Friday, March 11, 2011

Featured Crafter: Jessica Partain of Inedible Jewelry on Etsy

Please welcome Jessica Partain of Inedible Jewelry to our featured crafter party. With her sister, Susan, she creates teh kyootest (but inedible!) miniature foods and turns them into jewelry. Their items will appeal to all of us who love teeny-weeny cuteness. Count me in.

Your inedible food jewelry is adorable. What was the impulse to turn this artwork into a business?

Thank you! Susan and I have been sculpting our tiny foods since we were kids. We started out making foods for our dolls, and developed a passion for it. We kept making the minis, and decided they were better suited to jewelry than tiny tables.In 2006, we decided to try selling our pieces at the local Charlottesville City Market. The market is hugely thriving and a major social tradition on Saturday mornings- everyone goes to get fresh local veggies, locally-roasted coffee, and the fried-on-the-spot cinnamon sugar donuts. We were lucky to have such a great market that provides a lot of support to local artists, farmers, and food vendors.We set out a little table with just a few pieces, and immediately people connected with our work. From there, we built up slowly, and were lucky to have such great feedback from people each Saturday morning. I went full-time with the business in early 2007. Susan is part-time (she is equally passionate about her full-time job working for a non-profit up in DC.)

How long does it take you to make your items? Do you make them in batches?

Just like a real bakery, we do make most of our pieces in batches. There's burger day, cupcake day, etc. Each piece is assembled very much like its real-food counterpart. For example, when we make the burgers, we create the bun, the lettuce, the tomato, the patty, the melty cheese, and then assemble all of the pieces together. Then we make sure t
he bun looks nice and toasty and add the sesame seeds (each one made by hand!) on top. If you'd like to see how we make the burgers, we have a fun YouTube video.

Please describe for our readers a typical Day in the Life of a Fancy Fake Food Jewelry Maker.

Susan works full-time, so she does her sculpting after she's home from work and on the weekends.I'm full-time, so my day is all about the tiny food.

9.30a coffee, english muffin (with bananas and almond butter- yum!), email, a quick scan of Twitter and Facebook

10a to-do list for the day, print off any orders that need to be shipped, thank you notes

10.30- I flip on my Pandora happy mix and get sculpting

lunchtime- coffee, lunch, email, Twitter, Facebook, maybe flickr (especially if it's Wednesday, when I try to post photos of my works-in-progress)

1ish- sculpting, photography

3ish- finish up packaging orders that need to be shipped

4ish- post office run, and then head to the gym with my fiance, then dinner, something fun (Wednesdays it's always Modern Family, Thursdays it's often salsa dancing)

Later: I often head back to sculpting for a couple of hours after he heads to bed (he owns a coffee shop, so gets to bed early since he'd up around 5a).

After 10p, that usually means hoping that Hulu and Netflix have some great overly-dramatic shows to listen to in the background. A last check of email, Twitter, and Facebook, then I head to bed and read for half an hour or so.

What sort of networking and promoting do you practice? What do you recommend to others?

We're on Twitter, Facebook, and flickr, and have found all three to be great forms of networking online. I enjoy chatting about all things food and miniature, so those are the kinds of conversations I end up having. In real life, we're at a market or show once a week from April through December, so we meet lots of people. I recommend social networking o
nline only if you're interested in conversations with people. I love the Twitter chats about new foods or recipes, the Facebook comments about new work and how we could tweak it, and the flickr chats about beautifully photographed foods and crafts. They're the conversations I have in real life too.

The fifth question is always the same: what advice do you wish you had when you started your business?

1. Have an accountant set up your spreadsheets, or give you advice on setting them up before you begin selling. It's MUCH easier to just update them than do this retroactively. If you don't know the first thing about bookkeeping or spreadsheets, hire an accountant to do it for you- it's money well-spent, and not expensive.

2. Spend out. This idea comes from Gretchen Rubin, author of one of my favorite blogs, The Happiness Project. This doesn't mean spend ridiculous amounts of money on your business (I'm a huge advocate of growing slowly so as not to go into debt, but that's off-topic!). Rather, "spend out" means to not hold on to ideas for fear. Fear that you'll be copied, fear that you'll never have another good idea like this one, fear that you should "save" this idea for a specific time. Let that brilliant idea out into the world! Let people comment on the idea, see how they react to it! You'll clear that mental space where you were holding the idea, and the feedback will spur you to have 100 new ideas.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Jessica! Readers--what about Jessica's story inspires you?

1 comment:

  1. I love to see Jessica every week at the City Market in the Cville! I cannot wait until Spring!