Hello! My name is Carol Blackhurst. My journey to becoming an artist and jewelry maker has been a long, strange road.
I have always been artistic and considered majoring in Art in college, but I needed a degree I could use to find a well-paying job. So, I majored in Computer Science and had a lovely 30 year a career in the IT industry. Alas, mounting issues with battling Fibromyalgia made it impossible for me to continue in my chosen field and I gave up that career 6 years ago.
About 15 years ago, I went with a friend to a 3-hour One-Stroke painting class. We came away with an adorable paper wastebasket adorned with daisies and butterflies. We had so much fun we decided to take a few more classes. Donna Dewberry, the creator of One-Stroke began to host a convention here in Orlando. At one such convention in 2005, I took a little demo class in watercolors. Eureka! Where had these been all my life?
Over the past 12 years, I have developed my own watercolor techniques. I definitely do not painted watercolors properly, but I do what works for me. I focus on animal and flower studies. I joined a small non-profit cooperative gallery in 2010.
Etsy has been where my art has taken root. I joined Etsy in 2011, but it took 2 years for me to get the courage to list anything of my own. My first sale came in less than a week – a magnet featuring our basset hound, Sophie.
A DIY TV program demonstrated uses for shrink plastic – like Shrinky Dinks when I was a kid. I wondered if I could print on shrink plastic and use it as jewelry. That experiment was a dismal failure. It took many months of experimenting with different ideas before I finally landed on the process I use today. My Etsy shop now offers a large variety of jewelry items including: flower pendants & earrings, pet pendants & earrings, cufflinks, tie bars, clips & tacks, kitchy jewelry and more.
Check back with my blog as I offer more musings on my art and my Etsy shop!
Honestly, if I had thought my painting hobby would turn in to an actual business, I would have named it something more elegant like, Blackhurst Fine Arts. But, I didn’t. I just stared calling it Painted by Carol. And it stuck. I started with a Zenfolio account. Then bought the dot.com address. Set up the email. Bought a logo with my CB signature and a paint brush. Bought business cards. And, so on.
It wasn’t until I opened my Etsy shop that things began to take off. Following advice from other Etsy merchants, I set up a Facebook Fanpage, opened a Twitter account, opened a Pinterest account, opened a Tumblr account…etc. Across every platform and on every piece of promotional material, I have maintained the name PaintedbyCarol. It has become my brand and I use it everywhere. My dot.com address now points directly to my Etsy shop.
If you are going to start a business – whether you are an artist, a metal smith, a writer, a knitter, whatever – establish your brand and keep it across all social media. Make sure your customers and your followers can find you – always. It gives your customers a sense of security to see your commitment to your brand.
PaintedbyCarol may not be as elegant as BlackhurstFineArts, but it’s me and always will be.
Me again – with more musings about my Etsy shop, www.PaintedbyCarol.com.
As I’ve said, in an online environment, your customer never actually gets to hold the product you are trying to sell them. To be found in the vast ocean of small sellers on Etsy, Amazon, Shopify, etc., is a challenge, to say the least. I believe there are two main ways customers find me. One is a customer already in Etsy and doing a search for something they have in mind. Second are customers who see a listing on some sort of social media and click on it on impulse. Today, I’m talking about the second group.
You need your wonderful, handmade offerings to be seen – you have to get them in front of eyes. There are many platforms to do this – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and more. There’s noting like a beautiful photo of your product to draw buyers to your shop. Adding relevant keywords or hashtags to your post will help to them find the eyes of interested shoppers, too. Just send out a photo tweet, and you’ll see an instant jump in your shop stats. It works every time. I used to spend hours each day posting to various forms of social media and trying to build my following. I still have a lot of work to do on that last part. Over time, I have set up most of my postings with automated services. The majority of my posts are done for me now, including retweeting. Across all the services I use, I pay about $1.45 per day. I figure my time is worth at least $1.45 per hour.
I also belong to an Etsy promotional team. Beyond just promoting shops for each other, our team is a wonderfully supportive group sharing information about updates to Etsy and offering advice on how we can each improve our shops. I highly recommend finding a team to support your efforts.
A while back, a friend asked me how hard it is to open an Etsy shop. I told her it was quite easy to open a shop, but it takes real work to make it successful.
