Sami, the Head of Crafts for Fandolls, took some time out of her schedule to answer a few questions about her love of crafts and inspirations for creations. She had a lot to say about the crafting community and, in Sami's words, "I really believe that arts and crafts give people the opportunity to gain confidence, make beauty out of the world in a way other people just don’t see, and learn more about themselves along the way. Plus it’s one of the few good, fun things anyone can pick up!" Read more below.
GCX: What or who first peaked your interest in arts and crafts?
SFD: I’ve probably been hand-making something or other since I COULD. I grew up doing a lot of cross-stitching, beadwork, clay, and more. I spent a lot of summers as a kid selling my beaded creations from a little booth at my dad’s oldies car shows. I guess I never really grew out of the habit.
GCX: Why did you decide that you would make a specific type of craft?
SFD: For the specific type I’m selling at this show, it was a fun series of events. I love sewing, and I wanted more practice at hand stitching, but not anything too elaborate because I would get tired of that. One of my dear friends on Tumblr loves Castiel (from Supernatural) and asked if anyone wanted to try their hand at making a doll for her, since there weren’t any available. I read the post, thought, “Challenge accepted,” and winged it. The doll turned out really well, and I had so much fun making it, that I ultimately opened an Etsy shop.
GCX: How do you feel about the artisan crafting community and their ability to benefit from GeekCraft Expo?
SFD: Artisan anything is rising in popularity around the nation, and it’s great. People really want to know the story behind the things they’re buying. They want to know who made it, and what they made it from, and how it was made. It’s better for the consumers, it’s better for the crafters, and I think it leads to buying products that, ultimately, mean a lot more to all of us in the end.
GCX: Are you from the Portland area? If not originally, what brought you here?
SFD: I’m not actually in the Portland area now. I live a couple hours north of Seattle. But I come down to volunteer at RCCC most years, and one of the surrounding events linked to this, and that lead to me checking out the show and applying as a vendor. But to get back on topic, I was originally from Utah. But the Pacific Northwest is better in every way!
GCX: What is your favorite thing about creating your product and being able to sell it to people personally vs. through sites like Etsy?
SFD: I have a few favorite things; sorry to break the rules. It’s a great stress relief, and something really fun for me to do with my time while I’m reading textbooks or binge watching Netflix, do make something with my hands. And then I also love the stories I get from the people I make things from. My Etsy shop runs on commission, rather than the stock I take to shows, so most of my orders are from (or for) people who really love a less mainstream character, desperately want a representation of that character, but can’t find it anywhere else. I love knowing that I made their day, giving them a physical representation of this character that means a lot to them. I’ve gotten some really great stories via feedback on the impact of my dolls, and that makes me endlessly tickled!
GCX: What is the story of how you got to this point (beginning to now)?
SFD: Well I told the Tumblr origin story already. I had so much fun with that first one, and I didn’t want to waste all the experimentation I had done, so I immediately knew I wanted to do an Etsy shop. Last year, I went up to Edmonton Expo to sell my dolls, because I already volunteer at all the cons in the area (and I’m not willing to give any of those up), but I really wanted to try my hand at exhibiting. I had a really great time, made some great connections, and did some good sales, but unfortunately with the travel, lodging, a Canadian work permit, and the booth fee, I didn’t make enough to even break even, so I decided that if I was going to do this again I needed to find something a little closer to home. And I really wanted to do this again.
GCX: Is it important for people to understand that your product is not “mass produced"? Why?
SFD: It’s not too big of a concern for me, because it’s really obvious at looking at my product that they’re hand made. They’ve got that quality to them. Mass produced tend to be poorer quality (they fall apart quickly) and uninteresting, and my dolls couldn’t fall into that category. Making to order most of the time probably helps with that too.
GCX: What is the most special thing to you about your business?
SFD: I love getting to know a wide variety of characters, and why they’re special to different people. We all know merchandising doesn’t always reflect how much fandom loves some characters. Mostly I just love bringing joy to people, while also having fun doing something I enjoy.
GCX: What do you want to do with your crafts long term?
SFD: I’ll never make a full time job out of it. Sewing is only fun when you don’t HAVE to do it all the time! Plus I’ve got way too many other things going on. But I know I’ll always be a hand-making thing in some form or another, and I’m really grateful for the opportunities and skills this current venture has offered me.
GCX: Are you picking this particular location because you live here or do you travel to multiple shows a year?
SFD: I do have to travel to this show, but it’s on my list because it is accessible for me, it’ll be a fun experiment, and I don’t have to give up my volunteering gig to be able to come!
GCX: What do you like about the overall arts and craft experience?
SFD: I really believe that arts and crafts give people the opportunity to gain confidence, make beauty out of the world in a way other people just don’t see, and learn more about themselves along the way. Plus it’s one of the few good, fun things anyone can pick up!
Thanks for your insight into all things crafts. It's always fabulous to see how excited our crafters are about their crafts and others. See you at GeekCraft Expo PDX!