Monday, March 4, 2013

Hip Notions

Interview with Betty Ottesen by Schulmanart, @schulmanArt

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SchulmanArt: How do you think your childhood influenced you as an artist?
Betty Ottesen: I grew up on a farm in North Dakota twenty miles from school and shopping. Shopping was limited. Creativity was just a way of life. I was the youngest of seven, so thrift was a necessity. One saved everything just in case you might need it for something. Making and fixing things was the norm. If I wanted the latest fashion, I sewed it, plus it fit better than anything I could buy. Back in the day it was a big savings to DIY. I came from a very practical hardworking German heritage.

My mother was a skilled sewer as was my grandmother. 4-H offered sewing programs. My oldest sister had a window treatment business. She taught me everything about interior decorating sewing when I was a teenager. I preferred making clothing which was learned by doing- reading patterns and other method books. I just naturally was interested in sewing and trying different sewing details or techniques. Working efficiently was my mother's manta! Is it no wonder I designed a tool belt?

Available for sale on etsy!
Is that your best selling item?
The first prototype was born in 2002. The design had been bouncing around in my head long before that time. It was delivered into the world to solve my own dilemma of staying organized in my sewing room. At that time I was juggling the sewing of clothing, clothing alterations, window treatments and home accessories. Perhaps it could be said I liked challenges and diversity or I was just ADHD? 2010 I went online with my first tool belt design. Now at the start of 2013 my tool belt sales are about 90% of my sewing business. There are about ten main different tool belt designs serving a variety of professions. My customers inspire me with their feedback and their ideas. This little tool belt design combined with the Internet has been an awesome adventure!  Lately, I have been enjoying the stability of medium weight canvas that give the tool belts a nice sturdiness but with a cotton feel. Canvas is also available in many fun colors. I enjoy adding a cotton print or ribbon to jazz up a tool belt or give it a theme. An example would be putting a dog or cat print on the tool belt designed for veterinary technicians.

Are your kids creative too?
All three children learned to sew including our son. They are now a photographer, an upholster and an engineer. 

How do you get everything done?
I try to first get the most important things done first. Good in theory, but not always the case! Number one is customer service. Orders sewn, and mailed, emails answered. Beyond getting the product made, I make a list of other to dos and schedule time for them. It could be many different things- relisting items, changing key words, making better photos, improving websites, janitor duties, bookkeeping and the list goes on. I continue to do clothing alterations and home accessory items for my long time local customers. Occasionally I teach individual sewing lessens and sew for charity.

Otteson's Dream studio! Check out more on her website
What is your studio space like?
I have a dream sewing room. It was once our single car garage. It has a 60 x 109” cutting table complete with grids, big ironing station, ample shelving and storage. Two sewing machines are dedicated to sewing the tool belts, a third for other sewing jobs and a couple of sergers dedicated to certain stitches. My office is wherever the laptop is. For sure it took years to get to this space and equipment. Once upon a time there was one sewing machine and an antique ironing board set up in the corner of a room.

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What advice would you give others just starting out trying to sell their arts and crafts professionally?
Though I had been sewing professionally forever, writing my first business plan four years ago was key to making this new online venture a success. The sewing part was the easy part. The hard part was learning all the nifty things about computers. Planning, focus, education, perseverance and a sense of humor are my parting words of wisdom.

mentioned in this article: @BettyOttesen

Pretty notions found on etsy today!!