Carol McDonough and the Journey of the Green Man

As a kid, I loved rolling out clay on the oversized wooden tables of my Aunt Carol’s light-filled art studio. From the Swamp Studio of Columbus to the spacious countryside of Rutland, Ohio, Carol McDonough’s ceramic and glass pieces are absolutely breathtaking.

Tell us how you got started in art. What made you pursue ceramics?

Carol: I became fascinated with astronomy pictures in high school, and I convinced my Dad to build me a darkroom in the basement- I spent many happy hours in there. That’s also when I started selling my work- my Mom was one of my first customers. I sold her pictures of my baby brother Mark for $5!

A young Carol works diligently in clay.

A young Carol works diligently in her clay studio.

I dropped out of photography school at Ohio University to get married. Eventually, we pursued my husband’s life long dream of living in the country. I thought about how an artist could make it in the middle of nowhere; before I had ever laid my hands on a piece of clay, I picked pottery! Six weeks into throwing 101 I still couldn’t center the clay– uh oh! It all worked out OK though, and I learned the importance of hard work and putting in the time to improve skills.

How has living in the countryside of Southern Ohio impacted your work?

Carol: Prior to living in Rutland, my work had an “Art Deco” feel, and my business name was “Swamp Studio” because whenever it rained, water seeped up through the floor of my basement studio!

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Carol’s Art Deco pieces, prior to moving to the farm

Carol's Art Deco pieces, prior to moving to the country. Please write her for details!

A promotional postcard from the Swamp Studio days. Please write her for details!

Once we moved to the countryside, my business name changed to “C McDonough Designs,” and my work got more organic as I was inspired by the rolling hills, woodlands and lush green pastures of the countryside. I am an avid gardener and I have developed a line of garden pottery for my own needs including bird feeders, bird houses and planters. I learned how to make and install tile for our 100-year old farmhouse, using my kitchen and bathroom as a testing ground. Have you noticed this pattern? I was selling pics to my Mom, now I’m selling tile to my husband!

This little bird helps out with Research and Development for Carol’s handmade feeders!

The cats on the farm “testing” Carol’s kittie food bowls

Tell us a little bit about your Green Man.

Carol: The Green Man is an ancient symbol of man’s connection to nature. The process for making my green men and women are basic hand building techniques. Each face is individually hand formed and up to 36 real leaves (Sacred Oak, Bacchus, Paw Paw Sun) are pressed into clay slabs, cut out and attached.

Carol’s “Green Man”

Any secrets you’d like to share with us on your process?

Carol: Check out how I make a Green Man on my blog.

Describe your dream art studio.

Carol: My dream art studio is mine now with free heat and more windows! I might get an upgrade when Jay (my husband) retires.

The Perfect Art Studio: Mother Nature’s finest leaves included!

What advice do you have for artists that want to take their storefront online?

Carol: One of the first things I did on Etsy was check out page 12,346 to see what was there. Some of the most atrocious photos ever seen, out of focus, busy backgrounds, dark, yikes!!! You have a sixteenth of the screen and about a nano second to grab the attention of your potential customer. Once they click on your item you need four more good photos with close ups, the backside of the piece, and a great description and background story. Give it some time, work on it regularly, look at what others are doing.

Natural lighting and attention to detail make this closeup of “Bacchus” a great example of The Perfect Shot; you can practically taste the grapes!

Are You involved with any online storefronts besides Etsy?

Carol: I have another online store with Storenvy. The site is like Etsy but San Francisco based. It is a little more edgy and you can have a custom store for free, but I have had many more Etsy sales.

A more esoteric work, Carol’s Silica-based life-form fish has been making the rounds in the Ohio art loop

Is any of your art currently on display? If so, where, when and for how long?

Carol: I currently have a sculpture in the Athens Voices show at the Dairy Barn Art Center and five sculptures at the Multicultural Center at Ohio University as part of the Women of Appalachia Show. I am waiting to hear if this is my year to get into the Ohio Designer Craftsmen Best of 2015 Show!!


