Friday, October 19, 2007

Phantom Limb and Handmade Detroit

Stephanie Tardy of Phantom Limb (“The Stuff You’re Missing”) sells adorable cards, books and paper assemblage art wholesale and online. She also creates one-of-a-kind items from re-fabed skirts, roomy bags and crocheted scarves, all with the idea of re-using great materials and playing with a clean, assemblage aesthetic.

Stephanie started Phantom Limb in the fall of 2005 under the encouragement of her friend Carey Gustafson of Glass Action. Shortly after, Carey and Stephanie joined forces with Alicia Dorset of Lish Magic to form Handmade Detroit, an urban craft collective that produces many events including the Detroit Urban Craft Fair. Since then, Handmade Detroit added a few core members to the group, and but their mission to spread the word and provide opportunity for handmade artists in Michigan hasn’t changed!

Customers of All Ages and Genders
“I’m not sure I have a typical customer. Children are drawn to my love of color, men love my use of maps, and women tend to love anything writing-based, like my journals and stationery.”

Juggling Act
“I have a part-time position as a designer with a newspaper and spend the rest of my time on Handmade Detroit and Phantom Limb. I’d say it’s more like crafting is my full-time job as far as time spent, but both are creative outlets.”

Financing a Business

“At first I was doing [my business] all for the love … every dime I made I put right back into supplies. I don’t think it takes a lot of startup cash to be a crafter these days, at least for me it didn’t. Setting myself up on Etsy and MySpace, talking to the handmade store owner a mile away, using thrift and cast-off materials, these were all the low-cost beginnings of my business.”

“We still run Handmade Detroit this way: All the money collected through merchandise and vendor fees goes into craft show venue rental, flyer printing, web hosting, all the stuff that makes our group grow and able to provide more outlets around the city.”

Consigning Challenges
“Get everything in writing for consigning! Turn a notebook into a ledger or make a little consignment sheet to keep track of everything you agree on like what you will be paid and when, how much you sent, etc. Realize that consigning with distros is a whole different ballgame than consigning to brick and morter stores, which tend to be more professional and prompt but harder to get in with.”

Finding Retailers
“Research! Of course you can look at other crafter’s web sites and see where they sell. But I’ve had a lot of success by asking crafty friends in other cities to recommend their favorite shops or ones I would fit in with. Friends know you and your goods and if they know the shop owner, it’s an instant connection to talk to them.”

Indie Marketing
Handmade Detroit is in a unique position to build up the DIY movement in Detroit and we have been interested in long-term recognition and creating a market for handmade items more than straight-out marketing.”

“That being said, I approach promotion for both Phantom Limb and Handmade Detroit like they are indie bands. In other words, a lot of low-cost and word-of-mouth marketing. Since Detroit also has a thriving music community (and all of the Handmade Detroit ladies are music geektresses), we also have naturally attached ourselves to the indie rock scene here. Like bands, the group and I use flyers and posters to get the word out about upcoming shows, giving them to other businesses, art venues and coffee shops. We have a long list of forums, profiles and other online outlets that we post on regularly.”

“In terms of some tie-in ideas: We’ve put our logo mitten pins on too many guitar straps to mention! We’ve given t-shirts to bands to wear on stage in exchange for an on-stage mention, and we’ve done handmade merchandise for other bands. We work with like-minded groups to tie in handmade products, too. For example, we’re working with a local online pop culture magazine to cross-promote and reach each other’s audiences. It’s important to always be reaching out to a new market and potential customer with like-minded ventures, so we do a lot of that.”

Generating Press
“Journalists and bloggers are always looking for new things to write about and so I try to get at least one piece of press for both each month. It’s always a combination of networking, e-mailing and media releases to secure press. Blind press releases are never as good as knowing the writer at your intended target, but e-mailing a personal note to a specific reporter can be just as good. It’s also important to keep in touch with your press contacts. While they can’t write about you all the time, they do know other media people and may even turn into a customer!”

“Keeping a list of updated contacts is also crucial. Spend a little time identifying good fits for your business. Think about angles of your goods, and don’t be afraid to pitch story ideas to the media, especially at smaller outlets like community newspapers. Don’t forget business press, who are always looking for small businesses to feature. Telling the story of your business is better than product mentions because it gains a true following.”

Keeping Up with Customers
“Because I do so many craft fairs, I am able to talk to my customers. They can tell you a lot, and sometimes unabashedly, about your goods and what they like and want.”

The DIY Community
“Being part of a community of makers motivates me constantly. The support in DIY community is just unreal. From the small things like if you’re having a bad day, to the big things like idea sharing and collaboration. This inspires me daily to get up and do more.”

Recommended Business Resources
SCORE is a biggie. Also, check out community calendars for free and cheap business classes. Many banks, SBAs and local Chamber of Commerces offer interesting and low-cost options for upping your business smarts. They also provide great connections with non-crafters: Printers, bankers, lawyers, etc.”

Phantom Limb was inspired by grade school libraries and children’s books. I miss the smell of the library in 3rd grade and most of my creations have a bit of that memory in them! Clean design, sans serif fonts, Wes Anderson’s design aesthetic, Richard Scarry’s use of color, Pippi Longstocking movies, and the unique musical beat, the decay and beauty of the city of Detroit also inspire me.”

Amazing Mentors
“The other ladies in Handmade Detroit, craft fair leaders and the folks doing good and important DIY work are basically my mentors; or at least, I admire their work immensely. Kelly Pettibone of Naka, Faythe Levine of Handmade Nation, the folks at Craft and Etsy and Venus, Autumn from Strange Folk, all the people who put on Craft Congress, and so many more. I admire the strength of their ideas and it motives me to bring more good things to Detroit.”


Stephanie Tardy
Phantom Limb
Handmade Detroit

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey its tara, here is the website i was talking about where i made the extra summer cash.......... the website is here