Shop Etsy

The Business of Collaboration

Nov 19, 2013

by Karen Brown

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

When Celina Chase began making hand-sewn felt toys, she soon realized she was on to something bigger than the occasional gift for a friend. “After years of telling every crafty person I know that he or she should start an Etsy shop, I had finally developed something I could sell on Etsy myself.”

Using 100% pure merino wool felt she purchased from Janet Wieczorek at Felt on the Fly, Celina’s business, Garden Birdie, began to take off. But like many home-based artisans, finding enough time was always her biggest challenge. “Most of my items take two to four hours to create. I work part time in the evenings while my children are sleeping and I am limited in the number of orders I can fulfill. Then one day I started thinking about the die-cut flowers Janet attached to her thank you notes included with my felt orders.”

Celina followed up with questions to Janet: where do those perfectly cut flowers come from, and could she purchase any of her felt pre-cut?

“My cousin is the owner of a small local company specializing in making custom dies,” says Janet, who has a die-cutting machine in her workshop. “I’d been thinking for a while about how to tap into my cousin’s expertise. When Celina came to me with her questions about die-cut pattern pieces, the opportunity was just too perfect.”

“We worked through options, possibilities, and realities and came up with a perfect plan. I swear I wore out my calculator and went through more than a few pencils figuring out the details,” says Janet.

Those details involved everything from pricing to fulfillment to intellectual property rights. “I sent Janet a PDF file of the owl pattern I designed myself, and she worked with her cousin to create the custom cutting die,” says Celina. “Janet keeps the die in her workshop with the agreement that I am the sole recipient of the die-cuts and that I can retrieve the die from her at any time.”

“Purchasing die-cut pieces from Janet has enabled me to cut my production time 30% to 50%,” says Celina. “My work is higher quality thanks to the die’s ability to keep everything uniform and symmetrical (no more cutting those small owl eyes by hand!), and I am able to focus my attention on designing, sewing, embroidering, and stuffing.”

Currently, Celina purchases die-cut pieces for her reindeer and owl toys, and sees more opportunities to use Janet’s custom services in the future. “I just sold 100 angel ornaments to a hospital in New York. After cutting the wings I’m beginning to realize how valuable it would be to purchase these die-cut as well,” says Celina.

“This collaboration involves trust and integrity, as all successful partnerships do,” says Janet. “The end result is a terrific, mutually beneficial relationship that supports each of our businesses.”

Wool Felt, 100% Merino, Apple Color Story, Dark Red, Olive, White, Yellow Green, Red, DMC Embroidery Floss, Felt Fruit, Applique, Waldorf
Wool Felt, 100% Merino, Apple Color Story, Dark Red, Olive, White, Yellow Green, Red, DMC Embroidery Floss, Felt Fruit, Applique, Waldorf
$16.25 USD
Wool Felt Set, Fresh Greens, Pure Merino Wool, 1mm Thick Felt, Avocado, Fern, Forest, Spring Green, Light Green, Felt Fabric, Matching Floss
Wool Felt Set, Fresh Greens, Pure Merino Wool, 1mm Thick Felt, Avocado, Fern, Forest, Spring Green, Light Green, Felt Fabric, Matching Floss
$16.25 USD

98 comments

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 5 years ago

    “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ― Helen Keller

  • FluffyFlowers

    FluffyFlowers from FluffyFlowers said 5 years ago

    I've been cutting out all my plush pieces by hand since 2007 :)

  • SusanFaye

    Susan Faye from SusanFayePetProjects said 5 years ago

    I've enjoyed lots of fun collaborations with fellow Etsy sellers over the years including beadworkers, jewelry makers, quilters and seamstresses! Two heads (or sets of hands) can definitely be better than one. The result of Celina's collaborative efforts are just adorable... Best wishes for continued success!

  • FeatherSisters

    Feather Sisters from FeatherSisters said 5 years ago

    what a wonderful story, best wishes for great success working together.

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago

    Such a great story! Wishing you both continued success!!!

  • Jusadreamin

    Jusadreamin from Jusadreamin said 5 years ago

    Great story love the dear, Much success to you

  • edieandglo

    kelly hickey from edieandglo said 5 years ago

    Your items ar eso whimsical and sweet. Congratulations!

  • ASHYL

    Kerime Sevilen Mustafaoglu from ASHYL said 5 years ago

    Beautiful, i love white and red reindeers :) Congrats.

