Well Criated! I don't know about you, but after reading this interview myself, I started feeling like I really want to meet Sarah! Maybe someday we'll cross paths.
But for now, here's the interview!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family!
My name is Sarah! My parents (Robert and Debra) and I, have a small ranch in Olympia, WA. We have over 50 Alpacas, that are all like family. Each one has their own personality and we love them all (even the frisky ones like Gafeetza).
My Mom (Debra) and I run the "Well Criated" Etsy shop together. I do most of the Social Media, Design, and Advertising/Marketing for our shop. My mom and I do all of the felting, photography, and artwork together. My Dad (Robert) does all of our logistical work with herd sales, purchasing, breeding, and genetics research.
We also live with my boyfriend, Andrew, who takes care of all the hard farm work for us, and is currently working on developing an Alpaca game for our (currently under construction, but hopefully up soon) website!
Everything Alpaca!! Our goal is to become a source for Sustainable Art & Wellness products. We've just BARELY begun!
Right now in our shop we're focusing on Fiber Arts, unique Aromatherapy products, and Needle Felting Kits! We also sell Alpaca Yarn, Alpaca coats, and Greeting Cards and art prints (mostly featuring Alpacas)! Oh and I can't forget the "Paca Beans" - chocolate covered candies that look like... well... Alpaca poo. :)
In the near future, we'll be adding TONS more fashion and home decor items out of Alpaca! Plus more "Wellness" items, similar to the Aromatherapy pendants we currently sell. I can't say specifically what though right now - it's a surprise!!
As far as who does what... My mother and I do a lot of the work together! But generally I focus on the more abstract pieces (jewelry for instance), while she focuses on the more structured and realistic designs (such as our Animal Felt Kits).
How did you get started in your craft?
My mom and I have ALWAYS been creating, since I can remember. When I was a little girl we'd draw and paint together, as well as designing doll houses, and decorating my room (which mostly consisted of me stamping my spoiled little foot around, and my sweet mother making me all sorts of lovely things).
We still do painting, drawing, and interior design together - as well as pottery and clay sculpting! I also do beadwork, make jewelry, knit, and crochet. My mother has gotten into stippling, water color, and most recently... weaving!
We didn't get into felting though, until a few years ago. We've had Alpacas for almost 7 years now. But for the first 5-ish years, we'd just been hoarding the fiber and not doing anything with it! A few years ago, we finally started having it processed into yarn, roving, batting, etc. And that's when we discovered felting! We started out with Needle Felting, and now are getting into Wet Felting too!
I actually stumbled across it one day, completely by accident! My boyfriend (Andrew) started a Pandora Charm Bracelet for me last summer. I was searching for new beads for it, and a bunch of shops from Etsy came up in the search results. I created a user account on the SPOT, and have been absolutely HOOKED ever since!
Right now, I'm in the process of making two new websites for our businesses: Well Criated (the product line) and Alpacas at the Well (our ranch). Well... we needed an online venue in the mean time, so I suggested Etsy! And now our main store is there.
Do you have any inspirations, or someone you find especially inspiring to you?
Oh gosh, there are hundreds - maybe even millions - of things that inspire me! I'd have to say, that both my mom and I are particularly inspired by our Alpacas, the beautiful Washington (and Oregon) scenery, and the ranch lifestyle. With so much beauty around us, we find it difficult to NOT be inspired.... which sometimes works to our disadvantage, believe it or not!
We're on constant inspiration overload! Between the two of us, I'd say we generate at least 2-3 great ideas per day. So we're constantly dropping this and starting that.
When I DO hit a creative slump, all it takes is a trip to the bead store, fabric store, or craft store - a little spending therapy - and I'm RARING to go again! With my mom, it's all about the magazines!
This is one of the only aspects, in which my mother and I differ DRASTICALLY. I'm a free-spirited, direction-less, and sporadic creator! I start most projects without ANY plans at all for what the finished product is going to look like. I just start creating... And as the piece forms, I follow it, evolving along with the artwork. For me there is no right or wrong way... only art.
My mother on the other hand... is very specific about her creations. She always knows the precise end result of what she's going to create, well before she begins. When working on a new felt kit, for instance, she starts by printing off PAGES and PAGES of pictures. She studies the angles, textures, posture, habitat, and mannerisms, searching for the subject's essence. Only when she KNOWS that she can fully capture it's essence, will she begin.
What are some things you have done you think helped your business the most?
