Exclusive Etsy Interview + Harry Potter Giveaway!
Hey Nifty Nerds! I’ve got a wonderful treat for you guys today. I’ve partnered up with Jessica from Hang the Bastards to bring you an insightful look in a nerdy Etsy shop, plus bring you guys an exclusive giveaway!
Jessica truly does some amazing sewing work! Check out my interview with her and be sure to enter the giveaway for a one-of-a-kind, Luna Lovegood-inspired, Harry Potter wall hanging.
Also, make use of this limited time discount, being offered to only you guys! Use “NARGLES” for 10% off any banner purchase by June 30th, 2017.
Tell us about yourself
Hi! My name is Jessica and I live and work in Washington, DC. I’ve lived here since 2008 when I moved her for college. I went to American University and was a double major in Economics and Philosophy (weird combination, I know).
I’ve been sewing since I was little, with the love and support of my Grandma Betty, who taught me a lot of what I know (though not everything). Right now I’m a part time Etsy seller. My other activities include volunteering with sexual assault survivors, running a political activist newsletter in DC, and walking my dog, Maple. I am also a life-long nerd, as you’ll probably see from some of the answers below…
What’s your favorite fandom and how did you fall in love?
This is a really hard question for me to answer in some ways but really easy in others. My favorite and first fandom, or at least the one that I identified most obviously, was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My mom was watching reruns of Buffy on FX late one night when I was in early high school. I couldn’t sleep so I came down to watch with her. I had never heard of the show, or of Joss Whedon, and it immediately blew me away.
I literally had no idea that TV shows could be like that, especially that they could have such strong women as the main characters. Even today, I think it’s still sadly far too rare to see TV shows with female leads, let a lone a deep bench of other female characters that are all different types. I have said it before and I will say it again: representation is so important. As a young girl, Buffy really changed my life.
That being said, I have so many other enduring fandoms that I belong to. Harry Potter comes to mind first. I was eleven when Sorcerer’s Stone came out so it spoke to me on a pretty deep level. And to this day I still spend way too much of my time reading Harry Potter fanfic online. Legend of Zelda is my first and most enduring video game love. I could also include Firefly, Lord of the Rings, and many others on the list.
Take my geek challenge and provider your answers
Ahh these are so fun! Here are my answers:
- Pick a house – Slytherin
- Pick a door – The TARDIS
- Preferred weapon – The Master Sword
- Favorite ride – The Millenium Falcon
- Choose a class – Either Rogue or Mage
- Pick a platform type – At the moment it’s pretty much all Xbox but I miss my Nintendo consoles
- Decide on a faction – Erudite
- Who will be your companion – Hedwig for sure!
- Choose an arch nemesis – GLaDOS from Portals
- Where will your adventure take place – Middle Earth
Tell us about your Etsy shop.
When, how, and why did you get started?
Honestly I feel like I have been heading in the direction of an Etsy shop for years. I’m always crafting and sewing. A few years back I really launched back into sewing by making four adult-sized Avatar: The Last Airbender costumes for my friends and myself for Halloween. That was really a chore, but they ended up looking pretty nice in the end.
I’ve been kind of experimenting on and off since then, and I came up for the idea of the banners completely out of nowhere. I started trying to make a few and thought they could really sell. I put up the first four listings–for the Hogwarts Houses–in August of 2016. I’ve been trying to expand ever since.
Story behind your shop name, Hang the Bastards?
I wanted to do a name that would stand out, maybe something kind of edgy, and I thought “Hang the Bastards” would do the trick. It’s sort of not your usual Etsy shop name so I thought it might distinguish me from thousands of other Etsy sellers. It’s also in reference to the fact that I make wall hangings…get it? “Hang” the Bastards? 🙂
What’s the most challenging thing about running an Etsy shop?
For me, being a part time seller, the most challenging thing is finding the time and energy to keep up with everything. Running a shop is a lot more than making the items. You have to take really good photographs in order for your items to get noticed, which usually means waiting for a sunny day.
It can take me several days after an item is finished to find the time and the lighting to get good pictures. I work during the day so if it’s dark by the time I get home I have to wait. It also involves hours spent on social media doing promotions and posting pictures, not to mention all of the intricacies of tagging your items in the right way so more people will find them. It can be a lot of work, and I have to be a very efficient scheduler.
Any advice for other’s who are thinking about opening up their own shop?
Tip #1: Be patient.
This is probably the most annoying advice people give to other people, especially if, like me, you are naturally *im*patient. But the truth is it is very hard to get noticed on Etsy. Don’t be surprised if you make something that’s really amazing, but don’t sell anything or don’t sell much for several months. There is a lot of competition out there. Don’t take it as a personal insult to your products!
Tip #2: Don’t undersell your stuff.
Mostly here I’m talking about price. It’s really tempting, especially when sales are slow, to lower prices. Literally all of the advice I’ve read from experienced Etsy sellers is this: don’t do it. Try literally everything else first. Run a sale; do a giveaway; post more on social media; change your item tags. Lowering your price–if it was a fair price to begin with–only makes it harder for other handmade sellers to get what their item is worth. And it means less profit for you! We don’t all do this just for the money, but there’s no reason for way undercharging someone.
Tip #3: Do your tax/expenses/spending paperwork correctly.
This is a big pain in the butt, and has nothing to do with the creative process. But taxes are really important, and states have laws and paperwork that you have to know in order to sell things. Most states required you to charge sales tax to customers who are in the same state as your business, but you can’t legally do that without applying for a sales tax permit.
