Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Just Some Questions...

One of the greatest things I've enjoyed about blogging and joining online forums, besides the wonderful wealth of knowledge I've gained from taking part, are the special friends that I've met from virtually all over the world!  One of those people is Colleen from Sew in the Snow blog.  Colleen has a great Etsy Shop, and creates her wonderful items in Fairbanks Alaska (The photos in this post are all items crafted by Colleen).  I was recently privileged to interview Colleen, and thought you might enjoy hearing how another quilter goes about sewing and quilting in her little corner of the world...   

When did you first start sewing/quilting, and do you remember (or still have) your first quilt?  
Colleen:  I first started quilting when I was in college around 1995.  One of my best friends came from a long line of quilters.  She taught me how to do traditional quilting…  using a template to cut out squares-- with a pair of scissors -- for a 9-patch quilt.  It took forever!  I didn’t think I’d ever make a second quilt.  However, I worked with some helpful ladies that introduced me to strip quilting.  I haven’t stopped quilting since!

Yes, I still have that first quilt.  When I look at it, I can see how far I’ve come.  Now nearly all of my points match, my binding is tighter, and I now I use a rotary blade so I’m starting out with truly “square” squares. 
What originally gave you the idea to open your Etsy shop?
Colleen:  I was talking with some girlfriends during a knitting meeting about bazaars.  One lady suggested Etsy as an online way to sell to reach more people. 

Could you share some tips on how someone would go about growing an Etsy shop or online presence?
Colleen:  I am still working on this aspect.  I’ve found that working in teams has been very beneficial for me.  From what I’ve read, you need to really “get in the face” of your potential buyers. This isn’t my style, so it’s been difficult for me to do that. I’ve read a book on Etsy success, and it suggests Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. I am attempting to do that now.  I post all new items to both Facebook and Twitter. 
Do you face any special challenges creating and working your business in Alaska?
Colleen:  Well, everything costs more up here.  So, fabric is more expensive, shipping is more expensive, and it takes longer to send and receive things. 

The second thing I find challenging is the lack of sunlight in winter.  I live in Fairbanks Alaska.  In December there is only 3 hours when the sun is over the horizon.  It is usually a weak sunlight, so getting pictures with natural light (which is so important with quilts to show the “real” colors of the quilt) is extremely difficult.

Where do you most find inspiration for your creations?
Colleen:  I love nature.  I enjoy looking at all the wondrous color combinations found in nature.  There are no rules when you see wild flowers: pinks may be next to oranges or a whole cacophony of color may be seen together.  It simply makes it more festive!  I also love the peaceful greens and browns from nature.
When starting a new project, do you have any special rituals, or what are your most favorite parts of the process?
Colleen:  I tend to think of someone specific to guide my color and pattern choice.  Then I think about the “feeling” the combinations will invoke: fun, elegant, bright and happy, masculine power, etc.  I ask myself if that feeling is what the person I’m quilting for would love not simply like.  For example, I have a friend that loves extremely bright geometric patterns (too loud for me) so I look for a main fabric that conveys a fun feeling to begin with.  Then I work to match the colors in that fabric to build a pleasing color palette.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of working at home, and how do you separate your work time from your personal time? 
Colleen:  The most challenging thing for me is finding a balance between family and work.  I don’t separate work from my family time since that’s not possible for me right now.  Instead, I embrace our time together.  I have my sewing machine set up on a long conference table and my computer is next to it.  I let my older daughter play computer while I sew and the youngest naps.  I do my computer work on an ipad while sitting with the girls in the living room in the morning.  I quilt for a couple of hours on the weekends while my husband plays with the girls.  I wish that I could quilt for longer periods of time, but I have other obligations that take precedent currently.

What do you find to be the most effective ways to promote & market your online business?
Colleen:  I have found that renewing things people are looking at really helps.  For example if my shop stats indicate a lot of views on quilts, I’ll renew quilts.  If there are views on crayon rolls, I’ll renew some of those.  Renewing things has helped increase my views, but it’s tricky because I have such a diverse inventory.  
Fun Facts:
List 3 adjectives that best describe you.
Colleen:  Quirky, passionate, joyful

What’s your favorite go to snack?
Colleen:  An apple with a mozzarella cheese stick

If you were an animal, what animal would you be? Why?
Colleen:  I see my self as a wolf.  I am fiercely protective of my family -- like a pack. I have a strong personality, like an alpha female; I usually end up in leadership positions. I love the wilderness and the backcountry like a wolf running free over the mountains.  I mate for life; I have been married almost 20 years to my high school sweetheart.  I am blunt, without the sneakiness of a fox, what you see is what you get.  I need a close pack of friends and family to make me feel fulfilled in life.  And they are beautiful in a wild manner.
Colleen has a beautifully diverse collection of items, from large quilts, small items for children, and embroidered items ~ I particularly like her Knitting Needle Cases!  Check out her Etsy Shop, she has some wonderful Mother's Day gift items :)

Enjoy the day!
~ Dawn

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