  • jessgreenleaf

    Jess Greenleaf from GREENLEAFblueberry said 5 years ago

    What a wonderful story... it just sounds so perfect. And the toys are so cute AND from merino wool? Wow.

  • HappyYellowCreations

    Happy Yellow from HappyYellowTradingCo said 5 years ago

    I love the idea of coming together to help each other out - what a great story! And the reindeer are so cute!

  • pretentiousAnne

    pretentiousAnne from pretentiousAnne said 5 years ago

    Etsy is a beautiful melting pot of honest creatives! I love my Etsy Family!!! xoxoxoxo

  • designerheadboardsho

    Michelle from DesignerHeadboards said 5 years ago

    Hope you continue to have great success! Fun items :)

  • AbleAprons

    Erika Kelly from PortlandApronCompany said 5 years ago

    Everyone benefits! And I love those owls! Very cute :-)

  • jaja8

    Teresa Burke from jajasvintageshop said 5 years ago

    great story and great items!

  • LedaDesign

    Leda Design from LedaDesign said 5 years ago

    Beautiful story! Congrats!

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 5 years ago

    LOVEly!!!

  • MonsterOpMaat

    Ena from MonsterOpMaat said 5 years ago

    What a great story with two great Etsy sellers. The felt looks amazing!

  • DesignerPillowShop

    Samantha from DesignerPillowShop said 5 years ago

    Fantastic story!

  • waterspider

    Waterspider from TileMeAStory said 5 years ago

    Love your innovative heartfelt work.

  • irinisklavounou

    irini from IrinisWorld said 5 years ago

    Cooperation over competition anytime. It is a much healthier way to focus. In the same vein it is well worth exploring the concept of yield over profit. People are often afraid of losing because they fail to see the knock on subtleties of enrichment.

  • FireIslandSoap

    Billy Bubbles from FireIslandSoap said 5 years ago

    LOVING THE DESIGNS!

  • msb37

    Susan from DesignsbyMSusan said 5 years ago

    I like how they worked out the details of the agreement (the die cut pieces would be sold only to Celina and she could retrieve the die cutter at any time). I think these are the nuts and bolts that enable successful collaboration.

  • 2TrickPony

    Rachel from 2TrickPony said 5 years ago

    artists working together - awesome. great story.

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 5 years ago

    Love the owls and reindeer! It's great to read of successful collaborations within the Etsy community. You both have lovely shops! Congrats to you each of you!

  • superblanky

    Karen Czarnik from SuperBlanky said 5 years ago

    I am very familiar w/Janet's supplies and her fabric is gorgeous! The best pure merino wool felt available and Janet is wonderful to deal with. I love buying my supplies from Etsy sellers!

  • nancygalarza

    Nancy Galarza from onestitchaway1 said 5 years ago

    The reindeer are adorable! Thanks for the supplier and die cutter tips - I've been using felt made from recycled consumer plastic bottles. Congrats to you both!

  • daydreamjewels

    Rosalia from daydreamjewels said 5 years ago

    Fantastic work, Congrats!!!

  • ikabags

    IKA PARIS from ikabags said 5 years ago

    Best wishes for great success working together !

  • feltonthefly

    Janet from FeltOnTheFly said 5 years ago

    It's really rewarding to participate in someone's success and help them achieve their goals. Local collaborations to stream-line processes (to better balance home and work life) while staying true to handmade are especially gratifying. Finding ways to work together while honoring the spirit of handmade and keeping it 'real' is very rewarding on a personal level. Inter-connected processes and people working in harmony to become better collectively is an awesome thing. Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments : )

  • vedgecandle

    Maggie from vedgecandle said 5 years ago

    Awesome!

  • vintagejane

    Stacey McCaffrey from vintagejane said 5 years ago

    LOVE the reindeer!

  • LittleGussy

    Kasia B from ShesGUtSSY said 5 years ago

    That is a great collaboration! Such a fantastic way to utilise your strengths to both produce amazing creations! Well done Celine and Janet!

  • creativeclassics

    creativeclassics from creativeclassics said 5 years ago

    What a great story, it's amazing what you can think of when two people put their talents together, congratulations to both of you!

  • silverlily786

    Fatema from SilverLilyJewelry said 5 years ago

    Its inspiring to see a partnership formed on the same principles of quality handmade.

