Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Aspiring Artisan: corrnucopia

Ilena of corrnucopia

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My birthday is next week and Yikes! I'm going to be 43 and I’m not quite sure when that happened! I have 2 young children ages 5 and 3. I think having them later in life has kept me on my toes and feeling young. At the very least they keep me very busy so that I do sleep well at night! I've done many things since I left college with a degree in psychology including getting my Masters as an elementary teacher and working lots of jobs, including my fair share of waitressing, and even a stint as a cowgirl at a dude ranch. I've spent most of my life living near the ocean but have traded this in for mountains and lakes. I do miss the roar of the sea and a good beach walk after a storm, but I do love the woods and the secrets hidden within.

Vintage pair of old metal pulleys

What do you do when you are not working on your shop?
Um... I am thinking about my shop! Seriously though ever since starting this "whole Etsy thing" I am completely obsessed. I even have my children involved in the treasure hunting! With both kids in school though I do try to designate time away from the shop when they are home, then we are playing and spending time together. I do fill in as a substitute at the schools my kids attend as well. It's been a loooong winter here in the Adirondacks (I do have some snow still left in my yard) and I am looking forward to getting the garden going, hiking with my children and working on conquering the high peaks as a family!

Vintage Handsome Fellow cake topper
What is the inspiration behind your shop?
After my son was born I found myself without a job. I am a quilter and my mom had told me about Etsy. I really liked what I saw and opened up a shop, corrcreations. I am a self taught quilter and loved sewing and creating things with fabric. I was able to put my creative energies into sewing and it was exciting to see myself growing as a quilter... then my son learned how to climb out of his walker! I really felt I needed to be home with my little guy which turned out was important as he wound up having some special needs. Not being able to sew, I decided to give a go at vintage. I had noticed how well some shops were doing and thought "I can do that". With an eye for old things that were waiting to be loved again, I began packing up my kids early on the weekends and hitting local estate and yard sales. This has been a really perfect opportunity to be with my children and take them to work so to speak.

Please describe your process.
Vintage Red Duck Bobby Pin
When I come home from a morning of buying (which can be several times a week) I've got to unload and prioritize. I like to pick a few items that can be cleaned up and photo'd rather quickly (before I lose the good lighting) so I can list them that afternoon and evening. Some linens and clothing may need to be washed, but checked over for spots that need to be treated first. Dishes and other items need a good soaking (which requires washing the breakfast dishes first). Other things need to be cleaned with a bit more care and are set aside for later. Some items I prep but require a bit more than the usual amount of research before I can list them. I sort all of this on my back porch near my table that is always ready for photo shoots. I also need to make lunch and feed the kids as well as find a way to entertain them while I work. There is a bit of excitement and perhaps some chicken without a head type running around but there is definitely a high that comes from a shopping spree and thrill of my new stock that I love.

Ilena in Vintage Bonnet

How do you decide what kind of items to put into your shop?
Personally I have a fondness for kitschy and retro things. I am a sucker for a vintage kitchen apron and swoon over old Pyrex patterns. My love of sewing gives me a fine appreciation for old buttons and sewing notions. As a little (and maybe not so little) girl I imagined myself to be Laura Ingalls living the prairie life. I really do feel an attachment for certain things from the rustic, country, farmhouse genre. These are the things I seek out, items that speak to me. Books, toys, and other "artifacts" from my childhood also hold a special place in my heart, it’s a great feeling to be able to touch them and just remember. Now I can't possibly keep them all, but being the proprietor of a vintage shop, I can have them and hold them dear ~ until I find someone who hears their promise.

What specific steps are you taking to grow your business?
Vintage Linen and Lace Bread Basket Liner
At the moment I am trying to figure out ways to market myself and become more visible. This June will be my 2nd anniversary and I do believe I have done well. My goal is to take what I am doing and make it better. I believe I need to refine my listings by going over my tags and descriptions to make them more search friendly. There are also many product shots that need new photos. With over 500 listings and new items waiting to be added this is bit daunting and requires some serious time management ~ definitely something I need help with to grow!

