The internet is a marvelous place, and somewhere in a group that has been archived I met Sparrow Kelley, the founder and reigning Goth Queen (ie founder) of Spite and Sparrow.
As someone who comes across regularly as “too much,” my soul is immediately drawn to people who also shine brightly – but do it in their own weird-kid way. Sparrow and I have become fast internet friends, and I loved watching her updates on building and launching her brand, Spite and Sparrow.
Below, I’ve shared an interview with Sparrow about her work and how it intersects with her identity. Be sure to favorite her shop on Etsy!
BH: Okay, let’s start at the beginning! When did you open Spite & Sparrow? What inspired you to do it?
SK: I began Spite & Sparrow as a blog in July of last year, mostly because I was feeling a little lost about where I wanted my passion for fiber art to take me. After a few months of blogging about whatever random project caught my fancy, I began feeling pulled back towards tatting; a craft I hadn’t really focused on in years.
I started my Patreon, dedicated to teaching shuttle tatting, in January, and launched Spite & Sparrow as a brand in February.
Honestly, I didn’t intend to offer my makes from the start; I was mostly focused on teaching. But the response was overwhelmingly clear that this was something people wanted.
BH: I really love that. As creators we often want to see the whole road, but you just have to get started.
Tell me about “tatting.” Where did you learn it, and why did you decide to focus on tatting for your store?
SK: Shuttle tatting is a type of knotted lacemaking that dates back to the early 17th century. My grandmother taught me when I was nine years old. It’s something that every woman in my family has learned, going back more generations than we can count, so at the time I didn’t realize that what I was learning was something of a “dying art.”
When I first started thinking about offering lessons, I scoured the internet to see what other tatters were doing. I was shocked to see that no one else had made any real attempt to take advantage of the tools available.
In fact, most of the tatting I saw was still locked into the idea that tatting is mostly doilies and handkerchief edgings. The number one comment I get whenever I show someone tatting is “it’s really neat, but what do you do with it?” I saw an opportunity to take an ancient art form, and make it relevant again.
Tatting is one of the few fiber crafts that can’t be replicated by a machine. In a world where automation and technology has taken over so many aspects of our lives, both in good and bad ways, focusing on a craft that requires a human touch almost feels like an act of rebellion.
BH: You know I love a rebel! Where do you get your creative inspiration for your intricate pieces?
SK: To be honest, it’s more like “oh gods, how do I make the ideas stop????” I find inspiration in everything; a color, an instagram post, a favorite shirt, a book character, a poem… everything inspires me. My design process is mostly me loading my shuttles with thread, and seeing what happens. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
BH: Where do you envision your pieces being worn?
SK: Most of my current pieces are things that I see being worn with every day outfits, whether simply for fashion or something with a little more meaning, like my ring collars.
Some of my more recent pieces are leaning towards costume or cosplay looks, and I’m really excited to explore that market a bit more.
BH: OMG I love the ring collars. I saw you post them and I was like, “DANG, she is GOING THERE.” (Cue applause!)
Let’s talk logistics. How long does it take to create your most popular piece?
SK: My most popular piece currently are my crowns, and they take around 5-6 hours each.
BH: That’s quite an amount of time!! What customizable options are available?
SK: I have 4 pieces that are fully customizable, from color to size. Everything else listed is ready to ship, but I’m always happy to discuss customizing on any of my designs, especially for size as I understand that all bodies are different and size should be the last of your concerns when purchasing from me.
BH: Yes inclusivity! If I don’t see my size listed in a size dropdown, I usually just click away.
What’s your favorite thing to make for your store, as of this very moment?
SK: Any of my collars! It’s a bit funny because they’re the simplest of my designs, but I love making them.
<< Are you interested in learning tatting? Check out Sparrow’s Patreon, where she shares lessons and patterns!>>
BH: You’ve seen a great deal of success since opening! I’ve loved seeing your updates on # of orders and shipping packages.
What resources or advice would you give to other creatives looking to open an etsy store?
SK: Let your fear motivate you. I’m big on doing things for the Spite. Every creative that I know has had some experience with imposter syndrome, fear of failure, etc. So much advice out there runs the “fake it til you make it” gamut, as if you can just ignore the struggle with creative fear and it will go away.
That’s really not how it works.
I don’t think my fear of failure will ever go away, but I can damn sure look it in the face, bare my teeth at it, and say, “Just fucking watch me.”
As far as selling on Etsy specifically, you cannot expect Etsy to bring in your customers. Etsy is a tool, not a middle man. Spending all your time focusing on SEO and blending in with the crowd will get you nowhere.
Instead, try focusing on what makes you different. Don’t be afraid to break the rules about what sells and what doesn’t. It’s incredibly tempting to push blame for not selling onto Etsy or your customers. “It’s hard to get seen” or “no one wants to pay what I’m worth” are bullshit.
Ask yourself “where are my customers?” And then go engage with them! No one is going to find you by accident. You have to put yourself out there.
BH: I am cheering as you say this!! If it’s not etsy, people would blame Shopify. Or Facebook. Or the algorithm. You have to master the tools.
BH: Last question, and this is my favorite to ask designers and creators: Who is your “girl”? Put another way, what types of people do you design for?
SK: It’s kind of cliche, but really… myself! I refuse to make or design things that I wouldn’t wear myself. If I’m not excited about it, I know my customers won’t be either, and I won’t enjoy making it.
I design for the social miscreants, and the spiteful bitches. The people who are bored of trying to hide their weird and won’t apologize for it. Want to wear kitten ears to work because it’s a Tuesday and they make you feel cute? Do it!
Interviewing Sparrow made my spiteful heart SING. If you’re looking for a statement making gift, be sure to check out her Etsy.
[FTC Notice: This post does contain affiliate links, meaning I earn a small commission if you purchase a product through my link. Affiliates help me write more great content, and I only endorse products I truly love.]