Six Years of Tradition + Handmade Shopping - Celebrating Etsy NY's Holiday Handmade Cavalcade

Some would say they can hear elves hammering away finishing up last minute gifts to be added to the bags Santa will carry on his sleigh from the North Pole to good boys and girls.  Others, might say those hammers are in fact being used by local New York artisans and crafters who sell on the handmade market place, as they finish up one-of-kind products to sell at the upcoming Etsy New York's Holiday Handmade Cavalcade.

The Etsy New York Holiday Handmade Cavalcade has six years worth of history, and has become a must for holiday shoppers looking for unique and locally crafted gifts to give their loved ones.  Featuring more than 40 vendors and team members of from the Etsy NY Team and showcasing one-of-a-kind goods ranging from handmade clothing, jewelry, accessories, paper goods, bath and body products, toys and housewares.

“What originally started as a chat at the Brooklyn Flea in 2008, because we could potentially have access to John and Kristie's, of Beacons Bookmarks, wood shop, grew into a whole group of artists and NY Etsy vendors rallying together to share cars and band together to promote and organize a DIY event that showcased the mission of Etsy.  It's always amazing how access to one key resource can be a game changer” says Kimm Alfonso, Founder of Etsy NY. "We decided we'd test out our event hosting skills here and thus the Cavalcade was born, with amazing graphics that showed cars loaded with craft supplies headed up to Beacon, NY."

The graphic created for the first Handmade Cavalcade in 2008.

"The holiday event was the big one, where we felt we had a smaller successful event under our belts and could really be successful in NYC.  Similarly, we had access to an amazing space for free/low fees and would have to DIY everything, which was right up our alley," says Alfonso.

Etsy NY team member, Jenny Topolski of J. Topolski Design, remembers her Cavalcade experiences. "When I first joined the team a million years ago, I wanted to get more involved and meet the other members, so I signed up for the Cavalcade. The last one I sold at was held at Public Assembly, but I've always loved the feeling of team-spirit and that the artists collectively work together to create an event that is inclusive not just to them, but neighborhood and customers."

The Holiday Handmade Cavalcade hosts more than 2,000 people each year and has become a New York City winter tradition for those looking for local and unexpected holiday products.  "Now, six years later, the Cavalcade has grown and changed to reflect the amazing talents and resources of the present team providing an organic feeling also aligned with the mission of the original Calvacade vendors and of the expanding network of artists and Etsy sellers in the Tri-State area,” says Kimm.  

In addition to the high-quality, handmade wares for sale, visitors will have the opportunity to interact with our event sponsors, including Etsy, Lion Brand Yarns, Yelp, Zipcar, Purl Soho, and more, and mingle with local artisans over delectable treats and cocktails and/or beer provided by Brooklyn Brewery. 

Admission to this indie shopping event is free. The first 100 guests both Saturday and Sunday will receive a complimentary gift bag filled with wonderful treasures donated by The the Etsy NY team Team and the event sponsors.  Below are some pictures of the gift bags

Additionally, with each purchase at the event, shoppers will be entered into a raffle for one of four amazing goody bags of handmade items and let's not forget the currently open rafflecopter raffle through the Etsy New York Facebook Page.  Below are some pictures of some of the wonderful handmade goodies that lucky raffle participants will have a chance to take home with them. 

For more information on this exciting holiday event, visit . I hope to see all, or some of you there.  And if not, well, you can do some shopping online via with the list of vendors (I'll be there!) on the Handmade Cavalcade's site.

Happy Holidays, shopping, and thank you for supporting Etsy New York events and artists all these years!

//Sara Stroman 

S2 Stationery & Design // Sara Stroman S2 Stationery & Design

A Crafty Life With Dina Lerman And Bugged Out

Summer is here and the time is right for another intriguing installment of "A Crafty Life"! I'm Birdy27 and I'm at the helm of this in-depth interview series. For July, I decided to interview Etsy NY team member extraordinaire, Dina Lerman. If you frequent craft markets and street fairs, you've probably seen Dina, her colorful hair, her warm smile, and her whimsical designs. Dina is the creator, Chief Executive "Bug," and Chief "Bug" Officer of the wildly popular Bugged Out LLC. I met Dina at a local market in 2008, admired her designs, and got to know a little bit about her. I witnessed the Bugged Out brand growing over the years and I was pleasantly surprised to see her again after I joined the team. I didn't know the full Bugged Out story, so I was excited to ask Dina how she developed Bugged Out and how it became a bonafide phenomenon.

Where did you spend your formative years?

I grew up in Rome, New York, which is way upstate in the Adirondack region. I came to New York City--well, actually Brooklyn--to go to art school at Pratt Institute. And I never left! But even way before Pratt, my parents turned me on to New York. They owned a successful furniture business and made lots of buying trips here. I tagged along whenever I could and fell in love with the city. So when it came time to choose where to study, I decided on New York.

What was it about the city that resonated with you?

I loved going to the museums, and I was super excited about the buildings--the architecture. Plus,I shopped like crazy!

The architecture here is fantastic. And I don't think there is a better place to be if you like to shop. I can imagine you with lots of bags in your hands, just loving your life here.

LOL! Yes, lots of bags.

Please tell us about your studies at Pratt Institute. 

I studied interior architecture at Pratt, but also took other courses in photography, illustration, screen printing, sculpture, fashion illustration, life study, jewelry, etc.

I knew you were an architect, but I didn't know what type. Interior architecture sounds intimidating. Can you share a little about your achievements?

I worked in my profession for about 20 years on many high-end residential and commercial projects, at well-known firms, and for well-known clients all over the world. Some of my commercial work includes shops at Rockefeller Center, in-store design at Bloomingdale's, showrooms in the Empire State Building, and interior and exterior work on the SONY IMAX + Cinema Complex in Berlin.

Among the high-end residential projects I’ve worked on are a triplex on Fifth Avenue, a condo in the Waldorf-Astoria, a waterfront mansion in West Palm Beach, and combining two old buildings in the West Village.

These designs are mind boggling! You were more successful than I imagined. So you were a successful architect, but had these little creatures inside "bugging you" (pun intended) to let them out. Do you feel your training as an architect and the other classes you took at Pratt contributed to the success of Bugged Out?  It seems that every thing you studied you now use in your business.

Yes, definitely. I’ve had artistic interests since I was little; taking classes gave me more confidence and better tools to do something with them. So I think that part of my business success can definitely be traced back to my artistic interests.

I'm amazed at how many things I was exposed to early on that I now use in my business. Sounds like it was the same for you. How did you decide to focus on insects? Have you always loved bugs?

Yes, I always have been fascinated with bugs, starting as a little kid, because of their colorfulness and all the different shapes and sizes and intricate details of their bodies. I love their “bug homes,” like cocoons, wasp nests, and bee hives--bug architecture so-to-speak.

I see you had the eye of an architect even as a child. Dina, we have a lot in common; however, I don't like bugs at all. LOL! Well, butterflies are beautiful. Unfortunately I can't say the same about creepy crawlies. But I love your designs. You make bugs look adorable.

So nice of you to say.

I have to ask about the name "Bugged Out." It's perfect.

The name Bugged Out has a very personal meaning and has to do with my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 1998. That really bugged me out!

I understand. Those two words must have been very difficult to hear.

You're right; those two words were forever life-changing. My grandmother had MS and died from complications.

I'm so sorry to hear that.

Yeah, that was awful. And she was very brave and fought hard. But when I was diagnosed, I made a decision right away: I wanted to do something meaningful.

Shortly after my diagnosis I formed a team for the MS Walk in April of 1998 and named it “Bugged Out." I designed team t-shirts for us with an ant design, and my friends, family, and complete strangers loved them.

For several years, the same thing happened with my other bug designs. Many people asked where they could get them and commented how great these designs would be on kids’ clothes. So in 2007 I started Bugged Out, the company.

What a great story! I’ve known you all these years and never knew the name had a deeper meaning. May I ask how your health is now?

Well, not so great; my MS is progressing. Among one of the worst things for me is that I’m blind in my right eye. The eye itself is fine, but the optical nerve is damaged from MS. In MS the body’s immune system eats away the insulation around nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Imagine an electrical wire without the plastic around it--you’ll get “short circuits," nerve signals don’t get transmitted correctly. Another symptom can be a “funny” feeling for which there is no reason (numbness, tingling, pain). I have that, too. In bad cases people with MS can become paralyzed, and they can even die from it.

I'm sorry to hear that it is progressing. Many of us know the term "MS," but don't understand the disease's many challenges. I hope there are new developments on the horizon that will help you.

It is hard to deal with this horrible disease. There is research happening and new treatments that slow down the progression of MS--no cure, though. I don't think I'll see a cure in my life time.

You're very courageous.

I want to focus on your designs for a bit. After I began my t-shirt business, I found a graphic designer who agreed to help me bring my slogans and concepts to life. I'm a writer and I'm always on a budget, so I had more slogans and concepts than I had money. My designer Sara insisted that I study graphic design and now I make a little extra cash.

Wow, I didn’t realize how you got into graphic design. It is always fascinating to me how people got to where they are now.

