Jun 23, 2010

A little Jane Austen, perhaps?

Hi readers! Today I'd like to introduce you to Brooke - a talented California woman who works with her husband to create the amazing-ness that is the Etsy shop Brookish

How did you get started with your Etsy shop? When did it change from being a hobby to being a full-time business?
I was ecstatic that such a place as Etsy existed, and started to buy stuff (with great restraint). I'm an artist by trade and crafty/creative, so once I got comfortable with Etsy, opened shop and listed some earrings and crocheted beanies. I thought it would be a fun hobby, and maybe make a few bucks on the side, but sold very few items the first year or so. I was very discouraged, and let my shop just sit there without adding new items, and rarely checked in. After looking at other shops and treasuries, I realized my photos were terrible! I got a new camera and learned how to use it. When my photo quality improved, my items started getting put in Etsy's gift guides and trreasuries, and sales picked up considerably. I was making enough for our monthly groceries, which was fantastic; I really didn't think it could get better than that. Then suddenly, and strangely, a "fluke" of a busy day turned into a full-time gig. My shop took off last summer, which was perfect timing, as we just moved, my husband's job fell through due to the economy, and I was pregnant with our second child. It was way more than I could handle by myself being pregnant and taking care of a 2-year-old, so I am thankful Justin was available to become a part of Brookish! Since August 2009, we've been consistently busy enough for this to be our sole income.

 Most of your shop is inspired by Jane Austen - how do you come up with new items?
I never intended to have a specific niche. My plan was just to list whatever I felt like making at the moment. All my Jane Austen items were gifts for my fellow Pride and Prejudice-obsessed friends and family. They were so well-received that I decided to put them in my shop to see how they'd do. Pretty soon that's all I was making. Basically, I'm just always thinking of things I want in my life (that I haven't seen made by anyone else), and make them (like: I NEED a mug with an obscure Jane Austen quote on it!). As it turns out, other people want to buy them, too - what a concept! The screen-printing came about in a funny way: Justin learned the skill to fill the need (thanks YouTube tutorials!). I wasn't impressed with any Jane Austen-inspired shirts out there, and I wanted one. Same thing with P&P dishtowels, I couldn't find a single one online! I try to stay fresh with new ideas and see what sticks.

What's your favorite piece right now? Does this ever change?
The screen-printed baby onesies with the handwritten Mr. Darcy proposal quote is my current favorite, because my little girls can wear them. I'm usually in love with whatever is new in my shop, because the whole process is so exciting. Oh, and I love the text-covered clothespins (I use them as chip clips), but I only offer those when I have more time on my hands to make them.

Can you explain your process of making your pieces?
The mugs are a process of writing the quote with a ceramic pen, cure for 24 hours, then bake for 40 minutes or so - all made-to-order. It was so awkward to write on mugs for a long time, but now I have it down so they look consistently the same. The custom mugs are a little tricky since I have to make a mental layout, but I'm always well-pleased with the outcome. We then put on handmade tags and wrap in brown paper and string, simple and lovely. Justin turned my handwriting into a screen for the shirts and towels, and he built a little station in the garage. The towels have to be painstakingly ironed first, so they aren't any creases during the printing. Justin does all the ironing since he's a perfectionist and has deemed very ironing skills as poor (he's right). He irons in the office with the music blasting - very therapeutic, he says. Screen-printing seems very exact and methodical, especially with our humble hand-built set-up. I have no idea how that process goes, except that I hear a lot of neat high-pitched squeegee noises, a cappella singing, a hair dryer and occasionally some swearing (those towels end up in my kitchen). I'm so impressed at Justin's work; it's most excellent.

You and your husband run Brookish - is he the business end and you create or do you both share the responsibility?
I run the business end as far as keeping the shop running, photos, most editing, processing orders, label-writing and customer service. I write on the mugs, he does the screen-printing and we both wrap and package up orders. Justin does all the post office runs at the end of the day. He deals with business as relates to purchasing supplies, and does a lot of driving to get them during the busy seasons. Most importantly, we both get to be home with our little girls and make our own hours; while one of us is working, the other is taking care of them. There's a lot of multi-tasking going on. We love our job!


If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
Chocolate/vanilla swirl frozen yogurt with plain M&Ms

What do you think readers? Don't you just love her designs? Have any of you ever ordered anything from Brookish? Be sure to check out her Etsy shop here!

(All photos courtesy of Brookish)

8 comments:

Diana Mieczan said...

I love love love her and their designs..Thanks for that beautiful post:) Its so cool to read all about her:)
Kisses darling and have a great day!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Wow - what a cool shop! And how inspiring to read about someone who took an interest/hobby and turned it into a full-time family gig! Awesome!

Diana Mieczan said...

Btw: I did a post about her beautiful cup a few weeks back:)....Kisses

Mandy said...

What a fun shop! I love her mugs. I also love the fact that the situation is one that they do full time from home.

Gracie (Complicated Day) said...

Ok, I have to have that mug stat. Perfect gift for a sister or close friend!

Kyla Roma said...

What a cool shop! I love how the internet makes so much space for these niche businesses :)

Great interview, thanks so much!

Brittany said...

*Gasp* Thank you for sharing this! Love. This. Mug.

Emily Jane said...

What a great little shop! Love it all - now I'm going to go looking for a Chaucer shop :)

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