How alargeaviary got started

Introduce your Etsy shop and tell us your story. How did you begin and decide on what to sell on Etsy, and how do you create your products? 

I opened a large aviary in 2020 after hitting a dry spell in my first Etsy shop, where I sold vintage clothes. I’d mostly worked as an artist in the past, in photography and graphic design, and at the time, I felt like I needed to let out some of my creativity again. I started binding sketchbooks, experimenting with various styles and ideas. I just basically needed a small win, you know? to let myself know that I can still do something well. I made way more journals than I could ever fill, so it seemed like a good idea to share them with others. Opening a large aviary was a result of that.

Since that moment, my shop has continued to grow with me. Aside from handmade sketchbooks, I sell vintage watercolour paints (more about that below!). and am now looking forward to introducing my own art—lino prints and embroidery. I want the shop to evolve alongside me. Wherever I go, it goes.

In terms of 'how," I chose one wholesale seller for the papers that I use in my bindings, as they offer a nice selection of high-quality products. I often order batches that I use up in one go to make between 10 and 20 regular-size journals. I then use leftover paper for miniature sketchbooks. I use various materials for book covers, so I periodically look into suppliers of either leather, fabric, or any other stuff I can bind with. I sometimes visit the forest for freebies like tree bark! There’s also some overlap with my other artistic projects in textile art, etc. Supplies tend to accumulate over time, so I often just use what I already have. I try to go as low-waste as possible, often using vintage or repurposed materials. I experiment a lot with what I have to keep things fresh for myself.

Favorite items

What are your favorite items? What makes these so special? Why do you think these items might be selling well?

All the things I make are one of a kind, and I let all of them go, so I try not to get attached too much. I will say, though, that it always feels so good to drop off a batch of freshly-made sketchbooks!

Sketchbooks Collection

My shop, however, is best known for the 1930s watercolors. And what a story this is! One day, while scouting a local auction site, I came upon a listing for 150 kilogrammes of pre-second World War II watercolour paints. I literally spit out my coffee right then and there! I quickly arranged to get all of them, just praying to Lady Luck that they would still be usable. They turned out to be absolutely amazing in real life. The paints, though dusty after sitting in one attic in Cracow, Poland, for over 80 years, retained their beautiful and bright colour and are a joy to use. As the previous owners told me, their family used to run a small shop in a local market, where they would sell these locally made paints, among other things. Once the war had started, they decided to hide their wares away, and so the paints had been waiting patiently through all this time. It’s a bit of a miracle that they weren’t destroyed in one way or another. I can still hardly believe it. Just imagine: all this history was preserved and given a second life, and we get to experience the past first-hand. It’s pretty incredible to be a part of it all.

vintage 1930s watercolors set of 19 | full range Tęcza watercolors

Getting sales on Etsy

How long did it take for you to earn your first sale and how do you currently attract customers to your Etsy shop?

I’d say it didn’t take a long time since I’d already had some online following from my other ventures. In the beginning, I had some cute, small, and inexpensive items in my shop, and I think that helped. These days, I rely on returning customers a lot, which is something of which I am very proud. To have a community around my shop is something I never imagined. I don’t really know how to say it, but each time I get an order from a person whose name I recognise, I’m just so moved. I appreciate each and every one of my customers very much.

I also use social media, though I’m not regular in posting there. Instagram and, more recently, Tumblr have been my typical avenues. I have to add that Etsy’s search engine also plays a role; there’s no questioning that. Oh, and I use Etsy’s system for sending out emails with coupon codes, and I get a lot of customers who use them, so it seems to work well.

Managing alargeaviary

How do you manage your shop? Are you running solo or do you have any team members? What tools or services do you use to run your shop and how do you handle fulfillment?

I’m strictly a one-person band: I come up with ideas, put them into life, communicate with customers, market, package, and ship. Aside from the default Etsy shop, I use their Pattern platform for since there is no commission for selling there, just a monthly fee, and you can set up your own domain name. Then there are social media apps, of course. I ship with my local provider. That’s mostly it.

I don’t pay attention to analytics and the like because, whether I have done so in the past or stopped doing it, it hasn’t influenced my sales. That most likely has to do with how small and reliant on me my shop is. If I work well and am able to produce my wares, the shop goes well. If I don't, the shop stops too since there’s no new stock. It’s pretty straight-forward.

The future of alargeaviary 

What goals do you have for your shop in the future?

Like I mentioned, my hopes are to have the shop be my constant companion. In the past, I used to be quite restless and switched occupations and jobs a lot as a result. So my biggest wish is that this one is a keeper. Three years in, and so far, so good! To ensure that it continues, I feel that I need to have it evolve along with me and my personal interests. I keep asking myself where I want to put my time and attention, and then I follow that with what I offer in a large aviary. My current hope is to gather enough courage to introduce my original art. Fingers crossed it happens in the coming months.

I think it’s worth saying that I don’t really want to grow my shop too much. I don’t see myself as an entrepreneur, but more as an artist or an artisan. I just want it to be a source of comfortable income. This comfort depends on a delicate balance of how much work to put in and where. On the one hand, if there’s too much growth and interest, it gets overwhelming and takes over my personal time. On the other hand, if there’s a prolonged block and sales slow down too much, that creates anxiety too. I’ve been to both of these places, and now I’m trying to find that sweet spot between the two.

Advice for new sellers

What’s your advice for a new seller starting an Etsy shop?

I’d say just go for it! If you already have a job, maybe try it as a side project first. Learn the ropes and see if you gel with the system. If not, there are other platforms to check out. If it does work out, well, good luck! Have fun and experiment. You’ll find your balance over time.

One practical tip would be to always do the best you can with your photography. That’s where your vibe shows, as well as your professionalism, and that helps draw in the correct customers for you. Also, make sure to add all the necessary details to your descriptions so your customers can imagine exactly what they’re getting without asking any additional questions in person. It makes stuff easier and more seamless for both sides, and you spend less time on unnecessary extra workloads.

Anyway, smooth sailing!

Some sellers really get inspired by hearing numbers. Feel free to share these if you like.

Question: How much is your monthly revenue?
It depends massively on my output and also luck with algorithms to some degree. My all time best month was over 10k Euro but I usually earn about 2k. 

Question: What is your shop’s conversion rate?
About 2%.