A Q&A with Abby Glassenberg

Abby Glassenberg SewingAbby Glassenberg began her crafty career as a sewing pattern designer, but I’d describe her now as a crafts industry watchdog. Her blog dives deep into the craft industry, calling out bad actors and getting real answers about contracts and money. She and I have played Siskel and Ebert on the Etsy issue this year, and I’m so excited to finally meet her in person when she’s a keynote speaker at Midwest Craft Con!

Grace: Your career includes so many hyphens: What all do you do? 

Abby: I want creative people, and creative women in particular, to have the tools and information they need to succeed in the craft and sewing industry. That’s my mission statement and I use it to guide me as I make choices about which projects to take on.

I began in the crafts industry as a sewing pattern designer and blogger. I’ve written several craft books, but the one that I hold dearest is called Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction. My goal with that book was to help home sewists to design their own patterns for dolls and toys, patterns that they could then use to start small businesses or to make unique things for family and friends.

On my blog, While She Naps, I write about entrepreneurship from the perspective of someone who has a creative business right now. I share income reports, productivity tips, legal issues that affect crafters, and more. I try to shine a light in dark corners and explain how big companies work so that independent artists can make good decisions based on full information.

My podcast is also focused on this same mission. I talk with people from all sectors of the craft industry about how they built their businesses. Sharing their experiences in an audio format is another way for crafters to learn how the parts of industry work and make the best choices for themselves going forward.

I also teach sewing and write a popular newsletter. Whew! That’s a lot of things, but really I’ve found that keeping my mission at the center helps all of the seemingly disparate pieces come together.

Social media is a huge part of your business. Did it take time to get so good at it or did you find it comes naturally?

I have a different relationship with each of the social media channels and some definitely took more time to learn to love. I’ve been a blogger for a decade now and in a way blogging was the first form of social media so I think I was primed to like it!

I really loved Twitter right from the start because for me Twitter serves two important purposes: a way to connect with colleagues and a way to keep on top of industry news. I love the fast pace and water cooler like atmosphere on Twitter. Facebook for business has never been my passion although I’m there interacting every day. I do really value Facebook groups and having one for my business has been excellent. As Instagram has become increasingly important for businesses, especially businesses with art or craft or other visually-focused content, I have focused more energies there. Although I will admit to being a late adopter, now I love it.

No matter what the social media channel, I try to enjoy it and use it for my business in a way that feeds my creativity and curiosity so that it’s not a chore. I see it as a way to develop relationships, get inspired, and have fun.

Have you been to the Midwest? What do you think of it and the makers who live there?

My father grew up in Chicago and much of his family still lives in the Midwest. We spent several summers when I was a child visiting my great aunt, Becky, who lived on Lake Michigan and used to run a resort for Jewish families who summered there. Aunt Becky taught me how to make a four-legged animal out of a single lump of clay, a skill I now use to impress my own children. She also made an incredible beef stroganoff.

I think when makers anywhere gather all kinds of fantastic connections and collaborations are formed. I’m so excited about the rebirth of Midwest Craft Con so that there’s a new and vibrant place to gather!

What are you looking forward to most about Midwest Craft Con? 

I’m looking forward to learning, laughing and feeling supported and uplifted, and hopefully doing my part to teach and uplift a bit as well while I’m there. Most of us work alone, often in our home studios, and it can feel a bit isolating. Coming together to hear each others voices and see one another’s faces and learn together is the absolute best!

Can you give us a little preview of your keynote talk? 

Oh geez, the pressure is on! I plan to talk about the importance of following your own interests as though it was your job. When I first started out in 2005 I had been a middle school social studies teacher. Building a craft business had never crossed my mind. I knew that I love to sew dolls and toys and that I loved to write and read and research and so I began doing all of those things, but not in a casual sorta way. In a committed way. In a “this is my job” sorta way.

By designing and writing every day as though it were my job it became my job! I really feel like this idea can apply to whatever you’re interested in. If you pursue it with discipline and you’re not afraid to share it, even in it’s raw and early stages, you can make the thing you love doing most into a career. That’s what I’m going to explore in my talk.

What three books would you recommend to makers who need some business inspiration?

For an inspiring memoir of a maker, I loved Heather Ross’ book How to Catch a Frog. For true business advice, I like Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. And for a mix of the two, I recommend Tony Hsieh’s book about starting Zappos, Delivering Happiness.

You can meet Abby and many other creative entrepreneurs at Midwest Craft Con in February 2016 — tickets are on sale now!