Fine art

Artist to entrepreneur

Mandy Stapleford explains how she turned her creativity into a moneymaker


The new book by Taos artist and author Mandy Stapleford, titled “From Artistic to Entrepreneur, Turn Your Creativity Into a Thriving Online Business Using the Etsy Platform,” has just been released.

In a statement, Stapleford writes, “I wrote ‘FATE’ (an acronym for the first four words in her title) to illustrate how I built my own business and how I maintain it, both literally and emotionally. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart and it takes courage and resilience to keep it going. But the rewards of successfully running your own business are well worth the challenges.”

Stapleford (who goes by the pen name “Mandy Lee” for her commercial art) is having a release event for her book Saturday (Sept. 9) at 2 p.m. at Op. Cit. Books, 124 Bent St. Admission is free and Stapleford will be available for questions.

“I have always been entrepreneurial,” she said. “I took to the internet in 2009 to sell my ceramic wares. I opened my first Etsy shop then and it has morphed and grown significantly to become the mainstay of my business ventures. I believe that creativity is the new currency and there has never been a better time in the history of the world to be an entrepreneur. The internet has made it possible for anyone, anywhere to connect to the global economy. But how to enter that world can be daunting. This is the guide book for creatives who want to learn how to enter the online marketplace easily, by way of the Etsy platform. In this book, I share proven advice, personal experience and free resources.”

Etsy is an online site for small-cottage industry creative people. It helps give crafters an opportunity to reach a worldwide audience. Think of it as visiting an arts and crafts virtual shopping mall, all online, quite unique, often one of a kind and all interesting. Her advice on how to begin is, “Search Etsy for what you like and where you fit in. Start with listing at least three items. Don’t give up if you haven’t made a sale right away – or even in three months.”

Stapleford produces functional ceramics with heartwarming and thought-provoking quotes printed onto them, original phrases, along with quotes by Shakespeare and Mother Teresa.

“I love art that functions,” she said. “I believe we should surround ourselves with art you can use, be it in the kitchen, garden or bathroom. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak in me and have worked to combine creativity and commerce as a means towards financial independence and an artistic lifestyle.”

Stapleford spoke about how and why Etsy is a better marketing tool than your own website. “First of all, a website is hard to run yourself and expensive,” she said. “Etsy acts as a website and even a calling card for you. It’s also led to great wholesale contacts as well.”

Etsy isn’t new to locals interested in making money from their crafts. Patty Mara Gourley (Etsy shop: PattyMara) said, “Etsy has been very, very good for me. I don’t do booming sales to foreign countries, but have sent art to Australia, Great Britain, France, Italy and Canada. I opened my shop in 2008, so I have experienced selling on Etsy for nearly 10 years. I sell pottery, painted silk, collage and fiber art. My sales have climbed every year, and Etsy has improved its seller tools so that listing new items has become much easier. I am happy with their search engine optimization and their stats-tracking information. I have many return customers, several who have purchased my art in Taos while traveling through, then found me years later on Etsy.”

Karin Hossack (Etsy shop: KCHossackPottery) said, “After 3 1/2 years, I’m finally starting to get more orders. I like to have it [an Etsy presence] as a way of telling people that they can buy my stuff there. It works well for me in conjunction with my Instagram feed.”

Taos artist Stephen Kilborn said, “I tried Etsy, but I have too much going on. We tried the Skeleton/Day of the Dead series, but nobody found it; no one even saw it. What has worked for me is our monthly newsletter through MailChimp. The newsletter has had amazing results. We also see results from Facebook, Instagram and especially Pinterest.” Incidentally, Kilborn will be closing his downtown gallery at the end of October, but his studio in Pilar will remain open.

A 2013 story for Tempo, “Etsy gives Taos artists a global marketplace,” included this quote from Annie Coe: “Etsy provides a potentially more lucrative alternative to showing paintings in galleries because Etsy only takes a 3.5 percent cut, whereas galleries typically take 50 percent.” In 2017, Coe said about Etsy, “I became a needle in a haystack and hardly sold anything. I sell on Facebook now and do much better. My work has also changed a lot and is a higher price point. I am currently looking for a gallery.”

In her new book, Stapleford writes, “When you sell something you make, you are also selling a part of yourself, and that is what makes it interesting. Your particular artistry, your special point of view, the colors and materials you choose – that’s the uniqueness people are searching for. So be real, love what you do, and share that with the world. There are multitudes of people out there who are looking for exactly what you have to offer.”

Stapleford is planning to be a presenter at the next Taos Entrepreneurial Network meeting on Sept. 19, 5:30 p.m., at the historic Taos County Courthouse Mural Room on Taos Plaza. In Taos, you can purchase her “Taos Mugs” at Michelle’s and the Harwood Museum of Art Gift Shop in Taos and at Sol Food Market in Arroyo Seco.

The book – “From Artistic to Entrepreneur” by Mandy Lee – is available now on Amazon and at local bookstores. Her Etsy shop is named “TheQuotedCup.”