Yes! That's one reason I love doing this interview series; I love learning how creative entrepreneurs got their start. I mentioned my graphic design beginnings because I wondered if your situation was similar. You didn't mention graphic design when you listed the classes you took at Pratt, yet it is at the core of what you do.

I have no education in graphic design whatsoever, nor do I consider myself a graphic designer. But even though my formal education was in interior architecture, going to Pratt exposed me to so much art education. And I always liked to draw and even took art classes outside of school starting as a little kid. I have always enjoyed free hand sketching, drawing, and illustrating. I also approached architecture in a very artistic way. Some of my architecture clients were very eclectic and appreciated my style.

So you draw, but wouldn't consider yourself a fine artist?

I love to draw, and I took a lot of art classes. I don’t think that’s enough to call myself a fine artist, though. My mom is very artistic, too, more in an interior designer sort of way. So I would say it’s a mix of my upbringing, talents, interests and education that “made” me into this.

All my art is sketched on the computer. My entire Bugged Out bug line was created in my architectural program. CRAZY! Still to this day my graphic designer friends make fun of me for doing my bug designs in such a convoluted way.

The fruits and veggies and the "Don’t Bug Me" collection were all sketched in Adobe Illustrator.

You have a lot of designs. I understand you have three main collections: BO bugs, BO fruits and veggies, and now "Don't Bug Me" (DBM).

Well, so to speak. The Bugged Out line is 12 "standard" bug designs and 12 fruits and vegetables. And I recently created the "DBM" collection of "New Yorky" designs. It includes the bed bug, the cockroach, and three new designs: the mosquito “stinging New York, New York," the “I dove NY” pigeon, and the rat munching New York. It has really taken off!

I love your sense of humor. You bring a specific conceptual sensibility to Bugged Out. Your cartoon-style bug, fruit, and veggie faces have a lot of personality and you also use puns and other word play. How did you develop your signature style?

Thank you for the compliment about me and my designs. My design style is really based on my personality. I always have been a very colorful and happy kind of person. Even as a kid I stuck out with blue hair at age nine--with the encouragement of my family. My designs are geared toward “kids of all ages." I try to make them very kid-like, but I spend hours on details like the size of the eyes and placement of the pupils, the swirls of bug antennas or carrot greens, line weights and colors.

Do you try to keep the colors of the insects, produce, and animals true to life or do you go all "Picasso"?

For some bugs and critters, the color choices were obvious: red for the ladybug, yellow and black for the bumblebee, and grey for the pigeon. But for most of the others I picked colors that created a fun collection. I choose custom Pantone PMS Matching System (PMS) colors for all my designs. For the fruits and veggies I chose colors that are true to life.

How did you move from creating items by popular demand to a full-fledged business?

I started Bugged Out with my bug note card line in 2007. Among my first customers were

"The Shop in the Garden " (the gift shop of the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx) and the Gift Gallery of the Munson Proctor Williams Museum of Art.

The NYBG shop is a great store, with a great selection of unique products.

You started out with a bang. How did you manage to snag these prestigious accounts?

I sent them samples, and they liked my products--very lucky!

It takes a lot of confidence in your product to just go for it. I applaud you. I first came to know you through your t-shirts and onuses. But now I see they didn't come first.

The cards were my first products and the t-shirts came later.

Actually, the BYOB: Bring Your Own Bug tote bags came even before the tees, in 2008.

Based on the reaction from the MS walk, you had a pretty good indication the public wanted to "bug out" more and more (again, pun intended).

The reaction to my MS Walk team t-shirts year after year–people wanting to buy them right then and there–gave me encouragement. Since then I have always tested new bug designs on note cards first.

And if my customers like them, then and only then do I put them on clothing, totes, and other Bugged Out products. The only design that hasn’t made it off the note cards is the bed bug; it just creeps too many people out! It might end up on night shirts and sheets one day, though.

That's very funny. There are a lot of t-shirt, card, and tote bag vendors out there. How do you deal with competition? You can just focus on t-shirts, if you like.

I don’t think of Bugged Out so much as a t-shirt business than as a line of my art.

That's a great distinction. I get that.

T-shirts are just one of the many products that I offer my designs on. I really look at other t-shirt vendors as peers rather than competitors. But, of course, selling at a huge market with 300 vendors which may include 30 t-shirt sellers is different than selling at a small quaint market with just 10 or 12 vendors. I would prefer to be the only one with t-shirts and onesies there. My unique design style and my business model of using only U.S.-made, natural, organic or recycled products and printing each one by hand here in NYC allows me to reach some very specific audiences. Also, it is important to a lot of my customers that a percentage of the proceeds from Bugged Out sales goes to Multiple Sclerosis research. I give to the MS Care Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. So, back to the competition: it is not really a concern.

I love your commitment to MS research.

Please tell us about how you moved from bugs to food.

The NYBG liked my bugs so much that they asked me to design a similarly whimsical and kid-friendly line of fruits and veggies on cards, totes, and t-shirts for their season-long Edible Garden Festivals in 2009 and 2010. They had the line exclusively for a while. But once their contract was up and we started selling it ourselves, it became as successful as my bug line at Bugged Out. A lot of vegetarians, chefs, gardeners, and “earthy” people love the fruits and veggies!

Since I am mostly vegan, I go nuts for the fruits and veggies, too.


Your produce designs work well with the current emphasis on health and well-being. Which designs--bugs or produce--are your biggest sellers?

The bugs and fruits and veggies are pretty much equally successful. Some individual designs are extra popular, like the cockroach and the apple, but all do very well. When I added the “I (heart) New York” cockroach in 2010, it became the most popular design in every product line.

The cockroach in New York City is the most popular design? Now that's interesting. LOL! What other products do you offer? 

Over time we have added new product lines like our hoodies and long-sleeve items. And our Scrabble tile pendants came out of a collaboration with Linda from PurtyBird.

I've always admired Linda's tile pendants. How did this Etsy NY team collaboration come about? 

I loved Linda’s whimsical style and colorful products from the first time I saw them at a holiday market in a church in Brooklyn in 2010. In 2011 we were both selling in the Etsy NY shop at Celebrate Brooklyn!, and later that summer she started making the Scrabble tile pendants with my designs for Bugged Out. We sell a lot of the pendants.

Which products--not designs--sell best?

Some days we sell lots of totes, other days lots of onesies or tees. And then there are seasonal differences--we sell more hoodies when it’s cooler. But overall all our product lines sell well.

With the banning of the use of plastic bags in more and more places around the country, we get more and more requests for our totes.

Again, you're right in step with the times. Is running BO now a full-time job?

When I started Bugged Out, it was as a side business and mostly on weekends. But it has grown so much that Gerd (the other half of Bugged Out and a solar engineer by profession) and myself nowadays both work full time running Bugged Out.

Congratulations! I know it's a lot of work, but it has to be incredibly rewarding to go from one design for a fundraising walk to a highly visible brand.

It is very rewarding, you’re so right. The fulfillment is all worth it. Plus, it’s lots of fun!

You've had some celebrity customers.  Can you share the names of the celebs and what they purchased?

We are happy to have the occasional well-known customer at Bugged Out. Among them are Adam Sandler (t-shirts), Steven Tyler(cockroach stuff), Michael Moore (bumblebee tote), Chelsey Handler (grasshopper hoodie), Bethanny Frankel (many hoodies, she’s a repeat customer), Bobby Flay and his wife Stephanie March (t-shirts), SuChin Pak (onesies), Christine Quinn (t-shirts, also a repeat customer). And David Bowie!!

David Bowie. Nice! I believe I heard something about Angelina Jolie buying a tote bag. Is that true?

Well, almost. The set designer for the movie “SALT” bought it. Angelina Jolie’s husband in the movie is a bug expert and has it in his home office. Yeah, that was cool! Now we have a lot of ant business from that.

So many entrepreneurs strive for film product placement and you did it without even trying.

And all of this attention from celebrities and the media was a result of doing markets and street fairs?

Yes, thanks! It’s really nice when celebrities come by and shop and compliment me on my designs.

For sure. There's a strategic element to doing markets. I'm still trying to figure out which ones work best. How do you approach doing markets? What have you learned?

We tried a couple of different regular markets as well as some of the big street fairs when we first started. Over time we learned what works for us, factoring in things like neighborhoods, foot traffic, logistics (transportation and storage of our merchandise, hours, parking), and the cost of markets or events. We currently do a regular market in SoHo almost every Friday/ Saturday/ Sunday (weather permitting) and a market at the South Street Seaport most Saturdays and Sundays. In addition, we do some big once-a-year events. Right now we’re also in the Etsy NY shop at Celebrate Brooklyn! with 16 other Etsy NY members. And during the holiday season we do the Holiday Market at Columbus Circle.

How are the two of you in so many places at once? Do you have extra help?

Currently we don’t have extra help; it is just us handling everything, so we’re usually only in two places at a time. We do a couple of shared events where we don’t have to be there ourselves all the time like Celebrate Brooklyn! for the last three seasons and Governor’s Island last summer. 

We do have the occasional market help from one or two of my family members. Also, I have one brother who is a year younger than me. We are very close and he advises us on all Bugged Out business. He ran my parents furniture business, and now he is a small business adviser. We are very lucky to have him on board.

Let's go back to Gerd. I've seen him in action. He is a master salesman. How do you two work together and split the work load? What does his help mean to your business?

