Member Feature: GypsyMadonna

Contributor post by Michelle of EviesToolEmporium

Please join us in welcoming Robin of GypsyMadonna, our featured member!


Tell us about yourself.

Born in Canada, I entered the crafts business at the ripe old age of 12! I was taught beadwork by a member of the Squamish Indian Band Tribe (of North Vancouver) and from there, I managed to experiment with every crafting technique available. I had the great fortune in having an Art Teacher who decided to expand the curriculum from painting, drawing and clay to encompass all the handcrafts popular at that time – tie dying/batik, candle making, leather work, macrame, weaving, doll making – you name it, I tried it. I think I drove my parents nuts with wanting craft supplies for my Birthday and at Christmas and finally I just had too much finished product. My father suggested I try a local craft show to see if my finished product would sell. Well, it did and that was the beginning of my lifelong love affair with creating and selling my handiwork!

When did you open your business and what make you decide to do so?

My business really started in 1965 and continues to this day. But if we are talking about when I did decide to open an ETSY shop to showcase my work, well, I think that was around 2010. I also sell antiques and collectibles as well as jewelry on my other site, RobinsNestMidwest, and that business has been around since 1984 though only on ETSY since 2006.

The photo I show was taken in 1969 when a group of my friends from High School decided to take space in a Pier One-like shop at the bottom of Lonsdale – a major street in North Vancouver, B.C. The shop sponsored at craft fair and “my group” was one of the first to sign up!

Tell us a bit about your products.

I love Christmas BUT my heart is with the Victorian era as well as with Retro Modern, 1960s Made in Japan items. So my I have many different lines when it comes to my crafting. My first line is Antique Victorian Revival using ANTIQUE components from the late 1800s, paper, fringes, fabric, beads, etc. My second line is Retro Modern Revival using vintage chenille, tinsel, glitter, paper, etc. My third line is crafting ribbon roses using antique ribbon and modern – the designs are based on those of the French Art Deco era. And my last line, well, it’s hard to explain. It’s Religious with a very soft, feminine feel. I love creating First Communion items using as many antique materials as I can – I restore, I repurpose and I copy. These projects are varied and may be as simple as a card with images or a complicated design utilizing larger components such as crosses, frames and specialty paper. I still experiment with other ideas and while some may work, others may not. So my shop can be filled with many a prototype but most all of my work is ONE OF A KIND!

What inspires your work?

Victorian images inspire my work as well as looking at other designers’ creations. I love the Belle Epoque era of Edwardian France and I also use that inspiration for my creations. And yes, I can’t forget the Japanese ornaments from my youth!

What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?

Selling on the Internet is my livelihood so at the ripe old age of 64, all I want to do is to continue with what a do – sell my product, make a living and hope, one day, that some company will like my work enough to give me a chance at reproducing my work on a larger scale and offering it to the world market. Well, I can dream, can’t I!

What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?

I don’t think anyone sells a “similar” product to what I make. First, it’s too hard to find the components – I have been collecting for near on 40 years now and my condo is overloaded with parts. Second, I think you have to have a real “feel” for working with antique items and coming up with a “revival” look. Most of the product in my shop is ONE OF A KIND – the original pieces used to build my foundation for my product. While I can keep a Library of past designs in a folder, I never like to “recreate” an item. I love to experiment too much and if an item I make doesn’t pass MY critical eye, I will tear it apart and start again. With antique parts, you have to be extremely careful not to let even a single bit of paper go to waste.

Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?

My studio is currently the second bedroom in my condo. It was always intended for use as a studio as well as a computer room and work room. To say that I have now outgrown it is an understatement. So my raw materials are all over my unit – in closets, in storage areas, under my bed, any place I can find space to store my “stuff”.

What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?

The entire road to my business has been one of trial and error. I was on my first computer in 1971 when the computer was in a class room and the terminal was an IBM Selectric Typewriter! Computers have come a long way but since 1999, when I purchased my first computer, some things have never changed – have a good product, take pictures that, while maybe not the best, still show your product to an advantage, and last and most important, have a knowledge about what you are creating. I learned most of my trade by interacting with the public at craft shows. While I lived in Los Angeles, California, I sold to many a celebrity and the ability to converse was most important in the selling of my handiwork.

Any advice for those thinking about selling on Etsy?

It’s a hard climb – there is no doubt about it. You are competing with everyone who wants to sell their product on the internet and that’s the main obstacle. If you have a distinct product, keep your shop filled, offer excellent service and work at it, success can be yours. This “job” is not for the faint of heart. As my Father once told me, you are living by your wits and it takes a great deal of courage to have faith in yourself.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?

Believe it or not but my work IS fun! But when I do need a break, I get on a cruise and watch the waves on the ocean or I hop on a plane to England to visit the markets of England and France. My work is my hobby and I don’t think I would change a thing!

What is your favorite quote?

Have faith. Faith in yourself, faith in others, faith that you will succeed.

Where can people find out more about your business?

ETSY: GypsyMadonna

ETSY: RobinsNestMidwest

FACEBOOK: GypsyMadonna

PINTEREST: robinyeo

PERSONAL WEBSITE: gypsymadonna


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.

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