Q&A with KimArt ShopTuesday, October 06, 2015
It's no secret that I love Instagram, sometimes a little too much. One of my favorite things about this social media platform is the number of talented folks and amazing shops I can discover on there. A few weeks ago, I was diving down the Instagram rabbit hole when I came across a photo of an embroidered hoop like the one above. If you know me, you know that I am horrible when it comes to crafts and sewing, but that has never prevented me from appreciating the beauty of other people's work. In fact, I think that's what makes me appreciate it even more! KimArt's custom embroidered hoops caught my eye not just because they're gorgeous eye candy, but because I'm always intrigued by someone who spends there time on such an old-fashioned art form. Seriously, though, how many people do you know that can sew like this?! By the time I found a custom hoop she had made with the same Avett Brothers' lyrics we had quoted at our wedding, I was completely and totally in love with this little shop.
Kimber, the force behind KimArt, agreed to answer a few questions about what she does and how she got started with this sweet gig. So, without further ado....
How did you get into embroidery hoop art?
The majority of people do not know this, but when I first opened KimArt on Etsy in 2009, I actually started with selling handmade cards & fabric flower accessories (hairpins, handmade wedding bouquets, etc.) I have always had a love for fabric + textiles for as long as I can remember. Late 2009/early 2010, I released my first embroidery hoops. I cannot pinpoint exactly what triggered me to begin creating embroidery, but I am so glad I did! Hand embroidery is an art that takes a lot of time and practice to perfect. It is very labor intensive, but extremely rewarding. As the years went on I began to create unique designs that my customers love and have perfected my skill after 6 years.
When did you start your Etsy shop?
I decided to open an Etsy shop when I was a sophomore at Rutgers University in 2009. I specifically remember how it happened, too. I had a friend over at my dorm room and we were discussing my artwork. At that point in time I was really only a self-taught painter and dabbled in other related artwork, such as scrapbooking and card making. My friend mentioned this website called Etsy, which seemed foreign at the time. She suggested I check it out, which I did, and I opened my shop, KimArt in April 2009.
How did you end up doing this after majoring in human resources?
I have always been artistic - I inherited the artistic gene from my mother! Since it was something I enjoyed doing, when I was in college (first I was an Economics major and then later changed my major) this seemed like the most logical way to earn extra income. I paid for my college education on my own, and there was one point in time that I was working 3 jobs & taking 6 classes a semester. I worked my corporate job, ran my Etsy shop and worked as a computer analyst for Rutgers University. I still really love creating art, which is why I consistently kept my shop open, even through graduate school! Many may not see the connection between my Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Human Resources, but it has helped me a lot to understand business on a macro level and has certainly influenced my ability to work closely with others.
You seem to do it all: crafting, sewing, cooking. Is there a certain craft or skill you've always wanted to learn?
Ideally I would like to be a modern day Martha Stewart! I'm only partially kidding, haha. Believe it or not, the one skill I do want to learn is how to sew with a sewing machine. If my pants ever needed a hem, I would hand sew them or take them to a tailor. I have never physically even touched a sewing machine! Fear of falling into yet another obsession, however, has made me continuously postpone purchasing a sewing machine! I can see it now... I would just start sewing random items which would be a huge distraction from my current business and also probably drive my husband crazy!
What's the best thing about being a creative small business owner?
I love being my own boss! Many people ask me if I want to quit my day job, or pursue this full time in the future. That sounds like a novel idea, but I really do not mind working for someone else 40 hours a week if it means a steady paycheck to support my family! It is really nice though, to know that when I get home from the office and start stitching, I am my own boss. I make my own rules and I make my own schedule. :)
Another amazing part of being a creative small business owner is that I am able to provide special services to people around the world that large companies cannot fulfill. There is something far more intimate and rewarding when it comes to working with small business owners and I really appreciate the time and attention I am able to give my customers in order to make them really unique keepsakes!
What's the most challenging part?
Hands down the most challenging thing would be time management. As my business stands right now, anytime I am not at work or physically incapable of stitching (ie: sleeping, eating, driving) I am working on fulfilling orders, creating new content for my sop, or maintaining social media — all related to my business. I am never not doing something that is business related. Right now, this is acceptable for me in my current state, as my husband and I do not yet have children, but when we do decide to expand our family, juggling all of my commitments will be difficult and things will need to change.
What does a typical workday look like for you? How do you find time to create?
KimArt is not my full time job. Through my undergraduate years in college, I worked 30 hours a week in a corporate office in Human Resources. Upon graduating with my Bachelors in 2013, I pursued my Master's Degree in HR and completed it in 1 year while working full time. Since then, I have been working for the same company full time. I work in Human Resources, specifically in Acquisitions & Divestitures in Pharmaceuticals. A typical work day for me includes waking up, making my husband breakfast and seeing him out the door, followed by me working an 8 hour work day (there are some days I even work 10-12 hours if we are very busy) and then I come home and stitch embroidery in between everything else I need to do: gardening, cooking dinner, running errands, etc. I find time to create from not sleeping! I go to bed very late, which is such a bad habit of mine, and I am trying hard to fix this.
Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?
I am a nature lover/flower lover. I really love anything bright and cheery and I also tend to gravitate toward rustic influences as well. Some of my most popular designs were from me sitting down and thinking, "What kind of design would I want hanging on MY wall?"
What tip would you give to amateur crafters, sewers, knitters, etc.?
I sincerely hope this doesn't come off the wrong way...lol. I have encountered many newbie embroidery artists, in particular, within the last couple of years. I think it is important to gain as much knowledge as you can from people who have more experience than those just starting out, but it is important to be mindful of the process. When I say "be mindful of the process," I mean: KimArt was not successful right off the bat. I went through much trial and error, years of practice, research, and hard work to get my business where it is today. I constantly get messages from amateurs either wanting to recreate my designs (which is a HUGE no!) or wanting to know exactly how I do certain things. I think that many of my fellow artists, myself included, are growing tired of people jumping on the bandwagon and either copying designs outright or wanting to mimic or exact styles. Be mindful of the process. Be unique. Do not try to recreate something of mine just because you want more followers. The most successful artists grow organically.
How long does each embroidered hoop take to make? Do you find it hard to let them go once you've finished them?
Depending on the complexity of my design, it can take anywhere from 3-9 hours to make. My most popular hoops take about 7 hours to stitch. There are only a few that have been hard to part with, but it is always gratifying to receive messages from people saying they absolutely love something and have to have it!
What are your plans for your shop in the future?
I plan to incorporate more one of a kind designs in my shop! Right now I have been making so many custom baby name hoops and I really want to offer some new designs. I plan to go into 2016 with more unique hoops and hopefully will even release a DIY Embroidery pattern at some point next year!
Are there any inspiring shops on Etsy that you would recommend?
Some of my most favorite shops are not on Etsy! One of my most favorite small business owner ever is Annie, the owner/designer/beautiful mama behind Wrare Doll, a clothing line for baby girls and toddlers. She is self-taught and such an inspiration to me on a personal level. She is a wonderful mother to 2 beautiful babies and I absolutely adore everything she creates. She is the sweetest person ever, and I feel like I have known her forever!
And, just for fun, what's the best book you've read this year?
I barely have time to read but I absolutely LOVE a pretty cookbook and I just started reading "Why Not Me?" by Mindy Kaling! She is so funny and I absolutely love everything she does.
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