Today we are welcoming Claudia from Marvelous Mittens
. Claudia is an extremely talented artist that I met about a year and a half ago through the website Ravelry. Claudia specializes in the fiber arts, and her work is always extremely inventive and created with high attention to minute details. What I love about Claudia is that when she puts her mind to something, she is inevitably successful. She currently operates two very successful Etsy shops along with all her swap ventures on Ravelry. Claudia is a whirlwind of creativity.
My buddy Tom Selleck, his mustache and I are thrilled to have her here. Of course Tom has been in a fabulous mood all week. You see he’s been addicted to that silly iphone game, Words With Friends. Unfortunately, our buddy Tom isn’t the best with word games and has a tendency to lose. But his luck changed just last week.
Seems he was playing the game on line with his friend, Alec Baldwin last Wednesday
when Alec suddenly had to forfeit the game due to circumstances beyond his control. Something about a &$@#! flight attendant, a #$%&*! airline pilot and some silly rules about not operating electronic devices while a plane is preparing for take-off.
And this wasn’t just any game of Words with Friends; this was a high-stakes game. The loser would not only have to get his chest waxed while the other watched, but would also have to eat an entire batch of Rastus’ chittlings with fried chicken gizzards. Just between you and me, Tom had been sweating it. Seems that both he and his mustache had been stuck with an X, a Q and no U’s and had just about been ready to fold when Alec suddenly had to call the game.
I’m pretty sure that I saw Tom drop a “Thank you” note in the mail to American Airlines. Ha!
Anyway, while Tom waits patiently for Alec to show up for his chest wax, let’s take a few moments to interview Claudia.
Suzy: So, tell me a little about yourself, your family, your other hobbies…
Claudia: Currently I live in Houston, Texas but I do not consider myself a Texan and I don’t say, ”y’all” like folks do here. Even though I have not lived in Washington State for over twenty years, I still consider myself a Washingtonian. I was born and raised in Anacortes which is located on Fidalgo Island, just off the main coast of Washington State in a protected inner region called the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
Suzy: What do most folks not know about you? I understand that you’ve had a very interesting life.
Claudia: Most of my friends, outside of Anacortes, do not know this next story. When I was in second grade, my father brought home a surprise new member to join our family—a baby gorilla. For two years we raised Bobo (that was his name) from infancy into his early youth until it became clear that he was too strong and destructive to live in a human home. We had to “adopt” him to a zoo. Many zoos vied for him but our family opted for the closest one, the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. This choice was made so we could still visit him because Seattle was only a two hour drive from our home in Anacortes.
Claudia: Having Bobo in our home was an amazing experience. Newsreels were made of him, a pictorial feature in Life Magazine, and other similar media recordings of our unusual life stand as documents of our life bringing up a gorilla. Even as recently as a year ago, I was still being interviewed about life with a gorilla in our home. Bobo went on to become Seattle’s mascot and often “quoted” or featured in area newspapers for his point of view or latest antic. He was a crowd pleaser.
Claudia: One of the lessons I learned from our Bobo experience was “why not?” That is, I learned to say “yes” to life at least as many times as I opted for “no.” For instance, I pay attention to my early morning and late night ideas as they are the most interesting, creative and potentially fruitful. I act on many of them.
Claudia: At times I turned my graphic skills and crafting interests into cottage industries, like the years when my first husband was working on his Ph.D. and we needed a supplementary income. During those years, I was at home with my three little ones when I initiated a puppet making business to make ends meet. Once I put the boys to bed at night, I went into puppet production. In two years I sewed, crafted and sold over 4,000 puppets to pay our bills. I was so successful that I was even listed in Dunn & Bradstreet.
Suzy: How are your wonderful mittens made and how did you come up with the fabulous idea?
Claudia: The time for a little magic has come around again. I needed a little at-home crafting to augment my social security check, which isn’t enough to make ends meet, so last year I started another little cottage industry. This time, it’s an online etsy shop called Marvelous Mittens.
Claudia: I make mittens out of wool sweaters that I rescue from thrift shops. These are perfectly wonderful, but unwanted sweaters that I bring home to felt. Felting is a washing and drying process that slightly shrinks and fuses the fibers making them perfect for mitten making. After felting, I cut pattern pieces from the sweaters to make all sizes of mittens from tiny baby thumb-less ones to big men’s sizes and everything in between. I also line the mittens with fleece for super warmth and comfort.
Claudia: As of today, I have sewn almost 200 pairs of mittens this season and sold more than half of them. The big weeks are the next two weeks and I’m ready. Then one week before Christmas, the sales will taper off. But, because mittens are a winter item, I will continue to sell more pairs as they are utilitarian as much as they make good gifts.
Suzy: Can you give anyone who is new to Etsy, some pointers that you might have learned along the way?
Claudia: I still feel like I’m learning but I am happy to share a few pointers, from my perspective. I will share a few “P’s” of etsy:
- Product: I think it is very important to have a unique product. There is a lot of competition on etsy and many repeat items, such as jewelry and fiber creations. There are even many craftspeople who sew mittens from felted wool, like I do. I think what distinguishes my mittens is the longer, wrist-hugging cuffs and unique graphic elements.
- Photos: After your unique and wonderful product, good photos are so important. I’m not a professional but I have a few suggestions for taking improved pictures. I think natural light is the best. I have found that my best photos are ones that I take outside about an hour after sunrise. I use a particular color of flannel as a background. The color is an off white—a sort of creamy color. Here are the reasons for flannel and for this particular color. Flannel absorbs and holds the light, rather than reflects it. I use props in many of my photos.
- Personalize: By personalize, here is an example: I make sure to add a little note to each invoice particular to that buyer. I use the first name and comment about the pair/size of mittens purchased and the possible end user. I also make my orders friendlier by including a little treat inside or beside each pair of mittens. If I wrap the mittens in tissue, I put a little peppermint candy beside the mittens and then wrap up. It makes a nice, unexpected surprise.
- Professionalize- the extras that show that I take great care about how things look. When I said I balance personal and professional, I am talking about handmade versus professionally printed items. I want to make sure that I have professional inclusions like business cards that show I am at the top of my game. In addition, I have a post card size glossy piece that goes with each pair of mittens that tells about how to wash and care for wool mittens. I also have address labels that match my business cards that I stick on the outside of my padded envelopes. All of these printed, professional pieces really reflect quality and hopefully make a professional statement about me and my work.
Suzy: Wonderful advice, Claudia! Thank you so much for coming by and telling us a bit about your fascinating life and your creative ventures! Please take a few moments to check out Claudia’s Etsy shops, Marvelous Mittens and Fabriq. There is much there for fabulous gifting even after the holidays! Claudia’s items are always the highest quality and created with much love.
Well, we’d best get back to the Green Room and keep Tom and his mustache company until Alec arrives. Seems that Alec was having a bit of difficulty getting an airline reservation and had to resort to riding a Greyhound Bus to get here.
Apparently, Greyhound offered him a free ticket in order to show him that traveling in a bus is not just for the common man. And just to make sure his riding experience was unforgettable, they made sure to sit him between a woman with a screaming, car-sick one year old, and a homeless man who can’t afford deodorant.
He should be here in about a week.
We can’t wait!
Want a chance to be interviewed on the Sitcom and “meet” Tom and his friends? Would you like to meet lots of other artisans from all over the world? Then be sure to link up your site to the International Blog Hop!