Monday, December 2, 2013

Featured Artist: Galleria di Giani

Hi John! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little bit about yourself!
My name is John and I am the owner of Galleria di Giani. I currently live in Seattle, although I was born and raised in the Northeast. I live with my partner of over 11 years, Chuck, and our two cats, Bender and Fry. They are brothers, and were feral rescues. We got them at approximately three months of age, and have had them for over 10 years now.

Tell me a little bit about your business and what you do. 
I make jewelry. I know that many women, when buying clothing, will stop to consider how many different pieces in their wardrobe it can be worn with. For example, they see a blazer and think about how it will match several pairs of slacks, a skirt, and maybe even a dress. They will see a skirt, and realize it will match multiple tops, a blazer, several pairs of shoes, etc. When you ask that level of versatility from your wardrobe, why wouldn't you ask for that same level of versatility from your jewelry? So, I design with that concept in mind. Many of my pieces work equally in professional as well as casual situations, and can transform from day to evening easily.

Can you tell us 3 fun facts about yourself?
I tried stand up comedy for a while. It was an absolutely wild experience. When the audience is with you, it is the most amazing feeling. I can honestly say that both Project Runway *and* E!'s Fashion Police started following me on twitter ***before*** I followed them. It's a badge of honor for me.
I can talk professional sports and fashion in detail. How many guys do you know who can do that?

When and how did you get started in your small business business?
Although I have been a crafter in one form or another since childhood, I only started making jewelry to sell in the mid to late 90's. Back then, there was no internet, so I sold mostly through consignment shops, and through a sales rep. I did the craft show circuit for a while. I started selling online in 2009. Now that I am doing more high end pieces, I am looking into wholesaling to boutiques.

Do you have a day job on top of your business? How do you juggle both?
Yes, I work as an Admin Assistant. My current boss is very supportive, but lives in fear of the day that I become successful enough not to need to work anymore. She really relies on me.

How do I juggle both? A very supportive, low maintenance partner. I spend weeknights working on social media, and weekends working on networking, designing, and making pieces. It's a constant juggling act. I cannot remember the last time I took time off work that didn't revolve around my jewelry business. Thankfully, my job isn't so stressful that I need vacation. I'm always on the go with something.

What was the hardest thing about starting your business?
For me, it would have to be the learning curve. At a craft fair, with a shop owner, even with a sales rep, all I had to do was talk about my work. For me, that is very easy! Selling online, though, required a lot of work. Pieces had to be photographed, listed, and then, the toughest of all, promoted! Social media was starting to come into prominence in 2009 when I started selling online. Sometimes it feels like there is always a new app to learn! Getting the hang of social media has been the toughest part. So far so good, though.

What's the best thing about being a small business owner?
I love the freedom. I can design whatever I want, make whatever I want, and I don't have to clear it with a committee or a boss first. I get to make all the decisions myself. I also get to inject my personality into my work, which is another plus.

What is a typical day like for you?
Work during the day. Come home, do some social media. Read fashion magazines (I subscribe to Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, InStyle and W magazines). I work on new designs. I research new opportunities. Oh yeah, and I am the cook in the family, so I make dinner too. And, several times a week I act as wingman for the hangouts.

Do you have any help or are you the only person that works your business?
It's just me, all me all the time. I design it all, make it all, photograph it all, edit all the photos, do all the listing, all the social media, all the packing of sold items, etc. I'm a one man crew! And every craft show I ever worked was just me as well.

What are your hopes and aspirations for your store and where do you see yourself going from here?
Once upon a time, I wondered if I could ever get to the point where I would be a full fledged designer with a company and selling on QVC. But I am not so sure I want to go quite that route. After all, to do that means I would only design, but not make. I actually like making my pieces. I like thinking about all the places my customers could wear these pieces, and what their friends will say.

For now, I would be positively thrilled to see my pieces walk a runway. I would love to connect with a local fashion designer and provide pieces for their runway show. For me, that would be my next big accomplishment.

And it's still a personal goal to see Nina Garcia in one of my pieces someday.

Have you experienced any major accomplishments or recognition?
For my jewelry, not yet. But, beyond my jewelry, I have had my photography exhibited in galleries and I have been a published journalist. So, I have achieved a lot in my life.

