Featured Zibbeter - Sewmantra
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Tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Martiel Beatty- the Founder and Fiber Artist behind the brand and Zibbet shop, Sewmantra. I have been crafting, sewing and artistically enthusiastic since I was a kid, but as many girls experience, cultural mores have a significant influence on women and girls throughout their lives encouraging them to participate in making. My experience was no different. I was ‘enculturated’ from a young age into the ’sewing club’, as I call it and have been doing it ever since. However, my work with yarn, specifically crochet, has a shorter history. I learned to crochet just over 12 years ago. You can read the entire story on my blog about how I learned to do this in a warehouse while working as a call center representative at the age of nineteen – when laissez-faire was not a way of thinking, but a way of life for me.
I never thought I would start an art or crafting business - I was on a different track heading for a Ph.D. in Environmental Anthropology and Geography, when I had an accident which for all intents and purposes has put me on a different track both mentally and physically. This event changed my life and in essence changed how I had to function – through some self-discovery and a lot of failures, I realized I had to change my plans.
Prior to launching Sewmantra I had just completed two years of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Habitat for Humanity in Washington, D.C. I was heading up some short term social media projects and campaigns when I happened across five giant boxes of yarn at an estate sale in great condition - I’m not kidding, when I say this I nearly jumped all the way to the car with joy, and I’m 6’3” – how is that for imagery? After buying the boxes of yarn I decided that I should start making and selling my scarves and hats – I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Low and behold, my handmade adventure began and Sewmantra was born.
My shop officially opened in October 2011 on another, non Zibbet site. The first couple of weeks were slow, but then Sewmantra made its jump out of the gate at the beginning of the winter season with my Critter Hats in the lead. In less than 6 weeks, I sold nearly 100 critter hats. Everything from owls to penguins to badgers and more! I was getting requests from people in Hawaii (who knew they wore winter hats???) to Canada, Russia, Wisconsin, New York and elsewhere. Not to mention, the critter requests were about as diverse as the places I was sending them to. I knew I was doing something right, which also meant, Sewmantra was on its way to setting down roots.
As the months have rolled on I have received requests from friends, family and neighbors for products – all of which have become product lines and/or collections in my shop. Now I make wearable art for adults, children and pets as well as household items like dishcloths and my ever-favorite customer pick, Reusable Kitchen Scrubbies.
Now all of this is a great story, but it really doesn’t make people see why I’m different. But I saved the best part for last. I’m an eco-chic through and through. I drive a hybrid; I have more recycling than trash every single week – guaranteed, and all my products no matter what they are, are eco-friendly. I do this because it isn’t just a design element or a theme I want to keep in my shop or a part of my product lines, it is a life choice for me and I figure if I can reuse something instead of buying something new – why not?
Apart from being ‘creative’ what do you do?
To be quite honest, I am really busy as an artist, and I have very little time for other things. However, there are two things that are near and dear to my heart that I make time for aside from my daily yoga hour, eating right, a little gardening and exploring with my husband.
I am the founder of a local nonprofit in Maryland, the South Potomac Arts League (SoPAL). I started this organization because I know that most people are not professional artists. They work full time jobs, have families or other responsibilities and/or they just are not that serious about art because it is something fun – not a job. SoPAL is a thriving community of artists, students, hobbyists, crafters, creatives, and art enthusiasts. It’s a community where members support and share experiences, knowledge, techniques, critiques, successes, and fun through workshops, meetings, exhibits, field trips, challenges, art shows and friendships. It is my belief that everyone is an artist and SoPAL is a conduit for this.
Second, is my pet project which I’ve been working on for some time now. It started in response to a need I had – a pricing calculator for what I make. I realized that after a great deal of research, I am not the only handmade artist/crafter out there who would benefit from this tool. Thus, this is my first public announcement, right here on Zibbet that an amazing (comprehensive, cross-artistic genre) calculator that includes labor, overhead, material costs, and equipment depreciation is coming. And it will calculate your creation/manufacturing costs, retail price and wholesale price with the click of one button. Furthermore, it will also provide a list of materials and their prices in a report which you can save and edit for future use. Not to mention, it will be accompanied by some other great tools as well.
So, I’m happy to say it is making bigger strides now with each week and I hope that in the next several months my team and I can share this amazing tool with other artists. It will change how we price our creations. I know I needed the help, I’m sure I’m not alone.
What inspires you to do the kind of work you do?
My work is about being green and eco-friendly. I live a very low footprint life (I’m serious, I drive a Honda Insight and recycle more each week than I throw out in 3 months) and inspirations come in part from this type of lifestyle but I also look at how we use things and why we need things. I do not want to make frivolous things because they sound like fun, I want to make them because they are a sustainable solution to a need and because we love what tradition gives us.
I have come to call my artistic technique eco-tradesign. It means that customers get outstanding handmade quality products based on traditional designs. Each of my products are made with as much post-consumer material as possible because part of being an eco-designer is using reclaimed, recycled and/or upcycled materials. I guarantee customers will love my products and by using them they will feel satisfied with first-hand knowledge that they have done their part in making our world a cleaner place because they have bought a product that reduces waste. Plus, all my products are about satisfying human nature to seek comfort above all else.
