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Meet Kari Chapin, Author of The Handmade Marketplace

by Jean Van't Hul
May 10, 2010


Kari Chapin is a crafter, stylist, and author of The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online. This awesome book just came out and
will surely guide many in setting up or improving their crafty businesses!

Cover ***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a copy of
The Handmade Marketplace at the end
of this interview.

JEAN: First, can you tell us what it feels like to have your book out there?

KARI: Let's see… how does it feel to have my book out there? Incredible! I was so nervous before it was released. I mean, SUPER NERVOUS. It is really scary to put yourself out there like that and make yourself open to criticism and negative reviews. Writing is really personal, even when you're not writing about a personal topic.

I kept experiencing these funny little milestones along the way that really built up the excitement for me. Like getting the pages from my publisher, then seeing it available for pre-order on Amazon… When my actual book came in the mail, my advance copy, I couldn't even open the envelope! Then there was seeing it in a bookstore for the first time, and then being at the library when someone was checking it out–all of these things feel really surreal to me. It feels really good to know it's out there on people's nightstands and in their backpacks. But it's a lot of responsibility too. I am so glad people are enjoying it.

JEAN: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself as
a crafter?

KARI: Well, I've been making things for as long as I can
remember. I'm a bit of a hodgepodge crafter, meaning I enjoying trying all
kinds of things. If I had to stick to just a few kinds of crafts for the rest
of my life, I would probably pick embroidery, crochet, and collage. I craft to
release stress and reconnect with myself. Sometimes the things I make are
useful, sometimes they are just decorative, and sometimes they are awful.
Still, I enjoy it all. The planning, the collecting of supplies, the making
space to make–every part of it (except the clean up!) is enjoyable to me.

Crochet I am currently taking crochet classes at my local yarn store, WEBS, in
Northampton, Massachusetts. It has been really amazing for me to learn what
stitches are really called and how they work together. I learned to crochet
when I was in the 4th grade, from a teacher, and I've kept it up since then–but in my own Kari-kind-of-way. I never really knew exactly what I was doing or
why it worked. I couldn't read patterns or make anything that wasn't some sort
of square or rectangle. Having an incredible teacher has really helped me dig
deeper into my crochet work and making something as simple as a circle or a hat
makes me feel so good! The lessons were a treat to myself and I'm so glad. Much
better than another pair of shoes!

JEAN: I wish I had read The Handmade
a couple years ago when I had my Etsy shop!  It is such a
wonderful combination of how-to and inspiration. What led you to write such a

KARI: I was working as a buyer in a small home goods boutique and
I was adding a lot more eco-friendly and handmade goods to our stock. Etsy was
new on the scene and I was using it as a resource for finding product. I would
send requests to artists and crafters I found via Etsy and I soon found that
they had lots and lots of questions about selling their work to me as a
shopkeeper. People wanted to know why I wanted to see an example of their work
before I ordered it, or they wanted to know how to price for wholesale, or they
wanted to know why I would need different photos… soon I found myself writing
long and lengthy emails, explaining these things and more, and after awhile,
the idea of the book came to me. It wasn't until much later, after the owner closed my store and I found myself unemployed, that I thought
about writing a book.

Button embro I wanted to write a book that addressed all of the kinds of questions sellers
had been asking me when I worked in that shop. I wanted to help and inspire
people at the same time. I have a pretty strong background in marketing and
public relations and I've read lots of books on those topics. While I always
learned something, reading them always felt a bit like a chore. I really wanted
someone like my sister to understand and relate to what I had to say, as well
as my grandmother or the creative teenager next door. I wanted boys and girls
to find value in the book and I tried hard to write to all of those

I really believe that anyone can do
anything if only they have the right tools. I'm not saying that The Handmade Marketplace has all of the
answers, but I hope that is it approachable and understandable to people no
matter where they are in their selling journeys. I wanted a book that helped
people learn and made them feel good at the same time. My greatest wish for The
Handmade Marketplace
is that it not only provide useful business advice, but
also courage, inspiration, and community. 

