Today I interview my student, podcast listener and long time member of the Thriver Circle (my membership community for makers) Clare Smythson.

Clare has been running her successful glass painting business – Ornately Lanterns – since 2001, though she only ventured into online selling via her Etsy shop in 2015, and has since set up on Amazon Handmade and her own website.

Today we discuss why she started glass painting; how her business has morphed and changed; other work she does in the handmade community (including a job many of you would probably hate!); running a busy Etsy team; her non-handmade job which she still does because she loves it; and much more.

You can listen to this episode below, or on your fave podcasting app!

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Highlights from this episode:

  • Clare discussed her business, Ornately Lanterns, which sells glass-painted candle lanterns and has been in operation for the past 20 years. Clare started her business after rediscovering her childhood hobby of painting during a long illness, and gradually expanded from craft shows in the UK to having her own Etsy shop.
  • Clare also sells products for other crafters, and this was discussed as a good alternative for those people not suited to craft shows.
  • It’s very emotional selling your work and very emotional when you’re standing there not selling your work” {Clare}.
  • Managing negative feedback was discussed, as crafters need to find a balance between genuine concerns from customers and people just being nasty.
  • Clare has recently opened a second Etsy shop, Quirky Swan, and uses this to sell other items that used to get lost in the Ornately Lantern shop such as hand painted cards and wall hangings.
  • Jess spoke about this being a common theme with many crafters choosing to open a second Etsy shop to accommodate products that perhaps didn’t fit in with the original shop. However, this does take more work to manage two shops at once.
  • One sale of £4 in that shop delights me rather more actually than selling a lantern in the other shop, just because it’s new and it’s exciting, like having a new shop again” {Clare}.
  • This second shop has become more like a hobby shop and gives Clare the opportunity to enjoy her crafting again, rather than it being a business only.
  • Jess explained about her ASMR YouTube Channel which is her new venture that is purely for fun, and brings back the excitement of starting something completely new.
  • Clare’s volunteering as a mentor for an Etsy Team in Redhill in the UK was discussed. It is important to make contact with other Etsy sellers in your area as these are the people who will truly understand and help when you have problems with the platform.
  • This group was particularly helpful during the Covid-19 pandemic as it allowed crafters to keep in touch via Zoom and avoid feeling isolated.
  • Day-to-day business for Clare was discussed and, as she has three income streams: IT training, painting, and managing Etsy shops and websites for other crafters, this means that no two days are the same. Therefore Clare has got to be organised and efficient, and schedule things to ensure that they are completed on time.
  • It is not just about being creative. There is a lot of business admin, marketing, all sorts of other stuff as well” {Clare}.
  • It’s important to find the methods and the tools that work for you. For example, Clare uses Google Calendar and Trello and blocks out periods of time that are dedicated to certain things like administration, painting, time off, etc.
  • Marketing strategies were talked about as Clare dislikes social media and self promotion so strongly recommended that crafters in her position learn SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. Think about the words people would be using to search for your product and apply this to your sites.
  • Clare has also engaged a company to create Google Ads for her as social media analytics have shown that most of her customer base are not users of this platform.
  • It was noted that 2020 was not a usual year in sales due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and Clare spoke of a spreadsheet that she has maintained for many years, recording revenue, Etsy views etc. This has been useful for her in these times as it reminds her that, while her sales are down on last year, they are still more than her early years in business and this is heartening.
  • Clare can be found at, ornatelylanterns on Etsy, YouTube and Pinterest. She is also on Facebook and Instagram.

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