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full-time fiber artist

Adventures in Business with Fiber Artist Riin Gill

Today I'm happy to share the adventures of Starship Captain Riin, who is the owner of Happy Fuzzy Yarn. Riin knits, spins, dyes, runs Happy Fuzzy Yarn, and drinks a lot of strong black tea. She lives with her boyfriend, two rabbits, and a really astounding amount of wool in Ann Arbor, MI. Connect with Riin on Twitter, Facebook,or Ravelry.

 

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?

Ha! There is no such thing as a normal day! Ok, there are some similarities … I get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, the minions start arriving … and after that, I could be redesigning labels, or writing a blog post, or fixing a spreadsheet whose formulas went wonky, or coming up with a new colorway, or dealing with petty bureaucrats, or designing a shawl … There is always a lot of strong black tea involved!

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?

In the beginning I did everything — the soaking, dyeing, washing, rinsing, labeling, packing, shipping, getting things online, maintaining the inventory, all of the social media, all of the response to store inquiries, all of the advertising, all of the designing, all of the writing, all of the editing, all of the everything. As Happy Fuzzy Yarn has grown, all of that has grown to much more than one person can do.

I've been moving into more of a Creative Director role. The brilliant and amazing Carol Ullmann has been interacting with stores, writing, doing social media, and designing, and she's working on a business plan. The extremely talented Heather Sauntry has taken over most of the dyeing, and is also doing some designing. Other minions are doing things I never had time to do when I was trying to do it all, like make lots and lots of little sample skeins.

Aside from money I've spent on things like my mortgage and groceries, I've put nearly every penny back into the business, so I'm not sure I actually am making a living yet. I've got a roof over my head and I'm not starving though, so I guess that counts for something!

starrysocks-heelandsoledetail

What new thing are you exploring now?

I just started advertising in Yarn Market News (the trade magazine for the yarn industry), so that should increase my brand recognition among LYS (local yarn store) owners, especially ones who don't make it to TNNA (The National Needlearts Association – a trade show for the needlearts industry).

Also I've been working out formulas to do gradient sets. I am really excited about that!

What's your definition of success in your business?

To be honest, I have two.
On the one hand, I just want to make enough money so I can enjoy what I'm doing and make beautiful things and not have to worry about whether I have enough money to pay wages AND taxes AND my mortgage AND order supplies, but just know that yes, there is enough, and I am happy, and my employees are happy, and our customers are happy.

On the other hand … ok, let's face it. I want fame and fortune (or as much fame and fortune as one can get in the yarn world anyway). I have had people tell me my yarn is nicer than Wollmeise or nicer than Madtosh or nicer than anything else at TNNA, and obviously those are subjective statements, but if a lot of people think my yarn is nicer than yarns which are thought of as the holy grail, I think my yarn should be just as famous and fast selling as those yarns! So I want that, plus everything on the first hand!

tnna2015-corriesock

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

We desperately need to move into a larger space. We've been starting to scope out commercial real estate, seeing what's available, what it would cost, and figuring out how that would affect, well, everything! Happy Fuzzy Yarn has grown to the point that it simply doesn't fit in my house any more. We need a light industrial space so we can dye more at a time, have more drying space, more storage, a larger shipping area, and so on. We're thinking a small retail area at the front would be a natural addition.

 

Want to learn more about other Starship Captains like Riin? Sign up here for an Early Boarding Pass and be the first to know when the Starship reopens for boarding!

Interview with Fiber Artist Sasha Torres

AnInterviewwithSashaTorres

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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 Fiber Artist Ana Campos

Today I'm sharing an adventure with Starship Captain and full time fiber artist, Ana Campos. Ana grew up in Brazil, surrounded by beautiful colors and a ridiculous amount of books. She now combines hues and stories in her bookishly inspired hand-dyed yarn and knitting patterns. You can find more of her work 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?

 

In some ways, the best part of being a full-time maker is that there isn't necessarily a normal day. The flexibility in schedule is great, so I can choose to do something completely out of the ordinary without giving anyone notice (as long as it doesn't conflict with my deadlines). On the other hand, the workload fluctuates a lot, so it can often mean working late into the night and on weekends. My time is taken up by a lot of things: dyeing yarn, working on knitting designs, book keeping, trunk shows, teaching classes, going to meetings, marketing, social media, product photography, customer service, and other odds and ends. The specifics of each day vary based on upcoming deadlines and priorities.

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?

When I started my business, I was selling hand-knit goods. Since then, the focus has shifted to my line of hand-dyed yarn and knitting patterns. This means my customer base has shifted a lot – from people who buy finished knits, to people who are knitters themselves. What started as a strictly retail business is now a combination of wholesale and retail, and teaching is a big component of my business, too.

A skein of Ana's hand dyed yarn

What new thing are you exploring now?

My business is constantly evolving. For the last two years, vending at craft shows was a very significant part of my income, but the physical and emotional toll of the fall and holiday season was tough. I spent more than one Christmas morning nursing a bad cold, curled up on the couch with a thick blanket and a massive box of tissues. This year, I am exploring a different diversification of income streams to see if I can lessen my involvement in craft shows. My family will definitely appreciate having me be healthier and more present for the holidays.

A shawl design from Ana

What's your definition of success in your business?

My definition of success is being able to pay my bills and have a bit left over to maybe go to the movies and have dinner out a couple of times a month. I definitely won't be buying yachts anytime soon! Success is something that a lot of us in the handmade business struggle with – if we make enough to be able to take a vacation, there is this perception that we are “making too much.” But people working “regular jobs” are expected to be able to take time off and perhaps travel a bit. I don't understand why there is an overall expectation that makers shouldn't be able to have the same luxuries that other professions have, but that is something I hope to combat as I move forward.

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

My new big thing is hosting my very first knitting retreat in May 2015. Community has become such an important of my life, both in business and personally. A year ago, I never would have imagined going in this direction, but I'm so excited!

Ana's sock design in progress

If you'd like to read more about Ana's story of quitting her full-time job (it happened aboard the Starship!) and those of her fellow Captains, sign up for the Starship Early Boarding Pass! I'll send you some more success stories of Starship members, along with notifications when the Starship opens – and closes –  to new members.