Interview with a Craftress

Jill McKeever is owner of the Etsy shop For Strange Women, and I found her for the first time when I read her thoughts on making 6,000 sales after only two years of business. Her writing style is refreshing, earthy, and honest. Here is just one of the many helpful tips she gave:

“If you are not beginning your business with $10-20K in startup revenue (I didn’t), the first 10-20K that you earn with your art/craftwork will need to be reinvested (in better tools, materials that may need to be bought in bulk, things that will make your production faster/more efficient, independent contractors to do easy but time consuming tasks, hiring a designer*, etc.) before you start making a profit and paying yourself. This is just an estimated price range, and maybe not necessary for everyone, but this is what I did for myself.”

I loved this quote very much because it’s something I’ve always wanted to say, but have never been able to deliver so directly. I had to know more about her, so I checked out her shop and visited her blog, Craftressing. I soon discovered that she is, hands down, the neatest person I’ve ever met on Etsy.

Among other things, she lives in a duplex: half of it is a home she shares with her boyfriend and his son; the other half became her own personal studio. She schedules and completes new projects by following the moon cycles.  She makes Kansas City, MO sound like a wonderland—this is what she has to say about her hometown: “We live in a diverse neighborhood with a great energy, full of indie restaurants that I can walk to and get much needed rice pudding, seaweed soup, wine, and coffee.”

Enjoy the interview:

Jill of For Strange Women

When does the new moon arrive and what are you working on now?

The new moon is March 4th and coincidentally I am working on a Lunar Amulet that will have a new perfume sent before each new moon to put inside!

For Strange Women Studio

You have a studio apartment. I’ve studied your pictures of it, and the whole thing is so Virginia Woolf-like and amazing to me.  How do you feel when you are in that space?

It’s comfortable. I could never be one of those artists with chaos everywhere, it stifles my creativity. I love my space and it is important to me to express myself in my surroundings.

Describe your “zone.” What’s it like when you’re creating the perfect potion?

I’m usually alone, half-awake, half-asleep on a no-coffee morning (coffee is great on hard work days but ruins my creative process if I am making something new), during the first quarter moon, with no distractions. Not even music. I have paper everywhere with recipes scribbled out and a pretty big mess in front of me on the table.

I really appreciate your brand. As you said in your advice article, you are a reflection of your art, and vice versa. Would you say that your identity is ever-evolving?

Thank you! My identity hasn’t changed but the branding does evolve as I get closer and closer to being able to express who I am. It takes time to find yourself in a medium, and learn how to present yourself to the world through it. Design and perfumery are both relatively new concepts to me, so these have evolved over the last few years.

I was looking through your blog, and I noticed a change in your artistry right about the time you quit your day job and went all-in For Strange Women. It seemed everything suddenly got a little more sophisticated. What gave you the confidence to make that decision?

Good question! My design career began in a very un-inspiring and frustrating day job. Before I had this job (pre blog) I was just out of college and much “darker” than I am now. My music and other artwork that I made was so strange that I don’t think many people were able to connect with it. I was broke and living in a creepy century-old basement, and decided to get a real job because being a starving artist had taken its toll on me. Of course I took the first good paying job that I could get, because most employers could see I was unfit for the corporate world. I stayed at the job for 2 miserable years and bought a house to keep my mind occupied. No amount of home renovations or shopping or craft projects or cases of wine could really make me feel at ease, and I knew I had to find myself again, which is about the time I started my blog. I had nearly lost myself and wanted to come back to the person I was, but by that point I had changed. The blog was just for me, so that I could see my work, my life, and myself from an outside perspective. When I started For Strange Women I was still at my design job (for a school district) and was not able to fully change gears from the design I did there to the design I did for myself. It takes time to cleanse your system of that stuff, unfortunately, and I think I still have further to go. Although I have realized that I am a much happier person now that I am doing my own thing while earning a living, so although my current work has a little of an “edge”, it is nothing like my old style, and instead, yes more sophisticated. So to summarize, the design change was not a decision so much as it was an autobiographical bi-product.

What advice would you give to the person you were two years ago?

2 years ago I had just started FSW and was having desperate dreams of quitting my day job. I think I did well in seeking out all the advice I needed at the time, but I would just tell myself to not worry, that quitting a stable job in the middle of a bad recession with no solid plans really isn’t a bad idea. Things always work out, and you should never feel trapped.

You installed a grow light and made a garden out of your non-working fireplace. Can we talk about that all day?

hahaa yeah it’s pretty fun~ I had a big herb garden that has lasted all winter, pretty crazy! There’s a huge jasmine vine that I am hoping will bloom this spring- I can’t bring it outside because it has already attached itself all over the fireplace. My boyfriend actually bought the light and installed it for me- how hot is that? (He is a professional gaffer so he likes buying and setting up lights)

What is the strangest thing you have ever acquired?

i don’t know.. to me strange is “normal” so I probably have all kinds of strange things to other people’s standards.

What was the last book you read or movie you watched that moved you?

I watched “collapse” a few months ago, its a documentary that has got me all excited. I really can’t wait to see what happens when our unsustainable society finally collapses! It will be tragic and beautiful, slow yet steady, a bit painful, but fabulous. I am politically off the map because the future I see cannot be saved with technology or doing things as we have done them for the last 60 years. It will be much more like it was 100 years ago in another 50 years instead, only with solar panels… and this movie confirms my hope! lol

Thank you, Jill. It’s been inspirational! Stop by  For Strange Women and she says: “Thank you for visiting my shop. I love that there are others out there who connect with my aesthetic and appreciate the immense thought and creative energy that goes into every recipe.” We sure do!

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Comments

  1. CIndy T. says:

    Jill is AMAZING at what she does! Kudos to breaking free from a not-for-you job and starting something true to yourself! 🙂

  2. so glad you’re featuring Jill! I was so inspired by her thoughts on building a business as well when I saw it on her blog…it’s really nice to hear someone talk so realistically about what goes into it, and yet also to say that it can be done! Lovely!

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