Tell us about yourself.
I’m a Florida native who moved to Chicago to escape the heat. After ten years of designing costumes for local theater and film, working in an artist collective and waiting tables in the Windy City I met and fell in love with my Australian husband. I was lucky enough to move to Melbourne and have completely fallen for this country especially the flora and fauna, extra especially Koalas. I have two little humans and a fluffy pup who I love to get messy with but I’m not so great at the clean up afterwards part.
When did you open your business and what made you decide to do so?
I opened my Etsy store back in 2012 after I had illustrated a few children’s books. I wanted to sell art prints which garnered sporadic interest but nothing substantial. I kind of let the store lapse until 2 years ago. When my daughter was born I made her this little felt pixie hat. My mom was visiting and asked me if I would like her to jazz it up a bit with some embroidery. I loved what she did and asked her to show me how the stitches. That was it. I was hooked. I watched every YouTube video I could find on embroidery stitches and started making ornaments. It’s been pretty amazing. I mean building up a “following” is a slow process but the support has been great. I am a Christmas nut so being able to make something that someone can display on their tree of in their home is really meaningful to me.
Tell us a bit about your products.
I still offer personalized illustrations for children but mostly my shop centers around Christmas ornaments. My ornaments are all hand sewn and embroidered. They are made with wool felt and mostly DMC floss. They are plushy, toy like and kind of big. But I love BIG Christmas ornaments.
What inspires your work?
Australia for sure! The birds are a big one. I get lots of custom requests for birds and have certainly learned about lots of new species. My Norwegian ancestry is another. Who wouldn’t want to make gnomes? I also love all the Christmas time traditions from around the world. We take the kids to see St Nicholas and his friend Krampus every year at the Austrian Club. My cute version of Krampus is one of my best sellers. The other one that was a surprise hit is my Tardigrade. I love Tardigrades! My husband saw it and asked “who in the world will want that?” My first one sold within an hour of listing to a microbiologist who has a microbiology themed Christmas tree. Another one sold as a present for a girl who had studied Tardigrades as a research project. It’s cool when you connect with people who share you funny interests!!
What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?
I’m really working on making more patterns. To be honest sitting in front of a computer is not nearly as much fun as making an actual craft but I love being a small part of other people’s creative process. A friend of mine used some of my patterns to make ornaments for all of the grandparents. Her husband and the kids all got involved and embroidered together. I love that! Another upside is the selling a digital download is easy peasy! There’s no work to be done after the sale.
What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?
I try to make things that aren’t super typical. I mean I still love to make snowmen and reindeer but also like to throw in an Axolotl or Leafy Seadragon to mix it up. I am 100% NOT the most talented hand embroiderer on the planet but I do take a lot of pride in my work. I want these items to last a long time so I do my best to deliver the highest quality work I can. I also like to personalize items for people with names or dates.
Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?
Ha! My family wishes I did. That would cut down on the felt and floss scraps all over the house. I have pretty much taken over the dining room as my craft supply room but do most of my actual work in the living room while hanging out with my two-year old. I wish I could show you a cute, quirky little working space but it’s more like badly organised chaos.
What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?
Don’t compare yourself negatively to people who have been doing this for years! Learn from them. There are some amazing ornament and pattern makers out there. I read their blogs and follow their work. It’s good to see what kinds of themes people are drawn to.
Any advice for those thinking about selling on Etsy?
Give it a go!!! It’s a small amount of money to try to if nothing else it will be a good learning process. I honestly really thought I would be totally concentrating on illustrations but couldn’t have been more wrong! The embroidered felt ornaments have really been the ticket. It’s great because I absolutely love making them!!
When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?
Does trash TV count? Haha! I love to go on Sunday drives to different country towns near Melbourne. I love being in and around water. I used to read all the time but that’s a bit hard to squeeze in with the rugrats but a good book is still one of my all time favorite things in the world.
What is your favorite quote?
“It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life.” ~ Maude from “Harold and Maude”
Where can people find out more about your business?
I have a blog that I need to update more than I do!
And on Instagram @elliottsplayground
I also have a Pattern website that has all my offerings. Starting 1 December my shop is only on Pattern,while I am making all holiday orders.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
$1 from every sale I make in my Etsy store goes to the Save the Koala Fund.
Thanks for letting me talk about myself and share my work!!
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