1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an earthy sort of gal - I have a reel mower and a compost pile, and I eat lots of vegetables. I go to the library every Friday, I don’t watch any television, and I have fun giggling with my teenage son. My favorite food is potato chips.
2. Tell us about your current work and anything else you have in the works.
Right now, my main focus is on one-of-a-kind fabric accessories for men, women and the home. I have a super huge wall hanging in progress that I’m having a lot of fun with. I’d like to continue along that path - experimenting with fabric art.
3. What prompted you to open an Etsy shop?
A couple of years ago, “Ready Made” magazine published an article about Etsy.com. Around that time, friends were starting to encourage me to sell my work. The idea of starting my own web site from scratch gave me the heebie-jeebies. Etsy was the perfect solution.
4. How long have you had your Etsy Shop?
I’m right at my two-year anniversary on Etsy. I opened http://nancygamon.etsy.com/ in June 2006. It turned out that one Etsy shop just wasn’t enough, so in September 2007, I opened up http://supergirlstickers.etsy.com/ and moved my paper creations (stickers, greeting cards) there.
5. Tell us about your Etsy shop. What do you offer there?
I offer whatever happens to fall out of my brain. I get into kicks – a necktie kick, a pillow kick, a hat kick - so new items get created in spurts that follow my whims. Almost everything I make falls into the Accessories category… curling iron travel cases, purses, market totes, hairbands, things like that.
6. Do you have any suggested uses for your products?
I suggest you put them on and dance around with wild abandon. If dancing’s not your thing, then, well, women may enjoy wearing the men’s hats and neckties as alternative fashion statements. Also, I make a line of market totes that are roomy as all get out – they’re the same size as paper grocery bags, so they’re great for eco-friendly shopping.
7. Was there a major influence in your life?
I think the major influence was actually in my parents’ and grandparents’ lives (the Great Depression) and it trickled down to me. I hoard old clothes and can’t resist free fabric. Knowing my fondness for reinvention, wonderful people often surprise me with gifts of old neckties, curtains, granny’s dresses, and whatever other fabric items they would normally take to the thrift shop. I love finding new uses for vintage fabrics, and many of my creations have unique personal histories that can’t be exactly duplicated.
8. What inspires you?
I take time to very purposefully get out of the house and go live. We are absolutely immersed in shapes, colors, designs, sounds and smells - information we tend to tune out. About once a week, I just practice paying attention to what’s around me. For example, I might go for a walk and not come back until I have 3 new ideas. It forces me to see that little architectural detail I’ve passed 100 times, or to notice the shape of a flower, or the way a tree branch curves. I think everything we need for inspiration is right in front of us, if we can quiet our minds enough to see it.
9. Where do you create?
I’m lucky to work out of my house. I have one room devoted to sewing, but I have noticed that often while I am asleep, little gnomes sneak in and move piles of fabric pretty much all over everywhere.
10. How did you learn your craft?
Most of my early sewing instruction came from 4-H (a youth group devoted to farm life skills like cooking and raising livestock). For years, I sewed projects exactly as instructed, using commercial patterns. Then I started altering the construction methods and modifying the designs. Now I create my own designs from scratch, but I also keep learning. I check out a lot of books from the library, I read sewing magazines, and I still work through commercial patterns occasionally to learn new techniques.
11. What are your favorite materials?
Lots and lots of vintage fabric.
12. Are there any materials you consider a MUST-HAVE?
If you sew and you do not have a rotary cutter, go treat yourself to one this instant. Other must-haves are the biggest cutting mat you can afford, a metal ruler with a cork backing, and a sketchbook.
13. How do you promote your goods?
I do rely heavily on my flickr page and enjoy the artists I’ve bumped into through that site. I also assume that every item in my shop is being purchased as a gift. That means that I make sure my site name is on (or attached to) every product, so recipients will know where to find me.
14. What has been the most important lesson you've learned since you started selling your own creations?
I enjoy more success (and happiness) making Things I Want To, than I do making Things I Think Might Sell.
15. What advice would you give to others who are thinking about or have just opened an Etsy shop?
There’s really no reason not to open a shop on Etsy – it’s so affordable and user friendly. You have the option to do it just for fun, with very low financial investment. However, I think it’s important to understand that Etsy is not a get rich quick scheme. It’s more like the online equivalent of an artsy-fartsy shopping mall. If you are hoping to make a living off your creativity, keep in mind that being a small business owner is a fat lot of work.
16. Do you have any favorite Etsy artists?
Like most people who frequent Etsy, I have oodles of favorites! I’ve also had the good fortune of getting to know several of those wonderful artists in person.
I’m a big fan of http://procyonidae.etsy.com/ (Nathan Cannon), who I met through the local Etsy Street Team. My favorite thing about him is that you can be messing about with construction paper and crayons, and he’ll have an idea for how to turn your project into a voice-activated adjustable lamp fueled entirely by dandelion goo. His ability to see 14 levels beyond what you’re currently doing absolutely astounds me. I’ve received amazing pep talks from procyonidae and appreciate his insight and fresh point of view.
I’ll put in a quick plug for http://gemmafactrix.etsy.com/ (Brooke Medlin), who I also met through the Etsy Street Team. I literally wouldn’t have my SupergirlStickers shop without her. She was the one who introduced me both to the gocco press and to the sticker machine. My favorite thing about her is that it never seems to occur to her that she might not succeed. She wants to do something, she does it. Simple as that.
For lovely designs in artistic apparel and home decor, visit nancygamon's Etsy shop. Nancy's handmade items are gorgeous!
Many thanks to Nancy aka nancygamon for granting this interview and for sharing her designs and inspiration!