Can’t make it to Ohio for either event? Check out Carol’s Etsy shop from the comfort of, well, wherever you are right now. Want more info on how to run your Etsy page? Check out my breakdown of Etsy analytics and how it can help you reach your customer base. Psst! There are Etsy coupons at the bottom of that blog 🙂

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Demystifying the Sell on Etsy App

A few weeks ago, I suggested to my friend that she list her beautiful photography on Etsy after she knocked it out of the park at a recent art show. Her response was, “Why shouldn’t I just list them on eBay?”  That’s a legitimate concern, and a question that deserves to be demystified for all artists. There are some key advantages to participating in a socially-based e-commerce community website that only allows (or, is supposed to only allow) handmade arts and crafts that artists should consider once they decide that setting up an online storefront is right for them. First, your listing will stand out easier on Etsy than on a huge e-commerce site like eBay. Think of it as the difference between having a canoe on a small pond instead of a giant ocean. While eBay might draw from a larger pool of shoppers, Etsy hones in on just one type of shopper- the person who is specifically looking to buy handmade items (insert corny joke about sailing in the “Specific Ocean” here). It’s by no means an intimately-sized online marketplace, though: as of 2013, the Etsy community hit a cool 30 million members.

Disc Golf Love shirts printed by my husband. Will he be the next Etsy superstar? Not without me setting up an account for him!

Disc Golf Love shirts printed by my husband, Stu Kaplan. Will he be the next Etsy superstar? Not without me setting up an account for him!

track your inventory

Most artists and craftspeople are constantly setting up at art shows and craft fairs, selling their work, packing it up, creating more inventory and preparing for the next endeavor. Like any business, you’ll need to keep track of what sells, what doesn’t, and how many items you have in stock for the next event. This is the #1 reason why the “Sell Now” feature on the Sell on Etsy App is going to be your best friend if you are an on-the-go artist or craftswoman with work listed on Etsy. Are you going to hand write each and every sale in a ledger book at your event or type it into an Excel document in between customers? Doubtful, and if you are, you’re wasting valuable face time with potential customers.

“Sell Now” Feature

Art shows can get hectic and it seems like everyone wants to buy something all at once. “Sell Now” through Sell on Etsy is awesome for this reason, because it allows you to track your inventory on a real-time basis as you complete the sale, whether cash or credit. Screen shots below illustrate the simple, beautiful and easy to navigate app:

Menu for "Sell Now" feature on Sell on Etsy App for iPhone

Menu for “Sell Now” feature on Sell on Etsy App for iPhone

Screenshot from Quick Sale mode

Screenshot from Quick Sale mode

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Adding new sale items

If you’re on the road often or in between functioning computers, adding new sale items through the Sell on Etsy App is even faster and easier to use than listing through the website on a desktop computer. I often shoot photos of my work during the daytime, edit them later, and then can’t contain my excitement long enough to open my laptop…so I start adding my items on the phone app in between checking my Instagram and Pinterest feeds before I fall asleep.

Analytics

It’s like Christmas morning when you can wake up and check your Sell on Etsy app for your website’s analytics. While you’ll need to check the website from a computer for detailed analytics such as breakdown of web traffic visitors and search terms that landed shoppers on your page, you can view daily, weekly, and monthly visits, listing and shop favorites, reviews, and sale information on the Sell on Etsy app.

Etsy shop history screenshot from my shop

Etsy shop history screenshot from my shop

Screenshot of my shop. I sure would like to get these numbers higher

Screenshot of my shop traffic for last week

Growth of Mobile App Usage amongst shoppers

One of the reasons it is so important to choose a social media-based e-commerce site that offers a great user experience with their mobile app is because the use of apps on smartphones and tablets is exploding. 80% of the time consumers spend visiting a retail site on mobile is through an app, according to ComScore’s Gian Fulgoni. A September 2013 study proves that Etsy is hanging with the big boys in this category, with 29% of its 20 million unique visits coming from the mobile app. Etsy does a great job of providing visitor origin information and includes the mobile app data as well. Screen shots from my shop highlighting traffic from the Etsy app:

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Screenshot of traffic for a specific listing from last week, including 13 of 36 visits coming from the Etsy app.

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Traffic sources to my Etsy page, ranked.

Etsy isn’t for everybody, but it’s definitely right for me, my cousin, my aunt, and Snooki!

Want to set up your own Etsy shop? Here are 40 free product listings, from me to you!

If you’d hurt yourself with a glue gun but love to shop arts and crafts, here is $5 to spend on Etsy!