JEAN: I love how you mixed in tips from your “Creative Collective!” You were
really able to mine the experiences of some amazing crafters and bloggers. And
it’s nice to hear the different voices and viewpoints in the book as well. What
was it like working with your Creative Collective?

KARI: It was amazing! Every single
person featured in The Handmade
is someone that I admire for one reason or another. I wrote to
people whose work I support, whose things I buy, and whose blogs I read
regularly. A central theme in the book is community and I really wanted to
include those whom I consider my community. If your work hangs on my walls, and
your words are in my blog reader, than I consider you a part of my circle. So
even though I wasn't "friends" with many of the people featured in
the book, I felt a connection to them nonetheless. Some people I know in real
life and some people are on my friend "wish list" if you will, but
they all mean something to me and I felt like if they had captured my heart and
engaged my brain in some way, then advice from them could do the same for

I conducted most of the interviews by email and a few over the phone. It was
really hard for me to comb through their interviews and decide what quotes
would make it into the book – in fact it was truly the hardest part for me. I
wish I could have published a book of just interviews! In fact, I love those
interviews so much that I'm going to post them on my website throughout the
summer. A ton of good stuff had to be cut from the book and these people truly
had so many good things to say!

Coffeeshop work

JEAN: Ooh! I can't wait to read those interviews!

Okay. Next question. Your viewpoint in The Handmade
seems to be that the modern crafter or artist should have a web
presence whether a blog, an etsy site, or a strong Facebook or Twitter presence
(or all of the above!). It seems that we look to our favorite crafters not just
for a product to buy but also for entertainment, inspiration, and how-to. Can
you talk about the importance of using the web to share both your crafts and,
sometimes even more importantly, who you are?

KARI: Oh good question, Jean! Such a
big question too! Let's see… I think the web is one of the best tools anyone
has to help them do anything they might want to do. Whether you are trying to
sell what you make or just make dinner, chances are you can find what you need
to do it online. Need a new way to use a familiar ingredient? Look online. Need
to research which toothbrush is the best? Want to book a flight for your
vacation? Do an online search. Why in the world would we overlook the Internet
when it comes to other needs we have, like being inspired or making some cash?

I live in a small town and I'm new here. It is kind of hard to make friends,
but with the Internet I can connect with people, my community, everyday and I
feel a little less lonely. Sharing yourself, as much as you are comfortable
with, is a great way to not only reach people, but to reach out as well. When
you share your stories or processes or what you do everyday you offer so much
to others. Anyone can find you and anyone can learn from you, grow along with
you or help you.

Please That being said, maintaining an online presence can be a bit of a time
commitment and it's not for everyone. Like anything else you do in your life,
you get out of it what you put into it. I just think it is important not to
overlook any tool that might help yourself to be more successful and the
Internet is one such tool.

You should never share more than
you're comfortable with and you should never do anything that doesn't feel
right. I don't think that a person has to take advantage of all of the tools
the Internet has for you to build an audience or reach out to people. If you
hate FaceBook, by all means, don't use it. There is so much out there, that
finding the right combination of social networking, blogging, online
advertising, or what-have-you is a really personal choice. Explore what will
work best for you and then go with it.

When it comes own to what you share about yourself personally, your private
life, let your comfort zone be your guide. If you only want to discuss your
crafting, then only discuss your crafting! The great thing about the Internet
is that beyond common courtesy rules, there are no rules. You can define your
online presence and you can make up what your online life/commitment looks

Need help figuring out what that might be? Take note of the places you visit
online and what you find of value there. Do you enjoy blogs that talk about
families? Dogs? Quilting? Do you follow people on Twitter who talk about
coffee, books or pottery? Take some cues from the places you visit as you begin
or enhance your own online journey.