Master salesman? Hahaha! In all seriousness, yes, Gerd is the other half of Bugged Out. I would not be able to run Bugged Out without Gerd, especially with my illness and its progression. I handle everything that has to do with design, the website, social media--so all the creative stuff--and I do sell at the occasional market. But it is getting harder and harder for me. So Gerd does more markets than I do, and he deals with the numbers, the inventory, production, and shipping. Although it can be tough at times--we basically never agree on anything. LOL! Yeah, we seem to make a pretty good team.

I agree. I'm familiar with silk screening, so I'd love to know about your printing process.

Do you silk screen all of your products by hand? What about the note cards? Do you use different printing methods for different products?

My cards were at first offset printed. Now we do all card printing ourselves out of the “bug studio” and all screen printing out of our shop in Long Island City, Queens.

Wow! Thank you for this glimpse into how the products come to life. You certainly have more control over your inventory when you do your own printing. Where do you live? You call your apartment "the bug studio." It's certainly bug infested. LOL! What goes on there?

We live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in a studio. Our home has really turned into the bug studio. We do all Bugged Out related work here--designing, production other than screen printing, shipping, and the occasional freaking out. Well, we actually do more than the occasional freaking out!

When you're an indie business owner there's always a lot to do. How do you manage your time?

Time management is hard. But we make it work. Our week is dedicated to studio production and printing time. And our weekends are all about markets. When holiday market season comes around it becomes grueling. We kind of expect to never get any sleep. It is all production and market time for about two months straight.

Yes. I understand that.

There's so much ground to cover with you! What about branding? One of my issues is that I don't have a recognizable brand. My designs/slogans/concepts are all over the place. But branding is so important, especially today. Did it come easily to you?

Branding can be super hard. In my case, the branding already started with the MS Walk team t-shirts. I had my team name Bugged Out and a few bug designs, and I created a team logo with a bug face and antennas incorporated into the “gg” of Bugged Out. Even though I didn’t have any plans of selling anything back then, I knew I wanted a consistent concept, something recognizable year after year at the MS Walks. This concept became the brand Bugged Out. I’ve copyrighted and trademarked the name, logo, and designs.

You're totally on top of the business end. How did you deal with the copyrights and trademarks?

When I started Bugged Out I worked with a patent attorney, the late dad of a friend of mine. He was also very knowledgeable in intellectual property law and helped me a lot. It was a years-long and complicated process.

It's an expensive process, too. And you continued the branding with your hang tags and pulp containers. Very smart.

We have to spend a little time on social media and its increasing importance. How do you deal with it? Has it helped your business? Do you have a blog?

I don’t blog, but I Facebook BIG TIME. And I tweet and Instagram quite a bit, too. We’re also on Pinterest and Flickr. I believe social media definitely helps our business; our Etsy shop statistics show it does. I find social media to be a great way to market and advertise my business for free. Nothing beats direct contact with our customers, though.

You mentioned the Columbus Circle Holiday Market. Is it a good one for you? I know the hours are incredibly long.

The Columbus Circle Holiday Market is great for us. We have a shop there called Lil’ New Yorker with kids and baby products by local designers from Etsy NY. It is a fun shop and people love it. Yes, from the stressful life of an architect to this. The long, long hours and hard work are not much different. But some how it is very fulfilling, and it pays off.

Look at how you managed to get so much into a small space! How do you pull it all together? Any advice for those of us--like me--who are "display-challenged"?

At any given venue I incorporate whatever I find, with my product always being the focus. I had to come up with a very simple basic setup. We have to fit all the equipment and merchandise for two markets in our little car--the bug truck!

So we use tables with colorful tablecloths, kids' clothing hung along the front and from a clothes line above. On the table we have some tote bags standing up, some flat, along with note cards in different packaging options, the pendants, and a couple of laminated sheets showing all my designs--SIMPLE!

Simple? LOL! Well, you obviously have an architect's eye for using space in an effective and eye-catching manner.

How do you fare on Etsy? What about direct sales from your website? Or do you do best at markets?

We don’t do badly on Etsy, considering that we don’t put a whole lot of effort into it--yet. We are learning about tagging, search-engine optimization (SEO), and promoting our Etsy shop. We are in the process of redoing it to make it more effective. We also have our own website; it’s not eCommerce yet, but has links to the Etsy shop. However, the biggest portion of all our sales happens at our markets and other events.

Besides the museum shops you mentioned earlier, do you have other wholesale accounts?

Yes, we do wholesale. And while we do appreciate our wholesale accounts, we prefer the retail route. We are finding the best way for Bugged Out is being out there selling in person to customers at markets.

I understand the NYBG approached you about creating another design.

Yes, in 2009 I also exclusively designed the “elf on a train” T-shirt for their Annual Holiday Train Show


And in 2012 I created a series of Pinocchio scenes to accompany an exhibition of Jim Dine's Pinocchio sculptures and illustrations at The Nassau County Museum of Art.

That's super exciting. So museums love you, celebrities love you, and regular folks love you. Do you have a "typical" customer? 

Aww, that’s sweet of you! We don’t really have a typical customer. Our customers are all ages, nationalities, backgrounds–parents who are expecting and already-parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, people who care about the environment, people who want something unique and/or handmade, people with a Multiple Sclerosis connection, etc. About 3/4 of our customers are female. About 1/3 are New Yorkers or from the metro area, 1/3 are tourists from the U.S., and 1/3 are visitors from all over the world.

So everybody's buggin' out. (I couldn't resist.) I know some of your products are made from organic cotton. Which ones? How did you decide to go organic? Do you feel your customers make the decision to purchase based on a commitment to organics? 

Our short-sleeve t-shirts and onesies are organic; for us it’s just the "environmentally responsible" thing to do. For the same reason our tote bags are made from 100% recycled cotton canvas. Our customers definitely appreciate the organic and recycled materials.

Most of my interviewees have pets, so I started asking about pets for each interview. Do you have any?

Well, kind of. I do, but not in my apartment here in the city anymore. I have a cat named Chaos who lived with us, but now lives the life of a princess with my parents in a big country setting with another cat and two dogs--all boys. I love animals!

I must be the only person without a pet. Where do you see your business in five years?

Totally Bugged Out in a good way. LOL! But seriously, hopefully soon we’ll have a small Bugged Out store.

A BO boutique is a great idea. Although I have so many other questions I'd love to ask you, it's time for the last one. How has being a member of Etsy NY helped you and your business?

I think Etsy NY is a great community. I learn so much from being a member. It is a wonderful platform for sharing ideas and learning more about small business from others in the same situation. I play an active role in Etsy NY.

Currently I am the Team Coordinator for the Hester Street Fair (HSF).

I publish the application forms and assign the spaces in the shared Etsy NY tent at HSF. I try to answer everybody’s questions about HSF and I’m the liaison for the organizers.

I also frequently design graphics for postcards, posters, web banners, etc. for Etsy NY events such as Crafts in Chelsea and Celebrate Brooklyn!

I want to thank Dina for "bug"-ceptional interview! Dina, Gerd, and Bugged Out show how inspiration, creativity, determination, and team work can turn one design into a true New York success story.

I hope you enjoyed this month's "A Crafty Life" and are inspired to make your own creative dreams come true. This is Birdy27 signing off. Please support the handmade community. Successful creative artisans can change the world! Chirp, chirp!

Birdy27 Designs. Please join the action at the Birdy27 Designs Facebook Fan Page


A Crafty Life: Stephanie Maslow And Metalicious

I'm Birdy27 and I'm so happy spring is here! Although the weather isn't consistently springlike, this month's "A Crafty Life" in-depth interview with Stephanie Maslow of Metalicious (and Metalicious on Etsy) will help you forget about the temperature. I connected with Stephanie through the Etsy NY team almost two years ago and I've been a huge fan ever since. She marries the modern with subtle traces of the traditional and creates distinct pieces that are unique and memorable. Originally born in Byram, New Jersey, Stephanie is industrious, focused, and innovative. She is just as accessible as she is lovely and I've been waiting for the chance to talk to her about her process, her designs, and so much more. I couldn't be happier that she agreed to be this month's interviewee.

What brought you to New York?

I moved to New York City after college in the '90s when there were still drive-by shootings where I lived in the West Village.

Drive-by shootings in the West Village? I didn't realize it was so dangerous in the Village back then.

Yep, but it was mostly awesome living in a part of the city where the buildings are low enough for you to see the sky. I lived in a 4th floor walk up as big as a shoebox. I loved it.

I'm sure a lot of our readers can identify with the shoebox-sized apartment. Sounds like you were determined to make New York your home no matter what.

I came here because everyone is accepted no matter who you believe in, what color you are or who you love. It's home and I'm proud to be raising my two boys here. I have a 3- and an 8-year-old. It's normal for us to see Barbara Corcoran, a drag queen and a mowhawk-wearing-punk on our walk to school. And we've been monitoring the progress of the Freedom Tower. While the boys don't know all the specifics of 9-11, they understand that it's a really important skyscraper to me.

Living in New York City certainly enriches one's life in so many ways. You mentioned attending college. What is your educational background?

I have a dual degree from Syracuse: English and Textual Studies, and Television, Radio and Film Production. Two of the longest named majors ever. 

