Sampler

The Sampler – Marie Kare

Website – Link.

Marie Kare of the Sampler sends out crafty treats every month to subscribers. It’s like Christmas every month with the fun things she puts together from crafters all over the world. Marie is a special crafty gal balancing the worlds of running a craft business as well as enjoying her own crafts as well. I got a chance to talk with Marie (and laugh – this gal is super funny) about the Sampler and how she runs her craft business.

Nat: Tell me more about your crafty background. What kinds of crafts do you like to do?

Marie: Growing up I really only dabbled in craftiness — knitting, needlepoint, collage, the usual stuff. Then, in college, I was a huge procrastinator, so rather than, say, writing papers, I’d stay up all night trying to make “art” with plexiglass, ink and sandpaper; or repainting all my furniture; or trying to make 3D, pop-up greeting cards. You might say I have a pretty short attention span, because I played around with a lot of different stuff. Anywho, after college, after my one and only “real” job at a dot-com went the way of, um, the dot-coms, I had tons of time to get back into crafting. That’s when I started up my little jewelry business, working in PMC and selling to boutiques in the Bay Area.

Nat: What was your inspiration in starting your craft business, The Sampler? How long has The Sampler been in business?

Marie: After about a year of just wholesaling my wares, I decided to open up a tiny little brick-and-mortar boutique, as well as an online retail shop. I didn’t understand why people were snapping things up in my real-life shop, but not so much in my online boutique — they were the same products! The difference it seemed, was that people who came into my real shop could touch and feel and play with everything. They could personally experience the products. Certainly there are lots of ways of making your online boutique interactive, but they all stop short of letting a potential customer actually handle something you’ve made. There’s so much you can tell about an object when you can actually hold it in your hand, and I find this particularly important with handmade objects. Mass-manufactured objects are usually pretty consistent, regular; with handmade objects, it’s the little things, the subtle variations that really add so much value. Anywho, I’m rambling. Basically, I wanted to find a way for potential online shoppers to have the same sort of tactile experience they might in a real shop. Soooo… I came up with the Sampler! I’ve been doing the Sampler now for about two and a half years.

Nat: How have you seen the craft industry change in the last couple years?

Marie: I feel like crafting has just exploded over the last few years. When I first started getting into the online crafting scene, there were already all these communities and websites and wonderful resources available to crafters. It was amazing to be able to connect with so many other people with similar inclinations. And now, with all the new crafting titles that are available in all your major bookstores, and new publications like CRAFT, I feel as though the crafting good word is reaching an even broader audience of individuals who might not have been aware of the “online scene” or of all the amazing new products, projects, crafters, artists and techniques that are out there. Reaching a broader audience, expanding the scope of crafting, making, creating, etc., is what will keep the craft community vibrant and thriving.

Nat: What kind of business experience have you learned since you started The Sampler?

Marie: Oh man… a smarter person would have learned so much by now. Frankly, I’m pretty much winging it over here. What I have learned so far would most likely fall under the Life Lessons categories and probably could have been gleaned from the “Just Because” section of your local greeting card shop: have faith in your ideas, you can achieve what you want if you’re willing to try, learn from your mistakes, learn something new each day, sleep and drink lots of fluids, and IKEA has many affordable and customizable office organization solutions.

Nat: What or who inspires you? What kind of crafty magazines or websites do you visit?

Marie: Artists and crafters whose works really fascinate and inspire me would be Sarah of The Small Object, Susie of boygirlparty, Jill Bliss and Jen Corace. I love that they seem to have created their own little worlds. Everything they create is so uniquely *them*. I really admire that sort of clarity of vision.

Overall, I have to say that the short stories of Kelly Link are a real inspiration to me in just my daily life. They’re not at all about crafting or anything. They just really capture my imagination — maybe they’re a little dark or sad (I always think: Why is Kelly Link so sad?), but they’re MAGICAL. Magic is something I’d like to have a little more of in my life, and I don’t mean reading the Harry Potter books or becoming a wiccan. I’d just like daily life to be a little off-kilter, whimsical or maybe strange. I never want to be completely certain that the squirrels in my yard are NOT in a battle with the birds for backyard supremacy. In fact, I would like to assume that they are, and that they have little war room meetings and wear monocles. I never want to expect anything less than something really amazing is going to happen and happen today.

Making stuff is a kind of magic, isn’t it?

Nat: Yes it is magic for sure. :) So I hear you are a very experienced felter. Do you have any tips for felting that you can share with us?

Marie: Try not to stab yourself because that really hurts. You should particularly avoid stabbing yourself in the face.

Nat: Thanks for the safety tip!! What are the craft projects you are making this winter?

Marie: Oh man, I am about to take a WHOLE WEEK off over the holidays and I have so much I’d like to do! But so far, I’ve woven some scarves for some very nice ladies as gifts, needle-felted some neck warmers for (may I make shout-outs?) Copacetique, needle-felted a hat for Diane over at Craftypod and (surprise!) needle-felted some xmas ornaments. In the works: I bought a big old canvas to paint and decorate as a showcase for all my Susie Ghahremani paintings; I have a stack of plexiglass under the dining room table; a heap of roving from Mary Jane’s Attic that I will most likely spin then weave or just needle-felt into hats, mittens and scarves; and I will try my best to scrapbook my holiday cards and photos.

Nat: What can we expect from The Sampler in the near future?

Marie: Hopefully, a lot. There are a bunch of ways that I would like to expand the Sampler to do more for the crafting community. I would really like to get the Sampler Fellowship program started — a sort of “scholarship” for a budding new crafter, in which the recipient receives monetary consideration, promotional products, help and mentorship from more established crafters. We had hoped to do that this fall, but somehow life intervened. Also, Tim of HelloIndie and have been tossing around ideas for a crafty mentorship website. I’m working on getting someone to come into Sampler Town to help out enough for me to work on these projects. Please keep your fingers crossed!