Here in DC, I have to file how much I charged in sales tax every month even if that amount is $0! On the positive end of taxes, small business owners can get a lot of deductions for everything from raw materials to mileage, so keep track of your spending and make sure you’re getting your money back at the end of the year.
I could say a lot more, but I’ll leave it at those three to start 🙂
What’s the most fun and/or rewarding thing about running your own shop?
My favorite thing is creating something for someone and seeing their reaction or seeing them hang it in their home. Honestly there is nothing like it in the world. A friend of mine bought a Star Trek banner from me and it’s basically right in his front room. Whenever I go over there and see it hanging up I just feel so stupidly proud of myself that I did that. And I did it from start to finish: design, build, finishing touches….it’s really great.
How do you come up with new designs?
Designs are sometimes spurred by suggestions from other people–either through a custom order or just an informal conversation. But mostly they are from my own head. I usually do quite a bit of internet research, look for pictures from the fandom I’m working with, so that provides some pieces. Also I’m a little bit constrained by the fabric choices that are available to me. If I’m making the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes banner, for example, it’s all in purples and oranges, so the patterns that end up on it are partly dependent on what orange or purple fabrics are available at my local store when I go. All of those aspects usually come together into the final product without too much effort.
As for how I decide what fandom or what character to make next, I think it’s mostly a mood thing. When I don’t have any specific orders to fulfill, I want to make something that will excite me so that can definitely lead to jumping around from one thing to the next. I also do try to finish any “collections” that I start, so if I’m going to make the Hogwarts Houses, I’m going to make all four.
What’s the process like to create/sew a piece?
I actually wrote a pretty long blog post on tumblr about part of my process (it ended up being a bit of a rant, but it’s still informative, and it has pictures!). I also did a second one here. To repeat things a little, the general idea is that I build the body of the banner first. In order to get the pictures on the banner–for example the Sword of Gryffindor or the White Tree of Gondor–I use a process called applique, which is pretty detailed. I use a projector to trace the images I want onto a thin, ironable paper called fusible web. I have to trace the mirror image of the finished object I actually want, and each piece that’s going to be in a different color has to be drawn separately. I then cut the shapes out of the paper, and iron them onto the correctly colored fabric. Here is a picture of all the pieces ironed onto fabric from my Fire Nation banner from Avatar: The last Airbender; this is the dragon:
I then have to do a second round of cutting. The paper will peel off the back of the fabric when I’m ready, leaving a shiny substance behind. That shiny stuff will become sticky when heated. So I put the pieces, shiny side down, on the banner itself, and iron again. At that point it looks like this:
But I still have to sew all of those pieces down and add the details that make it really look like a dragon, and not just an out line of one. I stitch around the edges of every piece on my sewing machine, and then I add extra details by hand. The finished product looks like this:
See? Lots more detail than the second picture. From there I just need to sew the back of the banner to the front, add the buttons, and turn it inside out for the final product:
Ta-da! You can see the racecar on the Ferrari banner go through a similar process. The top picture is right after I’ve ironed everything on and sewed it down, but haven’t done added any details except the inside of the tires and some red on the Shell logo. The bottom picture is the finished product:
So that’s where the magic happens is in the detailing that’s done by hand. The top picture looks like a racecar, you can tell what I’m going for. But the bottom picture looks way better and more interesting.
How long does it take?
Each banner takes at least 6 hours. The more fine detail it has, the longer it takes. On some of my custom orders with details that are embroidered by hand, I have spent…let’s just say much longer than I had originally planned haha. But the results are often so worth it!
Do you take design requests/custom orders?
Absolutely! Custom orders are often my favorite thing to do. I love building something from scratch just for an individual person, and I get challenged to make things that weren’t already on my to-do list that way. Both my Star Trek: The Next Generation banner and a Ferrari banner I made recently were custom orders, and they are some of my best work if I do say so myself. And that’s a great way to get something made from an different fandom or even something that is not strictly “nerdy”.
What sort of books do you like to read? What books would you recommend and to whom?
I like to read all kinds of books, but I have a special place in my heart for fantasy and sci-fi. Lately, I would highly recommend The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin, especially if you’re looking for sci-fi/fantasy worlds that are incredibly rich, and that are written by non-white men.
Slightly farther back I loved Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
What sort of video games do you like to play? What video games would you recommend and to whom?
Left 4 Dead 2 is one of my all time faves. I like to play group games in the same room as other people and this one is one of the greats that you don’t need like a pro-subscription for. But my trues loves are mostly Zelda games, particularly Twilight Princess and Ocarina of Time.
Most recent fave that everyone should play immediately is Ori and the Blind Forest.
What sort of board games do you like to play? What board games would you recommend and to whom?
Pandemic is a great cooperative game for those that like to be on the same side as their friends (like me!). I also love the artwork and mini-D&D style adventures of Above and Below.
Which fandom/tv series/etc. do you think is underrated and that people should check out?
Oh man, this is a great question. I don’t know if it’s underrated per se, but I don’t think enough adults have watched the original Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon. Too many people think it’s for kids and I need more adult humans to talk to about it! So go watch it!
Also, I have a big soft spot for Dollhouse, which is one of the lesser-known Whedon works.
Luna Lovegood Giveaway Time
I want to thank Jessica for her time and the amazing banner that she’s giving away to one lucky winner. This thing is totally geeky and a one-of-a-kind banner, perfect for any home or office wall.
Good luck to everyone entering!