Happy Tuesday friends! I’m so excited to have the lovely Sarah from Once Again Sam with us on the blog today. She’s a local Greenville artist that I’ve run into at a few shows around town. I have loved learning a little bit more about her and the handcrafted process behind her beautiful creations. She uses a lot of felt just like I do for my Yellow Elm accessories, but Sarah’s process is a little different than the wet felting used to make Yellow Elm that I’ve discussed here on the blog before…read on to find out more :)
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Sarah, the brains and busy hands behind Once Again Sam, a handmade business where I make and sell recycled leather jewelry and quirky fiber art I like to call “Felted Curiosities.” I have a BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art in Environmental Design, and for the last seven years I’ve worked as an interior designer in commercial architecture.
Is there anything special behind the name “Once Again Sam”?
When I got married, my initials became SAM, and I thought having a name within a name was kind of novel, so I adopted that as my online alias. The Once Again relates to my use of recycled material. I scoop up old leather garments at Goodwill (always ugly, always cheap), plus upholstery scraps from the furniture industry, then give them new life “once again” in a whole new way.
What made you decide to start your own business?
My super awesome supportive and thoughtful husband. He had been buying me gifts on Etsy, his secret source, for quite sometime before he finally gave in and told me about it. I’ve always been a maker, and honestly, I was making way more jewelry than a simple girl like me could ever wear just because I loved making it, so it seemed opening a shop was the perfect solution. Selling things is quite a handy way to clear out things so you can make new things. Fact!
Can you tell us a little more about the techniques you use, like needle felting and leather cutting?
Needle felting is one of those ultra time consuming crafts, but you can make absolutely anything, so it’s highly addictive. I took a Fibers course in college and learned wet felting techniques, but when a friend / neighbor introduced me to the art of turning wool roving into solid felt by using a barbed needle, I was immediately hooked. Felting is really simple, all you have to do is layer the wool and poke the specialized needle into it over and over to agitate the fibers so they stick together, and the rest is just making it up as you go, building mass, adding detail. As for the leather, up until recently I did all my designs and cutting by hand, but now that I’ve invested in a laser cutter, and I’m already used to working in AutoCAD from my career as a designer, I’ve been able to push the leather jewelry designs much much further with the level of detail. Gotta love the marriage of technology and crafting.
What is your favorite product to make?
Leather earrings, because they can be bold in size but still weightless. For the felting, I really love making monsters because they usually have ridiculous looking boggle eyes staring back at me and snaggle teeth grinning away. I used to enjoy making the anatomical hearts the most, but now that I’ve sold almost 400 of them in the last 6 months, I’m a little sick of them. The curse of a best seller … not gonna complain, just hoping something else (anything else) gets popular soon!
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. I was at a hardware store the other night and passed through the aisle with the vent covers and got an idea for a cuff with some funky geometric cutouts. My eyes are always open, there’s cool stuff everywhere and most of it isn’t even trying to be cool.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to open an etsy shop?
Make what you love and what you would want to buy. And, most importantly, give it time. When I first opened my shop in 2009, it was depressingly slow, I think I made just $16 in my entire third month, but I hung in there and it’s been well worth it. Not only is it a steady source of income now, I’m having a blast and it never really feels like work.
You’ve done a great job spreading the word about Once Again Sam. Do you have any marketing tips you could share for promoting your shop products and attracting press?
Well, I’m glad to hear that because I think marketing is by far my weak spot. I’m incredibly shy about telling people what I do. In fact, I purposefully avoid wearing my own jewelry most of the time because I dread someone saying “Hey, nice earrings, where’d you get those?” since my answer would be to turn red in the face. I need to get over this! I think happy Etsy customers and local indie craft appreciating folks who are far more outgoing are the ones spreading the word about Once Again Sam with zero bribery involved, so I owe them a HUGE thank you. I guess if you make something unique, price it well, and take good customer service seriously, a business can’t help but grow.
What interests do you pursue outside of your jewelry and felt-making?
I love to read and my love of fiction got me into writing it as well. In February of this year my debut novel called Celia on the Run was published as an ebook by Untreed Reads. I’m also a huge fan of old dusty crap, vintage photography, and naps.
Do you have a favorite place to eat or shop in Greenville?
*And here’s something super exciting that Sarah has offered exclusively to Yellow Elm readers: 25% off an order from the Once Again Sam etsy shop with the code YELLOWELM. I’m heading there now to pick out my item! Coupon will expire on July 31. Happy shopping!* xx