Monday, April 14, 2014

Behind the Virtual Storefront: Interview with Etsy Seller SarahYoung5

I've been a seller on Etsy for almost seven years (!) When I first started my online shop, Sprout Head, I thought it was a way for me to quit my day job and just focus on art. Well, seven years later it is still only supplemental income -which I'm grateful for - but not enough to live on... yet. I've been doing quite a bit of thinking about my various art businesses, as you might've already read in my previous post. Earlier this month, I taught a workshop on Etsy Seller Basics at the VMFA Studio School, and I wanted to give workshop participants an inside glimpse of the business aspects of Etsy sellers working in various media. I interviewed some Etsy sellers and would like to share some of their insights with you as well!

I plan to make these interviews a running feature on my blog, called "Behind the Virtual Storefront." There are many people out there who currently run an Etsy shop or want to start their own businesses, so I hope this will be helpful to them. For those who don't, I hope you just enjoy looking at fabulous art and reading what these awesome artists and sellers have to say!

For my first interview, I have chosen Sarah Young, of the Etsy shop SarahYoung5. She is an artist, puppetmaker, and printmaker who lives in Brighton, England. I first discovered Sarah's art as examples in the book "The Printmaking Bible: The Complete Guide to Materials and Techniques" by Ann d'Arcy Hughes and Hebe Vernon-Morris.

Interval by Sarah Young - Vinyl cut
I fell in love with her print, "Interval" - isn't it beautiful? Her work is whimsical and full of fantastic patterns and colors. Read on!

Sarah Young

1. Please describe your Etsy shop and your personal outlook as a seller.

My Etsy shop sells mostly tea towels that you can cut out and stuff to make cushions, toys or doorstops or use just as tea towels. I also sell hand printed relief and silkscreen prints and some digital prints.

2. What is the greatest challenge/strength of selling your category of items on Etsy?

I think it helps that my tea towels have more than one use, are light, (very postable) and are quite cheap.

3. What is your most popular item and why do you think it's a bestseller?

I think it is Felix the fox, closely followed by Hester [the Hare]. I think it's a strong design, and foxes have been 'in', very popular for some time now!

Felix the Fox Tea Towel / Cloth Kit - A silkscreen design by Sarah Young

4. Are you a full-time Etsy seller, and if not, approximately what percentage of Etsy revenue makes up your total income?

No, I do a lot of other things. Difficult to say, but maybe 30%. It's definitely been very helpful, and has got us through some very lean periods!

5. How do you see your shop growing in the future, and what changes would you make to achieve your goals?

I'd like to see it as an outlet for new ideas/products. Hopefully alongside good selling work as well. Though hopefully the two aren't mutually exclusive! I have to do the work, but also I haven't devoted very much time to understanding how to use Etsy in the best ways. The classic problem of too busy working but not enough time understanding how or being able to promote or sell. I would like the prints to do better and have recently put up a series of small alphabet silkscreen prints, so will be interested to see how they are received. I will be putting ceramic work up in the future also, but I'm not quite sure whether to have a separate shop or put it all together.

B is for Bonfire- Alphabet Silkscreen Print

6. Where does most of your customer base come from? Do you make targeted efforts to promote your shop?

UK and USA mostly. I do treasuries now and again but that's about it. I need an elf.

7. Do you sell your work at other venues online and/or at a physical location? How does Etsy compare to other venues?

Yes, art fairs, galleries, shops and my own website. They all seem to work well together. They help promote each other.

Hester the Hare Tea Towel / Cloth Kit - A silkscreen design by Sarah Young

8. What is the best part of running your Etsy shop? Most difficult part?

The potential for getting seen by such an amazingly wide audience, being able to have interaction with your customers/ people who like what you're doing/ fellow Etsy sellers. Although this has all been online, so far, for me, I think some of the little bits of contact or encouragement have been really lovely. It's not faceless and you don't feel alone, even if you feel you use only a tiny amount of Etsy's potential.

9. Has running an Etsy shop helped you find other opportunities besides direct Etsy sales?

Quite a few shops and galleries have approached me via Etsy.

10. What advice can you offer to first-timers who want to sell on Etsy?

I don't feel I'm in a very good position to give advice as I haven't done all the things I'm sure I should be doing with Etsy. But do your own thing, from the heart.
Probably keep it simple, though I don't! 
Try to make it a personal experience for your customers, it does take more time, but I usually just feel quite grateful that they want some of my stuff!

11. Anything else you’d like to add?

I know it has changed peoples' lives for the better, and I think the people behind Etsy can't ask for anything more wonderful!

* * *
Thanks for joining Sarah and I today! I'll post more interviews soon! 
xo aijung


  1. This was a great read! I loved that you have a hare named Hester, I hope she is inspired by the book series His Dark Materials--I'm re-reading the third one right now!

    1. No, I wasn't! Just liked the name, but since so many people have mentioned the other Hester, I'm now reading them!
      All the best

  2. Play is inherently social, providing a platform for building and strengthening connections with others.