Today I am pleased to introduce a fantastic artist.. Jenn George Burt. Jenn makes these chic, functional and eco-friendly "coffee corsets" in such a wide variety of styles and colors that you will have a hard time picking your favorite! Learn more about her and the coffee corset...
Jenn George Burt
Jenn Gee! (she made this for me)
Describe what you sell.
Primarily I sell a little invention that I call a Coffee Corset, which is a basically a small quilt that is laced up and is intended to replace those wasteful cardboard cuffs that you get when you buy fancy cups of coffee. I also sell handmade goodies for Blythe and Pullip dolls, supplies, and (most recently) felt bead ponytail holders. Before the holiday buying season arrives I hope to add quilted coasters and leather coasters to my main shop as well. However, what I sell is not necessarily a full picture of what I like to create. One of my main passions is quilting and over the past 5 or 6 years I've become very interested in creating art quilts using unusual materials and techniques. It is difficult to sell these creations (both because they are my "babies" and because selling expensive textile items online is quite challenging) so I create and sell my other things, which I also enjoy making, to supplement my income and to make it possible for me to pursue my artistic visions without worrying if I can afford to buy the materials and tools I need to get where I want to go artistically.
What is your real life like?
I graduated from NC State University in 1999 with a degree in Middle School Math and Science Education. I was prepared to jump right into a middle school science teacher roll at that point. However, I got an offer that I couldn't refuse and, instead, became an employee of the math department at NCSU. One of my primary jobs there is working with an online finite math course, which means I sit at my computer and help students understand probability and matrices and other basic linear algebra type things. I am also the go-to person for the department for such things as online homework and many other aspects of teaching college in the computer age! I work primarily from home so I spend a lot of my time in my pajamas, which suits me just fine. I really, really love my job and can't imagine ever switching to a regular 9-to-5 job (mostly because they'd require me to get up early in the morning AND wear pants!). I just got married this summer and I'm enjoying every second of married life right now. My husband, Wes, has a culinary degree but is currently going back to school to become a teacher. Since we both have the summers off we managed to extend our honeymoon into a "honeymonth" and had a blast cruising the western Caribbean, being mellow on the beaches of Topsail Island, and running from roller coaster to roller coaster at Busch Gardens. We are the proud "parents" of a fat, lazy beagle named Jada and a certifiably crazy orange cat named Jaspurr.
What is your process?
There is nothing really "special" about the basic techniques that I use to create my pieces - they are the same techniques that have been used for generations by those who sew and create with textiles. However, as with many artistic endeavors, it is how you apply basic techniques and general knowledge that makes your creations special and all your own. I spend a lot of time learning new skills and finding newer, faster, better ways to bring what is in my head into the "real world". Many times I'll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a finished piece in my head and then I'll spend the next week or month trying to figure out how to best make it come to life. Sometimes this means that I have to veer far off the regular track and borrow techniques from other disciplines and adapt them to work with textiles. It is a very rewarding process and I feel that I learn something new and interesting all the time.
Business Goals and Vision...
My major short term goal is to get a lot of Coffee Corsets made so that I'm ready for the holiday rush. Last year I did very well through November and December, but I could have done even better if I'd had more inventory. I was selling out practically every day and spent many, many late nights frantically making new Coffee Corsets just so the shop wouldn't sit empty. It was exciting and tiresome at the same time. This year I'm hoping to have so many Coffee Corsets ready that I can simply enjoy the excitement without so much of the pressure! As for long term goals I hope to keep adding new lines and investigating new ways to advertise and get the word out. So far I've relied mostly on word of mouth advertising and it has worked out well for me, but I want to begin to challenge myself constantly to find new and creative ways to get my product in front of even more people so that I continue to grow and expand.
How do you market your business?
As I said before, mostly I've been relying on word of mouth advertisement. I participate in the forums and I've joined my local street team www.nctriangle.blogspot.com. I'm thrilled to have been featured on a large number of blogs and, most recently, I shared the spotlight in an article in a major newspaper.
Do you subscribe to any business related blogs, zines or magazines?
No, but I'm constantly reading about business related topics in the forums and trying to soak in as much as I can.
What inspires you?
Pretty much anything can inspire me to create, but usually I will find a fabric that I adore and it will lead me down a path. Other times I'm inspired by functionality. I'll think "it would be cool to make something that does *blah*" and then I will come up with a way to make it come to life in a fun and unique way.
What are two of your favorite things from your shop?
My Coffee Corsets, of course, have to be included in any list of favorites - both because I really enjoy making them and because I love the feeling I get when someone else enjoys owning one. Of all the currently listed Coffee Corsets I'd have to say that this one is my personal favorite:
(pictured above) And it is my mom's favorite as well, which is how it got the name "Mom's Favorite"! I'm also thrilled with my new line of felt bead ponytail holders.
(pictured to the right)
Am a fan of these places...
* karenssoaps.etsy.com - Karen is a member of my street team, but before I even knew that she lived right around the corner from me I was in love with her soaps.
* SeaFindDesigns.etsy.com - I "met" Tracy in the forums when I first joined Etsy and I just love what she does with sea glass. My mother-in-law wears the piece that I bought for her all the time.
* magpiemama.etsy.com - Cynthia is just a fabulous person in general and her shop is adorable! When I was first considering opening my shop for Blythe and Pullip items I was in need of a Blythe doll model (which are very expensive). I posted in the forums that I was looking to buy one. Cynthia was only an Etsy buyer at the time, but she was lurking in the forums and saw my plea. She let me BORROW one of her Blythe dolls! I was amazed by her trust and generosity. We became pen pals after that and I suggested that she open her own shop. She did and now look how well she is doing! You have to check out her shop even if you don't have a "creepy big headed doll" you like to buy for.
* myspace.com - I was on myspace before myspace was cool. I don't do much advertising there other than dropping an Etsy mini on my page. Basically I use it to keep up with old friends and to keep them informed about what is going on in my life. I also use it to find out about local bands and events - which is always fun.
* webassign.net - Ok, so it is boring, but it is really where I spend most of my online time. It is an online homework program ... um, yeah ... and you probably thought I was cool until I listed this. Oh, well - not everything in my life is exciting :)
Find seller at...