Monday, November 1, 2010

It's Just a Dress?

Black & White Silk Kaftan Dress by MayBrady
Ever wondered what it's like to be a 'handmade' artist?  Let me walk you through the making and selling of just one dress.  The one above, for example. 

It all starts with fabric selection.  I visit my supplier every week or two in the hopes there will be new additions to their clearance of designer ends.  Some of the pieces on offer are almost too-good-to-be-true: luxurious printed, pleated, embroidered, sequined, beaded and otherwise embellished silks, cashmere, lambswool and more.  Working in this way, the fabric forms the inspiration for my designs.

I found this piece of white silk chiffon with black trees and foliage print on Friday and knew it would be perfect for a kaftan.

Then I cart the fabric home (on foot, a truly low-carbon footprint) and lay it out ready to cut.  Often, using designer ends means working with what you've got as they're often short lengths, although this means a lot of my items are "one offs", a real value-add.

I spend the next little while rotating from cutting table to plain sewer, to overlocker, to iron and back again.  One final press and... it's a dress.

But it doesn't end there.  Now, to market and sell the dress.  Enter Emmy, my trusty model:
Presentation is key in persuading a potential customer to click (or not to click).  I style Emmy in various wigs and accessories to give a finished idea of the garment.  I'm creating a look, not just a dress.

Then it's time for lights, camera, action.  I have a new wall in my workroom where I'm creating a proper studio, but until that's finished I'll settle for whatever I can get my hands on (see photo above, to the right - yikes).

After the photo session, I download and edit.  There's a knack to creating 'cover shots' for Etsy, as their listing photo generally decapitates the model unless you leave enough head-room. 

Once I've narrowed down my final photos, off to my Etsy shop to start a new listing.  Title, description, tags, photos... et voila!  For sale.

Right, to let the masses know.  I mainly use twitter and facebook to keep in touch and also Handmade Spark.  I'm an active member of a number of Etsy 'street teams', which means a number of hours online making and supporting treasuries and forum threads.  In return, other members might feature my items.

Then there's stats.  Thank goodness I was an analyst in a previous life!  They're key to building a business and I'm all over it.  I'll be monitoring the response to my newly listed dress through Etsy, Google Analytics, Craftopolis and even the comments in treasuries if/when it is featured.

Finally, when the dress does sell, I communicate with the buyer and complete the administration side online.  It will be wrapped in tissue with a note, then packaged up and it's off to the Post Office.

So you see... it's not just a dress.  mb


  1. I totally agree! A lot of love and work are put in before the final product is finished. Fabulous dress, by the way! Enjoy a gorgeous day, Kellie xx