Welcome to Sew in the Snow Blog

This blog is about my passions in life: family, quilting, and new adventures. Quilting is my main passion! I also love my family tirelessly and devote most of my energy to my young preschool girls and my husband. This blog will be about my creative process in quilting and some about being a Mom in this busy world. Being of Irish descent, I love a good story. So buckle in, here we go!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Featured Artist: Karen Colbert of Tahoe Quilts

 This is a new part of my blog.  An interview or review with an artist that has caught my eye.  My first featured artist is Karen Colbert.  I saw her items on my Esty Quiltsy team discussion thread.  Karen's work is splendid!  I love her quilting style.   Her use of color is fascinating and makes her quilts really stand out from the crowd.  On top of that, she is kind and generous to others just beginning on Etsy, such as myself. So, let's see what Karen has to say about herself.  To the interview we go!

What originally gave you the idea to create such an interesting Etsy shop? My Daughter initially encouraged me to open my shop. I hesitated as I wasn’t sure if anyone would buy any of my artwork, especially my expensive pieces, online. I have had a brick & mortar shop for seven years, and figured there was nothing to lose by going online.

I have been creating art quilts and home décor items for 13 years. I worked out of my home for six years, doing outdoor shows and selling my work at two local venues. I then moved into a B&M shop. I am one of the few people in Lake Tahoe who do fabric art, and the only person (that I know of) that sells their work. I have a distinct style, all designs are my original ideas, and I offer a product that no one else sells. I started creating home décor items, such as runners, as I was displeased with the offerings in stores. After all, why in the fall, would a store sell beige runners when you have so many gorgeous fall hues to chose from? Hence my foray into the home décor arena.

I figured with 1/6th of the economy being driven by the Internet and having successfully sold my work here at Lake Tahoe, it would make sense to have an Etsy shop. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I took my daughters advice and jumped right in.

Ideas are often so hard to implement—tell us a bit about how you started and what were your first steps in creating your niche in the Etsy and handmade community. I have a web site for my brick & mortar, artistsatlaketahoe.com, which is an art gallery featuring 16 local artists. I had hired a web person to build that site, and implement the “buy now” feature for my art quilts. The problem was keeping it updated. With Etsy, I can build my own site, post my own work, change it, etc. myself without relying upon – and paying – a web person. 

 It was pretty much a business decision to enhance my online exposure with the least amount of web work. I have a link from my web site above to my Etsy shop, and I pass out my Etsy shop business card for people to look at and buy my artwork.

Could you share some tips on how someone would go about growing an Etsy shop or online presence? I opened my shop December 23, 2009. The first year “in business” I didn’t pay much attention to the shop. I would list items periodically, pat myself on the back when I got a sale, but didn’t “work” the shop. I also only listed lower end items, i.e. items under $50. People added me to their treasuries, and a handful of people found my shop. Toward the end of 2010, I began listing items over $50 items, and lo and behold, I sold a $250 piece in January 2011. It has been going well since then.

I use to pull up treasuries at random, heart items, and look to see what other people were excited about. I pulled up other shops featuring quilts, and looked at what they were selling, price points, etc. I did my “homework” to see where I fit into the Etsy marketplace. But the best move, I believe, was joining the Quiltsy Team when asked. This has not only been a wonderful source of friendship, but we support each other as business people, and I definitely feel this led to my financial success in 2011.
I also began a rigorous schedule of listing and renewing items, sometimes as many as five items a day. The new Etsy stats have been wonderful to see what items are being viewed, and what time of day. I have been attempting to list items at 2:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., East coast time, as that is when I get the most shop views. If people are looking at table runners, I list/renew those items. If art quilts, I list/renew those items.

What is your main hurdle in running your Etsy site to date? Marketing. I probably shouldn’t say this, but I am not a Facebook fan, and feel it is a time waster. This will answer the question below, but I am the only person who runs both my Etsy shop and my B&M shop. I make all my own items, I sit at my shop (where I also have my studio) every day, do my own marketing, accounting, and purchasing, and every other task in between. I don’t have the luxury of Tweeting, Facebook-ing, or blogging as I just don’t have the time. And I have to admit, I don’t know much about these avenues or their benefits. My B&M shop and my Etsy shop is my full time business and what I do to make a living. It is not a hobby but a job. And I have to be very careful where I spend my time. I am usually found sitting at home at night with my hubbie of 22 years, hemming, posting on Etsy, and answering emails.

What are some of the most interesting forums you’ve seen develop on the Etsy site or your personal website? I don’t go into the forums often as again, I just don’t have the time. But I do like that if there is an issue, either good or bad, that there is a venue to express your opinions and be heard.

What is the structure behind the scenes—how many people do you have working on your shop at the moment? See answer above, but boy would I love to have help! Part of the issue is that I am the best person to describe my work, take the photos, etc. and if I hired someone, it would be money out of my pocket that I don’t have. Also, I can only post what I produce, so as soon as I make it, I list it! My husband lost his job in December; he is now my runner to the post office. I would love for him to help me cut fabric, etc. in my studio, but I am taking things one step at a time with integrating him into helping me…..we are still working on wrapping items for shipping! Bless him, he supports everything I do and the emotional support, at times, is what I really need from him.

 How do you promote your business? Facebook, Twitter, blogging, or other? I do have a FB page for my business, I “like” items to post to FB, and I upload new listings periodically to FB. Again, in looking at my shop stats, I get maybe one view every two to three weeks via FB; it just doesn’t seem to be a place I should spend my time. I’m not familiar at all with Twitter, but I am not an instantaneous person. I can wait to check my email when it is convenient, return phone calls within 24 hours, and can focus on other activities without feeling torn by technology.

Being part of a team, I participate in team treasury blitzes, favorite other member’s items (and they favorite mine), and we share tips on a range of topics from recipes to Etsy marketing. This has been a valuable tool for building my shop.

Describe the process of creating one of your handmade items.   
My quilts are like pieces of art using fabric instead of a paintbrush. Drawing from thousands of fabrics cut into two inch squares, each quilt is hand designed on a white mat. I use four squares to represent a flower, or several squares in a row to impersonate a flower bed. Some of my quilts are laid out to create a color flow from pink to purple to blue to yellow to orange that is more abstract than an imitation of an image. Most of my quilts are reminiscent of Monet paintings, represented as an impressionistic garden or blend of colors.
Fun Facts
List 3 adjectives that describe you. Musical, humorous, hardworking.

What is your favorite food? Bread pudding for dessert, bacon for breakfast, and a filet Mignon steak for dinner!

 If you were an animal, what animal would you be? Why?  I would say a dolphin. They sing, and I am a singer – I wanted to major in music in college but instead chose a degree in Business Administration. I am in three music groups in our local community. Dolphins are sleek and beautiful, they are intelligent, they seek attention, and give so much of themselves in return. I am a leader, not bad looking for 51, and strive to give as much as I can to my family and community of 26 years. I am a Christian, a mother, a wife, and do as much as I can to give back to others which I have been blessed to receive.

Wow!  What a great interview!  Thanks so much for participating!  I really enjoyed your thorough answers.   I wish you a lot of success in the future.

Check out her delightful shop: Tahoe Quilts.


  1. What a great idea! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Karen and how she operates her business! I can see many similarities, and have picked up some useful insights. Thanks for taking the time, both of you, to produce this interview!

    Barb - Mountain Quiltworks

    1. Barb, hey, thanks for reading. I really enjoyed reading her answers too! I'm glad you "stopped by" to visit. It's fun to see how someone else operates and to really get to know the artist.

      Have a great day!


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