Following on from our latest post Guest Posting Opportunity: Share Your Projects, Knowledge or Services we decided also to do a fortnightly ‘featured bookbinder’ series and this week we’d like to introduce you to lovely Kris Steward, founder of ScrollByHand.com who’s going to talk today about her bookbinding passion and give some helpful advice about selling on etsy.com… if you would like to be considered as a future featured bookbinder then please drop us an email!
Thank you Kris for taking the time to introduce the readers of iBookBinding to your life!
My name is Kris Stewart and I’m a bookbinder working near the city of Seattle in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, USA. I caught the bookbinding bug 16 years ago when my son was a baby. As a way to get out of the house, I signed up for a binding class at a local art shop. Three hours later I was completely hooked. Soon I was selling handmade baby books at local craft fairs, but ultimately found that too difficult with a youngster in the house. I studied up and played around with book arts as a hobbyist until my son started middle school. A friend and fellow maker introduced me to Etsy and voilà! Here I am doing what I love!
You might wonder what it is about bookbinding that I find so stimulating. First, it’s the textures, patterns and colors. There are so many wonderful cloth and paper choices for covering! Second, it’s such a pleasure to create something beautiful and functional from scratch with my own two hands. I’m still surprised at each new book when it’s finished. Throughout the process you have an idea of how a finished book will look of course, but there’s something about the first time you see it pressed and complete. That thrill does not go away with time. It’s also an honor to be a part of people’s biggest life moments: weddings, births, reunions, retirements and even memorials.
Currently my largest source of business is the online marketplace Etsy. I’m very thankful for Etsy as it has allowed me to grow my business on my own schedule from my home studio, a definite plus for someone whose primary jobs are supposed to be wife, mother and homemaker. The biggest challenges I’ve had with Etsy are inconsistent traffic and pricing. There are so many sellers (with more coming on board every day!) that your listings need to stand out in search in order to get Etsy-driven traffic. That means finding the right combination of titles and tags paired with good product photography. It always helps if you can drive your own traffic through social media or your own website.
This brings me to price. Not all sellers on Etsy price their products for profit. Many are hobbyists; others are not actively trying to grow their business. When others in the marketplace undercharge for their work, it tends to devalue everyone’s work.
I’ve been very lucky over the years to have really wonderful, appreciative customers. Almost all my customer contact comes via email so I try very hard to have a professional and cheerful voice in my communications. I think honesty and timely communication go a long way toward building credibility. After all, customers are spending a lot of money with me so I want them to be confident they will receive what they paid for on time. I deal with a lot of custom orders and deadlines so my schedule is very organized. Since I only ship custom orders on Fridays, I can always give customers an accurate ship date when they place their order. If I am unable to meet that date for any reason (family emergency, final product not meeting my standards, etc.), I send them a message right away with the true reason for the delay. Thankfully I’ve only had to do that a couple times, but each time the customer was very understanding.[support-website]By nature I’m a creator. Whether I was building functioning Lego models as a child or combining more than one binding style into a single book now, I truly enjoy creating new products or using existing materials in a new way. I’m always trying something new, or maybe a little tweak on a current design. Only a small percentage of my trials make it to market!
I’m currently working through the launch of a completely new product for me: refillable journals with screen printed covers. It’s been an exciting challenge sourcing new materials, finding the most functional design and, of course, learning to screen print. The new journals and refills as well as a selection of ready-made and made-to-order items can be found in my Etsy shop: www.scroll.etsy.com. I also have an informational website: www.scrollhandbound.com. Please stop by and say Hi or let me know if I can make something custom for you!