By Melissa Peterson
If you haven’t visited Etsy, the online marketplace for everything handmade, you’re definitely missing out. If you’re an Etsyholic (like me!), you know that it’s possible to find everything from furniture and party invitations to housewares and children’s toys, and it’s all handmade, with some vintage goods thrown in for good measure.
Etsy boasts more than 17 million members and 800,000 active shops, and in 2011 alone, sales totaled $525.6 million. Etsy is literally changing the way people buy and sell handmade items, providing a virtual way to support small business. With transactions coming from 150 different countries, Etsy buyers and sellers can be found around the globe. But as it turns out, they might just be your neighbors as well. In the following pages, we’ll introduce you to seven women (and one husband) from in and around Ocala who have started an Etsy shop and found success.
“Handcrafted is about using your heart and talent to transform an object into something of beauty.”
A fifth-generation woodworker and the first female in the lineage, DJ Remington grew up in the woodshop watching her father, but it was her husband who turned out to be the inspiration for what is now DJ’s full-fledged career.
“My husband is an amazing cook. He once made chicken pilau, which is traditionally stirred using boat paddles for large batches,” says DJ. “I thought this was crazy, so I made a large wooden spoon that he could use instead.”
From there, she began replacing her own spoons and utensils and then making others for friends. Now, three years later, she sells nearly 50 different types of utensils.
DJ hasn’t always been a full-time woodworker, though. With her husband’s support, she quit her job as a secretary to pursue her new career.
“My husband talked me into it. And now I take this job very seriously,” she says. “You have to be very motivated to be successful. I’m a one-man band.”
Between scheduling and attending shows, updating her website and marketing, DJ somehow finds time to enjoy fishing, camping, scalloping and many other crafts.
“I wasn’t necessarily prepared for the success of my business,” DJ says. “But I love my life. My dad keeps the tools working in the woodshop, and I’m fortunate to be able to visit with my mom every day since we live on the same farm.”
DJ’s advice for anyone looking to start an Etsy shop?
“Talk to people. Get advice. You have to dedicate a lot of time in the beginning, but there’s so much information out there to make your business a success.”
And DJ knows all about success. She won runner-up in Garden & Gun Magazine’s Made In The South Award in the home category in 2010. And much of that success she owes to Etsy.
“With Etsy, you know who the money is going to,” she says, “and any time you’re encouraging shopping in America for items made in America, you can’t go wrong.”
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Megan Chaney Gumpert
“Handmade items are a reflection of the makers hand.”
Meagan Chaney Gumpert is by definition a work-from-home mom. With a son who’s 22 months old, a new baby due in a few weeks and a studio in her backyard, she creates mixed-media sculptures and fused-glass jewelry while trying to maintain a fairly routine and structured setting.
Meagan studied studio art at Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, and attended the University of Florida for her post-graduate work. She moved to Ocala in 2007, had a solo show at the Appleton Museum of Art in 2009 and now sells her art through galleries along the east coast. Etsy is her third highest source of income, mainly using the site as a way for people who are already familiar with her work to shop online.
“Etsy has gotten easier to use in the years I’ve been using it,” Meagan says of the online marketplace that launched in June 2005. “If you’re thinking of starting an Etsy shop, just do it. You don’t have anything to lose.”
Meagan has known she wanted to be an artist since before kindergarten.
“I have parents who didn’t think I was crazy when I wanted to go to college for art,” says Meagan, smiling. “My parents told me to do what you love and the money will follow.”
From her wedding jewelry, which was all handmade, to all of the dishes in her kitchen, Meagan has a love for the unique.
“I like the imperfections of handmade,” she says. “I like to buy things that are handmade and not a commercial creation. I’m not so afraid to use something because it might break, though. My son recently broke his first piece of pottery—just makes room for another dessert plate!”
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Vicki Ray & Corri Yelken
“When you buy something handmade, you know iT’s been created with a lot of love and sweat and tears.”
It’s the differences between Vicki Ray and Corri Yelken that make this mother-daughter team work so well together.
Vicki is definitely the seamstress of the family, while Corri is often found ironing or stiffening the fabric. Vicki is drawn to more earthy fabric, while Corri usually picks brighter materials. When you put them together, however, they’re a perfect match.
“It’s fun to work with my daughter,” Vicki says. “We bring our dogs to work, and it’s very flexible. It allows a lot of freedom in our lives.”
“But the best part about working together,” jokes Corri, “is that we never let the other take the blame when something is messed up.”
The pair works 35 hours per week making 40 to 95 computer and tablet sleeves, cell phone cases and keychain fobs a week. The shop began with Corri making keychain fobs while attending the University of Central Florida, while Vicki had her own online store, KeetaCollection.com.
“Corri’s always been a bit of a tomboy. I taught her how to sew over the phone while she was away at school to make some extra money,” Vicki says.
Vicki, on the other hand, is a natural seamstress, even making Corri’s wedding dress when she got married this past May.
“If there’s something you need made, she can look at it and make it,” brags Corri.