We have a lot of in common. Although deeply in love with the theater, I reluctantly enrolled in a mass communications program at a large university. Now we're both in very different places

Yeah! I'm thankful for the experience of college. Well, it turns out that Syracuse has an amazing Metals program! But I had no clue back then it would become my life's work. I guess I wasn't ready for it at the time.

Wow! Timing is indeed everything. "Metalicious" is great name. Can you tell us how you knew this was THE name for you?

It's funny because once in a while I get people who think I chose the name because I was really into '80s heavy metal music. The truth is that I love to play with words and was trying to find a company name that expresses how I feel about jewelry and metalworking. Delicious. Metal.

It reminds me of the "licious" craze that started around the time of "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child. It's perfect. When and how did you decide to become a silversmith? What was the process?

It was a complete accident. About 15 years ago I had a job working in TV and hated it. I wanted to work with my hands and needed a creative outlet and thought it was going to be ceramics. But that class was full and the only one they had left was "Intro to Jewelry." As soon as I sawed out my name from a sheet of copper, I was hooked. Tools are awesome. Being able to make something with my hands that came from my head and my heart was so fulfilling. For a few years I took a class after work at the local YWCA and made jewelry in every ounce of spare time I had. It was the only thing that made me forget about everything else, even eating. I'm Italian and nothing stops me from eating, so I knew I was onto something. 

This is yet another story of the universe working to fulfill your dreams, even dreams you didn't know you hadWell, thank goodness for us that ceramics class WAS full. What happened next?

From there I changed careers, got out of TV, and went to work for a small designer helping her with the business side of jewelry. Then I went to work for a mass jewelry manufacturer where I worked my way up until I was in charge of merchandising one of their diamond jewelry lines. A few times a year they sent me to India, Thailand, and Hong Kong to work with the overseas factories, designers and model makers. It was an incredible experience involving a lot of hard work and long hours, but I loved it. Then I had kids and decided to stay home with them, so the travel and career had to go. I started Metalicious as a side project to keep me sane, knowing that I would grow it once the kids went to school. Over the past 7 years I've shaped my business to be flexible and I'm incredibly thankful to have customers who are so supportive and wonderful to work with. They make me love what I do.

It takes a lot of courage to go against the grain and build something for yourself. You knew you HAD to leave television. You knew you HAD to make jewelry. You could have continued in an unfulfilling job for security's sake, but you did what you felt was right for you and never looked back. That was very courageous. Earlier I identified you as a silversmith. Was I correct?

I was taught that a silversmith is someone who uses a hammer and sheet metal to forge and raise cups, bowls, silverware, etc. so I'm not sure that's the right term for me. I am able to "smith" as a technique, but I don't really fit the silversmith profile. I've always struggled with what to call myself. I didn't have any formal education in jewelry; I'm kind of a hack. So I just call myself a jeweler. I see what trained goldsmiths create who have been working as jewelers for 20 years and it brings tears to my eyes. It's so beautiful. I saw a Lalique exhibit years ago and literally was weeping looking at the brooches his team created (in addition to the beautiful glass work). I don't yet have the exquisite attention to detail that, to me, denotes a true goldsmith. So I'm a jeweler.

Ok, I've got it. Working with metals must be very labor intensive. Can you walk us through what you do for one design? Do you make your own molds? How long does it take to finish a typical piece?

I hand build all my models using fabrication and wax carving/lathing techniques. I don't use pre-made components in my work; it's all originally made with my own two hands. Then I have a mold made and have it cast into metal. I choose casting because there are certain things you can do in wax that you can't do in metal and vice versa. Casting also allows me to change the metal type with each order so I can customize my ring as needed. From there I get the raw metal casting. A new design can take anywhere from 5-40 hours of work to create. Then it takes a few hours of work to clean, set, and give each piece a final polish. I love the process and it works for me, but you'll find each jeweler has their own way of doing things. No one way is any better than another; the process is unique to the individual.

Fascinating! I was a very dramatic child who was always singing and dancing, so a creative path was pretty predictable. What about you? Would anyone have predicted you'd become a jeweler?

No. Honestly, I never wore a lot of fine jewelry. As a kid, I loved making mud pies, but I also loved figuring out how electronics worked. I was weird and nerdy (newsflash: I still am), but I was never very good at art. I always loved working with my hands and what resonates with me is that jewelry combines science with art and that I can use both sides of my brain to create meaningful work. I play with fire, carve wax, and use machines and hand tools every day. I love my job.

What's your favorite part?

My favorite part of making jewelry is when I work with someone to make a piece of jewelry as a symbol of a major event in their life. Moms have bought my Wrought birthstone necklace in the various birthstones of their babies. Men buy my Modern Rock ring to propose to their girlfriends. When customers write to me about such important milestones, I'm humbled and incredibly thankful. Making jewelry isn't saving lives or changing the world, but it's nice to know that my work is bringing a little bit of happiness or specialness to others.

Well, you are changing the customer's life in a way. As you mentioned, people use jewelry to create memories and to commemorate births and deaths. Receiving a treasured piece from a loved one can honor and/or cement a relationshipLife changing for sure. I assume you make prototypesWhat do you do with them if they don't cut the mustard?

It took me a long time to learn to let them go. Like, 12 years. I used to work on a piece over and over and then it would come out looking forced. My best friend, Madelynn, of the Etsy shop One Garnet Girl, taught me that it's okay to let something go if it's not working. She's incredibly talented, successful, and smart. So now, if it doesn't work, I scrap it or melt it down. It's incredibly freeing to not be tied to the money and time I've put into something, once I recognized that the time I'm saving by letting it go and moving on is way more valuable. Because if I don't love it, my customers won't love it either.

Yes, I feel exactly the same way when I'm designing: if I love it, someone else will love it, too. For those of us who are new to metal work, can you tell us a little about the metals you use?

I love working with metal, all kinds of metal. I work with sterling silver, 10-22k golds in all colors, palladium and platinum. As a nerd, I know the different properties of each (melting point, weight, malleability) and each one has it's own challenges. Whether I'm working with sheet, wire or castings, I have a pretty good idea of how things will turn out. But nerds also know that experiments can go wrong. I have bad soldering days. I have porosity in castings. I can't figure out where to sprue a piece to get the metal to flow correctly. The fun part is experimenting, and sometimes coming up with new ways to do things. You learn from each success, but you learn more from each mistake. I don't know who said that, but it's this nerd's mantra.

You mentioned soldering. I'm intrigued by it, but it's looks dangerous. Is it? Is it something you like to do?

Yes, it's dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. I still sweat sometimes when I'm soldering something tricky, but not because I'm afraid I'll blow up. It's more out of fear that I'll melt a gold ring. Do I love it? I love soldering when soldering loves me back. But on the days when the torch and I aren't getting along... ugh.

Oh, I know what you mean! People always say that knitting and crocheting are relaxing, but they are very stressful if you make a mistake or things aren't going your way. I love the way you use gemstones. What is your fave?

I love faceted gemstones. Like an addict. Similar to metal, each gemstone has different properties. My main concern is hardness (hello, MOHS Scale of Hardness). The hardness of a stone will dictate whether I use it in a ring, a necklace or earrings. My favorite is sapphire--blue, pink, orange, green; it's beautiful and has a hardness of 9. (Diamonds are 10). I bought a stunning sapphire when my second son was born and made it into a ring so that I wouldn't eat it. It's so delicious.

Like a fashion designer, you create collections.  How many collections do you have?

My collections come from my heart, which is hard to pin down to just one influence. I grew up in the country among dairy farms and cornfields. I can drive a tractor. But I also love cities and architecture and geometry (nerd). So I think it all goes into my creative blender and pours out in the collections you see in my shop: Wrought, Modern Rock, Raw, and Metropolis. Derivatives of the core design come from customer requests. I love making my own designs, but I also love the collaboration with my customers, I get a lot of satisfaction from that.

Your concepts are particularly strong. How do your designs come to you?

I'm a 3-dimensional thinker, so I'll take time to sit and imagine a design and turn it around in my head before I make a sketch. I want to make sure every angle will work first. That happens when I make time to sit and think, which isn't often. I usually have an idea that simmers in the back of my head for a while before I can make time to fully imagine it. And then even longer before I can make the model. I've had design inspiration while running on the treadmill, during dreams or while driving. If I'm open to it and make time to imagine, inspiration is always there.

I do the same thing. I call it "steeping," like one lets tea steep. Do you sketch your designs or, like me, just start creating after letting ideas steep for a while?

Oooh, I like the term "steeping." I've done it both ways, but the most successful for me is to sketch it out first. My jewelry is about dimensions, finger sizes, gemstone diameters, weight. So the best designs have been ones that I've at least roughly sketched out first so that everything is in balance.

You describe your work as eco-friendly. How so? 

I work very hard to leave the smallest footprint I can. I use recycled boxes, recyclable mailers, and recycled metals. I also choose ethically-sourced gemstones whenever possible. I work mostly with U.S.-based companies. It's important to me to help my own economy even if it's more expensive. So sometimes I have to go the extra mile to research and ask questions, but it's worth it to me and it's important to my customers. Win-win.

