This week’s interview is with artist Susie Ghahremani, who runs the popular online shop boygirlparty. Susie’s a gifted painter who creates whimsical, nature-inspired artwork, which you may have seen in one of the many gallery shows she’s participated in at places like Giant Robot, Magpie, and The Wurst Gallery. Her artwork also adorns a full and varied line of gifts and accessories such as notecards, teeshirts, jewelry, hand-sewn pouches and more. If that ain’t enough, Susie also does illustration work for clients like Chronicle Books, fronts a one-woman band called Snoozer, and tends to an adorable brood of finches. Read on to find out what doing it yourself really entails.
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JENNY: Do you run your indie business full time, or do you have a “day job” to help keep you afloat? BONUS: If the latter is the case, how do you balance your time/make time for crafting?
SUSIE: I’m self-employed full time, but my “indie business” encompasses a lot of different types of work: magazine and book illustration, art shows, craft shows, design, etc. I have a pretty unpredictable schedule, and tend to craft more when I have “free time” a.k.a. when I’m not on a specific client-given deadline, or in the crunch before a craft show.
JENNY: How did you make the transition to working for yourself? How do you structure your days when you’re the boss?
SUSIE: There isn’t a lot of structure to my days, frankly. I find myself working on the project “of the moment”, putting in 80-100 hours a week, sometimes more. Like I said, my schedule is pretty unpredictable. The work I find myself doing to prepare for a holiday show is nothing like the work I’m putting in preparing new products and ideas, or a redesigned website, or answering customer service emails, so it can be impossible to have a set structure.
JENNY: How important has the internet been in relation to the growth of your business? Also, would you say the bulk of your business comes from your own website, or from wholesale accounts and/or craft show sales?
SUSIE: The bulk of my business comes from my website, and I don’t think I’d ever have been able to even get my business off the ground if it weren’t for the internet. The internet miraculously lets you set up shop and connect with a community and clientele within seconds and essentially with no overhead. It’s an incredible tool and is changing the face of business and art.
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photo by Kokoleo
JENNY: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently when starting your business, knowing what you know now? BONUS: Any resources for upstart craft businesses that you’d care to recommend?
SUSIE: I know when I began years and years ago, I priced my products very low, so much so that I was only breaking even and frequently “burning out”. I haven’t yet learned, but aim to learn, the lesson of how to plan out my finances in order to have a viable and longterm career as a crafter and a future retirement; also would like to learn about marketing and advertising and things “regular” businesses consider at the get-go. But when you’re branding your own personality and taste, basically, you don’t even think of as part of your business.
When I began, I wish I knew how to better protect myself from wear, for lack of a better explanation. I didn’t think about what damage I could be doing to my body by putting in such long hours, and now my eyesight has seriously diminished, and I have tendon damage in my wrist that frequently causes me a great deal of pain. Now I know better to take breaks and to keep my health in mind when pushing myself along the happy path.
Oh! I recently learned the hard way that I had to find a webhost who was better able to handle the ebbs and flows of an indie business who may occasionally get a sudden boom in visits from press! A lot of people start with budget plans, which is fine–but be sure that your webhost has excellent customer service. I’m not sure how to better word this. Basically, Dreamhost sucks. I’ve had good experiences with mediatemple.net so far.
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JENNY: How would you compare the challenges of working for yourself with working for “The Man”?
SUSIE: Some people really do enjoy a structured work environment and set responsibilities. (I’m not one of those people.) Running your own business entails not just “making crafts” but also having to master every aspect of running a standard business, from accounting practices and laws to customer service. I’m forced to learn a new skill every day. I think it’s incredibly challenging to multitask and be productive all the time in this way. I also think, as my own boss, that I work unfathomable hours–hours that I would never have agreed to put into a “regular” job–HOWEVER, every day I enjoy my business and feel satisfied, and can’t say I ever had a “real” job that made me feel so proud of my work and personal growth.
JENNY: Any tips on how to keep your business fresh and thriving/growing?
SUSIE: I frequently self-evaluate to see what I could be doing or making that would make me, personally, happier. Being happy with the work you’re doing and enjoying the business you’ve created, I believe, shines through your work to your audience, whether you’re representing it online or at a craft show. I try not to lose touch with the feeling that made me start my business: an eagerness to make the things I had been dreaming up a reality.
JENNY: Anything other random tips or info you’d like to add on the topic?
SUSIE: Once selling became a fact, I sometimes found myself thinking of “How something will sell” as I’m making it, and that deflates the fun in every way possible. Although from a business standpoint, it’s probably wise to consider your audience and what may be appropriate for a certain venue or project, I’ve found that I’m happiest with my work and most fulfilled when I do what I think is best, and not to bet worried with my customers may like or dislike.
Related:
• boygirlparty Website – Link.
• boygirlparty News – Link.
• boygirlparty MySpace – Link.
From the pages of CRAFT:
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CRAFT: 04 – “Business Basics for Crafty Types” by Jenny Ryan pgs. 42-43. Digital Subscribers can read the full article here. – Link.
Don’t miss an issue! Subscribe to CRAFT Magazine today and get 4 quarterly issues delivered to your door. – Link.