This month's Featured Sponsor is none other than the lovely Emily of The Morose Bee! Emily has always been such a sweetheart and we've worked together before, so I was tickled pink when she was interested in the featured sponsor spot for August! Emily makes some really adorable (and totally kitschy!) wearables that she sells in her Etsy shop, and her blog is chock-full of artistic adventures and even some delicious looking baking! She's a roller derby dame and an absolute gem, so I know you'll love this interview!
Hi Emily! We're so tickled to have you as our featured sponsor this month on Little Chief Honeybee! Do you mind introducing yourself to all of the honeybees and maybe telling us a little about your Etsy endeavor?
Hello everyone! I'm very excited to be sponsoring Little Chief Honeybee this month as I love Kaelah's style and we both seem to share a fondness for a certain yellow and black insect. As for my company, The Morose Bee, I love making colorful and slightly kooky ceramic jewelry. Some items are hand sculpted by me while others are reworked vintage goodies. My favorite pieces are ones that are designed to be personalized by the customer. It's always a good day if I think of a reason to send a Sharpie with a necklace!
Where did your shop and blog name, The Morose Bee, come from?
It's kind of a strange story, really. For my sixteenth birthday, my friend Brandon drew me a poster of this little cartoon bumble bee saying "If I sting you, I will die." He wrote a heading at the top that said "The life of bee is quite morose, indeed." We thought it was... well.. SO DEEP in our overemotional and hormonal teenage minds. Once we were old enough to realize it was kind of silly, the morose bee just sort of became a little inside joke between us. We even got morose bee tattoos after graduating high school. When I opened by Etsy account in my freshman year of college, it seemed like an appropriate and whimsical title. Plus I'm fascinated by how many people have no idea what the word "morose" means! Check in at craft shows and festivals is always amusing. Your company is called what?!
What sparked your interest in running an online business?
I actually discovered Etsy from reading Kimya Dawson's old Livejournal. I clicked through to her Great Crap Factory and discovered Etsy. I was in love.
I've been working at contemporary ceramic studios for the past few years, but my job is more managerial than anything else. My main focus has been running art programs for kids focused in pottery. It's awesome and I love my job, but I needed something more. A little creative outlet just for myself and away from creating lesson plans and ordering inventory. Jewelry seemed the most achievable and ceramic was a natural medium for me to choose.
You definitely have a unique assortment of wares in your shop. Where do you get the inspiration for your pieces?
I've always had a err.. strange sense of style. I've shaved my head, been through the goth phase, raided my mom's awful 80's wardrobe, had a few months where I was doing a bohemian/gypsy thing and almost everything else in between. I'm not afraid to branch out. Part of my inspiration for my products is thinking of items that you can't find anywhere else. Regardless of what phase I was going through, I have always loved huge, bold accessories. Hot pink ring the size of my face? Sign me up! I wanted more crazy jewelry like that and when I couldn't find it at a reasonable price, I started making it instead. Using ceramic as a medium can be very restricting so I try and put a lot of thought into how I'm going to transform each piece to make it as practical as possible. Sometimes I have an idea only to find out someone is already doing it like when I first thought of mustache necklaces, but then I'm determined to find a way to make my idea unique. I was the first person on Etsy that I could find selling mustaches made of ceramic and was the only person that I know of with that type of product up until very recently. Most of the time when I sit down to create I have a game plan, but other days I just make random forms out of clay and say "hmm..this looks like a rain cloud. Well I guess I'm making cloud charms today!"
How did you learn to make the items that you sell in The Morose Bee?
Working in a ceramic studio, I knew how to work with clay and had access to a kiln already. My friend Nicole runs Novel Designs on Etsy and she really helped me A TON with the technical aspects of jewelry hardware. In the beginning I relied very heavily on ceramic molds and some pretty ugly silver plated chain. In the last few years I've moved more and more into hand sculpting each pendant along with using gunmetal and copper for my hardware. There's something rustic about red copper that I just love! It's really a trial and error process for me, but I think the best thing to do is to use your product! I wear my jewelry out and about so I know how well things hold up. By wearing my jewelry I can decide what changes to make before choosing to sell it to other people.
Has being an independent designer who sells online been a lucrative business for you? Can you see yourself doing this in the future?
Opening my Quickbooks is always depressing, but that's not why I do this. Honestly I could be hugely in debt and it still wouldn't make me stop. Some things like signing up for craft shows that end up being a bad venue or advertising spots that don't really reach your market can be a huge income suck, but overtime you learn what works. At this point, The Morose Bee is self sustaining and I'm hoping things begin to improve even more. Online businesses are always tough. Do I quit my day job? What would I do without steady income? Maybe my business won't grow until I can just take the leap? You never know what the right choice is! My hope is that The Morose Bee continues to grow and one day I might even have a fully fledged store front.
Do you have any business goals for The Morose Bee in the next 1, 3, or 5 years?
Within the next year I would like to be able to afford to make The Morose Bee my main focus and work less at my day jobs. I'm a very self motivated person and I feel like I could do so much more with TMB if I wasn't working for other people all the time, but that's how it goes sometimes. In the next five years I would really love to see my products in more stores! Even if it's just a few consignment shops or small boutiques.
What is your design process like? Where do you start and how do you end up with your final product? (Don't worry, you don't have to give us any trade secrets! :P)
Usually I start with an idea and then, even before I start sketching, I make a few samples out of clay. I need to know if the product will fire well before I start going crazy with it. At that point I'll do some brief sketching to make sure that I've got the full idea ready to go. I've also got a small collection of vintage charms, fabric, and accessories that I will either sell flat out or save to sell in some altered form for an accessory. I will rifle through my collection from time to time to see if I feel inspired to incorporate anything into existing designs. Anything that could use a charm? Would this old chain work well with any of my pendants? What new way can I use this stash of old buttons? Most of my products I put on a chain and call it a day. After all, simplicity can go a long way. However, there is certainly the occasional item that makes its way into my shop that has a bit more flair.
If you could give any words of wisdom to aspiring Etsy sellers and crafters, what would you say?
1. Be patient! It would be wonderful if your products were a hit and money was flying in by the bucketfuls, but it just doesn't happen. First and foremost, an Etsy shop should be a creative release for your passion. If your heart isn't in it, you are in some big trouble.
2. Tell your friends and family!!! I was TERRIFIED to send my shop link to anyone I knew personally. I thought people wouldn't like what I had to sell and then what would I do? If my own friends didn't like my products, how could I get total strangers to? After a few months of being a chicken, I made my Facebook page for The Morose Bee and invited all of my friends to be a fan of it. Everyone was so supportive! I was blown away. Some of my closest friends have been my biggest customers! Of course I always offer to give them whatever they want, but they happily pay full price and I couldn't ask for anything more.
Thanks so much for being such a vital part of the Little Chief Honeybee family, Emily! It's always a pleasure to work with you and I wish your shop nothing but limitless success! xo