What are three tools or pieces of equipment in your workspace that you could not absolutely live without?
Number one is easy, my Lidstrom plier set!!! I bought it back in 2007 or 2008. I remember when Bush Jr signed off on a $300 stimulus check for everyone. I decided I was going to use it to invest in my business. So, one of the things that I ordered was a set of four Lidstrom pliers. The set included a flush cutter, round nose pliers, chain nose pliers and flat nose pliers. They make my life sooooooo much easier.

Second would definitely have to be my lightbox. I use a 30"x30" EZCube. As I made the transition into higher end jewelry, I knew I would need a photo style that matched it. Getting the EZCube was the best decision I ever made. I love how my photos look. They definitely enhance the product.

Lastly, for fun, I would have say "my girls". I have several female model forms. Giuletta (the smallest), Saraghina (the middle) and Francesca (the largest) help model my pieces. I love them dearly, and they do such a great job. I named Guiletta after Giuletta Masina (actress and wife of Fellini), Saraghina after the character that Fergie played in the movie "Nine" who sang the song "Be Italian", and Francesca after one of my favorite tennis players, Francesca Schiavone.

Have you ever experienced a small business/craft disaster? What happened?
I wouldn't call it a disaster, but there was one piece in my current collection that caused me an afternoon of aggravation. It was a three strand necklace. I was just about to crimp off the first strand, when it rolled off the pad, and off the table, and all came undone. I had to collect it all, and restring it. Got the first strand done, got the second strand done, and then went to the third strand. I went to crimp it, and, somehow, cut right through the that strand went all over the floor. As I was picking up all of those pieces, I banged my head against my desk, and caused some collectible figures to fall off the desk and onto my head. The saving grace of that whole experience was that it turned out to be a truly beautiful piece. So, it was worth it.

How much do you social network? Can you link us to your personal social media pages so we can follow you?
I do twitter, pinterest and tumblr. At the moment, that is all that I do. As of this writing, I am working on building my google+. My twitter is - I talk mostly fashion on twitter. My pinterest is - all of my board are fashion related. I have found that women on pinterest love shoes! My goodness! I once had a pair of shoes go viral and get almost 200 likes and repins in a single weekend. It was crazy getting all those notification emails. My tumblr is - again, all of my tumblr posts are fashion related. For my tumblr, I use the queue feature to perfection. Every month, as I read my fashion magazines, I mark the pages of things that I like. Then, when I finish all the magazines that month, I go online and download images of all of them into my tumblr queue. I love that tumblr is so low maintenance like that.

What marketing / advertising method(s) have worked well for you and which have not?
I love twitter. But, I have to admit, I don't really work it in a selling capacity. I am using it mostly as a making contacts thing. I talk to a lot of local fashion people online. I am hoping the connections pay off some day, in one form or another. I take part in a weekly style chat on twitter on Wednesdays. It is exposing me to style people all over the country. It is getting me some good followers on twitter. Time will tell if they turn into business leads.

I get a lot of likes and repins on pinterest. However, not much of it is my work. I have been told I need to put the pricetags on my pins. I might have to try that.

What item in your shop is your top seller or is your favorite design?
My top seller is definitely my magnifying glass necklaces. Although, every single one I have ever sold were bought as a present for someone. No one has ever purchased one for themselves. But, they are a fun piece, so I am happy that people respond to them.

My favorite piece would be tough. I have an asymmetrical necklace from my new collection that is a personal achievement for me. I really challenge myself to do something new and different in each collection. That piece far surpassed by expectations.

What are your 2 favorite items from other shops on The CraftStar, with links? What do you like about them?

This piece from Rhonda transcends jewelry and is actually wearable art. There are so many design concepts going on in this piece. It is truly amazing (and a steal at the price it is being offered for). Secondly, I think everyone needs to own Gerda's artwork. I own this piece and love it:

I love it because I used to live in the Northeast, and that time of year when the leaves start to change was always my favorite time of year. Thanks to this piece, I can have that year round now.

Do you have a coupon code you'd like to include with your feature?
For the week of my featured artist, I will offer a FEATURE15 code for 15% off.

Thanks for taking the time to join us today John. We appreciate you taking time out of our busy schedule so that we could interview you. Happy sales!

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