Interview: Dreamlike Success with Donni

 

Filled with magic and whimsy, Fairyfolk is one of my favorite shops on Etsy. The colors and shapes are so warm, inviting, and playful you’ll want to browse around all day! It’s created by Donni, who is equally bright and inspirational. In this interview, she invites us into her world and shares her passion that has birthed two successful Etsy shops. Enjoy!

Magic Toadstool Rock by Fairyfolk at Etsy

 

Fairyfolk recently celebrated its second anniversary on Etsy—congratulations on your success! What is the most important thing you have learned about selling online in these last two years?

In one word… Photographs! Perfect your photos… and then perfect them again. I can’t stress enough the importance of great photos. Have a look at the successful shops on Etsy. One thing they all have in common, is great photos. Online selling is a visual avenue… your customers can’t touch your product, they can’t pick it up, smell it or feel it’s weight in their hands. It’s my experience that not many even read my product information. It is the listing photo that catches them and draws them into my shop. The photos tell the story of my product. Think of your listing photos as very much part of your art… you have come up with a unique idea, you have used your art, talent and time to craft a beautiful creation and the next step is to show it to the world in it’s very best light. I don’t think of a new creation as being complete until I have photographed it beautifully. The photos you list should do your art the justice it deserves. Try to give your photos personality. Try to make sure they are clear and professional, fresh and unique and full of the magic that is in your product. Your photos need to stand out from hundreds of similar items. I can’t tell you how much time I spend on my listing photos… I have worked and reworked them so many times, trying to keep them fresh and unique and as relevant as possible. Working on my photos is an ongoing part of my Etsy business.

A good camera is vital, and so is knowing how to use it well. As I am a professional photographer, my camera almost feels like part of my body but I do know many friends who have bought a fancy new camera only to be utterly restricted by their lack of knowledge as to how the different settings work. Many camera shops offer one-on-one classes for very reasonable rates… an hour or two with a photographic expert can make a huge difference in the quality and scope of your photos. I also highly recommend using photo-editing software for your product photos. A little ‘whitening and brightening’ can make the world of difference. You can always use Photoshop but there are other excellent photo-editing programs that you can find for free on the internet. I would also suggest spending an hour or so with a photo-editing expert… again, camera shops are a great place to start looking for someone who can give you a one-on-one class. It would be helpful if you took along a few examples of the kinds of photos you would like to achieve…  it’s easier for an expert to teach you what you want to learn, as quickly as possible, if they can see the look you are wanting. I strongly believe that the time, effort and money you spend on perfecting your photos will be a great investment in your business.

Do you sell anywhere other than Etsy?

Yes, I sell both Fairyfolk creations and Dovie Moon (my photographic shop) photographs at Waldorf school fairies and in local boutique shops… moving into the wholesale realm is on my ‘to do’ list for this year. But I love Etsy most of all… it’s such an exciting venue for a seller as it brings together a wonderfully wide variety of customers.

Felted Rocks from Fairyfolk

I love looking at your toadstools and the felted stones. I give one of them a heart every time I’m browsing Etsy; I find the visual aesthetics of those two items to be extremely pleasing!  Do you have a favorite among your products?

The truth is that I fall in and out of love with my creations all the time. I go through phases of being obsessed with certain things. I’ve had the ‘Mother Earth’ phase, the ‘Acorn’ phase, the ‘Felted Rock’ phase and I’m now in the throws of the ‘Toadstool’ phase. At this moment, I’m in love with my Driftwood Toadstool series. There is something so magical about driftwood… where has it come from, where has it been. We all know how enchanting Toadstools are… coupled with a little moss… oh my, are you starting to hyperventilate too, or is it just me?

What has been your most successful marketing strategy for Fairyfolk?

My blog has worked wonders. The Magic Onions started off as an avenue for me to share our days with my mom and dad who live many oceans away from us. I wanted them to be involved in our every-day happenings. I was utterly fascinated to find that I had ‘unrelated’ followers. Soon, more people tuned in for our daily dose of family goings-on. Within a few months, I realized that I had a tiger by the tail… people were looking to us for daily inspiration; crafty, nature-inspired, mamma’s who are just like me. I found I experienced a genuine pleasure in sharing with them. It’s been amazing how I inspire others who, in turn, inspire me to inspire. Aah, it’s just a gosh dang circle of love!

 My readers are families who value handmade and a return to simple living. People who are choosing to have a few, well-selected, treasures. Fairyfolk fits in well with this philosophy and so many of my readers have become Fairyfolk customers. I am careful not to ‘exploit’ my darling readers with attempts to get them to visit my shop too often. I work hard on providing interesting content for them that has nothing to do with my shops… guest articles, crafting tutorials, snap-shots of family life. I have links to my shops in the sidebar of The Magic Onions, so that a reader can visit them easily if they so desire, and I post photos of new items in my shops once in a while, but my shops are definitely not the primary focus of my blog. This model has worked very well and I am so very grateful to have found such a supportive and caring online community.

Describe your “zone.” What’s it like when you’re needle felting?