  • Fiume

    Erin O'Rourke from Aruguletta said 5 years ago

    I love collaborations! It creates more possibility and creativity for everyone involved. Great feature. And I am quite fond of these adorable felt animals :)

  • GardenBirdie

    Celina Chase from GardenBirdie said 5 years ago

    Thank you all for the kind words of encouragement! It's been a pleasure working with Janet. I smile every time I pull out the die cut felt pieces for an order, knowing I do not have to do the tedious work of cutting the shapes by hand. I hope our story inspires other artisans to find ways to collaborate and save production time :)

  • AmandaJHoffman

    Amanda Hoffman from AJHStudio said 5 years ago

    Awesome! My friends and I have often talked about collaborating on but haven't yet. This totally is getting me inspired to make that happen!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 5 years ago

    Am I the only person to wonder that paying for die cut pieces to sew together somehow lessens the personal & hand made quality of an item? I don't know what to think. My head tells me that collaboration is a good thing, it can streamline production methods, cut production costs (horrible phrases, makes you sound like a factory) & make new friendships, all at once. But I fear Etsy is rapidly losing the hand made, one-at-a-time ethos it was built on, & that's not only a crying shame but also feels slightly dishonest. The trouble is, those of us who really DO make everything by ourselves & by hand tend to sell less so we pay smaller fees. I don't know what the answer is, but nevertheless it troubles me.

  • KathrynWarren2

    Kathryn Warren from HailTiger said 5 years ago

    You are so lucky to have found each other. Does anyone know how to make oversized wall decals?? I would love to partner with someone on etsy who could produce wall decals from my illustrations. Please contact me if you're interested!

  • RenataandJonathan

    Renata and Jonathan from RenataandJonathan said 5 years ago

    Excellent idea ! Congrats :)

  • threadlady58

    Robin McSwain from TangledThreadShoppe said 5 years ago

    I love your work. Completely understand the time limitations you spoke about. I work fulltime and create when I can.

  • brindilleandtwig

    Melissa from brindilleandtwig said 5 years ago

    What a great story and lesson for all of us!

  • GardenBirdie

    Celina Chase from GardenBirdie said 5 years ago

    Good question mazedasastoat! I had similar concerns even before starting my etsy shop. I noticed some wool toy makers actually harvest their own wool, die it, and create their own felt before even sewing the toy. Believe it or not, after learning of this, I wondered to myself if my hand sewn toys would be considered handmade! Looking back I see how silly this concern was in my particular situation. I do think there is a sliding scale to handmade. Would handmade jewelry featuring store-bought beads be "more" handmade if the artist used handmade beads? Maybe, but perhaps we are asking the wrong question. I think the question we should ask ourselves when choosing handmade is, "will this purchase support individual artists who are actively involved in the creation of their items, real people who are bringing their visions to life and pursuing their passions?" Most of the time this couldn't be said of a typical national chain store-bought manufactured item. Like anything in life there are gray areas and sliding scales, and the line has to be drawn somewhere. I think Etsy has done an excellent job thus far of working to stay true to their handmade mission while exploring new opportunities for sellers.

  • horsedevors

    horsedevors from horsedevors said 5 years ago

    I love the reindeer!

  • BeadingTimes

    Zeynep from ZeyJewel said 5 years ago

    Beautiful story, congrats!

  • Agasart

    Aga from AgasJourney said 5 years ago

    Very interesting post and beautiful creations! Thank you for sharing

  • KMalinka

    Natalia from KMalinkaVintage said 5 years ago

    Great story and lovely work!

  • madebyangi

    angi jackson from FabricTwist said 5 years ago

    Good story. Just because the pieces are cut from a a die cut machine does not mean that it is less hand made. She designs it all and then sews the pieces. I personally think it is great to be able to collaborate with another person and use a little technology industry to support your art or craft. Making everything by hand is so time consuming and its difficult to charge enough to cover all your time.

  • ReDESIGNProductions1

    ReDESIGNProductions1 from ReDESIGNProductions1 said 5 years ago

    Great feature story...love the owls..congrats!

  • artoncollection

    jessica lowry from artoncollection said 5 years ago

    i've been on the partner lookout for a longtime. maybe it's time to really put that energy out into the universe... thanks for the inspiration :)

  • FireHorseTextiles

    Julia K Walton from JuliaKWalton said 5 years ago

    Synergy in action! Lovely owls, and the felt looks gorgeous quality!