That's a great selling point. I know you create necklaces, earrings, and bracelets, but your rings really stand out. Do you prefer making rings?

I personally love rings and would look like a crazy gypsy if I didn't have to work with my hands every day; every finger would have 2-3 rings on it. But I also like to wear earrings and necklaces since I don't have to take them off as often. I feel like my outfit isn't complete without earrings, a necklace and rings. Oh, and I love looking down at my wrist to see my silver and gold initial hearts that I made to remind me of my boys.   So I love earrings, necklaces, rings and bracelets. Gypsy!

I feel the same way. If I could keep up with them, I'd have at least 3 rings on each hand at all times. What is your biggest seller?

My biggest seller is my Wrought wedding set. It's interesting because I've sold this to men who are buying it to propose with, or married women who are buying it as an alternative engagement ring set, and also single women who just want a cool gemstone ring without the matching band. It resonates with lots of people and that makes me extraordinarily happy. 

Do you sell at craft fairs?

Last year I gave up doing craft fairs. It was really hard because I missed meeting my customers directly. But I realized that there was a disconnect between the lower-end work I sold at fairs and the higher-end work I sold online. No one wants to pay $300 for a ring at a craft fair, but those are the kinds of pieces I love to make. So I gave it up fully last year and worked really hard on building my online sales. It was a leap and I was nervous it wouldn't work. But once my focus was solely on my online business, my sales doubled and more than made up for the income I got from fairs. I feel so much happier making this kind of jewelry. Plus, I get to spend weekends with my family now.

That was another courageous move. You saw that something needed to change and you took a chance. Good for you! What about wholesale?

I still have some wholesale accounts, but selling direct to my customers and hearing their feedback is really what I love to do. I have a plan to design a wholesale line that doesn't compete with my online work, and roll that out in early 2014. It's written on a paper plate here somewhere...

Do you have a blog?

Yes, but it's woefully neglected. I prefer to talk to people on Facebook. We have a lot of fun there!

As you know, I visit your fan page often and share your designs with my fans. I prefer Facebook to a blog, too. This leads me to marketing. Marketing is always challenging. How do you approach marketing and advertising?

Ugh, I'm the worst. marketer. ever.

No, no, I think I am. Really.

It's so hard, isn't it? I hate talking about myself; I worry that promoting my work will seem like I'm bragging. But I also know that if I don't put my work out there, no one will know it exists. So I try to do it in a nice, happy way. 

Marketing gurus always talk about knowing your customer.  It seems you have figured that out. Can you describe one of your typical customers?

It took me a long time to figure that out. My customer is a lot like me: non-traditional. They love colorful gemstones instead of diamonds, they don't need all their jewelry to be matchy-matchy, and they have strong opinions about the environment. So they love this wedding set because it combines all of those things. They'll buy the Wrought necklace usually in different color from their ring, or they'll pair it with some squared bands. My customers love modern, elegant jewelry, and that's what I strive for in each piece.

Also, I'm a Gemini which means I have lots of different interests and personalities. I love modern, sleek, simple, edgy. But I also love country, flowery, girly-girl. And those are two very different customers. It's really hard because if I promote one of those looks, I lose the other customer, so I'm moving toward incorporating the two sides of me. It's a process.

A smart friend of mine, Lenny of the Etsy shop Lenny Mud told me, "Your customer is you." And she's right. (Why is she always right?). As a craftsperson, I make what I like. So why wouldn't other wives/moms and edgyish/modernish/flowery/sentimental women like my work? Duh. My advice is: take a good look at yourself because you are your customer.

I've never thought of it that way. That's kind of brilliant. Have you been able to join the "quit your day job" club? Is your business self-sustaining?

Yes, my business is self-sustaining and contributes to childcare, food, bills, etc. My day job was being a mom, so you don't really ever quit that. :-)

Lucky you! Your hard work and dedication has paid off. Let's talk about the tricky issue of pricing. Just let it rip.

There are formulas, but I like to think about 3 things: income tax, cost of goods, and profit.

1. Income tax: it will differ depending upon your tax bracket, but you still need to pay it, so it needs to be part of your formula.

2. Cost of goods: metal, gemstones, my labor, utilities/rent/supplies, packaging, shipping.

3. Profit: how much I need to pay for my family to eat and live and go on vacation? (Wait, what's a vacation?)

I think a lot of people forget about income tax and actual profit. And you don't make vacations a financial afterthought, even if you haven't had one in a while. I adore your photos. You do your own photography, correct?

Thank you so much. Yes, I do my own photography. Second to marketing, photography is my worst subject. It has taken me 5 years to get to the point where I don't hate my photos, which is directly related to my boost in sales. I am selling online, so my photos need to be impeccable. Once I stopped making excuses as to why I can't do it, I just tried hundreds of times until I got it right. Hundreds of times. I'm not even kidding. My hard drive is sagging under the weight of my mistakes. If something isn't selling, I re-take the photo until it looks as good as my best-selling ring set.

You're right about it being a process. Where do you live? Do you have a dedicated studio?

I live in Chelsea with 2 boys, my husband, and 2 cats. The space is small, but we keep it minimal so that we don't feel cramped. In February I moved my studio out of our bedroom into an office building a few blocks away. It was a big deal for me because whenever I'd dream of what success meant, it was to have my own studio space outside of the apartment. I still can't believe it. It's really helped me separate my work and home life; I had to get used to wearing shoes once I moved out. And there's no laundry or dishes to do during the day now; they patiently wait for me to get home. Isn't that nice of them?

Yes, that's very nice of them. It's great you found a space so close to home. We've talked on occasion about our mutual vegetarianism. Has being a vegetarian affected your business and your aesthetic? How do you handle being the sole veggie in your family?

I think being concerned for things outside my own bubble definitely seeps into my business. Being passionate about making my company as eco-friendly as I can is directly related to my own vegetarianism. I don't want to do harm to others if I can help it, so conserving resources is key to my business model. Being the solo veggie in my family is really hard. But I was forced to eat meat as a kid, so I don't want to do the reverse to my kids and force them to be vegetarians. They know I'm vegetarian, but it's not a big deal. I've been veg for 22 years so it's become just one part of who I am. Just like I don't expect them to become jewelers, you know?

I've been vegetarian and mostly vegan for even longer. My family doesn't share my plant-based lifestyle, but they help me with my business in many ways. How does your family help you? Do your cats contribute? 

LOL! My cats couldn't be less enthusiastic about my work unless it has ice cream on it. But the rest of my family is incredibly supportive and I'm really blessed. My husband has a job with health insurance. He reminds me to look at my profit and loss every week. And he tells me when I've posted something non-Metalicious-related on Instagram usually via a snarky e-mail. My kids are also supportive of my work. They're still young and don't really know that most moms don't have their own businesses. I'm hoping that changes and it is definitely becoming more the norm thanks to Etsy. GO, MOMPRENEURS!

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

I hope to continue to make handmade work for my customers. There's only so much business that I can handle as one person, and only so much that my family needs. I would love to work with a non-profit to make donations on behalf of my customers. I'd also like to increase my wholesale business so that I can hire other artisans. That would mean that I'd have to share my CD player and I'm just not there yet.

Lastly, how has being part of the Etsy NY team helped you?

Being an entrepreneur is lonely. The connections I've made with other artists here in New York has given me the ability to have the camaraderie of an office, except our water cooler happens to be an online Google group.

Stephanie, interviewing you was a joy! Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are an gifted jeweler, an unstoppable force, and an inspiration to us all.

The Etsy NY team's 2013 Spring Handmade Cavalcade on Saturday, May 4! If you're looking for the best handmade market in the New York area, look no further. And later in May, I'll bring you another thrilling installment of "A Crafty Life." This is Birdy27 signing off. Please support the handmade community. Successful creative artisans can change the world! Chirp, chirp!

Birdy27 is an actor/writer/singer/songwriter/graphic designer/knitter/crocheter/yarn-based accessories designer/jewelry maker/entrepreneur and founder/president of Birdy27 Designs. Please join the action at the Birdy27 Designs Facebook Fan Page

A Crafty Life: Ursula Jaroszewicz and Pepper Press

I'm Birdy27 and I'm so ready for spring! I'm sure you are, too. This month's "A Crafty Life" in-depth interview features Ursula Jaroszewicz of Pepper Press. Ursula is a thoughtful, intense, and striking brunette and, when I saw her in January at a team gathering, I knew she would be a great interviewee. I wasn't prepared, however, for the level of openness I found. Ursula answered each question thoroughly and earnestly. Fashion trends may come and go, but greeting and note cards are always in demand. In meeting that demand, Ursula has found her calling. She creates unique cards and other specialty paper goods using the truly old school "letterpress" printing technique. Ursula's designs have a traditional yet modern feel with textures you don't have to touch to feel. I also create greeting and note cards, so I was really stoked that Ursula agreed to the interview.

The last time I saw you, I noticed a trace of an accent. Where were you born? What brought you to New York? And can you tell us about your educational background?

I was born in Poland and lived in there until I was 11. In 1991 I moved with my parents and my sister to New York City. My parents moved here to pursue economic opportunities available in the U.S. that weren't so much available there, so my sister and I came with them. I studied graphic design first at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. I took a break from school to work and travel, and then finished at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan. I've been in New York City my entire life since moving to this country. I have a lot of family in Poland, so I try to visit on a somewhat regular basis.