I am a leader on an Etsy promotional team and I act as contact for new members. Often, these people are very new to Etsy and the concept of selling online. They get easily discouraged if their new shop and new listings don’t start immediately selling. The best advice I can give is – patience.
Well, patience and promoting. In an online only environment, the customer never actually gets to see and touch what they are buying. They have to trust you and hope you will actually send them what you say you will. Good photos and detailed product descriptions certainly go a long way. (I need more work in those areas myself.) But the best thing to give a customer confidence is having outstanding customer reviews. The more you sell, the more reviews you get – if they are good reviews – the more you will sell.
I never ask my customers for reviews. Personally, I tend to get annoyed by people asking me to review their products. Sort of reminds me of a used car salesman begging for praise. So, I don’t ever want to annoy my customers like that. I try to go above and beyond for my customers. I do a lot of little things most of them don’t even notice. Every order receives a hand-written ‘thank you’ note using the same image as whatever they purchased. Anything pet-related is placed in a felted paw print gauze bag inside the gift box. Flower-related items have a white bag with butterflies. Still, some customers will just never give 5-stars. They think that means perfection and there is no such thing.
Even waiting for customers to give a review takes – patience.
Next week, I’ll talk about promoting…stay tuned.
On most days, the number one search term used to access my Etsy shop is “thistle”. I’ve had a little thistle design for quite a while. It made a really cute little painting, but didn’t really translate all that well into jewelry where the image is so small. Dragonfly tends to be a big search term for me, too.
I realize these shoppers are Outlander fans – and so am I. I painted the dragonfly years ago for a friend and the thistle recently for another friend. This week, I thought I’d try to create a thistle design shoppers might actually buy. I combined a few design ideas I saw online and created classic thistle over a Celtic heart-shaped knot. As with all my paintings, it took several coats of paint to get the colors deep enough to show in a 1 inch to 1/2 inch cabochon, but I quite like the results.
I finished the painting on Thursday morning, photographed it and uploaded the pic into my software to resize the image as needed for a pendant, earrings, cuff bracelet, bangle bracelet, cufflinks, tie bar and my new pin/brooch setting. I posted the listings to Etsy that afternoon – and had the first sale in less than an hour. I’m hoping this is a sign of good things to come!
Every year, I paint a new portrait of each of our dogs for our Christmas Card. They take turns being on the front. It becomes a bit of a challenge to find something new to do to/with them in their portraits. Just painting their profiles gets a bit boring after a while. I recently did some paintings using a composite of pet photos and other items. It was something new for me and I quite liked it. I decided I would try painting dog portraits in Steampunk.
Now, I am a very visual artist. I need to see what I’m painting. I don’t truly have the ability to look at something and painting it from a different angle – I wish I did. I also can’t paint something just out of my head. The challenge with the steampunk paintings was to find photos of each dog, and then, find photos of steampunk costume pieces in the same orientation. My first attempt with Murphy just didn’t work. He was looking in a different direction than his hat was pointing.
The first one I finished was of our first basset hound, Sophie. She’s been gone a very long time, but I remembered the perfect photo of her. She was lounging on our love seat with her elbow on the arm and a fabulous, “What are you looking at?” expression on her face. I put a purple hat with googles on her head and an octopus cameo around her neck. It’s awesome, if I do say so myself. I’ve since completed paintings of our three current kids – old English sheepdog Murphy, basset hound Hazel and dachshund Bernadette. I even did one of a gray tabby cat. They make really awesome brooches, too.
Some time ago, a customer asked if I could make small charms and put them into my Etsy shop. I had settings I was using to make French wire earrings. She told me she wanted them to make wine charms. It was one of those “Ah ha!” moments. I had never thought of wine charms before. It took some experimentation with wires, beads and spacer beads. I learned I had to pay attention to which way the bail was oriented on the tops of 12 mm charm settings. To slide onto a wine charm ring, they need to be in the same orientation as a pendant would be. Otherwise, you need to add a jump ring.
For most of them, I’ve used the same painting with a different colored beads to use as wine glass id, but I’ve painted so many portraits of our dogs over the years that it was easy to create a set of charms for basset hounds, dachshunds and old English sheepdogs using six different paintings. I could also do sets of butterflies, cats, sea life, a rainbow of flowers, Christmas and Easter Eggs.
If you ever wonder if an Etsy merchant can make something they don’t have in their shop – ask them. You never know, you might open an entire new world for them.