On December 1, my wife started selling handmade bead necklaces at Etsy. It’s something we discussed for a long time. She’s new to Etsy, but not me. I have long been early adopter of online services. For example, I opened my Yahoo account in 1996, I rented my first Netflix DVD in 1999 and in 2006 I joined both Facebook and Twitter. I opened an Etsy account in July 2006 to purchase for my daughter the Amigurumi Flowery pink bunny rabbit with matching bag. It’s pictured below without the bag; photo taken today. My teenager still has the handmade animal four-and-a-half years later.
Going from being an Etsy consumer to seller is quite the change for the family. My wife’s shop is simply Anne Wilcox Designs. We debated about the name. I favored Anne Wilcox Originals—for the connotations and because the necklaces are all one-of-a-kind. There is still much work to do, such as personalizing the shop, adding store policies, tweaking pricing and international shipping costs and optimizing for search.
It’s services like Etsy that disrupt long established retail businesses and empower more people to be entrepreneurs. There are others. My daughter is a YouTube vlogger. She’s now part of the Google free economy, receiving payments whenever her vlog generates $100 from the stuff the information giant wraps around it.
As for Etsy, I’m new to photographing jewelry (and it shows). I shot most of the necklaces with the Olympus PEN E-P2 with Panasonic-made Leica DG MACRO-ELMARIT 45mm F/2.8 ASPH/MEGA O.I.S. micro-four-thirds lens. I used the Leica X1 for a few shots, including the pink bunny rabbit. ISO is as high as 800 on some jewelry photos, as I shot with natural light at f/2.8 or f/4 for most of the closeups. While higher ISO adds noise, the images still look pretty good. Please see my Anne Wilcox Designs Flickr set.
Technically, the PEN E-P2 is now my daughter’s to use, but I’ve got dibs for special needs like shooting closeups. I find that the Leica X1 captures so much detail that I can create more than adequate closeups from crops. The pink bunny is good example.
Much as I like the X1, I miss shooting with a Sigma compact. I owned the Sigma DP1 and DP2s. Sigma’s Foveon sensor produces a unique look that really appeals to me. I gave up the DP1 because it was too slow to use as a street camera and the DP2s because colors shifted to the green (something a firmware updated supposedly fixed a week after I returned the camera to Amazon). I miss the Foveon look and DP2s’ street camera capabilities, which my quick shots from the American Apparel rummage sale show.
Ergonomically, the Leica X1 is a superior compact by every measure. The sensor is larger, and low-light performance is better than the DP2s. I’m hugely satisfied with the X1 as a dSLR-performing compact. But for all enthusiasts’ talk about the “Leica look“, I still prefer the Foveon look, which is richer and 3D-like.
But the gear is only as good as the photographer. My challenge is shooting my wife’s bead necklaces so they look good and color is accurate. We don’t want any unsatisfied customers because the necklace is different from the photos. So far, the first set is representative. It’s a start.
My wife is starting with four necklaces, all featuring Kazuri ceramic beads. She explains about them:
Kazuri are ‘good karma’ beads to wear. They are handmade by women in Kenya in good working conditions. These beads help them support their families and often extended families. I’m happy to work with them and feel it is better than working with beads made in less friendly conditions. I swooned the first time I saw a display of Kazuri beads years ago at a bead bazaar. I knew I wanted to work with them. They are colorful, high quality works of art.
She has collected many of the beads for over 20 years, particularly African trade beads used in some of the designs. There’s a symmetry to using cottage-industry-made Kazuri beads to make necklaces sold from an online-cottage shop. Now if we can just sell some.
Do you have an Etsy or other online retail story that you’d like told? Please email Joe Wilcox: joewilcox at gmail dot com.