|Etsy shop link:||http://omshanti.etsy.com/|
|Tell us about you and your Etsy shop. What do you create?:||All-natural bath and body products — luxurious soaps and healing salves, nourishing bath oils and cleansing body scrubs. No artificial ingredients, no fragrance oils, and nothing I can’t pronounce.|
|What made you want to become and artist or craftsperson? What and/or who influenced your decisions?:||I’ve been crafting for years — though I started with the fiber arts, embroidery and costume-making. In college I joined the SCA, which is a group of people who recreate the Middle Ages and Renaissance in Europe. You can buy the clothing — but not when you’re a poor college student, so I learned to sew.
That was a lot of fun, and I still do it every once in a while, but several years ago I started to get interested in herbal lore. A friend of mine in the SCA started a business in which she sold herbs and other ingredients, and I felt it was my duty to support her. Soon I had a whole stash of herbs and essential oils, and figured it was time to do something with it! I played a little with bath salts, but not very much, and it was a couple years before I got really interested.
Not until I moved to Colorado, in fact. I’d spent fifteen years married to a man who said he loved me — and did all he could to make me afraid, unsure of myself, and thoroughly dependent on him for everything. I finally got up the gumption to leave, a little over four years ago, and moved out to Colorado to start over.
And spent a couple of years floundering, flailing around, trying to remember how to be _me_ and not ‘this guy’s wife’. I worked a series of awful jobs, just to pay the rent, and each one just dragged me lower and lower. I distracted myself, when I had the energy, by experimenting with the herbal ingredients I’d brought with me.
See, I’d spent my life in Pennsylvania, Land of Humidity, and moving to Colorado was eye-opening. I loved the dry, but it’s rough on skin, so I decided to use that herbal lore to fix the problem. It was fun, and a nice hobby, and didn’t go any further than that.
Until I was reduced to working at Walmart, which is when I decided I’d had enough, and turned my herbal hobby into a business.
I’m still scraping to pay the rent, but I know who I am now — who _I_ am, and not who someone else has defined me as. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve grown a lot, and it hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything — certainly not for a life of leisure as someone else’s possession, ever again.
So three years later, here I am, owner of a small business making moisturizing things for anyone and everyone who needs them. And loving it!
|Please describe your creative process. How do you do what you do?:||A lot of my ideas for scents come from friends and customers — someone will say, how about this, and I give it a try, and as often as not it smells REALLY good. Or I poke through all my oils for ideas, or find scent ideas online; once I even got an idea from a story written by a friend!
If it’s something medicinal I’m much more concerned with how it works than how it smells (though I don’t make things that smell _bad_). I have a library of herbal books for research, and I looks things up online as well. Then I whip up a small batch, and test it thoroughly. On myself first, of course, and then I have a couple of friends who are willing to play guinea pig for me. Only once I know it does the job do I post a new product.
|What handmade possession do you most cherish?:||I have a knitted afghan made for me by my aunt. She gave it to me a couple years ago, when we were both going through some tough times — she learned to knit as a sort of emotional therapy, and I was very pleased to receive a gift from her hands — it feels like a hug every time I drape it over my lap. It’s the first thing anyone’s ever _made_ for me and it brought she and I a lot closer together. I love it.|
|What advice would you give to new Etsy sellers? Or if you are new to Etsy, what is the most important thing you have learned since opening your shop?:||Marketing. Yeah, it’s tough. It’s hard to put yourself out there — we’re taught not to draw attention to ourselves, not to put ourselves forward, and that’s exactly what you have to do to get noticed.
I’m still not _good_ at it — the best I can say is that I’m less crappy at it than I was a few years ago — but I’m getting there. And you’ve got to do it.
|How do you promote your work? Be specific and include any links to your blog, website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to be included in your interview.:||Mostly on Facebook and through my blog these days, though I do Twitter some and I have an email newsletter that I really need to start sending out again. Have some links:|
|What do you love most about being involved with local Etsy sellers as a member of KCHST?:||I love that Lisa contacted me out of the blue when I’d been in Tennessee less than a month! The KCHST show was my first here and I feel it’s a very good omen for how well I’ll do in Tennessee.
Y’all have made me feel very welcome (see, I’m picking up on the local lingo already!) and I love that there are monthly get-togethers. I really like that even some of the local Etsy folk who couldn’t sell at the fall show came anyway to visit and lend support. That’s awesome!
|What else do you do? You know, in your free time, those moments when you aren’t creating items for your shop or marketing or packing and shipping.:||I still play in the SCA, and I’ve recently started sewing again in the evenings. I have a cat (those of you who were at the show Sunday met him) who walks on a leash and I take him out to local parks to wander around — Lakeshore Park is my current favourite though I know I’ll find more the longer I live here. And I read voraciously.|