Many artists feel like selling art on Etsy is kind of a mystery. How is it done? Can I actually sell my work there? How should I price my work? All that, and more, is answered in today’s interview with artist Alexis Winter!
Jules: Please tell us a bit about yourself:
Alexis: Hello! I’m Alexis Winter, a Visual Arts and Textiles teacher from Melbourne, Australia. I love creating things across a range of different mediums but have a particular penchant for illustrating and sewing.
Jules: When did you decide to take your art seriously?
Alexis: I’ve never really reflected on whether or not I was taking my art seriously, I’ve always created things for myself without considering how it fit into career or other people’s perceptions of value. When I was about 6 years old I found a whole stack of green paper in my Mum’s office and immediately set about creating a 16 page magazine about eggs. I didn’t even like eggs, but it had a cover page, a contents page, egg recipes, a pull out poster in the middle with egg characters that you could put on your wall. I went all out. So in saying that, I’ve probably been taking it seriously since the creation of that egg magazine.
Jules: I like that answer! How long have you been selling online?
Alexis: Since 2012. I remember it vividly because I opened the shop the day my first credit card arrived in the mail. It was a big day of firsts.
Jules: Did it take you a long time to sell your art in the beginning?
Alexis: My Etsy store was the byproduct of people writing to me through tumblr and asking me if they could buy prints of the illustrations I was posting. So when it came to opening the store I already had a few people that had requested certain items, however the initial rush was followed by a long quiet lull. Over time and through examining other successful accounts I developed techniques that optimised on the Etsy search engine and helped direct traffic to my store.
Jules: That’s great to know! I feel like a lot of artists think they have to start selling right away. But making art and sharing it via social media is a great way to get started, get experience and get feedback. How often do you add new artwork to your shop?
Alexis: I closed my shop during the school term due to my workload and re-open it in the school holidays for 2 weeks at a time. This time period is when I add new artworks and new items that I’ve been working on during the term after work or on weekends.
Jules: Do you have a social media strategy for driving traffic to your shop?
Alexis: In terms of social media the only account I have is an Instagram, so I utilise this to let people know when shop updates are coming up, if I am running a giveaway, or if I’m having a celebratory sale. Usually I will post in-process photos leading up to these events, accompanied by a time and date of the event so people can be prepared to participate. This way, even if people are living in a different time zone, they still have a heads up as to when the event is happening and can set an alarm to participate. This I find maximises the opportunity for involvement.
Jules: Do you drive traffic to your Etsy shop in other ways?
Alexis: Hashtags! On Instagram and my posts I utilise Etsy and illustration themed hashtags to enable the right audience to find my work. I know it seems really basic but it’s made a massive difference to the amount of traffic I get through to my store.
(Looking for hashtags for artists? Check out this blog post!)
Jules: Is there anything you find particularly challenging or frustrating about selling on Etsy?
Alexis: If you want to list an item that has several small different variations to pick from it can sometimes be hard to list more than one at a time, which can be tricky if you have many people wanting to buy it all at once because you have to sit there and keep re-adding it. But other than that, Etsy has been great for me, especially their search engine. It makes it easy for people to find you without you having to shamelessly promote yourself on the regular.
Jules: Do you remove any old art that doesn’t seem to sell as well?
Alexis: Once every 6 months I look at all the data and see which prints have done really well, and which have done poorly. If an item hasn’t sold at all during that time period, I usually replace it with something new. I also think it’s good to have a nice rotation of things so that when people click on your shop they’re seeing new things all the time.
Jules: That’s really smart! What advice would you give to artists hoping to sell their work online?
Alexis: Don’t under price your work, there is such tremendous value in the things that you create. Also, don’t be afraid to play the waiting game. It can take time for traffic to pick up and people to find you, but rest assured, if you keep at it, they will!
Jules: I completely agree! If you could collaborate with any other artist, living or dead, who would it be?
Alexis: Tom Waits! I had a dream that he asked me to illustrate the cover of his next album and it was the greatest dream I have ever had. I was also working as his gardener in this dream… it’s a long story.
Jules: Oh yeah! Tom Waits was on repeat in my printmaking lab in art school! What is your favorite music/song/band to listen to while making art?
Alexis: It depends on my mood. But lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins for fun creative vibes.
Jules: What is your favorite art movement/period of art history?
Alexis: That’s a really tough call to ask an Art teacher to make! If I was thinking of a movement that has impacted my own illustrations the most, I’d say Surrealism.
Jules: What/who/where inspires you most?
Alexis: Inspiration is everywhere! It might be in the shape of a hair stuck on your bathroom wall or a hilariously strange conversation overheard on the train. Everything can be a starting point, almost like a creative exercise “what can I do with this piece of information? How can I communicate this visually?”
Jules: Who is your favourite living artist? And do you own any of their artwork?
Alexis: This is a really tough question because I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends who are painters, illustrators, ceramicists, designers, photographers, musicians, the list never ends. However, if I had to pick, my friends The Pierce Brothers once wrote a song about me called ‘Thought of You’ and it is one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.
Jules: Who is your favourite artist to follow on Social Media?
Alexis: Tantri Mustika Ceramics (@tantrimustikaceramics) makes beautiful handmade ceramics wares! Her use of shape and subtle colour palettes are always visual treat!
Jules: How can my readers find you and your art online?
Jules: Final thoughts or words of encouragement for other artists trying to sell their work online?
Alexis: Give yourself permission to fail. Failing is no big deal, as long as you’re learning from each step it’s just part of the process. My failures have always taught me much more than my successes.
I couldn’t have said it better myself! Thanks so much to Alexis for sharing her insights with us here.
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