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fiber artist interview

Interview with Fiber Artist Sasha Torres

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Today I'm thrilled to have fiber artist and Starship Captain Sasha Torres on the podcast, sharing her business journey! Sasha makes gorgeous breed-specific yarn and fiber, which you can find at SheepSpot.

We discuss:

  • What inspired her to start her business
  • The major turning points and epiphanies that changed her business (you can apply them to yours!)
  • How “No one is thinking about you” helped her marketing
  • The wonderfulness of email UNsubscribers
  • Feeling satisfied with what you've accomplished
  • How a survey helped shape her new offer

Links to what we mentioned: 

Sasha mentions our one-on-one sessions and Map Making, which come as part of her Starship membership. Sign up here to be notified when it opens next!

How to listen

  • You can subscribe to it on iTunes (If you do, leave a review!)
  • You can listen to it using the player above or download it.
  • Subscribe or listen via Stitcher (or subscribe in whatever you use for podcasts – just search “Explore Your Enthusiasm” and it should pop up!)

Find all the podcast episodes here.

Adventures in Business with Designer and Tech Editor Joeli Caparco

Today I'm happy to share the insights of Starship Captain and knitwear designer, Joeli Caparco. Joeli designs classic, practical knitting garments and accessories that are road-tested for life's adventures. She also is a knitting pattern tech editor and creates online courses to help people discover the secrets of tech editing themselves. Find these patterns and courses plus her podcast at joeliskitchen.com

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time maker. But what's a normal day for you really like?

I still have my youngest son home with me, so I'm not quite a full-timer yet! Mornings are spent with my son until he goes to preschool at 1pm. I then work until 4 or 5pm. Once a week I work from 1-9pm and to be honest I work a other few evenings as well, sometimes until 2 in the morning. When I'm working I could be answering emails, writing a blog post or newsletter, doing tech editing work, designing, or podcasting. Sometimes a work day is spent knitting whilst watching a movie and sometimes I'm stuck in spreadsheets the whole time. It really varies. It's also quite challenging to be flexible and accept that sometimes one kid or the other will be sick and need me and I have to give up my work hours then. I need to be sure there is flexibility in my deadlines or if I want to take on a big project with a strict deadline then I need to be sure that I communicate with my husband to make sure he can be on kid-duty that week should something happen. (He's totally supportive but also deals with project deadlines at work and it can be difficult for him to take time off.)

 

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

I'm doing it by being really aware of our expenses and making sure we can meet the essentials with just my husband's salary. This was simple for us to do because we started our family straight out of university and so we never got used to having two salaries. My work hours have varied massively throughout the years — I started out working just one afternoon a week and at one point built up to 3 full days (and a couple evenings). That felt too stressful on our family, though, and came with a hefty childcare bill – so I cut all the way back down to two afternoons a week. (For the full story about that and how not-so-easily I took that change, you can read this post here: My Journey to Fearlessness.) I'm building my hours back up again but doing it slowly and mindfully.
I also have a wide variety of sources of income — I have my tech editing, online courses, knitting patterns, craft shows, in person teaching, as well as consistent work from a couple publications that I work with. I find that having a variety of work means that when one thing is a bit slow another thing is picking up. It also means that I can spend time on things that don't directly provide me income (working on my website, doing the podcast, etc.) because I have other things that provide a stable income.

 

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What new thing are you exploring now?

Right now, I'm working on ways to grow my YouTube channel. I really enjoy making videos and so I'm working on making tutorials and doing reviews as well as keeping up my normal podcast. I'm also really fascinated by Periscope and am exploring live streaming my podcast as I record it so I can interact with the audience in realtime. I've been watching gamers do livestreams for a while now and would love this to become more popular amongst knitters.

 

What's your definition of success in your business?

My definition of success is sustainability. For me that means making a reasonable hourly rate. I track how many hours I work in a month as well as my monthly income. As long as my hourly rate is the same as working the checkout at the grocery store then I feel good about my business. It's not about overall income numbers because sometimes the kids have school holidays and I don't work (and therefore earn) nearly as much as I do in a typical month. I want to be able to take that time off and enjoy their holidays with them and so I can't focus on monthly targets. Looking at an average hourly rate gives me personally a much better indicator of how well my business is doing.

 

What's the next destination you're working towards?