  • Nikifashion

    Natalia from Nikifashion said 5 years ago

    So cute owls!

  • crochetgal

    crochetgal from crochetgal said 5 years ago

    This is a wonderful example of how a supply seller can work with an artist so that both can achieve their goals and keep it all within the Etsy community. Well done!

  • ArtsFartsCrafts

    Lauren G from DrunkOnArts said 5 years ago

    This was a great story to read. Cheers all around. And the reindeer are delightful!

  • debcottages

    Debbie McFarland from MemoryCottages said 5 years ago

    Great idea to help each other out!

  • MrsDyess

    Gabby C. from Maudalin said 5 years ago

    very cool

  • Kam2012

    Kam from RiverGoddessBoutique said 5 years ago

    Great items!

  • 8point8

    8point8 from ThinkEco2 said 5 years ago

    This is a great article. I do a lot of cross-marketing with other Etsy Artisans. It is a lot of fun.

  • PinkLemonadeDuxbury

    Cheryl from PinkLemonadeDuxbury said 5 years ago

    This is a great story . . a collaboration within the Etsy community makes it even better! Thank you for sharing!

  • LauraBoyea

    Laura Boyea from LauraBoyea said 5 years ago

    Wonderful story and such endearing work. Thanks for sharing!

  • peaseblossomstudio

    Caroline from AnchorRoad said 5 years ago

    I've purchased Janet's wonderful felt a number of times! She is wonderful to work with. :)

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 5 years ago

    Nice work...Cute items...

  • feltonthefly

    Janet from FeltOnTheFly said 5 years ago

    I've been thinking about mazedasastoat's comment.... and I think the answer is actually pretty complex. There's more to handmade than just 'it's not mass produced'. There are real stories behind handmade. There are personal struggles and tough choices behind handmade. It's not so black-and-white as you may think. If Celina and I didn't work together, she'd have less time for her children. If Celina and I didn't work together, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to offer help to a fellow (sister) crafter/artist. Is Celina's work still handmade? Definitely. Oh... and by the way.... those dies are hand formed. That die cutting machine is hand cranked. I think we take a lot of heart and soul out of handmade if the struggle is too great and we don't lean upon each other to provide what we could not achieve alone. There's still plenty of 'human' in assisting each other. Does a handmade artist have to create every bit of his work in solitude? I think not.... Celina's eloquent question bears repeating: "I think the question we should ask ourselves when choosing handmade is, "will this purchase support individual artists who are actively involved in the creation of their items, real people who are bringing their visions to life and pursuing their passions?"

  • ShoeClipsOnly

    kathy johnson from ShoeClipsOnly said 5 years ago

    I know I couldn't do it without the support of my fellow Etsyians, I support Etsy by getting a lot of my feathers, rhinestones, etc for my shoe clips on Etsy!

  • EstateAurora

    AuroraHorton from EstateofAuroraHorton said 5 years ago

    Wonderful story! These are amazing!

  • cinderandhoney

    Caitlin Benson from cinderandhoney said 5 years ago

    Great story - I love a good etsy friend to bounce ideas back and forth with!

  • agebo

    Ann Cosgrove from acbcDesign said 5 years ago

    Great story - always looking to streamline manufacturing. Also, love those reindeer!

  • houseofmark

    Salpie and Karena from HouseOfMark said 5 years ago

    Great story! Agree with Patrick above '“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ― Helen Keller". I feel the same - working with my sister in our shop is so much better than working alone. We feed off of each other's ideas and make so much more happen than if we were to do this on our own. Love working together and collaborating.

  • NadezhdaE

    Nadezhda from VENDecor said 5 years ago

    Great feature story!

  • PennyBirchWilliams

    Penny Birch-Williams from PennyBirchWilliams said 5 years ago

    Seems like a perfect collaboration. I had been thinking along the lines of mazedasastoat's comment at first, but I appreciate the responses of both Janet and Celina in looking deeper into the issue. There is an enormous variety of items on etsy with every definition of handmade, and not everyone will agree on what that definition is. There may be something lost in using die cut pieces rather than hand cut, a bit of uniqueness that each item has that is lost to uniformity. But each seller, and each buyer, has to decide whether that is a deal breaker. To me, this collaboration is a wonderful opportunity for both parties and results in a lovely handmade item.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 5 years ago

    Great article! Congrats on your success!

