The idea for The Femme Stories was born last year, but with any small business some ideas just have to wait. When everything started happening surrounding the pandemic I was PROUD of my friends and colleagues for how they were tackling these unprecedented times and I wanted to document that, these are their stories.
Andrea | Andrea Shelley Designs
I met the maker behind Andrea Shelley Designs last year when we are across from each other at a Cheerfully Made Show. I was instantly taken not only with her jewelry, but her deep emotional connection to each piece. I loved hearing and discovering online what each collection represented. I started following her and even got to have dinner with her at OOAK last year and what I saw was a person who chooses her words very carefully because she understands the weight they carry. Her bio on her website is incredible raw and you can’t help but feel connected to her instantly, from her thoughtfulness not only with her own emotions, but the emotion she puts into each piece she creates.
What was your immediate outlook? Were you getting ready for a long haul or thinking this would blow over?
Unfortunately, or fortunately, I’m not sure how to put that, but I do follow the news closely and I knew that this would not be a simple 2-week fix. I figured we will have to be strict for the first couple months and then slowly open up and see where we are at, but I have been moving forward with the idea that our entire year won’t look the way we thought it would.
Were you participating in any Spring Shows and how have the vendors dealt with cancelling or postponing?
Yes, Easter weekend I was supposed to be in Winnipeg for the Third and Bird Show, that was postponed till May and has since been moved to July, and who knows if that will be possible, there is so much up in the air. This cancellation hit me a little harder because I have family in Winnipeg, so it’s doubly sad not being able to see them. Third and Bird is managing this really well, there is a lot of blame being thrown around right now about what they should be doing, but just like us they have bills to pay, so an immediate refund isn’t always possible. They have lost revenue as well and I think we can all be kinder to each other during this time.
*** Third and Bird is moving forward with a virtual show, but then having vendors set up at a distance for clients to do their pick-ups, because of this out of town vendors can’t participate, so Andrea won’t be there.
Before COVID did you focus on online sales or were shows a bigger sales generator for you?
Shows are 80% of my income. Being able to talk to clients and help them add a necklace to their jewelry stack or let them try a ring on and know it fits is a huge reason that my sales are bigger in person. They want to feel the quality of my work and see the detail up close, that is harder to portray in an image for my website.
For my past online sales, a lot of those have been because of markets. They see you and your product, but maybe they need to think about it. Purchasing online after the show is easier if you have already seen what you want and know the quality of the work. Trying to build your online sales without those markets, is a whole different game that I don’t really know how to play.
In your stories you have done an exceptional job of displaying the detail in your work, has showing it off in a new way like this helped clients see the quality like they would at a market?
Definitely, my stories and Instagram in general has given me a direct line to my clients. It allows me to show off my pieces and communicate with them like I would at a market. What I am trying to do is look at my jewelry in a new way, I am so close to it I don’t always know what feels magical to people. In some way, shape or form I have been making jewelry my entire life, so this has been a challenge to look at with new eyes. I am trying to see the pieces how my customers would, and show it to them that way. I want to recreate that market experience of discovering a new artisan or your new favourite piece.
Do you have any plans to change up your website to help bring this experience to customers?
My biggest goal right now is to make my website as inviting as my booth at a market. I want them to land on my homepage and feel a connection with me, feel the story behind my brand and my pieces and if you have a question, feel like it is easy to connect and reach out. I have been talking with a few of my faithful customers that come to every market I do and asking them, what do they like about the market experience, I want to bring that to life on my website for them. I think it will be a long time before markets come back in a way we are used to, so I want my website to be a new space where they can shop and feel that joy of discovery.
Your Earth Day Initiative is amazing, can you explain how it works and what your goal is.
In the month of April, with each purchase made I will donate to Tree Canada, basically the goal is to have 50 online purchases to get 50 trees planted. This is a huge goal for myself especially during this climate because normally I would have a market to help reach this sales goal. On top of that a lot of my production or material companies I work with are closed which makes creating some of my items impossible. I wanted to do 50 because it was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and it was a nice round number. On top of this initiative I am doing weekly Earth Day Newsletters to update clients on what I do in my studio and within the business to stay ecofriendly.
** At the time I spoke with Andrea she had sold 16 items, and felt like she might not reach her goal. As business owners we all have benchmarks we set for our companies, but when COVID hit a lot of us had to decide what to move forward with and what to push back. I love that Andrea moved forward with this worthy initiative and at the end of the month she sold 37 pieces, planting 37 trees and donated $148, which is pretty amazing!!!
Has this disrupted your day to day routine or are you still able to creative pieces? If so do you find this helps to keep you focused, relieve anxiety?
My routine is completely different, I use to do one day in the studio and one day in my home office, alternating each day, now it is more, what do I feel like and some days I don’t feel like doing anything. It is weird, but I am allowing myself that space to feel weird and be unproductive, because I can’t just bottle that up. I used to do that and I completely burnt out and now I am taking each day as it comes.
I am really lucky to live within walking distance of my studio, so I am able to create. I am still able to get into a space I know and feel comfortable in, it gives me some sense of normalcy, it helps me come back to the making. My bench is my home and I know what to do when I am there and I don’t have to overthink anything. When you get into the making and it uses your brain, you stop obsessing, you are just focused on what you are doing.
Andrea has used this time to not only create new pieces and give back to our planet, but to shift her focus to the online experience for her customers. To avoid waste she is moving towards a made-to-order model and is letting go of early collection that don’t speak to her anymore. As creatives we are ever changing, so Andrea is working on shifting her site to be more in balance with her current aesthetic and values. She will be continuing to plant trees for every purchase and offsetting the carbon footprint of her shipments.
Be sure to check out her website to see her incredible designs and follow her on social media to follow her journey of change.