Interview with Shannon Riffe of Make It

Makeit Shannon

Shannon Riffe

Make It Blog – Link.

Reading Shannon Riffe’s Make It blog has become part of my daily routine. Not like any other craft blog out there, Make It is “a blog for craft entrepreneurs”. Shannon brings focus on business issues and tips for crafters who are looking to start their own craft business. She also explores other aspects of the craft world, such as her recent visit to a fabric mill (see her post here) where we get to see the behind the scenes on how fabric is made. As a crafter herself, Shannon brings us lots of cool blog finds and interesting crafter profile/business interviews. Now we turn the tables on Shannon herself to find out all about the Make It blog, crafty business tips, and her current craft projects.

Nat: Please tell me a bit about your crafty background.

Shannon: I consider myself a “jack of all crafts, master of none” because I am interested in a wide range of crafts but never really seem to devote myself to any one thing long enough to master it. The thing I like about crafting is that it’s pragmatic and that’s empowering: learning a skill that has an actual application. In early 2005, I wasn’t able to find jewelry that I liked, so I taught myself how to string beads and do wire wrapping to create my own necklaces and earrings. I have a very basic knowledge of knitting – the only thing I can knit is a scarf, but that is extremely useful here in Massachusetts! I’m mostly self taught via online tutorials, books and magazines and trial and error. The only thing I’ve taken a class in is batik. Batik is a wax-resist dyeing technique for fabric. I enjoy batik because it allows me to decorate fabrics (silk, cotton, linen) and create a truly unique product. And unlike jewelry and knitting, it’s not a very popular craft right now, I like being different. I loved going to my boyfriend’s house after class and showing him my dye-stained fingers. I’m currently teaching myself to sew so I can do even more with my custom dyed fabrics.

Nat: I love your blog “Make It”. Why did you decide to start a craft blog that focuses on the business side of things?

Shannon: I started Make It because I wanted to learn more about the selling crafts but I didn’t find a “one-stop-shop” for all of this information. At the time, I had been reading the forums on Etsy, I checked out the Switchboards and I read several craft blogs and collected great little bits of info from all these different sources. I wanted a place where all that information would be consolidated and easy to navigate. I figured, if I’m interested in this type of information there must be others out there who are also looking for something like this.

Nat: What are some of the interesting business tips you have learned from your interviews or research?

Shannon: Pay attention to branding. Successful businesses of any types always convey a consistent brand in all of their communication and their products. Your packaging, your blog, your website, these should all convey a recognizeable brand that is instantly associated with your product. This sounds easy enough, but this is one of the most popular topics that I find readers are interested in learning more about.

The best marketing tool a crafter can use to promote their business is their blog. It’s a very low cost (and sometimes free) way to get your name and your product out to a targeted market. I’m always amazed at how many craft blogs there are and new ones are popping up all the time. My mom just started hers a couple of weeks ago!

Also, don’t stretch yourself too thin. Make sure your product doesn’t suffer because you’re overextending yourself with all other aspects of your creative business. Resist the urge to grow too quickly or take on too many tasks. If you have a quality product and are consistent with your branding, you’ll be prepared when your lucky break comes.

Nat: Why do you think that crafting as a business has taken off?

Shannon: For one thing: it’s fun. Lots of people, like me, think “Hey, making jewelry is fun, how can I find a way to do this all the time.” Entrepreneurism is more popular than ever and this is in large part fueled by the Internet. The Internet provides pretty much every resource imaginable: access to tutorials, supplies, customers, answers to questions, etc. Additionally, Etsy has now consolidated all these disparate small-time business efforts and now craft business has one central hub, which has been huge for raising visibility. It makes people realize that there is money to be made from selling crafts. It’s not easy, but it can be done and you can find out how to do it by visiting any number of great online resources.

Nat: Can you share with us a special crafting tip you have?

Shannon: I am a master thrifter, my tips for thrift store success are: Go to thrift stores in the suburbs if you can (forget the city thrift stores, too picked over). Check out the bed linens section for sheets with cool patterns or colors (recycle them into pillows or patchwork pieces). Or pick up plain white sheets and tshirts to use for dyeing. Always check out the housewares section (cups, plates, and decorative items). I love using thrift store pottery as storage or as decorative elements. Enjoy the thrill of the hunt!

Nat: What kinds of craft projects are you working on this winter?

Shannon: I started a scarf in September, hoping to finish it by the time I’d actually need to wear it. Unfortunately it’s been neglected and is still unfinished. My goal is to now complete it before the weather starts to warm up again. I recently purchased Amy Butler’s book In Stitches and she has alot of great sewing projects in there I want to try. My latest ambitious project is inspired from a patchwork throw that is in the book. I’ve dyed a few thrift store sheets and pillowcases and am now attempting to turn them into patchwork curtains. I’m really into the idea of reusing materials, thrifted textiles are so cheap and versatile.

Nat: What’s one thing on your holiday wish list?

Shannon: Classes. Though I’ve avoided craft classes for the most part, they are a valuable way to not only master a new skill, but also to meet like-minded class mates. I’d like to take a sewing class, a web deesign class and a writing class. What can I say, I want to do it all!

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