Tell us a little bit about yourself and how and when did you get started with arts and crafts?
Well let’s see, my name is Kelley Zdziarski, though most people call me either Elfie or Elf and I live on a Christmas tree farm in northern Oregon. I have always loved making things for as long as I can remember, whether it was mud pies when I was a really little girl, or building tables and bird houses with my Dad when I was about six. I wanted to become a toymaker after seeing a Christmas cartoon about Santa growing up and making a bunch of toys to give to all the little kids. I saw that when I was little and wanted to make toys like Santa. Hahahaha. On my seventeenth birthday my Mom and Dad got me a Waldorf doll kit from Magic Cabin and that’s how I got started making natural dolls and toys.
What is the main thing you make and sell in your store? What else do you make and/or sell?
My shop is kind of split right now between needle felted items and Waldorf style dolls. The needle felted animals are the main items right now, but I plan on having more dolls done soon. I also have crocheted balls and pouches made of wool yarn and some wood working things as well, it’s really a mix of everything.
Who if anyone has been instrumental in helping you hone your craft?
My Mom and Dad have always been very supportive of me, which has helped a lot. If it wasn’t for Mom showing me how to work the sewing machine, I probably would not be where I am right now. I am mostly self taught, I’ve learned how to make all the dolls and felted critters just from reading books.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Children’s books, old fairy tales, video games and nature are my biggest inspirations. I know, video games and Waldorf doesn’t seem to fit very well, does it? But there are a lot of lovely backgrounds in games and some of the cutest little critters as well. They are very fun to try and make.
What are your favorite materials?
Oh, I love working with wool. There are so many different colors to pick from, it’s just wonderful. I also love cotton velour; it is my favorite material for making dolls. Most of the velour I use is a high cotton content blend as it’s very hard to find it in 100% form, though I do have some of that as well.
What advice would you give other Etsy sellers and those interested in opening up a shop?
If you already have a shop, just keep at it even if sales slow down. Keep making more and more things, have a positive attitude and don’t be afraid to try new things and ask questions. Be willing to take constructive criticism to help you do better, and remember, you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
To those who are interested in opening a shop, I say go for it. Try and take pictures outside in natural light to get the best pictures possible. If you have questions or don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask. When things sell, try and ship them as soon as possible as customers really like a speedy delivery. Try and package things so they’ll be memorable, using tissue paper and ribbons so it’s like your buyer is getting a present in the mail. It’s more likely you will be remembered if you make the customer feel special, so include a thank you note as well to let them know you appreciate their business. And again, be willing to take constructive criticism to help you do better.
What advice would you give to beginners in your main craft?
Get as many books as possible. That is how I learned and I am still finding more and more things I didn’t know in books. From new techniques to patterns and different ideas, books are a wealth of knowledge and if you put the time into it, you can make so many different things just by reading about how to do it. Also, asking people who make the same things you make or want to make helps. They can give you wonderful pointers on things you may not have thought of or ways to make what you do better. Be willing to ask questions, that’s how we learn. ^_^
What is your Etsy shop address and name? Where else can we find you?
All of my dolls and toys can be found at Little Elf’s Toyshop at www.LittleElfsToyshop.etsy.com