1: Tell us about yourself and your Etsy shop(s)
I was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, and lived in a small town in the interior until I was 18 years old, when my family and I moved to the US. My Etsy shop is The Alegria Collection—little things that make you happy. “Alegria” means “joy” or “happiness” in Spanish. The shop is really a collection of all things that remind me of the place and time of my childhood, whether it be a well-used kitchen utensil, a fancy piece of costume jewelry or even an old book. All of it evokes happy times, and I hope my wares make my customers happy as well.
2. Tell us about your craft, how did you begin creating and selling.
Right now I’m not crafting or creating, only selling, although I’ve tried my hand at many things in the past. My most recent venture, which I haven’t completely given up on, was making OOAK tote bags and purses out of thrift store pants. The process is very time-consuming and takes a lot of creative energy. Making the first cut is the hardest part because that will determine the rest of the design. As to selling, I’ve had booths in antique malls and have sold on e-bay, but then I discovered Etsy! I’d love to quit my day job and sell full time!
3. Tell us why you love creating and handmade.
Although I’m still searching for my own unique creative talent, I come from a creative and artistic family, so creating is in my blood. My family members represent more than a dozen different nationalities, and with that much diversity, I think it’s inevitable that creativity would be in my genes. My paternal great-grandfather was a designer of building facades; my paternal grandmother a seamstress who also did wonderful embroidery; my father was a boat designer and builder; my mother a writer. All arts and crafts are the result of a spark in the brain (or the heart) that flows out to the physical world and becomes a tangible object. When I create something with my own hands, whether it’s something as mundane as a meal, or something more complex as an essay or short story, I find that there is very little that is more satisfying. I feel the same way when something made by someone else’s hands moves me in a particular way.
4. Explain why supporting handmade is important:
Not only is handmade a way for us to express ourselves, but it individualizes what’s available to the consumer. It gives life and a face to the “manufacturing” process. It’s interesting that the word “manufacture” means “to make by hand,” but the first definition in the dictionary refers to turning raw material into a finished product, “especially by means of a large-scale industrial operation.” I love what we call cottage industry and imagine artists across the world in their special spaces doing what they do: painting, turning wood, sewing, metal-working, knitting, designing and “manufacturing” jewelry--the list is endless. I’m always willing to pay more for a unique item that I know someone made from the heart, and in a perfect world everyone who has a creative soul should be able to make a living at their craft.
5. Give your best piece of advice for new Etsians on what you feel can make or break a shop.
When I discovered that there are more than 13 million items for sale on Etsy on the average, I realized I was going to have to “show myself” if my shop was going to succeed. These are some of the things I do that are working for me: (1) I create treasuries and convo the featured sellers; (2) I build my circle; (3) I “heart” an item and/or shop, and if I adore it, I convo the seller; (4) I pin my favorites to Pinterest and let the seller know; (5) I’ve joined Etsy teams that appeal to me. In a word, I network. One thing that I think can break a shop is poor photography. I’m still working at mine; it’s time consuming and sometimes difficult, but I believe good photography is essential to a shop's success. Etsy’s front page and treasuries are great tools for improving your pictures.
6. Where else can we find you online?
Right now only on Pintrest; pinterest.com/alegriacollec/. I’m in the process of setting up a Facebook page.