JEAN: Thanks, Kari. If you could give readers just one tip for making a crafts business
successful, what would it be?

KARI: Oh just one thing? Ha, I don't
think I can narrow it down today.

Break out the cheese dome and crackers, because my answer to this is like a big
homemade cheese ball and it's not very ground breaking. In fact, I'm sure
you've heard it before… BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. I don't mean to get all new
age-y on you here, but seriously, if you believe in yourself you can do
anything, including running a successful crafts business. Now if you get that
part down, you be 3embroider lieve that what you make has value, it makes you happy to make
it and you believe that people will want to buy what you make, then you're on the
road to success my friend.

After that you should decide what
you want to get out of going into business. I don't mean setting goals here,
although that can be helpful, I mean really
deciding on what you want. You can
be as basic and dreamy as you want here. Do you want your crafts business to
make you happy? Pay for your family's annual vacation to your favorite lake?
Provide you with a reason to get some alone time? Allow you to buy a new car?
Do you want to be able to afford a new sewing machine or do you want to be able
to quit your job as a successful heart surgeon and support yourself from your

Once you know what you want your end result to be, you'll be able to be
successful. You'll be able to set goals and then work towards them.

Sorry – I know that is more than one thing!

JEAN: Will you share a few of your favorite blogs?

KARI: I love blogs and all they
have to offer. The list of websites for all the members of the folks featured
in the Creative Collective are in the book, so I would encourage you to start
there. I find inspiration in all sorts of places and so not all of my favorite
blogs are craft related, I'm sure you understand!

Make and Meaning – I love this newer blog. The discussions and essays that I find here are so good
that I save up reading them. I find just as much value in the comments as I do
in the posts. Lots of good food for thought and motivation.

Attic 24
– This is the best crochet blog I read. It's not always about crochet, but I love
the balance between crochet projects, family and decorating. I would love to
take a vacation in this woman's warm, colorful home.

Betz White – Betz blurbed my book, its true – and I would count her as an online friend.
However, I love her blog just the same. She is always off on some creative
adventure and I just simply adore everything about her – including her
wonderful books.

Project Rungay – Um, if you spend 10 minutes with me, you'll soon know that I love Project
Runway and these guys provide me with all the extra Project Runway love that I
need. I also love all of the general fashion commentary. It breaks up my day –
I often save reading this blog for when I need a reward or a mental break from

doe-c-doe – Beautiful photography. Amazing thrift store finds. Embroidery. Enough said.

Eating From the Ground Up – The woman who writes this blog lives
locally to me, and we've met a few times, although I don't think she would
remember me. Her writing is solid and her topics are so great. She can teach you
how to make your own Oreos (!!!) and so much more.

The Birth of Drift – This blog is written by an
incredibly talented young woman. She wrote to me right after The Handmade Marketplace came out and
told me how much she enjoyed the book. I checked out her blog and it turned out
that she was just beginning to embark on a huge selling-what-she-makes kind of
Signingbooks adventure. She is so detailed in what she is doing and I love every word she
makes. I love that she found my book helpful–when she first wrote to me, I
cried. I wrote my book hoping to help people just like her and hearing
from her was like confirmation that my dream of writing the kind of book I wanted
to had come tr

JEAN: Yay! Okay, is there anything else you’d like to add?

KARI: Yes! I really love hearing from people who have learned
from or found my book useful. And I have been lucky to get lots of mail. I've
had some requests for more information on all kinds of business related topics
and so to hopefully help people with their crafty business dreams even more,
I'm starting to teach e-courses. If you think you might be interested in
checking them out, you can find out all about them on my website,

JEAN: Thank you so much, Kari!


Readers who leave a comment by Wednesday, May 12th at 12 midnight EST will be entered into a random drawing for a copy of Kari's The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online.

The random number generator picked #5, so congratulations to Shanna for winning the book!

I actually
had enough alone time to read the entire interview! Great interview
and the book sounds awesome!!

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