After graduation, Corri moved back to Ocala, and they eventually combined stores, calling themselves Oh! Koey.
“Corri had the cutest way of saying her name when she was little. It came out sounding like ‘Koey,’” Vicki explains of the store’s name.
When they’re not slaving away over a sewing machine and iron, they enjoy going to the beach and UCF football games—and most of all spending time together.
“It’s important to have simple mother-daughter time,” says Vicki. “Time to shop or just talk… and not work.”
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“If it’s handmade, you made it. It didn’t exist before you put it together.”
Born and raised in Miami, Maddie George was tired of the city. So she saved for one year, quit her job in the health insurance business, bought an RV and moved to Ocala in 2009. She’s been making a living selling nature-inspired jewelry ever since.
“I make OK money, and I’ve had to give up some things,” Maddie explains, “but I’ve come to realize that, for me, less is more.”
Today, she has over 90 items listed on Etsy at any given time and sells her jewelry at the downtown Ocala Farm Market as well as at various craft shows around the region. Her jewelry is made from a variety of materials, including clay; beans and seeds; sea glass; artifacts, such as arrowheads; and even fossilized bones and shark and gator teeth. And it all started, as she says, due to a “weird taste” in her own jewelry.
“I don’t like stuff from the stores,” Maddie says. “For the jewelry I make, I buy some of my pendants from other Etsy sellers, but I don’t shop at the large craft stores because then my stuff looks like everyone else’s.”
In order to find the materials to make these pieces, Maddie isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.
“It all starts with me digging in the dirt—and I only dig with permission,” Maddie notes. “I often dig with a friend who’s an archeologist, and it’s amazing to think that someone touched this very same piece thousands of years ago. And it’s just been sitting there, waiting for me to find it.”
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“Handmade is all about the little imperfections—like a fingerprint in the clay left there by the artist.”
For many artists, inspiration can be found everywhere, sometimes where it’s least expected. For Anna Duhame, inspiration comes from her many hikes in the Ocala National Forest.
“It’s one of the reasons I moved to Ocala,” Anna says. “There’s so much nature here.
A member of Etsy since 2006, Anna originally sold glass beads and jewelry through eBay while living in the Melbourne area. After finding out she had fibromyalgia, which made working with the intense heat required in glasswork potentially dangerous, she needed a fresh start. A mother of four, she and her family moved to Ocala in 2011, and she now sells exclusively on Etsy.
“After I moved to Ocala, I started making clay beads and realized I liked sculpting larger pieces,” Anna explains. “Nature and animals are my motivators, so I go on walks and then use clay to create the things I see, whether it’s a pinecone, mushroom or creature from the forest.”
It takes roughly a week from idea to finished product, and Anna puts in a minimum of four to six hours of work each day. And with over 700 Etsy sales thus far, it seems her time has been well spent. She is, however, looking forward to the changes, and success, the future might hold for her.
“I would like to learn new skills, perhaps learn how to use a potter’s wheel,” she says. “But I’m also very happy where I am—anything else would be a bonus.”
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Photography by Heather Blair Photography
“Handmade equals heart made. It’s something created out of love.”
For Christina Easterling, making newborn crocheted hats started out as a hope, a manifestation of sorts.
“It really began when my nephew was born in December 2008 and my husband, Dale, and I were actively trying to have a baby,” Christina explains. “We started out making hats for friends and selling them on Facebook and then opened our Etsy shop in October 2009.”
After experiencing some difficulty conceiving, the couple found out this past March that they are expecting a baby boy in November.
Christina’s grandmother taught her to crochet when she was very young, and she had been crocheting as a hobby until just a few years ago. In December 2010, Dale lost his job, and they now work full time selling hats on Etsy, working 12-hour days and making six or seven hats each day. Dale, who didn’t know how to crochet before he found himself unemployed, makes roughly four per day and handles the majority of the shipping, packaging and communication. In total, they ship roughly 30 orders a week.
“When Dale lost his job, we had no choice but to keep creating,” Christina explains. “We work five to seven days, and this is it. This is what feeds the cats. But I’m thankful to be able to stay home and do what I love. Plus, the hats are adorable!”
Above all, Christina and Dale love Etsy for the simple fact that each item is unique.
“Why buy from some corporation when you can support someone else’s dream?” says Christina. “We put a little of ourselves into each piece. We wish happiness and health to each child that wears something of ours.”
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These six crafty ladies aren’t the only Etsians in and around Ocala. To find other local Etsy sellers, visit etsy.com, scroll halfway down the page and look for the box that says “Ways to Shop” on the left side. Then click on the “Shop Local” link.
Out and about in downtown Ocala?
Stop by Grow, a new boutique-like shop featuring designs by local Etsy designers (including some of the designers featured here) and other local talent. Grow aims to provide a creative outlet for local people to showcase their work. Want to see some of the items? Stop by the shop at 21 East Fort King Street, Ocala, or visit the store online at facebook.com/growchildrensboutique.