Who ARE James and Birdy really? "Birdy is a knitter and designer. She was recently featured in Knitty (http://www.knitty.com) with her flit-n-float scarf. James is the designer and crafter of our line of Duals Use Notions for Fiber Artists." Now, if you are not a knitter you may be asking yourself just what are stitch markers? (I know I was!) James explains it quite well, "Our Dual use stitch markers are designed using leverback earrings, so they make great earrings. We have some of our knitters that say they use them as much as earrings as they do in their projects. It also comes in handy when your knitting and find you need a stitch marker but can't find one. Pop there it is, in your ear. They are also usable in crochet projects. Someone even told us they used it as a cabling needle for a small cable and they couldn't find theirs. So in reality they are more than dual use, but I just like the sound of that! We also have dual use row counters that are still a bit in development, that can also be worn as necklaces or bracelets. Also still in it's testing phase are our new Dual use stitch holders. which are also wearable as a necklace, and will be in coordinating designs with our stitch markers. As we like to say, 'They're not just jewelry for you, they're for your knitting too!'" Birdy and James launched Birdy's Knits Website about 2 years ago with just knitting patterns, then added the stitch markers one year ago.
Birdy home schools their two children while James works a full time job to take care for life's' un-fun necessities and then comes home to work on all the marketing, promoting and 'business' details of running a handmade business--something many people take for granted! As James says, "There are lots of things that go into all of that, that people don't realize. Like the emails that need to be answered about products. The website changes that need to be made. The listing of the items. The pictures that need to be taken, oh don't get me started on pictures. Then there is the promoting, if you are tring to do that on a budget, then it takes loads of time to get into forums and on chat threads talking up your products. I spend about 6-8 hours a day working on just the business, and that's on top of the 10-12 hour days at the FT job, so I could use like 6 more hours a day, 4 more for family and 2 more for sleep."
Time crunch seems to be something most handmade artisans face! It is one of the main answers I get when asking artisans what their top challenges are. Along with the time challenge, James and Birdy find themselves with the obstacle of "getting your products known." James explains, "We started our business 2 years ago, with just some of Birdy's Patterns. We then expanded to our Dual Use Stitch Markers about a year ago. We got some traffic but not a lot. We didn't know how to market online. So this year we are working on expanding our marketing for our products. We started with finally listing on Etsy this year in late January, and then we started searching our Handmade venues to sell on. So we added ArtFire, Shophandmade and MadeItMyself. For us it's all about getting our products in front of people. After reading several forums and blogs we have been discovering different ways to get your name known, and we continue to work on those. The other obstacle that we have placed on ourselves, is that we refuse to go into debt to make this work. So we are funding this business on it's own funds. I work a special event each year as a contract worker, and the money from that as well as the money from the business is what funds everything. That means we are growing slower than we might sometimes like, but at the same time we are growing."
Although it may be a slow start, there have been some great moments for James and Birdy, particularly Birdy's publication in Knitty is one of their proudest moments. James says, "It was great to see so many people discover her for the first time. We had thousands of hits on our website in a matter of days almost all new, and discovering Birdy's work for the first time!" That is indeed a fantastic achievement....no matter how many sales you get, seeing your work appreciated is an important step in the work of a handmade artisan.
There work is certainly appreciated by this mama even though I cannot knit a stitch to save my life! If you want to find MORE about Birdy and James, be sure to check all these links along with the ones mentioned above!
https://www.ravelry.com/ (Birdys Knits)
So take a break, go check out James and Birdy and their awesome creations or just drop them a line! Tell them Blockhead Radio sent you! :)