I think what's helped us the most (with our newly budding Etsy shop and the success of our Alpaca ranch for almost 7 years) is our mentality about customer service.
We don't believe it's enough to just slap up some products and send them out when (if) they sell. We believe in providing our customers with an EXPERIENCE, rather than just a product. We want people to come away from a transaction with us and think "WOW, they really know what they're doing"! WOW, I can't believe how nice this is! WOW, that was so nice of them to...!
When your goal in business is to make customers say "WOW", it opens up a whole new ball park. We believe that great photography, excellent customer service, accurate descriptions, and fast shipping are the BARE MINIMUM. We feel that those things customers deserve anyway, and if we want them to LOVE us and become life-long fans, we have to go above and beyond what customers are used to.
We offer free yarn samples, provide discounts for repeat customers, include thank you cards with orders, give surprise gifts to customers who purchase generously, and many MANY other fun things! When you surprise people, they react to you in the most amazing ways!
In a recent transaction for instance (where I was actually the buyer), the shop and I ended up with such a wonderful relationship, that she offered to set aside some fiber every time she dyes a batch, and send me samplers FREE of charge!
NEVER underestimate the impact that thoughtfulness and kindness can have on those you do business with!
Oh jeez, that's a tough one. I'd say (for both of us) our favorite would have to be our brand new Owl Felt Kit. He's VERY special, because we took turns working on him, so he's a combination of both of our creative processes.
He was made for the NonTeam Treasury Challenge (we won and wanted to provide an inspiration item that no one has seen before). But... it meant we had to whip him up in a day! So we took shifts at felting. :) And the result was incredible! He's our favorite feltie yet!
Do you attend art and craft fairs/shows often?
We haven't in the past, but we're starting! Our first show is Alpacapalooza in Vancouver, WA.
After that, we plan on attending shows as vendors MUCH more regularly. Many of our products are very sensory-oriented. They're ultra-soft and smell INCREDIBLE, so we feel that having the in-person experience will be wonderful for getting our name out there and building our business.
Honestly, there is WAYYY too much advice out there, to just leave you with just ONE thing... well except the ULTIMATE piece of advice... and that would be how to get MORE advice! :D
Find an experienced, friendly group of people (such as a Team on Etsy), where you can get UNLIMITED amounts of advice and support! Find a team, get involved, promote yourself AND your teammates at the same time, and they'll get involved with YOU back.
I started my own team actually, because I noticed there weren't any Alpaca teams on Etsy! And even though I'm the "Captain" I ask questions and get help from my teammates CONSTANTLY. Just remember to ALWAYS reciprocate friendliness and promotions, and you will always find people happy to help you and give you advice, advice, advice!
Sheesh, I don't know if I can remember the last vacation we took! Hah! Luckily, living on a ranch with 50 gentle wonderful Alpacas, I can take a mini-vacation whenever I want! I just go for a stroll in the back pasture, or hang out and listen to them hum and laugh at the babies playing king of the hill.
When we DO get time to go on a vacation - anywhere along the Washington coast, along the Puget Sound, or up in the San Juans, is ideal! We're a road-trip kind of family. Taking a drive up north, and seeing what little fun town we end up in, is the best!
Where else on the web can we find you?
Actually... funny story... Our websites are under construction. :( But SOON, you'll be able to find us at:
Also, you can check us out on Facebook and Twitter! We are very friendly, and are happy to Like/Follow you back!
Gosh, I think I've already told you all of our fun facts!! So... I'll leave you with a funny story. :) It's better from my mom's point of view though, so I'll let her tell it!
"My daughter (Sarah) and I were out scooping poop together. Sarah was about... 16 at the time.
I was raking away, pretty absorbed in the task at hand. Then out of the blue Sarah bent down in front of a pile of 'paca poo. I looked over. She grinned at me and held out her hand. In it were little brown beans... I was mortified! I told her to put it down immediately. I couldn't believe she picked those up!
And then... She put them in her mouth! And... ate them.
I was SO disgusted, but she just kept laughing and laughing at me. Once her fit of laughter was over, she finally showed me that they were just chocolate covered coffee beans - not poop at all.
And the best part... is that it led us to the idea of selling chocolate covered candies in tin pails, so they look like Alpaca beans! And now YOU can actually find "Paca Beans" in our Etsy shop, to gross out your friends and family too! Haha!"
Thank you for sharing with us Sarah! Such a fun interview!