Eventually (next year) both my boys will be in school and at that point I would like to be looking at getting a studio space and using it to start teaching knitting, spinning and weaving classes to people (especially kids) in my local community. Until then it's keep doing what I'm doing and enjoying the little successes!

Want to learn from other Starship Captains? Sign up here to read their stories!

Adventures in Business with Fiber Artist Grace Shalom Hopkins

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Today I'm happy to share the insights of Starship Captain and fiber artist, Grace Shalom Hopkins. Grace Shalom Hopkins is an author, handmade lifestyle blogger and all around handwork geek. You can find her beautiful photos, videos and fiber here

 

People have this fantasy of what it's like to be a full-time artist. But what's a normal day for you really like?

Firstly, I really struggle maintaining schedules and blocked off hours so I work from a To Do List and that means I have one big project every day that is comprised of several little supporting tasks.

The biggest fantasy fulfillment is right there – knowing I suck at schedules and being able to work with my strengths to find a rhythm that works for me and my business without outside pressure.

The structure of my days are pretty consistent though, regardless of what big project I'm focused on.

I usually wake up at 5 in the morning to my Army husband's PT alarm and then fall back asleep unless he's lost his keys (like this morning!). I'm awake again at 7 when he gets home to change and go into work.
I finally wake up naturally at around 10:30 or 11. This part is great, I lay in bed from the time consciousness is barely on me to the time I can't help but open my eyes and think about my day and my big project and whatever else is on my brain. It's my personal form of meditation!

From there I check my phone and do any quick replies to emails or Etsy messages from bed.

Then I'm up and ready to do whatever big project is at hand, today it's writing here and working on my blog so “up” just means an extra pillow to prop me up. However this afternoon I am finishing up yesterday's big project by spinning in the living room, so I do get up-up eventually!

The evening brings my mate home and I generally spend it cooking dinner, doing chores and cuddling up with a new favourite on Netflix.

 

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

I started selling hand dyed fiber with this vision of being 100% supported by it. That was 5 years ago.

I've grown a lot and learned to listen to my North Stars and myself in terms of success. Once I started to look inside instead of outside and slowly shed the playlists I thought I had to follow I really started to hone in on what my business looks like now.


I still dye fiber, but I only dye 4-6 pounds a month. I specialize in unique blends and you will rarely ever see Merino shadow my door. By keeping it small I find I look forward to each dye day instead of panicking about how I am going to get all this to sell FAST so I can dye X lbs by YESTERDAY!

Next are my ebooks. I went through a lot of crash and burn variations of packing up my teaching passion into a neat e-course before I landed on ebooks. I adore the entire process of creating these and foresee them being a huge part of my business for a very long time.

The final major component is blogging. Building a thriving handmade lifestyle brand with my blogging is one of my big overarching goals this year. I have had a blog since that first sale but in the last year I have really buckled down and created something I am extremely proud of.

I also write for magazines and sometimes teach in person.

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What new thing are you exploring now?

Right now I am stretching my wings in this new kind of peace that comes with having stability in my business and my personal life that I've never had before.

In all honestly, it's been a really hard stretch.

To a kid who has always found home in chaotic frenzy, it doesn't feel totally okay to be at peace with where my business is.

I'm leaning in and trying to embrace this stability by improving the aspects of my business that I didn't feel like I could focus on before like building a store apart from Etsy and my email list.

What's your definition of success in your business?

To me success is being able to do what I love, which is living and sharing a handmade lifestyle.
I get to share my passion through teaching and blogging and supplying beautiful fiber.

I also get to share by being able to buy handmade and ethical products for myself and my family, which means I put my money where my mouth is in terms of my ethics and beliefs. For example I bought my husband and I handmade slippers from Ukraine instead of Wal-Mart because I now have the financial freedom to do that.

Making thousands of dollars a month or making enough so that my husband can quit his job (he'd be crushed to leave the Army) isn't what I want or need. Understanding that is okay was the most freeing lesson I've learned in business to date.

 

What's the next destination you're working towards?

My North Stars this year are Bold and Intentional.

Right now that means building a strong foundation under my business which is requiring me to be bold and intentional because it means not losing myself in another chaotic new project but also because some of those tasks are extremely scary or boring, usually both!

 

Want to learn from other  Starship Captains? Sign up here to read their stories!