One of the challenges of being a blogger and running your own business is the lack of colleagues. which is why I’m ever so grateful for creative communities such as the Etsy teams! I’ve really enjoyed all the Etsy events I’ve attended over the last year- I attended 3 Etsy Craft Parties in 2016, travelling all the way to Portsmouth (travel guide for craftaholics here) & Brighton (overview of craft shops here), and can’t wait to try out more this year! Besides being super appreciative of all the hard work of the Etsy team captains, I’m also really curious as to what being a team captain entails exactly- it looks really fun! (and hard work!)- so it was really exciting when Melodie kindly agreed to being interviewed for my blog! You can find the link to her shop here
Should I agree to being interviewed…?
When did you start selling jewelry? Do you do any other crafts besides shoes making and jewelry making? Do you create other types of jewelry besides leather?
I started making and selling jewellery in 2013 after working for a few years in the footwear industry.
I trained as a shoe-maker in London and was working for a Fetish shoe company in London, cutting lasts for the shoes. In the process, a lot of gorgeous leather is wasted. I was trying to find a way to use the off-cuts and that’s how I started making jewellery.
I started selling a few month after because everyone around me suggested it, at first as a hobby and a little later as my full time job.
I still work almost exclusively from off-cuts to create my jewellery. I feel very proud to create gorgeous pieces from unwanted bits of material, especially with leather.
I recently started a new shop selling copper and leather home accessories, SlinkyHome. I still enjoy making jewellery but it’s nice to learn about new materials and get creative in a different way.
How did you get so active in the Etsy community and how did you become a team captain? What are some of the things a team captain does? Those international summits Etsy does seem amazing- what’s the best thing that’s come out of them?
In early 2015 I was going through a rough patch. I felt very lonely and thought that maybe having my own business was a mistake. I’m a real extrovert and spending all my time at home on my own was a real struggle.
I miss people!
I received an email from Etsy advertising teams and asking if people wanted to start teams in their local cities. I thought about it and thought it would be a great way to meet other creative and business owner in London. You can do so much more as a group than you could ever do on your own.
I got in touch with the Etsy community team and asked details about teams. They encouraged me to create my own and apply to go to the UK captain summit. They put me in touch with Emma Barnes (my co-captain) and Becky Lupton (ex co-captain) who were also thinking of starting a team in London to see if we’d be happy to work together to create a big London Team.
That’s how London Local was born.
I love being a team captain but it is a lot of work. We try to make all members feel included and supported on a business but also human level. That is why we organise all sorts of events, from monthly met-ups to business workshops and selling events and that takes a lot of time. I can’t take all the credit though, there is 6 of us leading the team now (Aiza, Jinny, Shoshanna, Saffie, Emma and myself). I so proud of what we have achieved so far and of the team in general. Everyone is friendly and happy to share knowledge. It has gone beyond any expectation I had when we started.And now we have over 1000 members.
And yes, there are a few perks from Etsy for being a team captain, tough not as many as people usually assume. We do not get paid by Etsy and we do not gets picked for their events because we are captains. But they do organised summits twice a year, the UK one and the European one. The last European one was in Paris, my home town. The best think about the summits is the opportunity to meet other team captains, from all over the UK and Europe. We share experiences and tips. What works and what didn’t, how to engaged more with our teams… It’s also a chance to meet all the lovely people working for Etsy and learn about their plan for the year ahead. They are a very friendly bunch and keen to help when they can.
What’s your personal best moment on Etsy and your best moment as an Etsy team captain?
As a business owner, I think my best moment was my first Etsy feature. I was so excited and proud. That’s when I felt validated as a design-maker.
As a captain I would say our first Spring market last year in Crouch End. That’s the first event we organised from scratch. It was really stressful and we had no idea if it would be successful and it really was. It was also a great team building exercise, with so many people showing us support and volunteering to help. It gave a the greatest sense of achievement.
Do you still make shoes? That is so unusual- how did you get started?
No I don’t make shoes anymore. It’s such hard work and you need a lot of machinery to do it properly.
I’ve been obsessed with shoes since I was 3 years old. My parents had to watch me carefully because I used to go into shops and just steal them… I still have about 80 pairs now (after giving lots to charity).
After I left Uni, I took a job as a User Experience Designer for a French software company. I was really miserable there. People were not very creative and everyday was a struggle. So I thought back on what I really loved, what were my interests and how I could turn those into work.
That’s when I thought I should probably explore the shoe option…after all I was spending half of my paycheck on shoes already.
I found a shoemaking class in London and I took it. It was a 1 week course and I just fell in love with the craft.
After that, it was just a matter of leaving Paris and moving to London to learn more about it. Luckily, my boyfriend found a job in London and I continued working from home for my old company.
I took a lot of classes and internships to learn what I could about the process. It’s such a beautiful thing to be able to create. Reality kicked in when I realised how physically demanding the work was and how much investment you needed to start your own company.
But It was great fun and brought me to where I am now.
I read on Etsy that Slinky Links is now your day job- how long did it take you to go full time as a designer maker?
I decided to go full time in 2014. I wasn’t paid very much at the time so I thought I might as well focus my energy on my own business.
I’m very lucky that my boyfriend can support both of us while I’m building my business.
You moved from Paris to London- what’s the biggest difference between the 2 cities? Did you have any difficulty with the move? Tell us about the top places in both cities for people who love handmade stuff.
Paris and London are so different but for me the main difference is that in London you are free to be who you are, whoever that is. Paris is full of rules about what you should wear, how you should look, where you should work. After working there for a few years,I was suffocating. London is full of possibilities and changing career here is much more of a possibility.
I didn’t really know how to be more creative in Paris. I don’t come from a creative background,I studied psychology and then went into user experience design. I never studied art or fashion and honestly didn’t know where to start in Paris.
When I got to London I found that it was easier to meet people from a different background than mine and that if you are willing to do the work, people are happy to give you a chance. I can’t imagine leaving anywhere else now.
When you move to a different country, you have to start from scratch but at the same time, you are free to reinvent yourself. I miss my Parisian friends but I’ve met so many brilliant people here that it made starting over a lot easier.
I haven’t lived in Paris fora long time so I’m not sure I still recommend good independent shops but they are easy to find. We have a lot more independent shops in Paris so just trot around the city and you will find them. If you are looking for fabric, the best place to go is Le marche Saint Pierre in Montmartre (http://www.marchesaintpierre.com/).
In London, I know so many great independent shops: Smug in Camden passage, Search and Rescue in Stoke Newington
What advice would you give to people starting on Etsy?
Be patient, Rome wasn’t build in 1 day. Find a support system, people that can give you advice and don’t be afraid to ask when you don’t know. Finally, be ready for hard truth and try not to take it too personally. No-one is good at everything and that’s OK.
Who are some of your favourite designer makers? Where do you shop besides Etsy?
I love Rosa Pietsch’s jewellery. I want to wear all her pieces, they are so stunning.
I get inspired by Emma everyday. She built her brand so successfully and seemingly effortlessly in a very short period of time and I know how hardworking she is. She is self-taught which is so impressive, her designs are timeless and she always have time for the team.
I’m in love with Carole Morley’s ceramics. It’s so colourful and fun with a very organic feel.
I shop mainly at independent shops in London and there is so many great ones around where I live in Islington.
Finally, What are your top 3 tips for building a creative community?
– Make sure you know what you want out of the community. Why are you building it?
– Always be friendly.You can’t please everyone but there is no need for rudeness.
– Ask for feedback to make sure you are clear about what your community wants.
PS Don’t forget to check out her amazing Etsy shop!