Contributor post by Natalie
Please join us in welcoming CardNotions, our featured member!
Tell us about yourself
Hello, I am Wendy of CardNotions. I am married and living in the beautiful state of Oregon. Central Oregon’s High desert is our home and we, like so many that live here, enjoy many outdoors activities throughout the year, such as trail running, cycling, kayaking, backpacking, and skiing.
When did you open your business and what make you decide to do so?
I started my pop-up card and ornament business Sept. 2011, selling at a local arts/crafts show and opened my etsy shop shortly after that on Nov. 7,2011.
I had been designing and making cards and ornaments for family and friends, for a couple of years prior to 2011. By 2011, I had accumulated 40 or more designs, including a couple of my earliest designs–wood-cut hummingbird ornament and pop-up fireplace card. I was encouraged by family to have a go at selling them. The success at my first show led to opening my etsy shop, CardNotions.
Tell us a bit about your products
My pop-up cards are very colorful and well designed to present in 3D when opened. They are of a sturdy construction, made from a resilient, photo quality paper. A large proportion of my orders are for personalized cards and invitations.
My ornaments are laser cut from 1/8 inch wood, that is treated with a food safe finish to preserve and beautify the surface. My designs include everything from hummingbirds to lighthouses, and jewelry/crafting supplies to stained glass/wood-cut decorations. I do a lot of custom orders using other materials such as acrylic, and various types and thicknesses of hard wood.
What inspires your work?
Initially, much of my inspiration came from nature and beautiful surroundings. My family and friends have given me support as well as many great suggestions for new items and for improving old items. More recently, I’ve enjoyed designing based on customer requests. I greatly value customer input, because it challenges me to improve my designs and the time it takes to complete, and keeps me moving in new directions.
What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?
I still feel like CardNotions is just finding its feet, so my main goal this year is to continue designing and adding new products. I would also like to expand my item price range by offering larger OOAK stained glass/wood-cut pieces.
I have been very fortunate to be a supplier for a large company that sells several of my custom ornaments wholesale. It added a great deal of stability to CardNotions over the past year. I would love to do more wholesale business.
As for my dreams for CardNotions?… Last year, I wished that I would get enough business to keep my card making and woodcutting equipment running full time, because it was an easy calculation: #items I could make per month x item price, minus cost to make, equals a nice profit. That happened for about four months during the holiday season. I was crazy busy and unable to do any new design work, but time flew and I was happy with the results. However, it made me realize that wearing only my manufacturing and sales/marketing hats, even for that period of time was not exactly where I wanted to be.
I love designing new things and making those first prototypes, that I can hold in my hands, and show to people; and use feedback to make it better/perfect! I also enjoy figuring out how to manufacture it efficiently, but it’s really that prototype stage that I love. So, I hope to see CardNotions continue to grow to the point of hiring someone to help with manufacturing and sales/marketing so that I can focus on what I love.
What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?
We are all quite different in our styles. I have tried to breath new life into traditional pop-up cards, by adding colors, precision cutting and my own original designs, while preserving traditional Japanese architectural card making techniques. Each card becomes a little diorama, that can be folded flat for mailing and then opened up to display in 3D.
My ornaments are cut with a laser, allowing for very intricate designs to be cut. This allows me the freedom to design in positive and negative space, resulting in images that display beautifully cut from light colored wood and hung on a dark tree or brightly back lit (as when hung on a window) so that the ornament appears in silhouette.
I have many years of experience designing for and cutting with a laser, so I maintain optimal cutting conditions, which results in clean, precise cuts in every material.
Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?
I started out using our spare bedroom/den as my “studio”, but found it difficult to work in the same room as my laser and other manufacturing equipment. So now I have an “office” in our son’s old bedroom and my “photo studio” in our daughter’s old bedroom. It’s really just shared space and I have to give it up when our kids visit, but it’s working for me.
Where can people find out more about you and your business?
Why do you believe people should buy handmade, such as your products, vs buying mass-produced products from box stores?
I think people should value unique and limited edition items, and have the opportunity to work with someone to make something special and truly perfect for their own needs. We, as artists and sellers, put something of ourselves in everything we make; People who buy these items perceive this and some may even play a larger part in design and feel like they also have put something of themselves into what we have made for them. I am often touched by the excitement and emotions elicited by just the right words and images in a card. Or the way ornaments can conjure up fond memories of places, people or animals.
What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?
I have found that there is a wealth of information in the etsy forums, team discussions and blogs. Our fellow etsians are truly the best source of good advice, support, sharing and even a few laughs!
Etsy is not easy to figure out as a newbie and it becomes very evident why that is, the longer you stick around. Etsy changes all of the time! Usually the changes are improvements, but sometimes not. Almost all changes require us to adapt or get left behind. So it’s always a good idea to find out what everyone on etsy is talking about.
Any advise for those thinking about selling on Etsy?
I always highly recommend giving Etsy a try. I have my own website that allows purchases to be made, but have only made a couple of sales from it and that was to family. So I think it is probably a trust issue. People trust etsy sellers. I love the way our etsy listings show 5 quality photos, customer reviews, shipping and policies, and allows for a choice of item variations. Everything a buyer needs to know is right there including “add to cart”, and if he/she still hasn’t decided to buy he can “ask a question”.
But, like anything else, you get out, what you put in. The more effort you put into taking quality photos, writing great titles, descriptions and tag words, and listing a large number of items, the more sales you will get.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?
My number one “unwind and have fun activity” is trail running. I’ve run my whole life, but have only been able to run out in nature regularly, here in Bend, OR. I’m always within a mile of a nice hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding trail. Some days I’ll see bald eagles, northern harriers, jack rabbits, deer, red tailed hawks, … I really do my best thinking and visualizing while running and more often than not experience my “AHA moments”, when something I have been working on suddenly becomes crystal clear, or a problem that’s been bugging me appears in better perspective, so I know what direction I need to take. You don’t want to be around me when something has prevented me from getting out for a few days!
I also love to cook and share good food and wine with my husband.
If you would like to be featured, please go to the CIJ Etsy Forum and fill out the questionnaire. Please note you must be a member of the CIJ Etsy team to be featured.