  • BambuEarth

    Amber from BambuEarth said 5 years ago

    Good advice! ♥♥♥

  • dominna

    Katrina Dzerkale from Dominna said 5 years ago

    Such an inspiring article :)

  • happyaskingsshop

    Rachel Osborne from happyaskingsshop said 5 years ago

    Beautiful. I love your work!

  • BirdEnergy

    Genise Park from GeniseParkArts said 5 years ago

    Beautiful work!

  • jakesgirl3

    Linda Dean from HugKnitz said 5 years ago

    Bravo to Celina and Janet... ! Taking that step to trust and learn from each other always makes one + one equal a lot more than 2. Love what you've done and it's an inspiration to encourage us all to take that leap of faith!

  • VintageDelights4U

    Patrick and Terry from VintageDelights4U said 5 years ago

    What great advice, Thanks for sharing! Btw, I love the reindeer!!

  • lovepainting1

    domenica sa from BeautyLineAda said 5 years ago

    thanks a lot for sharing your advice keep working

  • MyFiberFolly

    Betsy Alspach from MyFiberFolly said 5 years ago

    Great lessons and thought provoking comments. Well considered collaborations add depth to the meaning and stories behind our items. I know I can help to spread the enjoyment of using rare sheep fibers, and pass on information about the individual sheep and farms from which they come, but I can't raise all the sheep. (Although the idea sounds kind of fun!)

  • feltonthefly

    Janet from FeltOnTheFly said 5 years ago

    To be clear, Celina and I both put a lot of thought into the idea of the die-cut collaboration. We are both well aware of, and sensitive to, the handmade vs. mass-produced debate. In the end, we looked at how this step made sense for us as individuals, and it wasn't based on greed. I'm really *really* good with our decision and I hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with more handmade artists and crafters : )

  • WomanShopsWorld

    Carter Seibels Singh from WomanShopsWorld said 5 years ago

    What a beautiful collaboration! This is a beautiful next step for the both of you, and one that is quite inspiring to read about! Congrats on this feature!

  • TreasuredMemoryLane

    TreasuredMemoryLane from TreasuredMemoryLane said 5 years ago

    Beautiful collection!! Lovely items. Very inspiring story. Thank you for sharing.

  • katherinedooren

    katherine Lenz from 214EVER said 5 years ago

    Can you make a snake toy like the other animals you have made?

  • katherinedooren

    katherine Lenz from 214EVER said 5 years ago

    Before, i was born in a snake year, haha, i think the girls would to see the animals as me if they are born in the same year as me.

  • TastefullyMismatched

    Mandy Spivey from TastefullyMismatched said 5 years ago

    Great way to build two businesses at once! Cute stuff, btw!

  • FiftyFourTenStudio

    Mary Lee from FiftyFourTenStudio said 5 years ago

    Great story!

  • MyGreenBottoms

    Kelly Ellis from UniqueApplique said 5 years ago

    Awesome story and great pieces.

  • Drawula

    Louis Hansell from Drawula said 5 years ago

    Nifty!

  • Tafaf

    Tefnut from TetraSeedBeads said 5 years ago

    What a wonderful story, very inspiring! You both have wonderful products, much success to you both.

  • smallfamilies

    Julien Martinez from POTOKandFriends said 5 years ago

    Beautiful story, thanks for the account ! ;)

  • mobilampshades

    Lisa Wilmshurst from mobilampshades said 5 years ago

    What a fab story, gives me inspiration to how to grow my business. Good luck.

  • nytliving

    The Lins from notyourtypicalliving said 5 years ago

    that's amazing that you're able to collaborate with each other. love your pieces, congratulations on your success.

  • bpdmso

    Mary from MarySanzJewelry said 5 years ago

    Beautiful collection, thanks for sharing!

  • leafprintstudio

    Camille from leafprintstudio said 5 years ago

    Very cool! I love it when things come together this way!

  • SparrowsTrove

    Karen from SparrowsTrove said 5 years ago

    It is great when everything pulls together like this.

  • cheribenton8

    Cheri B. from BSewSweetBoutique said 5 years ago

    Great collaborations; great thoughtful discussions. I've often considered swapping talents with another crafter and now I am more encouraged to proceed.

  • illuminativeharvest

    Jennifer Presler from IlluminativeHarvest said 5 years ago

    great story

  • korenkwan

    Koren Kwan from GarasuWonderland said 4 years ago

    love the story, interesting article!

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