Maker Mondays –

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Happy Monday everyone.  If you are a Canadian reader, I’m going to kick off by reminding everyone to go do their civic duty today and GO VOTE!  And since I trust that you will or already have marked your X on your ballot, settle in to learn about one of our Newfoundland based Makers.

A transplanted Nova Scotian, Amy Adams of AmyAdamsPrintables is a graphic designer, selling a full range of fully customizable and printable designs for weddings and events, as well as a selection of art prints.  Whimsical and charming illustrations mixed with chic fonts combine for contemporary and totally on-trend designs.  Read on to learn more about Amy, her process and her inspiration.

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Can you please start by providing a brief bio about yourself.

Well I grew up in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, part of a family full of makers. My mom, my grandmother, all my aunts… everybody quilted, knitted, hooked, sewed, painted. My grandmother was the only one who ever monetized any of her work. She used to sell her handmade rag dolls in the craft shop below her apartment. So I was always making too – drawing and painting mostly – but I always considered it a “hobby” rather than a possible career choice. So I tried the liberal arts path in university, aiming for a degree in anthropology or English lit,  but I just wasn’t happy so I dropped out. Then one of my besties who had moved to Ontario to study textiles at Sheridan gave me some advice that changed everything; she said she believed creative people needed to create in order to be really satisfied. She suggested I try art school. So that’s what I did. I got my BFA from NSCAD and then a few years later my diploma in Graphic Design from NSCC and I’ve never looked back.

A native Nova Scotian, and now a Newfoundland transplant. How did that change come about, and how did you adapt to the change?

My husband is from Newfoundland but we met in NS so we moved around between St. John’s, Halifax, and Pictou for a few years eventually getting married and settling down in Pictou where I went to work as a graphic designer at ACG Studios. I was on maternity leave when my husband was offered a position here in St. John’s that we just couldn’t turn down. So about the same time I would have been starting back to work I was unpacking boxes in a new city instead. I was in a position to stay home with my son a while longer but I quickly realized that frequenting playgroups and kindermusic classes was not leaving me fulfilled and I was going to need a creative outlet. In the fall of 2010 the same friend who convinced me to try art school introduced me to Etsy. About six months later I opened my shop selling customizable wedding invitations and stationery. Running an Etsy shop has been the perfect way for me to create and generate income while staying home with my kids through their early years.

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Your shop features a great variety of wedding themed downloadables. Did you create any of the items for your own wedding? If so, did this lead to an inspiration to create this business?

When I was planning my own wedding I couldn’t find any invitations I liked that were in my price range. Most of the big online printers had good prices but only carried bland, traditional designs. The bold, unique designs I liked from independent designers or specialty stationers would have cost me hundreds of dollars when all was said and done. So I designed my own wedding invitations and printed them myself. The hardest part was settling on one idea because I had tons! I knocked around the idea of working up some of those ideas and selling them online as DIY print-yourself invitations since there didn’t seem to be anybody doing that back then (around 2007). That idea sort of sat there and simmered on the back burner for a few years until I discovered Etsy.

Can you explain a bit about your inspiration and your process.

I often find it hard to nail down the sources of my inspiration because I am always looking. You’ll find a lot of natural elements in my work – trees, flowers, landscapes, things like that. And I’ve always been a sucker for anything old or vintage. I think I’m drawn to these themes because I grew up in rural Nova Scotia. I had woods right behind my house that were criss-crossed with paths and littered with old relics like junked cars, abandoned sheds, old glass bottles. I loved exploring there at the edges – where pieces of people’s stories are slowly overtaken by the wildness of nature. Where the fairies and the ghosts would live. My home is full of items that reflect the handmade craft traditions I grew up with so the colours and patterns of old quilts, granny squares, and hooked rugs are definitely referenced in my designs. And I love display typography – always have, really. I remember wishing I was a sign painter when I was a kid so I could go around and fix all the signs I saw that were ugly or hard to read.

When I am working on a new design it usually a starts out as a reference to something I’ve seen… a location, a movie, a wedding I saw featured somewhere, or a trend I see developing on Etsy or in my Communication Arts magazines. Then I start the design process on paper – illustrating, thumb-nailing, planning – eventually moving onto the computer. All of my designs end up as pdfs with a combination of fixed background designs or images and editable text boxes that I set up in Adobe Acrobat.

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How has having an on-line marketplace available shaped your business?

Finding an online marketplace was instrumental for me in starting my business. As early as 2007 I felt there was a potentially huge market for DIY wedding invitations but the amount of work and money it would take to launch my own website and drive traffic was beyond my resources. Fast forward a few years and Etsy provided the perfect infrastructure to launch my business. Now that I have an established online business I am starting to sell my work off-line. My first show was the Etsy: Made In Canada market here in St. John’s. The feedback and interest from that show has definitely inspired me to start looking for more shows and retail partnerships.

What would you say is the single greatest challenge, and the single greatest reward to being an entrepeneur?

In my experience, the single greatest challenge to being an entrepreneur is self-confidence. Taking the plunge – putting yourself and your work out there – it can be pretty scary. In the beginning I felt like a big fraud on the verge of being exposed! I think I have finally learned to ignore the self-doubt and just go for it. And watching my little business grow over the last few years has helped build my confidence big-time!

The biggest reward is the positive feedback. When people are not just buying your work, but taking the time to let you know how much they loved it, or to pass along compliments they’ve received – that really makes it worthwhile. Knowing your personal creative vision is out there and that it is resonating with other people is pretty awesome.

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There are so many fears about copyright infringements these days. Selling downloadable graphics, how much of a concern is this for you?

Copyright infringement is definitely a concern when you are selling things like downloadable graphics and images online. And I did let that hold me back from selling my posters and photos as digital downloads for a long time. But In the end I decided to try it out and just make sure I had a clear image license agreement in place. Then I basically have to trust people to respect that because clearly I can’t police the use of my images myself. My experience with buyers on Etsy has so far been very positive and respectful of my copyrights but if there ever was an issue with infringement my license agreement should protect me if I needed to take legal action. And I feel like any professional designer who is looking around for images to use commercially is going to be fully aware of the importance of image license agreements and would respect them.

As a maker, is there a hand-made item you own that you most treasure?

This is a really difficult question to answer because I own a lot of hand-made things – both purchased and gifted from family and friends… But I guess my most treasured handmade item is a little rag doll my Nanna made about 30 years ago. My friend’s aunt (yup, same friend!) found out a friend of hers had it sitting in a curio cabinet all those years. They passed it along to my mom who sent it to me for my kids. The craziest thing is it still smells like Nanna’s perfume! She’s been gone a few years now but I can conjure up so many memories of her with one little smell of the doll’s hair. My kids think I’m nuts of course haha!

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And…. I just gotta ask. Who are Leanne Battersby and Nicholas Tillsley? They are on so many of your wedding printables!!

They are characters from Coronation Street! I’m a big fan hahaha. I used to use my friends’ names in my samples but I thought if I used some recognizable characters it would be another way to connect with buyers – especially since I have a lot of buyers in the UK. Of course I should have realized that couples from a soap opera would quickly be out of date!

Thank you so much Amy for sharing your story with us today.  Be sure to check out her shop here, AmyAdamsPrintables for a wonderful selection of printable designs.

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(Interviewed by Carol of stringmealong and ThisBorrowedMoment on etsy)