That's a great story! I imagine going back to Poland regularly helps you keep in touch with your cultural roots. New York and Poland must be very different, right? Do you feel that both places contribute to your creative process and your world view?

I guess I tried to process what was happening in my own way at the time, that things would never be the same. Poland, like so many places outside of New York City, isn't very diverse.

Like in many other European countries, everyone is pretty much from there. No one ever asks "what's your background," etc. And it's a LOT smaller in size and scope compared to the U.S. So it was rather a huge culture shock: to come here and see people from all walks of life, from every single place on earth imaginable. It was very eyeopening. At the same time, Poland was always a cultural place. My parents would take us to plays, films, and philharmonic concerts when I was young. A lot has changed since then. Every time I go home for a visit, it's fascinating to discover the new trends, fashion, ideas, etc. It's surprising and wonderful to see all the new changes. 

As to my world view, I do strongly feel that both places have influenced me so much. New York City was, as I said, eyeopening, and in Poland, during my childhood, I received this foundation which makes me value family and nature, preserving it, and living a "non-disposable" lifestyle. And we had good homemade food all the time.

Food is definitely a cultural marker. You create cards and other items via letterpress printing. Most people have seen letterpress printing, I think, but I bet most don't know the process. 

I agree with you that most people know it once they see it, but often don't know what's behind the finished printed piece.

Exactly! For the letterpress newbies like me, can you give us a brief history lesson?

Letterpress printing goes all the way back to mid-1400s. (Well, there are accounts of earlier presses in Asia.) Johanes Gutenberg invented/developed a movable printing press which utilized movable type. He created individually cast-in metal letters and punctuation. At the time, this was revolutionary as it allowed for speedy composition and printing multiple copies quickly. (Quickly is a relative term, however, as it still takes a painstakingly long time to compose something letter by letter, line by line. Even so, it was way more efficient than the options existing before: copying the entire thing by hand, one letter or character at a time.) It was THE method of printing for over 500 years and it was just known as printing, instead of "letterpress printing." Traditionally, printers had entire cabinets filled with different typefaces and sizes of individual metal and wood letters, using those to compose newspapers, theater bills, and all kinds of printed media. In addition, one could (and still can!) use a linoleum block (a semi-soft rubbery block) and carve a design into it. You would carve out everything else except what you want printed, so the part that remains is raised. Essentially, letterpress is "relief printing": the part that you want to print is higher than the non-printing area and the ink covers the raised areas. It then makes contact with the printing surface (paper). Rubber stamps are a form of relief printing, too; the raised parts are coated in ink and then transferred directly to paper.

In the 1960s newer methods and techniques replaced letterpress printing, especially in commercial settings. A group of old school printers kept the presses alive (although many didn't survive). In the meantime, digital technologies allowed printing plates to be made directly from digital files. Eventually letterpress printing went through a revival; book artists and artisans elevated the somewhat forgotten printing method to new levels of craftsmanship. So these days, many letterpress printers have their digital file (created in Illustrator, for example) made into a photopolymer--a kind of plastic--plate. This allows for infinite designs to be press-ready.

That's fascinating! How did you decide to create Pepper Press?

In 2010, a good friend of mine took a letterpress class and highly recommended it to me, saying it would be right up my alley. She knows me so well! Upon Donatella's recommendation, I signed up for an evening letterpress class at Cooper Union (taught by the very knowledgeable and ever helpful Dan Morris of The Arm Letterpress) so I could get back to working with my hands and get away from the computer. (I'm a graphic designer by trade.) Long story short, something just clicked and it felt so right! I found what I was looking for. The letterpress printing process, despite being so old, feels very new in the age of all things digital. I find lots of enjoyment in mixing inks by hand, tinkering with the machine, adjusting the pressure, checking the rollers, and cranking the handle to get the paper to meed the ink. The convergence of graphic design and true hands-on process is a perfect combination. It never ceases to fascinate me.

After the semester-long course ended, I continued going to The Arm, where I printed a plethora of designs. My friend and I were thinking of starting something so we could keep doing it, like creating wedding invitations. Well, I ended up giving some of the cards I printed in the class and afterwards to friends, colleagues, and neighbors in my building. One day one of my neighbors told me that she was soon opening a neighborhood "cheese and gifts" shop right around the corner. She asked me if I would make some cards so they could sell them. And that's how my business was born! I didn't plan on--or plan on so soon--having a stationery biz, but one thing led to another. Other neighborhood stores ended up contacting me to carry my cards, and it sort of evolved very organically.

I love when that happens. I'd say you experienced true "cosmic synchronicity": the universe was working to fulfill your dreams. I can tell you really love what you do. What are the benefits of letterpress over other types of printing like offfset, silk screening, digital, etc.? 

The tactile quality achieved with letterpress is what does it for me. Texture can so beautifully be achieved on paper; you can create a great interplay of light and shadow by printing even without ink. (This is called "blind color" because, even though there's no ink on the press, the print still goes through the press and is imprinted.) Now generally thicker or "fluffier" paper is made specifically for letterpress; however, any kind of thicker stock will work, too. For example, the kraft cardstock--thicker brown cardstock--I use for my map cards isn't made for letterpress, but it still gets the impression.

Compared with other methods, are there any drawbacks or limitations?

There are some disadvantages. Because it's printed one color at a time, it's generally good to narrow down the color choices, otherwise it can become a costly and time intensive affair. Also, it's not ideal for large areas of solid color coverage, as it tends to be uneven in color.

Letterpress is best for limited color palette. The inks are semi-transparent, so if you have too many colors overlaying each other, it would get muddy. (Most of the ink suitable for letterpress isn't fully opaque; it tends to be somewhat transparent.) So think of the colors as transparencies, and what colors will look like when they interact with one another.

I could keep adding more colors to one design, as well as account for colors that overlap when printed that create a third color. However, because each color adds to the cost and time of printing the piece, it can be cost prohibitive. In general and in my opinion, letterpress looks ideal with limited colors in a printed piece.

I see. One of the most interesting things about letterpress is the texture. You mentioned how much you love texture. I love the feel of yarn when I'm crocheting or knitting; however, my greeting and note cards are digitally printed, so there is no texture to speak of. How does tactile sensation contribute to your sense of satisfaction?

I've experimented with a variety of "hands-on" arts and crafts, etc. Professionally, my favorite jobs involved packaging design: something tactile, multi-dimensional, and with a potential of surprise to the user. So when I got into letterpress, one of the things that I loved about it was that tactile quality (in addition to being able to utilize my design skills). It became a whole new layer on top of what I already knew (design) and adding a printing method on top of that.

I love that you're so analytical about what you do. I can imagine you at the press with a smile on your face when everything comes together perfectly. What type of machine do you use? How much is manual?

In my studio are two presses:

1)    Chandler & Price Pilot: This is a vintage tabletop press with a manual lever that I have to pull down every single time to make a print. It's a small press, so it's generally good for smaller things: business cards (if done one by one), coasters, and small prints. For people who get into letterpress, this is often their starter press because it's small. However, it's still heavy! It's approximately 200 pounds of cast iron!

2)   Vandercook Universal-1: This is a huge! It's 1,200 or so pounds of metal, gears, and rollers. From around the mid-20th century, it uses a small motor that powers the ink cylinder, which in turn inks the rollers. The actual printing, however, is done by manually cranking the handle.

So in essence, both my presses are powered by manual labor.

Let's talk paper.  Do you use one particular cardstock or does the weight vary according to the item printed?

For my greeting cards, for consistency's sake, I use the same cotton paper throughout, as well as the same kraft cardstock for the map cards.

I use a variety of paper stocks for different projects (such as custom work, etc). Sometimes a thicker and sturdier paper is requested, or just works better. For example, thicker paper works well for two-sided prints so the printing won't show through to the other side. Sometimes a project calls for not so thick paper, such as business cards. But it really varies according to the individual project's preferences and needs.

Since texture is such an important part of what you create, is the content of the card secondary to the look and feel?

Hmm... that's an interesting question. I think that the content can be elevated by the right design of the card, or it can make all the statement that you want to make. It's really subjective.

Yes, that makes sense. How do you conceptualize your cards? Does the design come first or the text?

It can go either way. Sometimes a saying or text that I have in my head calls for a certain treatment to elevate it, or illustrate it, and sometimes the visual is there first. And then if I have a complimentary "text" portion, that's great. Sometimes I'll see something and I'll think "This will make an interesting print; it'll look great letterpressed." Half the time, I'm interested less in the specific greeting card type; I just want to create interesting patterns and textures where the message part of the card (such as happy birthday, etc) becomes a universal note card that is good for any occasion.

I love interesting patterns and textures, too, and the one in that link is really lovely.

Thanks. I have ideas brewing nonstop, most of them subconsciously, and I've learned to start writing them down quickly (thank you, Evernote). Sometimes they are so fleeting that I can't recall what that brilliant idea of mine was.

That happens all of the time to me, too.  After you decide on an idea, what is your next step?

My idea turns into an illustration (either a sketch in my sketchbook or on my computer). My digital file gets made into a photopolymer printing plate (by Boxcar Press). Each color has to be on a separate plate.

