September 17, 2011

Spotlight Moment: Sarah at Sima Design

Today's Spotlight is on on Sarah fro, Sima Design Studios.

Tell us a bit about yourself.My name is Sarah Evans and I work out of my home near Fort Worth, Texas. My background is in Electrical and Systems Engineering, which helps me to think about things from a different perspective. I worked as a systems designer and program manager for 10 years before branching out a little more artistically. I do a little engineering freelance work in systems architecture and requirements and the freedom of freelance gives me time to focus on my family and in designing fun products for sale. I don’t like to sit still for too long and I love the freedom owning a small business can bring because if I need to change direction- there are few I need to consult and get approval from before taking chances.

What is the first thing you can remember making by hand?

How and why did you make it?
The first thing I can remember making by hand was a cardboard rocket ship. My parents are both engineers as well and my dad would keep this box of old switches and buttons in the garage. One day I was playing with one of my siblings and decided to turn a cardboard box from some
giant appliance into something more fantastic. I cut holes to fit the old pole and rocker switches into the cardboard and we drew gauges and buttons in black marker. Even though those switches weren't connected to anything but our imagination we had a blast rocketing into space.

What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I think a lot of my inspiration comes from my kids. I enjoy making things for them that involve lots of textures and materials while giving them loads of space for using their imagination. Friends might also come up with a gift need and while I may not currently carry something that
fits it, they inspire me to create something new.

What are your favorite materials?
Right now I’m really enjoying working with maple and cherry hardwoods. It’s fun working with natural materials because each has its own unique texture, feel, scent and personality.

Any tips for selling handmade stuff?
Use your imagination. Copying products you've seen others make is not very fulfilling. You need a hearty dose of quirky, a heartwarming write-up and some photography skills don’t hurt when you are selling online. Find a few close friends that you can trust to give you some honest feedback on your style, products, and to get ideas for marketing, branding, and creative writing. Thinking about branding and marketing cohesion may sound like topics for big stores but there are lessons there that can be applied without losing that personal touch of handmade.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?I love being outdoors. My family and I camp all of the time and try and unplug as much as we can. We try to go geocaching while on the road and I’m addicted to quirky roadside attractions.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My great-Aunt was a quilter and made a velveteen rabbit/nursery quilt for her church’s fall festival sale. By that time she was having a hard time with all that goes into making a quilt and my great-Uncle bought that quilt back from the church for a sizable donation. She gave it to us for my newborn daughter and made me promise to take care of it. It ended up being the last one she made.

What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Visit shops that inspire you and write down what it is that makes them such a draw. Are their photos bright and cheery? Is it the write up or maybe that they make such a unique item. Pattern your write-ups and benchmark your photos from a few greats and soon enough you will have your own unique style to apply to your items.

How do you promote your work?
I contribute to a few blogs. I also Tweet, use Facebook for new product releases and store coupons, write e-mail, and even snail-mail. I contribute my time and resources to local community and neighborhood events and participate in blog giveaways.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
My creative process starts with brainstorming and is haphazard and likely a little hazardous. I might get inspired by a random idea at the craft store and buy up a few yards of some material or a handful of doodads that I have some great idea for that I can’t remember a half-hour later and then joyfully find the materials 6 months later in some crazed clean-out. I try and keep a sketchbook around for writing down idea explosions as they come but they usually end up on the backs of bills, in the margins of the school handouts and even written in ballpoint on the inside of my arms. The engineer in me sees it as a poorly defined process and struggles with defining entry, exit and process points for managing creativity.

What first made you want to become an artist?
I think it honestly started out with my cheapskate nature. I would see something in the store and think the price I was paying for cheap materials, unknown lead factor in the paint and simplistic design was just too high. Instead of buying something done halfway, I thought I might try out seeing if I could do a little better.

No comments: