I was taking a look at the TTAH archives, and reread the Designer Interviews from Bright Ideas Week. They were so wonderful, I've decided to make a habit of it: every Friday, I'll try to post a new interview with some of my favorite designers out there - obviously, it'll depend on their schedules as well as mine. Kicking off the new feature is the wonderful Sarah Ridgley, whose work you've seen on many blogs already, but has been kind enough to answer some of our questions with incredible insight!
Sarah Ridgley runs the lovely letterpress studio Sarah Ridgley Letterpress. She is based out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and was kind enough to share with us a little bit about herself, her process, and some of her favorite things.
What does your company sell?
Letterpress cards and coasters. I also do custom work like wedding invitations and baby announcements.
Who are your favorite visual artists or crafters?
I absolutely love Mandy of Belle and Boo. Her illustrations are delightful and they always make me smile.
What's your favorite food?
A perfect steak from Doe's Eat Place.
What's your favorite color?
Green, in all its glorious shades.
What's your biggest guilty pleasure?
Shopping at Anthropologie, I spend lots of hours and dollars there.
What's your favorite pastime?
I think my favorite thing would have to be cuddling in a blanket on the couch reading my favorite magazines (Domino, Martha Stewart Living, and Make).
Cats or dogs?
Pepsi or Coke?
Chocolate or vanilla?
Printed magazines or blogs?
Ohhh, I don't know. Probably printed magazines.
Where would you go if you had a plane ticket to anywhere?
Straight to India. I can't imagine a more visually stimulating place. I would love to wonder the markets and pick out amazing fabrics all day long.
If you were marooned on a deserted island, what three things would you be most desperate for?
My husband, bug spray, and my itouch with solar powered charger.
ABOUT SARAH'S BUSINESS AND CREATIVE PROCESS
What's your creative background?
I don't really have any formal training in "creative." I've been interested in fashion and design for as long as I can remember. I think most of my training came from studying magazines and books to develop a sense of what appeals to me.
What made you pick up crafting in the first place, and how did you learn to do it?
After I got engaged I started researching wedding invitations. That's when I first learned about letterpress printing. I started reading everything I could find to learn how the process worked and what you needed to get started, thinking I could figure it out and make my own invitations.
At that time, there were lots of presses available for cheap. I bought one in Memphis and my fiancée and I drove all night to pick it up. It was very exciting! Unfortunately, once I started teaching myself how to use it, I realized there was no way I would be proficient enough to print my own invitations in time. I called several local printers to see if they could help me, but most of them didn't even know what letterpress printing was.
So, I was completely on my own for learning. It was great though. I would spend hours out in our barn mixing inks and pulling prints.
What motivated you to turn your hobby into a business?
One afternoon at work (I'm an attorney by day) I discovered a link to Etsy. I started looking at all the shops, and I thought it might be fun to see if my designs would sell. So, I made a few cards and listed them. Once they started selling, I got hooked and decided to make my very own website.
What was your strategy for promoting yourself once you decided to start the business up, and was it effective?
I tried several different things when I first started up. I used Google Adwords (a waste) started a little blog (fun, but very time consuming) and put pictures on Flickr (my favorite!!). I also did a little mini-campaign where I went through tons of blogs and left comments. That way people could look up who I was and find my shop, and I wasn't too much in their face.
What are some of the lessons you've learned along the way? Is there anything you'd wished you'd known or thought of before taking the plunge?
Packaging was my biggest challenge. I had no idea what to do. I wasted a lot of money at first trying different ideas until I finally figured out what works for me.
Is there any particular advice you'd give someone interested in starting a crafting business, online or off?
Test your ideas on a few people (not relatives or close friends) first. I presented several card options to my coworkers before I listed anything. They were quick to tell me which ones were lame and would ruin me. *smile* Everyone should get a little criticism before jumping in there. It only makes us better!
Are there any other people in the independent design and craft community that you look to for inspiration or whose work you really admire?
Oh yes! I love Heather Bailey and all of her fantastic patterns. I also enjoy anything from Oh My Cavalier and Abela Bloom. I was very excited to have Trevor (from Abela Bloom) design some Christmas cards for me this year.
Do you have any big influences outside of the crafts community that have significantly impacted your work?
I lived in London for a year after I graduated college. After growing up in a small town in Arkansas, I was blown away by all the culture and opportunity that comes from living in a big city. I went to every museum I could find, and spent most Saturdays trolling down Portobello Road.
What's your favorite part of your design process?
My favorite part would be actually pulling the prints. It's exciting every time I get it all set up and the first perfect print comes through.
If you could pick up another craft, what would it be, and why?
I've always wanted to learn to sew. My mom gave me her old sewing machine, but I could never figure out how to get it threaded. I guess I use up all my patience when I print. If I do something else, I want it to be simple.
SARAH BECOMES THE BLOGGER
What are your favorite supply sites?
Owosso Graphics - they make my printing plates.
What's your favorite supply item?
My magnesium printing plates.
What's your favorite purchase you've ever made in the indie community?
I love this ring. I never take it off.
Thank you again, Sarah, for your time and patience! I hope everyone finds her answers just as interesting and insightful as I did!