What inspires you?

My cards are really an extension of myself. I can tie the underlying theme to love of packaging and design, as well as nature. Nature is a huge part of my life, and elements of it continuously show up in my work. I'd like to think of it as "urban meets nature," along with the influence of other natural elements such as biking, patterns, urban exploration, maps, organic shapes, and typography. All these things at an (often subconscious) confluence inspire me.

Personalization is so popular now.  Is personalization possible with letterpress?

I'm really glad that you asked me the personalized question! I don't have a list of things I offer personalized, although I've done plenty of personalized and custom projects: personalized note cards, business cards (both design and printing services, as well as printing existing designs), announcements, and wedding invitations. If there is something that you'd like personalized, let me know!

In the next year, I plan on putting together a cohesive customizable wedding collection, as well as personalized note cards, monogram cards, etc. Letterpress is definitely customizable. All it takes is getting a plate made, so feel free to inquire about it.

Now that surprises me. I thought that personalization would be challenging. That's good for our readers to know. What are your biggest sellers? 

My best sellers are definitely the map cards, postcards, and now prints, too. I started out with a map of Brooklyn, but then personalized it for my neighborhood, Clinton Hill. People love the fact that they can get their neighborhoods on a postcard. I've added neighborhoods as they were requested by different stores carrying my cards, as well as by brides who used the different postcards for their wedding. One bride used a different Brooklyn neighborhood that was meaningful to her and her groom for each table at their wedding. I've personalized my map cards inside with a custom-printed message as part of goodie bags for out of town wedding guests. I thought was so sweet! Currently, I'm adding more cities. I've been getting so many requests for random places: someone's father is from Puerto Rico, someone wanted Greenwich, CT, and so on. I'll be rolling out a selection of different cities very soon.

I love that! You offer your customers something uniquely personal using a technique that is steeped in tradition.  And, with your European background, I'm not surprised your designs have an international appeal.

Oh yeah, how could I forget! This past holiday season I met a woman at a holiday market who owns a store in Japan. We stayed in touch and she ended up purchasing pretty much all the Brooklyn and New York City-themed things that I have available, as well as other cards. So Brooklyn goes to Japan! How cool is that?

Very cool indeed!

The Bike Love Couple card has been doing very well, too. People use it for Valentine's Day, wedding cards, love cards, and I've turned it into a wedding invitation. The whiskey card also sells well. People love booze!

LOL! I'll leave that alone. You live in Brooklyn's up and coming Clinton Hill area. Do you have a dedicated studio? What is your work space like?

Yes, I live in Clinton Hill, but my working studio is a 7-10 minute walk to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. I love having my studio dedicated to just my printing so I can spend time away from all distractions. There are 11 studios in the space occupied by a variety of artists/makers/small businesses and a gallery space for occasional shows and openings. It's great being surrounded by other people dedicated to what they're doing that's outside of a regular type job. It's a great supportive crowd, ready to be asked for an opinion on something, or to lend or borrow something if needed. There's 24-hr access, so sometimes when I'm in the groove I can easily stay there till 2 am--or until i have no more energy left. A short bike ride makes it very easy to get home in just a few minutes. I share the space with my studio mate, who is a fashion designer, so I get a peek at new fabric choices and patterns. Our space is probably around 200 square feet (the biggest studio in the building). It's not huge, but we totally make it work. I think the fact that it's a dedicated space outside of home is what makes it efficient.

You're lucky to have a convenient location and a great studio mate. When you own a small business, there's always a lot to do. Does your family help you?

I get asked about "you guys at Pepper Press . . . " Well, you're looking at her! I pretty much work on my own. However, during especially busy times, like the holidays, my boyfriend has helped me package box sets until super late at night. He also loves to spread the word to his co-workers and friends. My mom and dad are very enthusiastic champions of my work and my dad is always up for a trip to find more parts or to check out the printing museum.

Speaking of your business name, how did you decide on Pepper Press? It sounds spicy!

Pepper Press initially began with Donatella (now of Tella Press), the friend who recommended the letterpress class to me. So it started out as a collective effort. We wanted to continue working on the press as a side project and get paid for it. We thought about names for a long time and went through a long list of possibilities. "Pepper Press" had a nice ring to it and it represented our love of spicy things and allowed for an abstract interpretation of the logo. We're both graphic designers, so that stuff really matters. Eventually, after many conversations and trying to figuring out how this would work logistically, we decided that each of us working separately would be best. But the Pepper Press name remained.

Marketing is a challenge for me.  How do you approach marketing and advertising?

It's a challenge for me as well! Most of my marketing efforts have been word of mouth and referrals, both for getting my cards into new stores and for custom work. In addition, lots of people find and contact me through Etsy for both wholesale and custom. I also send my work to bloggers with a wide audience, which is a great way to gain exposure. Soon I'll be sending out direct mailers to store owners, inviting them to check out my booth at the 2013 National Stationery Show (NSS). That will be my next step in marketing.

Getting ready for NSS in May at the Javits Center is scary and exciting at the same time. It'll be my second time officially. Last year I participated in a group booth, but I will have my own booth this year, so the costs and risks are much higher. This puts a lot of pressure on me; I want to have the best possible booth and add some new products. It's going to be a sleepless next two months.

Do you sell well on Etsy?

I am very happy selling on Etsy! It's a great testing ground. Don't know how something will be received? Put it up on Etsy and see what happens. I've done several custom wedding projects because the client saw my work on Etsy and liked my style, or was interested in something for their wedding I had already turned into an invitation. Besides the one-on-one contact with the customers, I get contacted by stores that are interested in carrying my cards and that leads to wholesale orders.

 Where do you see your business in five years?

Hmm, in five years, I think I will be much smarter about running a business. I'm still learning. If you think about it, I'm a newbie! I probably know a tiny portion of what I should or will eventually know. In five years, I will have expanded my line and offerings, moving into more personalized work, such as weddings, announcements, etc, and having at least an employee. I will hopefully have reps in the stationery industry who represent my cards and get orders from stores all across the country. My business will be more efficient and allow more time for designing and working on new things. Also, I've been daydreaming of working in a tropical location, somewhere with hot weather year round and great water activities. (Can I check 2,000 pounds of metal on a plane to Hawaii?? ;)

I share your daydream! Lastly, how has being in the Etsy NY Team helped you?

I became aware of the Etsy NY Team because, everywhere I went, there was a cool pop-up shop/tent/etc. I saw the team represented on Governors Island, at Celebrate Brooklyn in the summer of 2011, and at the Brooklyn Flea. It was clear that the group was well organized and able to get members in front of the buying public. I had to join! It turned out it was just the tip of the iceberg. Being on the team has been tremendously rewarding. I got to immerse myself in the world of like-minded, creative, entrepreneurial people. The feeling of knowing that there's this whole support network as well as potential friendships is priceless. The forums are a great way to research different markets, get feedback on different issues, sell or buy supplies, and get invited to great events at Etsy headquarters. I secretly want to work at Etsy, too!

Thanks a lot, Ursula, for a terrific interview! I know you'll be extremely successful at the NSS and in all of your future endeavors. You're inspiring me to move forward with my greeting and note cards, so I'm sure others reading this will be inspired, too.

Ah, sweet April is on the horizon and so is another enlightening installment of "A Crafty Life." Mark your calendars and join me on Monday, April 22. You won't want to miss it! This is Birdy27 signing off. Please support the handmade community. Successful creative artisans can change the world! Chirp, chirp!

Birdy27 is an actor/writer/singer/songwriter/graphic designer/knitter/crocheter/yarn-based accessories designer/jewelry maker/entrepreneur and founder/president of Birdy27 Designs. Please join the action at the Birdy27 Designs Facebook Fan Page

DIY MetroCard Holder

On Sunday, New Yorkers got the bad news that metrocards were going up in price again. If my memory serves me, this is the 4th fare hike in 5 years. In addition to the higher fare, we now have to pay $1 if you buy a new card, instead of refilling an old one.

That means that taking care of your metrocard is more important than ever! Keeping the card safe from the elements (my huge pocketbook full of stuff) needs to be priority number one! I do have a little plastic sleeve, that has seen better days, so I decided to make something new to keep it dust and scratch-free. I am always looking for uses for the huge pile of old jeans stacked in my apartment, so a denim metrocard holder is what I decided to make.

  1. Measure the metro card, and cut out two pieces of denim slightly larger to account for seam allowance.
  2. Place the right sides together and pin them in place. Sew around the perimeter of three sides, leaving the top open.
  3. Trim the excess fabric around the seam, and turn the fabric inside out so that the right sides are on the outside.
  4. Cut a piece of stiff paper to size(like a file folder) and slip it inside of the top opening to give the holder a bit of structure. Once you slip in the stiff paper, go ahead and sew up the top of the metrocard holder.
  5. Cut a piece of decorative fabric slightly shorter (length) than the denim square. The width should be the same.
  6. Place the fabric on top of the denim square and sew around the three sides, leaving the top open so you can slip the metrocard in the pocket. That's it...quick and easy!

Until next time....happy crafting!

Nordea / nordeasoaperie

Crafty Inspirations

Before I started crafting, I frequently visited craft shows to marvel at things that I thought I could never create. Fast forward years later, I am actually making and selling handmade soaps in my etsy shop Nordea Soaperie!

