Today we’re in studio with Dana Holscher, the of creator the Botny line of jewelry and accessories.
Hi Dana! Tell us a little about what you do.
I create jewelry and men’s accessories made out of shrinkable plastic, colored pencil and resin.
Then I attach the little cabochon to accessories including dangly earrings, post earrings, necklace pendants, rings, bobby pins, cuff links and tie tacks.
How did you get started in this business?
I started my Etsy shop in March of 2011. It really happened on accident, to be honest. Over Christmas I had received a pair of beautiful dangly earrings from my sister-in-law. They looked as if they were handmade and of course the do-it-yourselfer came out in me and I desperately wanted to learn how to make them!
They were bold and beautiful and looked as if they were screenprinted onto a plastic disc, so I just gathered some materials and went to town! I practiced with colored pencils since I didn’t have access to screenprinting equipment at the time and used shrinkable plastic as the base.
Once the artwork was created, I used my knowledge– gained at a quaint little bead shop I worked at — and applied resin to the earrings to give them a little extra shine and dimension. One thing lead to another and before I knew it Botny accessories were born! In the fall of 2011, I was able to pursue this career full time.
The Unglued Craft Fest happened to be debuting their first-ever show around the time that I came up with this process, so I registered to have a booth and brought about 150 pairs to the show. And the rest became history! This craft fair is a big reason my jewelry business grew so fast.
How is selling at a craft fest different than the way you normally do business?
I absolutely love craft fairs because you have the opportunity to be surrounded by creative vendors who share the same passion for making things and you get the chance to communicate with your customers face to face. You get to see the type of people who are drawn to your product, get to talk to new and old customers and get to personally see the expression on someone’s face when they find that perfect accessory.
How have you seen the industry change since you started?
I’ve only been doing craft fairs for 3 years now, but in that short amount of time I’ve noticed a surge in the indie movement and many cities holding their own indie craft fairs. It’s so fun and encouraging to see such support and enthusiasm for supporting local and handmade.
You mentioned that you worked in a bead store. What other experiences led you to pursue a creative business?
Growing up I was surrounded by the handmade movement. My father, mother, sister, brother and I all lived together in an old farm house with our little rat terrier and barn full of cats and enjoyed life by being creative and working with our hands.
My father, a self-taught woodworker, made everything from custom kitchen cabinets to beautiful vintage dreadnought guitars, while my mother had elaborate flower and vegetable gardens and sewed all of our dresses and skirts growing up. My sister, brother, and I just soaked up this environment and grew up with a passion for the simple, handmade life.
I went to college at Minnesota State University Moorhead and graduated with an Art Degree emphasizing drawing and printmaking. I always had the desire to live a simple life and live off of what I could create so after graduation, despite pressures to have a high status job, I became very involved in craft fairs and creating things by combining my love for fine art as well as my love for the emerging indie craft movement.
What is your work space like?
My studio is a basic set-up right now. We bought our house just over a year ago, and in a mad scramble to get a work space built, we put together a basic sawhorse table, set up shelves and called it a studio.
Now that I’ve worked in it for a while, I’m realizing things that need to change in order to make it more efficient, so this spring my husband and I have plans to rebuild my studio.
What is your creative process like? How do you get your ideas? Where do you find inspiration?
It seems like every design I’ve made has been inspired by something I’ve stumbled upon or has been a customer’s request that I felt would sell well in my permanent collection.
I like being inspired by patterns and color combinations found in nature, in my favorite clothing and home decor catalogs, as well as taking in feedback from customers as to what they’d like to see. I take an idea and run with it.
What are your most loyal customers like?
I’m very blessed to have so many loyal customers. A lot of them want earrings in every color I offer, so they keep coming back to slowly accumulate their collection.
I also have other customers who have favorite bands, symbols that are important to them, and/or designs they’d love on a pair of earrings and custom request them time and time again.
What do your customers tell you that they love about your creations?
A lot of customers tell me that they love the simplicity of my earrings and that they can be dressed up or dressed down to go with literally any outfit. They’re also incredibly lightweight and comfortable and even the most-sensitive ears have been able to wear them.
Why do you think that people respond to unique and handcrafted items?
I like to make something that I myself am drawn to. I strive to achieve this and if others are also drawn to my product, then I feel I’ve accomplishing a personal goal.
Its a special feeling to own and wear something thats one-of-a-kind and knowing that someone’s own two hands personally made that item is even more special.
What goals do you have for your business?
I recently expanded my jewelry line to include rings, bobby pins, necklaces, men’s cufflinks and tie tacks. This was a big process for me and one of my long term goals.
Now that that has been accomplished, I’d like to work on expanding the amount of inventory I have on hand to allow for quicker shipping which in turn will positively affect customer feedback and their likelihood of being a return customer.
What advice would you give someone that’s considering setting up a similar business?
It’s easy to get discouraged if items aren’t selling as fast as you’d like, but try your hardest to take advantage of that slow time to make more products, add more items to your shop, network, and you’ll see your hard work pay off.
You have to believe in your product in order for others to believe in it and love it. I went through a point a few months into my journey where I almost gave up because things weren’t quite working the way I wanted them to, but with the encouraging words of my husband I did a LOT of searching and a lot of trial-and-error to come up with my solution to a better my product and it definitely paid off!
If someone is making a similar product as yours or if even if you feel they’re directly copying your product, push yourself to be better. It’s so easy to get upset and discouraged but that doesn’t do anybody any good…just treat it as a personal challenge to improve what you already have.
If you could tell Prairie Style File Readers anything about yourself, your work or your creative process, what would it be?
Ever since I was little I’ve had my hands in some form of jewelry making; whether it be creating little woodland creatures by braiding beads and thread together or making elaborate earrings with beads and wire.
I’ve always LOVED making jewelry but never really felt like it was my own unique creation when I was just piecing already made findings together….but now I found my niche!
I’m combining my love for drawing, and my love for jewelry making into this laborious but wonderful process of Botny accessories. It’s just a great feeling to be able to make something that you designed and created from start to finish!