’em as much these days.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
The amount of work involved. It’s really hard to know when to wrap it up. I expect a lot of myself and set big goals. I’m trying to enjoy my accomplishments more lately. I also had to learn how to say no to some things. Being a people pleaser, that was hard to accept at first.
What can we expect for the future of your jewelry line?
Currently I’m a one lady operation, but I’m looking for an intern. It’s kind of crazy how quickly things have grown. Last year around this time I was doing odd jobs like delivering food and makeup. Now in order to keep up with the demand I need some helping hands. I’m really excited to see what is in store and take idle hands to the next level. My husband, Nick of Behrens Films, and I have started capturing footage inside my studio for a video to share with you all.
- Fairly Enchanted: Her monster hats are amazing and make the best presents!
- Calendar Girl Vintage: I bought my wedding dress from them. Sometimes I find myself browsing through their dresses and daydreaming about places I could wear them.
- Made by Moxie: I just got some of her DIY kits to make with my family.
- Bean Town: PJ won’t stop talking about getting one of their sweaters for fall.
- Rubbernecker: I’m a sucker for Bostons!
Any additional words of wisdom?
Set realistic goals and celebrate your accomplishments. Take advantage of all the amazing tools and support that Etsy has to offer! Thank you to Rokali for thinking up this sweet site that has totally changed my life! And thank you to all that have featured my work! The support within this community constantly amazes me
Thanks to Lyndsay for sharing her story. You can see some of Lyndsay‘s work in the Seller’s Items below.
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