I always wonder what drives a person to choose their craft, and what inspires them to create on a daily basis. I know that I am inspired by my love of strange as that sounds. I LOVE food, and I love to cook. Making soap is simply following a recipe, and I am always thinking of different ways to incorporate food and beverages into my soaping projects. Many of my more popular soaps include fruit purees or liquids like aloe juice and beer.

I asked another member of the EtsyNY team what inspired their crafty creations, and Alison from Koto Designs gave me the following answer:

"I would say that I'm inspired by what I encounter in my day-to-day life. I always have an eye out for anything with a simple geometry that would translate well into embroidery. For example, my brother is a huge bike fanatic and for his birthday I made him a card featuring his super customized bike. I made another (more generic) version for my etsy shop for all the bike lovers out there."

To see the beautiful work from many more members of the EtsyNY team, make sure you come to the annual Holiday Handmade Cavalcade which will be a two-day event kicking off the Holiday shopping season! This show will feature artisans from all over the tri-state area. Don't forget to mark your calendars, December 1 & 2 in Brooklyn, NY....Hope to see you there!



Send a Valentine: Share Your Love 2012

Today, Etsy announced the return of their Special Delivery campaign - Share Your Love 2012. Etsy will once again partner with Citymeals-on-Wheels to bring nutritious meals & companionship to elderly New Yorkers with a little surprise...a Valentines' Day card from you.

Check out details on how to get involved, where to send your cards & any dos or don't here. Since K. Batty Design & Stationery is my name & cards are my game, I'm super excited to participate in this & pledge to send 20 cards. Maybe more! I love the opportunity to bring up the spirits of a fellow New Yorker.

I hope you'll join me in bringing some cheer with Etsy & Citymeals-on-Wheels!

PS If you're still gazing at your holiday cards & wondering what to do with them, check out Sara's post from the other day on how they can be upcycled for charity.


Eco-Friendly and Natural Cleaning Recipes To Use In Your Home and Office

Just in time for the Holidays, when you may have more dirt around thanks to more-than-normal foot traffic, and closed windows keeping out the cold weather, I'm providing you with eco-friendly and natural cleaning recipes to use to keep your home and office clean and chemical free.  Some of you may already know these agents, or have them in your cupboard. If you don't, next time you're at the store pick them up!

I know that some of you may be thinking, but what about scents? We want our apartment to smell like cinnamon (go buy some cinnamon sticks!), or gingerbread (bake some, the smell will linger for hours!), or pine tree (buy a real tree, just make sure you recycle it according to your city and state recycling laws). If you go the natural route in regards to scenting your home, you'll avoid the fake chemical scents in over-the-counter products like candles (not all), soaps, deodorizers, sprays and yes, cleaning products.

What I mean by fake chemical scents is that most of these products contain harsh chemicals that have been linked to causing breathing problems in all beings, adults, children and pets. The other thing to remember is that these scents linger over time and the more you use them, the more damage they are doing to your health.  As noted on TheDailyGreen, "These chemicals can produce indoor air pollution by off-gassing toxic fumes that can irritate eyes and lungs. (Children and pets are most at risk.) Many cleaners also contain unnecessary antibacterial agents (pesticides, technically), that can actually make bacteria stronger, and more resistant to antibacterial drugs." 

With that in mind, lets make some natural cleaners! 

Just an FYI, I bought both my large container of baking soda and vinegar from the cleaning isles at Target. These items are by no means expensive, and while I myself use Seventh Generation products and Method on occasion, I am aware that they are not always in everyone's budget.  

The great thing about the recipes provided below (thank you TheDailyGreen!) is that items like baking soda, don't have a scent, but is a great deodorizer and vinegar, while doesn't smell too good at first, wears off in no-time and is one of the best cleaning agents around, especially for glass. I tell you this in case you decide that vinegar and baking soda might not go well with the scents of cinnamon and gingerbread. It is not true! You'll be fine and that lack of, or lingering scent will make your nose happier. 

All these recipes require are the following items: 
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Spray Bottle 
  • Lemon Juice (good substitute for vinegar) 
  • Liquid Soap
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Club Soda (great for carpet stains!)

General Cleaning (kitchens and bathrooms):
Baking Soda and Water: Dust surfaces with baking soda, then scrub with a moist sponge or cloth. If you have tougher grime, sprinkle on some kosher salt, and work up some elbow grease. 
Lemon Juice or Vinegar: Got stains, mildew or grease streaks? Spray or douse with lemon juice or vinegar. Let sit a few minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush. 
Disinfectant: Instead of bleach, make your own disinfectant by mixing 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of liquid soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.
Kosher Salt and Water: If you need a tougher abrasive, sprinkle on kosher salt and scrub with a wet cloth or sponge. 

Oven Cleaning:
Baking Soda and Water: Coat the inside of your dirty appliance with a paste made from water and baking soda. Let stand overnight. Then, don gloves and scour off that grime. Make spotless with a moist cloth.

Windows and Mirrors:
White Vinegar, Water and Newspaper: Mix 2 tablespoons of white vinegar with a gallon of water, and dispense into a used spray bottle. Squirt on, then scrub with newspaper, not paper towels, which cause streaking. If you're out of vinegar or don't like its smell, you can substitute undiluted lemon juice or club soda.

Club Soda: You've probably heard the old adage that club soda works well on carpet stains. But you have to attack the mess right away. Lift off any solids, then liberally pour on club soda. Blot with an old rag. The soda's carbonation brings the spill to the surface, and the salts in the soda thwart staining. 
Cornmeal: For big spills, dump cornmeal on the mess, wait 5 to 15 minutes, and vacuum up the gunk.
Spot Cleaner: Make your own by mixing: 1/4 cup liquid soap or detergent in a blender, with 1/3 cup water. Mix until foamy. Spray on, then rinse with vinegar. 
To Deodorize: Sprinkle baking soda or cornstarch on the carpet or rug, using about 1 cup per medium-sized room. Vacuum after 30 minutes.

Wood Floors:
Vinegar: Whip up a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar and 30 ounces of warm water. Put in a recycled spray bottle, then spray on a cotton rag or towel until lightly damp. Then mop your floors, scrubbing away any grime. 

Baking Soda: Add a 1/2 cup of baking soda in with your normal cleaner - it's great for deodorizing and helps regulate the pH level in the washer water to keep it from being too acidic or alkaline. Additionally, it helps to boost the detergent you are using by making it work more effectively and reduce order causing bacteria. 

And don't forget, while you're cleaning and getting ready for Holiday festivities, be sure to pay attention to unwanted items and properly dispose of them-recycle what you can, donate what can be used again (there are many programs like the NY Cares Coat Drive in NY City that collects gently worn coats to give to individuals in need during the winter months), and consider this as you purchase items for the Holiday season.  

Next month, we'll discuss how to decorate your home, even though the Holiday season will be in full swing, without taxing the environment too much. Exciting, I know! We're going to get creative! 

Until December, Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your time with family, friends, and loved ones. 

Cherry Blossoms

One of the foremost indicators of spring is the cherry blossom. There is something so beautiful about this flower, and across the world there are festivals to celebrate it.

In NYC, the Brooklyn Botantical Gardens goes all out each spring to celebrate Sakura Matsuri, the Cherry Blossom Festival. This year the festival will be held on April 30 and May 1 and will feature taiko drumming, martial arts, tea ceremonies, origami workshops, and more. Prices range from $10 - $15, and I suggest you go as early as possible as it gets extremely crowded (the festival opens at 10am).

If you're not crazy about crowds, a wonderful alternative is the Cherry Walk in Riverside Park, Manhattan. This walkway extends from 100th Street to 125th Street along the Hudson River. Be aware that there is no exit along this promenade, so either be prepared to walk the entire way or backtrack when you've gotten your fill. Another stretch of Riverside Park between 90th and 96th Street is also lined with cherry trees. These trees were part of the original gift of 3,020 cherry blossom trees given by Japan to America in 1912 (most of which line the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C.).

Cherry Blossoms have inspired poetry, paintings, and other art forms throughout history. For the artisans of the {NewNew}, the cherry blossom is reinvented in a modern take - and the results are beautiful.

See you at the cherry blossom trees!


Around the Corner: New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo

After Yankee Stadium, two other Bronx claim-to-fames include the New York Botanical Garden and the Bronx Zoo. On any given day, in any type of weather, you will find New Yorkers enjoying a bit of peace from the city. Both attractions are located within walking distance from each other, so the energetic and adventurous can even make a day out of it!

The New York Botanical Garden hosts many amazing exhibitions every year, including an annual orchid show. Two exhibitions going on right now are "Emily Dickinson's Garden: The Poetry of Flowers" and "The Edible Garden." Admission is free all day on Wednesday and from 10am - 12pm on Saturdays. You can find directions here.

The Bronx Zoo is the largest zoo in New York City! It features a variety of amazing animals and exhibits, including a Madagascar house with two enormous cave crocodiles, the Congo Forest with a dozen beautiful gorillas, and a children's petting zoo. Wednesday is pay-what-you-wish day. You can find directions here.

If you've yet to visit these amazing NYC destinations, be sure to put it on your list this summer! Until next time...