Today we’d like to introduce you to Anne Hunter.
Anne, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I’ve always been a huge fan of most anything geek and pop culture, particularly science fiction and fantasy. I’m also a collector of quotes, and I often scribble down snippets that stand out to me from movies and books and television shows. I never really had an outlet for these things, but when I discovered hand-stamping, it really clicked as a way to utilize all these bits of wisdom in a creative way.
I had wanted to try stamping for some time, but I was hesitant to invest in a craft that I didn’t know if I could do well. I tend to be a perfectionist, so the idea of making something that will always have variation seemed like it would be setting myself up for frustration. One year at a big gaming convention I was attending, I found a workshop that let you make a hand-stamped bracelet, so I jumped at the opportunity to see if it was something I liked. I fell in love! The whole process felt natural to me, and as soon as I got home, I purchased some basic supplies to get started. The technique came to me easily, and it wasn’t long before I started making pieces for myself and as gifts for friends and family.
In early 2018, I decided to make the leap into starting a business. I could see a niche in making these pop culture-based pieces, a way to wear fandoms in everyday and professional settings. I drew on those many quotes I had accumulated over the years and started picking out things that had meaning to both people familiar with the source and those who would have no idea that it was a subtle piece of geek.
The creative part came easy to me, but the administrative side had a much bigger learning curve. I didn’t have a lot of financial resources to start with, so it took a lot of self-learning to get started. I reached out to the Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for help with the logistics of starting a business, and I attended workshops and online seminars to learn the practical side of running a business. I started with in-person events, spending every available moment that I wasn’t at my “real job,” either making or selling. It took a while to find a balance, what things worked, and which events best reflected my audience and customers. My first year was a balancing act between what I could scrounge from my savings and profits to build into bigger and better events. I relied on one show to fund the next one, essentially a paycheck to paycheck kind of situation. It was a struggle to reach a point where I had some breathing room, but I could feel it slowly and steadily growing. I found my identity- both personally and professionally- and I created a brand around that.
By the beginning of 2020, I was ready to take a leap forward into bigger conventions, but COVID changed that plan. My entire business model was gone overnight, and it really took a lot to drag myself out of that funk. I didn’t have an online shop because I never had the extra time to devote to product photos and coding and all the things that come with an online business. With everything canceled, though, I had to take the time to improve my photography skills and setup. I launched my Etsy shop in July 2020, but it really started taking off in the fall. I found myself doing as well- and better- than I did with in-person shows, and I was able to pick up momentum again.
I’m really excited to be back in person, but now I also have a thriving online business to go along with it. What was an immense challenge and setback proved to be a very positive change for both me and my business.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
COVID was a major challenge that completely refocused my business. I had just hit a breakthrough point and was branching out into new and bigger events, and all of that just came to a complete halt when events had to shut down. It could have completely devastated my business. Once I got over that heartbreak and fear, I was able to push myself and turn it into one of the most positive influences on my path. I would never have had the time to establish my online shop without the forced pause. It was really a defining moment for me.
Now that things are starting to open up, I’m finding that time continues to be an obstacle for me. I still have to work full-time outside of Everything’s Shiny, so it’s difficult to get everything done that I want to do. I’ve been doing the Alton Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market weekly on Saturdays since May, as well as a Night Market on Thursday nights in June and July, and I’m currently booked every weekend through December with one show or another. My Etsy shop has continued to grow and do well, so I’m balancing that on top of it. It’s hard managing all of that and finding time to do more than just maintain. As a microbusiness, you have to be the expert at everything. It’s one of those situations where you feel like you can’t stop or you’ll never catch up, but I love what I’ve created and built.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Everything’s Shiny Creations features unique and custom hand-stamped jewelry and accessories, specializing in subtle geek and pop culture. My pieces are fun but subtle ways to celebrate favorite fandoms. All items are hand-crafted and individually made by me.
Hand-stamping is a process where each letter or design is hammered into the metal with an individual die. It takes a lot of patience and practice, and every piece is unique because there will always be variations in the spacing and alignment.
Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
To be forgiving and patient with myself. I take being my own worst critic to the extreme sometimes, and it really took a lot of work to allow myself the space to make mistakes. The actual process of stamping reinforces this lesson all the time because once you’ve dropped the hammer onto the die, the metal is permanently changed. Whether it turns out the way you intended or not, you have to accept it and move forward.
I have a “Chuck It Bucket” that I keep in my workspace that has every failed piece and mistake I’ve made stamping. I started it as a way of not wasting material by reusing it as metal scrap paper, but it’s grown into a gentle reminder that it’s OK to make mistakes–and that no matter how frustrated and overwhelmed I might feel, I haven’t made so many mistakes that they don’t fit into that small bin. I can learn from them and find a way to salvage them with a different purpose.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been hard on myself. Since I started stamping, I’ve surprised myself more than once when working on a piece that doesn’t turn out the way I wanted it because, while I might get frustrated, I’m not angry at myself for making a mistake. I have to decide whether I can live with the mistake or whether to toss it and start over. I don’t feel like every piece has to be perfect because, as a character in one of my favorite fandoms says, imperfections are beautiful.
- Cuff Bracelets: $15-$18
- Shoe Tags: $11
- Key Chains: $12-$18
- Necklaces: $14-$18
- Ornaments: $14-$20
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: everythingsshinycreations.com
- Instagram: @EVshiny
- Facebook: facebook.com/everythingsshinycreations
- Twitter: @EVshiny
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsdgI_QmbHxEUVPiUrYeHEA
- Other: https://www.etsy.com/shop/EVShiny