Another way I feel I can grow my business is to stay on top of the monthly merchandising report. While I do seek out items I love and believe in, I do try to keep the monthly report in the back of my head, as well as bring in things that fit the current trends. This really has helped me to keep some focus and provide me with added exposure as these items are often chosen by treasury curators.

Vintage Potato Ricer
What advice do you have for new Etsy sellers?
Pictures Pictures Pictures! Great pictures are essential to selling something on a venue where the buyer cannot touch or really examine the item. Get close up, really close up. My favorite product shots show are my close ups. These along with some fun angles really help to make my products stand out and be noticed. My advice to improve your photos would be to seriously study the front page as well as look around at other great photos both on Etsy, style sites and magazines. What makes the photos stand out? What grabs your attention? You will have a much easier time of getting that sale if the buyer feels they can connect with your product by its images.

I would also stress the importance of connecting with other sellers. Join a team, become active with other members in the forums. Find like-minded individuals whether they share your location, beliefs, art, or goals. It's a great way to be able to share and learn, bounce ideas off of other minds, and develop friendships. I love Etsy but most of the people I know have never even heard of this place. Without teamies I wouldn't be able to share the excitement of an awesome sale or join in on the Front Page dance!

Vintage Mid-Century Metal Ice Cube Tray

How do you promote your shop?
I am constantly adding new items or at the very least renewing. This keeps me "fresh" and on top of searches. I use twitter to promote my listings, I do have a blog that I have been less than faithful with, definitely something to work on though.

In 10 years...
I'd love to be successful enough to continue working on my own and seriously (aka profitably) be full time. I really love the thrill of the hunt and would love to continue on this vintage road. As my kids grow and are more independent I hope to have the time and energy to devote to creating new things from my ever growing stash of vintage books, fabrics, buttons, and other notions.

It's hard to believe that in 10 years the late 90s will be considered vintage! I hope to stand by my creed that if it has a barcode it doesn't belong in my shop!

You can win Ilena's Vintage Lotus Bowl Collection

To enter:

1. Visit Ilena's shop and leave a comment below letting us know which piece is your favorite.
2. Blog/Facebook/Tweet about this giveaway
3. Purchase something from Ilena's shop.
You can enter in as many different ways as you want!
Leave a separate comment below for each entry.

I will select a winner at random on May 3rd using

And the Winner is....



Visit Ilena's Etsy Shop!
Follow Ilena on Twitter!
Visit Ilena's Blog!


  1. Loved this interview, Ilena! It was awesome learning more about you! Aside from all your fabulous pyrex, I like the vintage sea captain. So cute!

  2. Such a great interview! Really fun getting to know you a little better, Ilena!

    My favorite item in your shop is definitely the vintage school desk. I wonder if I could fit in that to do my painting at ;)

  3. I am in love with the 1950 Smith Corona Silent Typewriter!

    Thanks for the itnterview. It's really fun getting to know the artist behind the etsy shop.

  4. What a lovely interview! Always great to get to know each other better :)

  5. great interview!!! is amazing know you a little more Ilena!!

  6. Great! I enjoyed the interview Ilena! Glad to know more about you!


  7. wonderful interview! :) :) :)

    I love this set:

    And I love the vintage school desk.

  8. Tweeted!!/TuckooandMooCow

  9. Awesome post! I've always had a dream to have a vintage shop. I'm sure it's a lot of work. Just at a quick glance, I think my favorite item from your shop is the miniature bottle collection. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your life!

  10. Such a great interview! My favorite item from Ilena's shop is the silent typewriter!

  11. LOVED reading about you and your work! Fantastic post!!

  12. Ilena! I loved this interview! So great. And I always love perusing through your shop. Right now I am in love with the child's desk and the cat eye glasses. You always have such awesome goodies in your shop.

  13. I had fun learning more about you here, Ilena... and I love your creed. :) My favorite item in your shop is the Vintage Potato Ricer.