Rain of lusterbunny began making ceramic jewelry as way to keep her hands busy between larger sculptural projects. After watching her jewelry take off on Etsy, she knew she was onto something. Rain maintains that continually working on her photos and relisting popular items on slow days have played key roles in her selling success. Through all of her hard work, she makes a point to spend time sitting down to dinner with her fiance each day. The best benefit of having her own business is the ability to enjoy her family and life to the fullest.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I have always been a maker since I was a little kid. I come from a family of artists, and my Christmas gifts were always of the hobby craft type. (You know, rock tumblers, magazine bead makers, Shrinky Dinks, and things of that nature.) I also enjoyed making art out of household items and furniture. To this day I can still make a mean couch-cushion fort!
As an adult I went to art school and pursued a career as a sculptor and installation artist. (You can see my work at RainHarris.com, in case you are interested.) As far as Lusterbunny goes, I pretty much started the jewelry business by accident. I was getting ready to go to graduate school at Ohio State University to receive a Master of Fine Arts and I wanted to make small items to keep my hands busy, since there was not enough time to start a major body of work or new installation. I was just playing around making different things like wrist cuffs, tiles, etc. and listing them on Etsy. Most of the things sat around in my store for a while before they sold, but the jewelry just caught on like crazy. It really was a fluke and definitely not something I set out to do!
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
It’s funny: as an artist I have never really had a day job, unless you consider my painful career as the crappiest waitress on the face of the earth. Since I have always worked with my hands, I have always assumed that I would support myself through my creativity in some way, but I was never exactly sure how it would manifest itself. Etsy has been great because it has allowed me to find a market for my jewelry and it still leaves me enough time to work on my art.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Nope! I was completely unprepared for success; it just hit me like a ton of bricks (by the way, I love bricks).
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
I think the best way I have marketed myself is by making a product that I believe in; I won’t design something I wouldn’t wear myself. I am always updating my line, and when I start to become bored with something I discontinue it. I feel it is important to love your creations.
I also try to stay on top of the fashion world. I look online, in magazines, and read blogs to find out the popular clothing colors and styles and take that information into consideration when making new jewelry designs. After all, most people wear jewelry with clothing, so my work needs to work with the current fashions.
That said, I don’t blindly follow trends. If I don’t like a style of clothing, I would never make accessories to match! I use Etsy as a great big global testing market. When I list new designs, I pay attention to the sales, comments, and views. That way when I do a big craft show or send work to galleries, I generally know what is going to be popular based on the stats I gather from Etsy. I try to take the best pictures possible so my jewelry is more likely to catch someone’s eye and be featured on blogs and used in magazines. I haven’t really done any advertising, but I have gotten a ton of press and I think this is due to all of my business strategies and sheer tenacity.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I guess I am lucky, because I really haven’t done a ton of promotion. Unfortunately, I can’t really tell you about any unsuccessful promotion, except maybe that one time I dressed up like a two headed rabbit and rode a unicorn through town (just checking to see if you are paying attention).
Walk us through your typical workday.
- I wake up, walk and feed my big brown dog Franklin.
- Then I check my orders, print up shipping labels and relist anything that has sold.
- If I haven’t had any orders, I will generally relist a popular item or two, which normally bounces business back.
- Afterward, I go to the studio and pack up/ship anything that needs to go out.
- Throughout the day I pour slip (liquid clay) into my jewelry molds and I clean the pieces, and pop them in a kiln to bisque fire them.
- Some days I will glaze the pieces, and other days I will apply my images to the glazed surface, depending on where I am in the process.
- The last step is applying the findings and resining the backs of all the pieces. I am always trying to make a more dynamic product.
- Other things that may be done throughout the day are making new molds and prototypes, designing new images, testing new glaze colors, gocco-ing gift boxes, photographing new work, etc.
- The one thing I try to do every day is make sure I have time to sit down to dinner with my fiancé Paul and spend some time decompressing and hanging out. It is important to make time for the people in your life, no matter how busy you are. What is the benefit of having a business if you can’t enjoy life?
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
I love that I can keep my own schedule and still have time to make my other artwork. I love that I can take a break in the middle of the day and hang out in my garden with the dog. I love that I can play hooky and not have to make excuses. I love that I can basically do whatever the hell I want to do. So in truth, there is not really much that I miss or can complain about!
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Time management is probably my worst enemy. I often think I have more hours in the day than I really have, but I figure that is pretty common. I make lists to prioritize what needs to be done. I am not sure if the lists really help, but they make me feel better!
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
If I could go back in time, I really wouldn’t change anything. The bad decisions I have made in my business have helped me understand why something does or doesn’t work. Mistakes are actually incredibly valuable!
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I am always trying to expand my business and make it better in all aspects. A huge portion of my business is already wholesale, but I would like to double the amount of stores I sell to in the next year. Like all artists, I want to be comfortable enough financially that I don’t need to worry about finances. That’s not too much to ask for, is it?
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I would like to thank Etsy and the amazing community it has brought together. It has given me the opportunity to play and experiment with my products, have a great time with my business and still be successful. What more could a girl ask for?
Thanks to Rain for sharing her story. Have a your own questions to ask? Come on by and chat with Rain today (Tuesday, May 26th) at 2pm ET in Etsy’s Virtual Labs.
You can see some of her beautiful ceramic jewelry in the related items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.