Talking to the Trees on Etsy
by Andrea Whatcott
Rachel TreeTalker is an artist. From the time she was little, it was all she wanted to do.
Her dad, like any loving father, cautioned her that she might become the cliche, “the starving artist.” “And that’s what I am,” she said. But doing what she does is “the best decision of my life, I get to be creative.”
But TreeTalker’s Etsy shop opened up for business in 2010 because she was bored. At the time, TreeTalker was moving around a lot because of her ex-husband’s work.
“I learned how to knit because I wanted a hat,” TreeTalker said. But she couldn’t just stop at one. Soon there were so many hats, something had to be done with them, so she opened up an Etsy shop and since then she’s sold over a 1000 hats.
With the success and profits of her shop, TreeTalker, who was on the other side of the country and in a bad marriage, was able to save enough money to rent a car, drive home and get a divorce. “I am very grateful for it,” she said.
A year after opening her hat shop, TreeTalker took her childhood talent and dream and opened up her art shop where she sells her paintings.
The general purpose of Etsy is to be an online marketplace for handcrafted and vintage goods. TreeTalker has created those handcrafted goods and “Etsy is a home for it,” she said.
While hats have always done better for her, because buyers often require “function over form,” as she puts it, she has done well on Etsy with her paintings as well. Currently TreeTalker is preparing some final pieces to be shipped to Georgia for an art show that she was invited to participate in by another Etsy seller.
Where TreeTalker has found great success and satisfaction is with her pet portraits, which have become a big part of her art shop. Last March when TreeTalker’s dog Mogli passed away she painted a portrait of him, with quotes that reminded her of him in the background.
To help cope with the grief she decided to start selling custom pet portraits on her Etsy shop. Buyers eagerly responded and pet portraits created a way for TreeTalker to help others, and it also helped her because “knowing that other people were going through that and that I could help meant a lot,” she said.
Through Etsy she has been able to connect with her buyers, as they tell her their stories and why they are ordering a particular item. Etsy has also become a community of artists, and a place for TreeTalker to connect with others like herself.
Through talking with other sellers and plain old experience, TreeTalker has learned when to push sales and when sales are harder to make. She’s had to learn to be tough, as some customers can be particularly cruel, due to the anonymity of the Internet. She’s as tough as they come, because she’s had to be. But what sets her apart is that she’s nice, genuinely nice. And that’s her advice to others interested in selling on Etsy or anywhere on the Internet, “be nice to everyone, all the time,” she said. “You represent your craft, your name, don’t ruin your shop by being mean. Be genuine.”