Monday, September 13, 2010

Crafter Profile: Sypria

This week we hear from Tara of Sypria (and Clean Sypria, Garden Of Sypria, and Felt Sypria). I stumbled upon her shops while searching Etsy and loved them so much, I had to include her in my Crafter Profiles!

Tara was recently able to leave her day job to concentrate 100% on her creative business, so hopefully any of you yearning to do the same can learn a bit from her interview below! Want more updates from Tara? Check her out on Twitter @CraftySypria.

Tell us a little about yourself… Where you’re from? Art background?

My name is Tara Fletcher-Gibbs, I live in North Little Rock, Arkansas in a wonderful little neighborhood with my wife Sarah and my two kitties, Leela and Fry. From taking fabric painting classes at Michael’s when I was around 6 years old all the way up to High School and spending 6 out of 7 classes in my senior year in the art department - I would say I’ve always been crafty!

The important stuff — where can people purchase your items?

I currently have four Etsy shops that I sell through frequently -,,, and Also, if you’re in central Arkansas I have my dryer balls and my more eco-friendly jewelry at The Green Corner Store on Main Street in the Quapaw Quarter.

Now on to the exciting stuff, you were recently able to quit your day job and concentrate 100% on creating and running your own business! How has this affected your creative process, your schedule, and your life in general?

It has been a blessing and a curse all at the same time! I think everyone dreams of being their own boss and escaping the rat race and now that I think I’ve accomplished that - I’ve never worked so hard in my life! I wake up thinking about crafts, I have to force myself to put down the tools and make something to eat even though there is SO much to do and then I have to somehow get to sleep at night with my mind tossing and turning ideas in my head! Though I have the freedom to take a break whenever I want and go to important events on the drop of a hat - you never, ever stop working. I’m going on vacation in about a month for a week in Florida and I have every intention of bringing the laptop and continuing on with business!

Why the name Sypria?

I’ve actually had that moniker for about 13 years now. Whenever I would play any kind of video game or computer name that was the name I chose (I found it in a baby name book and it is of Spanish origin, pronounced - Si-PREE-uh) and thus it just came naturally that I would use the name that everyone knew me by for my businesses.

Where do you find inspiration?

A lot of odd places actually. I love roaming around flea markets and just picking up trinkets and old outdated jewelry and trying to find another purpose for it. I like looking back at pictures of myself and friends when I was younger and try to tap into what I wanted to have when there wasn’t this kind of jewelry out there. I was always “different” when I was a kid and I want to give a voice to the youth of today through the jewelry I make so that they can express their unique selves like I tried to.

What are your favorite materials to work with?

That's like asking for your top five favorite movies when you’ve got five in sci-fi, comedy, horror, etc! However, I would probably say polymer clay and vintage jewelry. There are just so many things you can do with clay and though some vintage jewelry is beautiful in its own right - some of it needs a bit of an update!

Out of the items currently for sale in your shop, do you have a favorite?

I would have to say my ‘Flip-Cap’ Collage. My mother is an oncologist and she has everyone on her floor save all the caps that are flipped off medicine which would otherwise end up in a landfill and I’ve made collages and rings and garlands out of them. They’re so colorful it’s hard to think they people just throw away all that plastic!

What does your workspace look like?

As Niecy Nash from Clean House would say, “A hot mess!!” A have a wonderfully supportive wife who has let me take over a whole bedroom. Surrounded by shelves upon shelves of supplies and work areas lining two walls there are always ATLEAST ten projects going at once! I find my mind jumps from project to project a little too quickly for my taste so I’ve had to have separate areas for all of my interests so that I can leave in the middle of it, do some other project for a bit and then come back to it.

How do you advertise or promote your shop?

I am a craft show-aholic. In the months of August, September and October you can find me doing a craft show EVERY weekend. I also am lucky enough to live in a very creative and art loving community that supports local artists and we have events on the first Thursday, second Friday and third Friday of the month almost all year round so you can find me at those events as well. Other than that, it’s really word of mouth, I give out a business card with a coupon on the back to everyone I encounter who I think might be interested in what I make and with every order I also include a discount for repeat customers. I don’t blog. I just recently started the whole twitter thing and haven’t gotten into the swing of it - but I’m trying! I still have yet to figure out how to make a fanpage on Facebook!

I first stumbled upon your shop Sypria, but noticed you have a few more shops on Etsy as well. Can you tell us a little bit about those?

I have CleanSypria which is where I sell all of my Dryer Balls. They’re made from 100% wool and instead of using a conventional dryer sheet which contains chemicals and animal by-products you use these to soften your clothes and pull the moisture out to reduce the drying time - thus saving you money through your electric bill and having to buy those awful dryer sheets all the time!

I then have GardenOfSypria where I sell my more traditional jewelry which is inspired from being out in my garden and out in nature in general.

FeltSypria which has my jewelry made from felt (which is made from 100% post-consumer recycled bottles) as an eco-friendly alternative option for the fashionable at heart!

Can you remember a favorite childhood craft project?

I absolutely LOVED making friendship bracelets. I think I made more bracelets than I have ever had friends! I remember spending time at my Grandmothers up in the Ozark mountains for the summer and just cranking them out. My mother would pack my rainbow of DMC floss and I’d come back just beaming with pride at all the little bracelets I had made.

What have you found to be the most fun, and the most difficult aspects of running a creative business?

The most fun aspect would have to be just making whatever your little heart fancies. It is the most rewarding, therapeutic and empowering thing when you turn a little idea in your head into a simple thing that someone else can treasure for the rest of their lives - and get paid for it! My wife and I bought a house almost a year ago and it’s so thrilling to think that the things that I make are paying for part of this house. It really makes you think harder about how you live your life and why so many of us choose to continue with the rat race. The most difficult? You have to be the voice of EVERYTHING! You’ve got to be the receptionist, human resources, accountant, janitor, buyer, advertising department, auditor, shipping and receiver, president, CEO and all of the above! It can really be discouraging if you let yourself become too behind.

And finally, you are certainly doing things right to get to where you are with your business! Any advice you’d give to others who dream of turning their creative passion into a full time opportunity?

Don’t stop! There are so many factors into why things sell and why things don’t sell. You just have to be on top of things and research, research, research! Take wonderful pictures and be PROUD of what you do. If you’re just trying to make things like what everyone else is making, you’re not contributing to the creative world, you’re just muddling it up and setting yourself up for a disappointing downfall. Be unique and it will all eventually fall into place!

(interview has been edited)

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