{Thoughts on Shops} Magpie Tree – the ultimate jewelry and accessory upcycler!

Magpie Tree is the wonderful shop of Indianapolis artist and repurposer of all things repurposable Nichole Hall-Permell. Nikki is drawn to the beauty of the old and its potential to be created into something new (we love that!).
Magpie Tree Banner on Etsy

Magpie Tree Banner on Etsy

Her banner is adorable (and I read something new is in the works). Naming her shop after one of nature’s infamous collectors makes it memorable and I think helps customers connect with what she is creating and makes it easier for them to find her again. Having her shop name and shop title the same misses an SEO opportunity so I would edit the shop title to something like – custom, upcycled jewelry and accessories.

Magpie Tree’s shop announcement and policies section is clear, friendly and welcoming. I would add more information to her shop profile as well and add a link to her shop home page on her profile page for people entering from that page – more people enter our shops through our profile these days so I would definitely make it as fresh and appealing as possible. Focusing here on the “why” of our business (something Nikki does wonderfully in other places on her site) can give voice to her authentic brand and create a strong emotional connection with her customers.

Back in the days of the gold rush when towns would literally spring up overnight rather than taking the time and spending the money to build strong, permanent buildings, new owners would construct “false fronts”. These clapboard fronts would provide an attractive visual aesthetic (and branding) for their overnight business fast and cheap. Often, behind this “false front” was a run down, weather beaten shack that lacked strength or stability.

It is a very different business that is created when the maker has the intention of building something amazing  and sustainable – something bigger than ourselves (and there are ways to think big that don’t include fame and fortune) – it is the difference between creating a family businesses that is passed on from generation to generation and  today’s “start-ups” where people create a business with the goal of selling it to make alot of money fast.  Now our business may never be passed on to another generation but maybe the part that gets passed on is the energy and passion we have for what we are doing and it gets passed on to everyone who visits our shop!

Since we are going to invest alot of time, energy, and resources to create, grow and market our brand, we need to be thinking about how it reflects who we are in “real-life” – what we really believe in. People can tell an authentic brand created with passion from one with a “false front”. Magpie Tree is definitely an authentic brand with a passionate owner!

It’s great to have public favorites (I love clicking through people’s hearts and have found many great shops this way), but I would take a look at our profile page with fresh eyes – if our favorite items (which Etsy currently locates directly below each shop’s own items – ugh) are too similar to our own I would consider making them private or just making sure they are not in the top twelve. We work too hard to get the customer into our shop to have them lured away by something with a similar aesthetic created by someone else – I can guarantee you will not find one of the mega-sellers on Etsy with items similar to their own listed in public favorites.

Magpie Tree Upcycled Vintage Lace Bobbies

Magpie Tree Upcycled Vintage Lace Bobbies

Working with vintage and upcycled materials can create a visual challenge and we know how important visuals are to standing out in a crowded marketplace and building a consistent brand.

Wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty and wisdom in imperfection – it is the gift of time and the thing that can’t be rushed. Wabi-sabi is a wonderful concept to embrace when working with vintage materials.

The beauty of the unraveled edge of grandmas’s quilt can only be appreciated in a clean and uncluttered setting.

The natural disorder with upcycled handmade is best expressed with simplicity – otherwise sometimes photos can get a little jumbled looking.

(this is why the successful vintage sellers on Etsy always have clean, warm and simple or cool, stark and white backgrounds – it is also why the items in those photos look so much more amazing than they would in an antique store cluttered in with other older, flawed items – the negative space allows us to really see the character of each piece and to see the poetry and beauty in the flaws)

Nikki totally gets the beauty of vintage and I think her visuals just need some tweaking to really stand out. Most of her front page pics feature the complete item with the photo taken from above the item – it’s important to have one photo showing your entire item, but too many might be compared to a storefront window with dresses all hanging parallel with the window and facing the passersby – it might be more visually interesting with a few angles and tweaks.

It can be difficult to photograph intricate pieces. I like her simple wood backgrounds and think the items would really pop with a little warming and lightening.

Getting the camera down to the same level of our item can change everything. Adjusting your camera settings so that you are focused on the part of your item in the foreground of your picture with the background out of focus creates an amazing photo.

I think model shots are a necessity for all makers of wearables. My model pics (I only have a few) get 30% more views than my other pics and can really draw customers into our shops.

Magpie Tree Necklace First Pic Redo

Magpie Tree Necklace First Pic Redo

Magpie Tree’s knitted leather bracelets have been popular and I would definitely look to add more choices for those. Her best selling work has been custom pieces and Nikki has a strong wedding focus with her custom work. Weddings are a huge industry where people spend money in good times and bad – a definite plus for makers. It is also a time when people tend to make purchases with their hearts and small, personal businesses have a huge advantage over larger, more impersonal ones.

Magpie Tree.com

Magpie Tree.com

Nikki has a wonderful blog that does a good job of combining info about her work and herself and other information her readers would be interested in. Videos are also a great way to improve SEO for your brand. Youtube videos rank very high in searches and can help grow your audience. A video series with Nikki showing her audience ways to create upcycled items – a bracelet from a pair of vintage earrings, for example, could help establish Magpie Tree as the go to place for upcycled vintage jewelry.

When we create videos and blogs to market and establish our brand we always want to keep in mind that our target market is our buyer and create with them in mind – what would our buyer want to see and read and feel?

Maybe new ways to wear and use our products or how to care for them? There is no one way to do this, there are many ways and this is all a process anyway, so you try things – if they work you focus, if they don’t, you switch to something else and then focus or switch, etc.  This is never a waste of time because life is always leading us to something else – we can’t stand still.

Thank you to Nikki of the wonderful Magpie Tree for volunteering up her beautiful work – I hope everyone will stop by her shop for a visit!

For more tips and tweaks check out the complete Thoughts on Shops series HERE.

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  1. Hi Nikki- Yes! It is all a process and for us – the making and the photographing and the marketing and the relationship building (damn, we need a nap!) is alot of work – the good thing is there is no end zone and no one is keeping score or giving grades so we have pretty much … well, the rest of our lives to do this however we choose!! Thank you for volunteering- I am especially partial to your cork!


  2. Cat,
    Thank you so much for the awesome post and the great hints and tips on getting my business where I truly want it to be! Honest constructive criticism is a difficult thing to come by once you are out of the University setting but I cherish such feedback; tucking it safely into that nook of knowledge for future tweaks and creative ideas. . . because let’s face it “Rome wasn’t built in a day:)”! . . . If only the days were longer 😉
    Hugs and thanks,