My materials come from a variety of sources. Organics are always certified organic and my reclaimed, recycled and upcycled products vary quite a lot. These come from thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales, etc. I’ve taken apart blankets, sweaters, socks, and endless other types of garments to create my items. For color uniformness in requested and/or necessary situations, I have also dyed yarn. I do this with a plant based dye in house. There are no toxins or chemicals used in my dying process.
The eco aspect of my art doesn’t just extend to my products, it extends to my labels too. I upcycle cereal boxes and paper bags to create my hang-tags and wrap tags.
If there is anything you take away from this section, you should know there are five things my art does: it makes you feel good, it’s fun, beautiful, sustainable, and practical.
Do you look up to anyone? Who? Why?
I don’t look up to one person, but to many people because of their different qualities. I find inspiration comes from many people in many different ways. Every day I observe the world and the fantastic people in it. And every day I find something inspirational, something motivational, and someone I admire. Looking to the future is always a good quality, but being mindful of the present and who is around you can be enlightening.
What other passions do you have in your life?
First is my husband Rob, who is my cornerstone, my adventure partner and all around best friend. We do many things around Maryland and beyond – we enjoy just about any outdoor activity, visiting the museums in D.C., going to lectures, and volunteering. My art venture wouldn’t be possible without his on-going and unconditional love and support.
Second are my lovely little hairballs, which are always mulling around my studio and generally following me wherever I go in or outside the house. Pearl and Nermal are my cats – they are nine and eight years old respectively and you will be hard pressed to find them in any other room than where I am. Funny enough, they are very good about staying off my tables, out of my yarn, off my fabrics and away from work areas I’m immediately occupying. However, they do have a love for my recycle bins – I’m not sure why, but they love to slough through the paper recycle box in the studio – it’s a daily joy-filled activity for them. They then emerge covered in bits of paper so happy that they scamper and frolic about the room. They offer up ongoing comedic entertainment throughout the day – which is always good when I’m working hard to get ready for an art show.
What do you like most about Zibbet?
I really love the community atmosphere, the on-going challenges, and the promotional opportunities available for shop owners. I feel that Zibbet has a corner on this market and has done a great job on offering these kinds of things to their subscribers. Specifically because subscribers are not lost in the community, I get to interact with the same folks all the time, and I love that!
However, if I could pick one thing that I like most about Zibbet, it would have to be the monthly “promote your new listings here” threads. I hope you never get rid of these as I think it give your site great exposure, it gives the shops wonderful exposure and it drives traffic to both – which I think is terrific!
What ‘new’ things would you like to see added to Zibbet?
I can only think of one thing I would like to see added to Zibbet – comprehensive, awesome, minute-by-minute analytics. Here is why I say analytics/stats: in order to determine if my marketing plans/campaigns are working, I need to know if traffic is coming from these campaigns into my Zibbet shop, how long they are staying, what they are looking at, and if they didn’t come by a campaign, how did they find me.
Analytics play a huge role in how a site functions – in fact they are the cornerstone to how a site measure’s its success. Without analytics, it is difficult to change strategies or get rid of strategies /campaigns that are not working
It is absolutely needed and I hope Zibbet is working toward this goal. It is something that the competition has up on you at this point.
How do you promote your work?
I have a very comprehensive marketing strategy that is outlined on a daily basis. It includes guest blogging, blogging on my own site, link exchange, blog share groups, social media, video casts, tutorials, new product listings, and so on. I have worked on a strategy that is well rounded, reaches a wide audience and is targeted for my niche – because I know who my customers are and I’m talking to them directly. As for the rest of the people who get information, I think it’s great to connect with them and look forward to interacting with them. However, I realize that not everyone can be a customer, each type of artist/crafter/designer has a market, I know who they are and I talk to them a lot.
How would you recommend other Zibbeters make the most of Zibbet.com?
- • Share your work in the community on threads (where appropriate of course) and comment on other artist’s work when you see something you like. This helps you make friends and build your relationships with other shop owners and potential customers too!
- • Participate in challenges. Even if you don’t win, you entered your item which means that Zibbet pinned it, which means that a bunch of people saw it, and that also means that you are going to get some traffic from it. So, do the challenges, put your best effort into it, but if you don’t win, no big deal. At least you got some exposure and that is good.
- • List stuff in your shop and then post it to the monthly “Promote your “X Month” New Listing Here” thread. This will do a couple things for you. First it will put tags on your shop for search engines to find you. Second, it will give you more items on your shop for customers to choose from. Third, you get to list it on the promotional thread (named above) and get some awesome traffic. And who knows, it might get pinned by the thread moderator!
In the future I’d like to be…
- • 300 Sets Reuseable Kitchen Scrubbies to people who love cute, unusual and fun cleaning accessories for their kitchen, because cleaning should be fun.
- • 200 Critter Hats to people who have kids or are kids at heart and love a little eco-critter fun in their lives along with eyes to match!
- • 100 Sets of Mutty Boots for Dogs to people who love to protect their dog’s feet from whatever may be lurking on the ground or sidewalk during their daily walk – rain or shine.