Needle Felting is the craft of using a sharp, barbed, needle to shape wool into any form. I start off with a fluffy clump of wool in my hand. By poking the needle into the wool, the barbs on the needle grab the wool fibers and interlock them with other fibers further within the wool. To make one of my creations takes, literally, thousands of pokes. It is pure pleasure for me. I took it up three years ago and have been utterly addicted ever since. I love the feeling of the wool in my hands… it is both rough and soft, all at the same time. I delight in the noise the needle makes as it enters the wool… a scrunching sound, like bubbles popping or raindrops hitting a tin roof. I love the colors of the wool. I dye a lot of my wool by hand and enjoy playing with the color until I find just the right shades. But my greatest love is translating an idea in my head into an object in my hand… it’s thrilling to watch a clump of wool take on a shape and then a form and then a distinct personality. Sometimes I start off with an idea but end up with something completely different and I marvel that creativity really does have a life of its own. I am smiling as I write this as it truly baffles my husband that I find needle felting exciting to the extreme!

 

A Thousand Drops of Sunshine from doviemoon.etsy.com

 

What inspired the start-up of your second shop, Dovie Moon?

I started Dovie Moon with a friend who has since taken a break to have a baby. Dovie Moon is full of my fine art photographs and vintage treasures. I have spent 20 years documenting our lives with photography. I have always been obsessed with the awe-inspiring beauty of nature and I feel compelled to capture little moments of beauty when I see them. Photography fascinates me… that I can see something outstanding today, something utterly breathtaking… and then pass right by the very same spot tomorrow and realize that the magic is no longer there… it was only there for such a fleeting moment, a moment that I have been lucky enough to captured in a photograph that I can pour over and marvel at. It’s a miracle to be able to catch magic!

My children, who are 7 and 4, have also inspired a series of fairy photographs. My kids love that we go hiking often, my camera over my shoulder, our fairies in my daughters’ ‘fairy bag’, in search of magical places for this series. I love it that they feel a part of what I do and that my ‘work’ can be a time of family discovery and fun.

I think vintage goodies are super cool and the items we list in Dovie Moon are special treasures my friend and I have found on our various treasure hunts. It is thrilling to own, and then pass on, such beautiful things.

What is your typical weekday like?

I would love to be able to list an organized and peaceful schedule of how I go about getting everything done. But, I am definitely out of my depths in this department! I feel constantly behind and scrambling to catch up. Many of us who are crafting a living from our art are also employed elsewhere, with just as many demands on our time and energy. I have two young children who I am determined to be present for and I struggle to find the strength and discipline to keep my shops from eating into the time we need together. There is always ‘just one more thing to do’… sigh! I am actively searching for the correct balance between the art, the business and the family.

A friend suggested working out how many hours I have to dedicate to my shops each day and scheduling work for each hour. The key is to be disciplined and move on to the next hour’s scheduled work when the hour is up. I think this might help me get a grip on the family/work/art balance… I’ll let you know if I discover the secret to this super-common hardship.

When I read the list of places you’ve lived, my jaw dropped! Not only is it an impressive list, I just missed being your neighbor in many of those locations! What prompted all of those moves in your life?

My husband, a New Zealander, was a professional rugby player… yes, rugby, believe it or not, was his paying job. It was a blissful time of our lives. He played rugby in South Africa, where we met and married. Then we were presented with the opportunity to play in breathtaking New Zealand, after that, gorgeous Ireland and beautiful England. We have at last put down our roots in sunny California. He transitioned from being a rugby player to a coach and was the assistant coach to the United States National Rugby team in their bid to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. He has since retired from rugby to focus on his construction business. He is my hero!

What place on Earth feels like home to you?

I have loved every place we’ve lived in. Each land has brought its own special gifts and we have been like culture sponges, soaking up all the locals have to offer. One connecting thread through all of the places we’ve been is how we have sought out the artistic community… art has been the calm place, the anchor. So, in answer to your question, everywhere has felt like home as art is everywhere. We are real little Gypsies, aren’t we.

 

 

I loved your blog, The Magic Onions. Please explain the “Discovering Waldorf” category—Waldorf education is new to me!

Waldorf education is another passion of mine and both of my children go to Waldorf schools. I connect with so many Waldorf philosophies but I think the one that is closest to my heart is their active nurturing of creativity. Children are encouraged to be creative and imaginative beings.  Creative, artistic and musical talent is regarded as highly as is academic talent. Kindergarten children do not learn to read or write. Instead they learn to paint and sew and play. And they learn through painting and sewing and playing. My daughter is now in First Grade and is picking up reading with such enthusiasm. She is also learning two foreign languages, she is playing the flute, she recites poems, sings songs and narrates stories, she knits, she sews, she weaves, she paints, she dances… all through the everyday Waldorf curriculum. Through all of this, she is still very much a child. She is not being rushed through childhood. We love that. The Waldorf mantra is ‘Head, heart and hands’… teaching targets those three aspects of the child equally. I host a weekly series on my blog called Discovering Waldof where a new Waldorf topic is discussed each week. It ‘s been a wonderful Waldorf resource, even for me.

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

My former self was an avid devourer of books. But these days I don’t get much time to read. I do listen to audio books as I work and, although it’s not quite the same as reading, it’s very, very close. The last audio book that moved me was The Alchemist – finding one’s personal legend and all that deep stuff rocks and inspires!

What makes you truly happy?

I am truly happy when I am out in open spaces with my husband and children… their wild hair and sparkling eyes make my heart sing with pure JOY!

Thank you, Donni. It’s been quite enchanting! Please visit Donni’s shops for more great products: Fairyfolk and Dovie Moon on Etsy. Until next time ♥

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