Our guest this week is Brittany Wisner of Courage and Clay @courageclay, and she’s a true master of sculpting with Sculpy polymer clay!
Brittany shares her insights on all things market season, from researching potential events to how to stand out as a vendor. She also gives a behind-the-scenes look at her creative process, including how she mixes and colors clay, cuts out her designs, and bakes the finished products.
Check out the episode now on your favorite podcast app, and let us know what you think in the comments! Find her shop here
Hello, everybody, and welcome to the makers of Minnesota podcast, where we talk to cool people doing cool things. And we’re coming upon market season, and today we have Brittany Wiesner, and she is with Courage and Clay. And I just am really fascinated by your process because I’ve been watching your instagrams and your reels, and you had probably one of the funniest reels I’ve ever seen from a maker, which was like, here’s all my stuff. This creator is putting this out here, but the algorithm doesn’t care, so here you go. Welcome to the show.
Thank you. It’s great to be here.
How did you start, and can you talk about the process of how you make earrings for Courage and clay?
Yeah, so, I have always been a crafter. I always say it’s just been in me. When I was younger, I would scrapbook after we took vacation. My mom did scrapbooking things, so I’d always want to help when she was working on that or making wreaths. And so, as I got older, it just always stuck with me. And I had this terrible self doubt. Every time I would get close to thinking, like, oh, I could start something with this, it was like, there’s no way. It’s not happening. You’re not capable of this. And so I just kept going along. And then it was the end of 2019, and I on pinterest, as we usually are, and I see these earrings, and I’m like as the DIY in me says, well, I could just make that out to Michael’s. I go, I get the things, and I start. And it was like, this is the thing. So I always say it’s, hence the business name. It’s the clay that gave me the courage to start the business.
Oh, cute. I like it.
Yes. And then as far as oh, my gosh. Making is a process.
Yeah. Okay. You use Sculpy, which is clay, and then you flatten it, turn it into shapes. What is that called? Where you roll different colors together?
Yeah. So I color mix. I condition the clay. So you use a good old fashioned pasta machine to condition, and that helps mix the colors, too. So, yeah, all the colors I have are mixed multiple colors of the Sculpy. Polymer clay. The best thing about polymer clay is that it’s lightweight. So if you want to still wear statement earrings but not be weighed down, it’s the best option. So, I mix everything, cut everything out with little 3D cutters, and then they cure in the oven, and then they come out. I hand sand everything, all the edges, to make sure they’re smooth, drill the holes, and there we go.
When you drill the holes, do they sometimes break?
No. And that is something I had to really perfect over time. I used to not know exactly how long I needed to really bake. And there’s tons of types of Sculpy, too. So at first, it’s like, I’m using a really poor quality, which is known for breaking. Now I know better, so I use Sculpy souffle and Sculpy primo. Those are not as prone to breaking. And then you also have to know not to go too close to an edge. There’s a lot of technique in it that you have to learn to really know.
I’m confident that I’m going to make a quality product.
And then you put wires in them or the fix.
Yeah, so I do jump rings on them, and then if I do like, the little danglies, I have the fish ear hooks, and then I also make sure I get my back secured on there. I use all hypoallergenic metals because I am very sensitive to metals as well.
Yes. Okay, so you start doing this, and how many pairs do you think you made before you were like, I could really do this as a business?
That’s a great question. Oh, my God, it had to be in the hundreds.
I can kind of relate because I wrote this cookbook and I still sort of feel like an imposter about it, even though it’s been out there for a long time. And these are my recipes, my family’s recipes. I make them, I wrote them, I photographed them. But I still sometimes look at this book and think, well, A, it’s crazy that I did this, but also, B, like, anyone can make a rhubarb bar.
How exciting is that, right?
Especially in Minnesota. Yeah, I definitely get that. It still comes to me sometimes where polymer clay has become so popular you can go to any market and there’s going to be somebody with it, but it comes back to just being confident in your own style, knowing that I wouldn’t be here three years later if people weren’t buying my products. I have to remind myself that sometimes, like, there’s people that like this, they’re buying it. So there’s a reason we’re here.
Do you do this full time?
I don’t. So by day, I work in healthcare compliance and use a totally different side of my brain, and this is kind of my side gig.
How much time a week do you put into this in terms of the making, the record keeping, and then not even to say all the markets that you can?
Definitely. Like you said, we’re getting into market season. So once we get these heavier, like, summer and then the holiday times, I’m often every weekend at a market, and those are many times six to eight hour shows. And then most weekends, I spend a lot of my Saturdays working on it. And then I do try to do a few hours a week after work, especially if I have events coming up that I know I need to make for.
Is it energy producing or energy draining?
I always say when it’s not fun, that’s when you know it’s time to stop. And for me, it’s still energy producing. I’m so excited always about new colors and new seasons and new events and meeting new customers. So I still feel really excited about it.
Do you sell on Instagram too or do you sell online?
I sell on Etsy and then I also have a few stores locally that I sell in as well.
And how did you get that? Did you have to go in like knock on the door and say, hey, do you want to carry?
Scary, right? A few, yes. Others it’s been these natural connections and these small business relationships I’ve created when I’ve done markets or through other connections where it’s like, oh, we met each other at a market and I also have this boutique, do you want to sell there? So that part has been really nice. And I always say, even if you’re not getting tons of customers at your booth, always network with everyone around you.
Yeah, that makes sense.
You never know where, you.
Know I’ve often wondered this about makers. How do you know if a market is going to be a good market or how do you evaluate it based on how much they’re charging?
Yes. So return on investment is huge. There are some bigger markets that obviously will charge more because their attendance is going to be a lot. I try to a network with my other small business people and say, have you done this before? What do you know about it? And get some information that way. I also try to scope out there’s Facebook groups for markets, for makers and things. So sometimes asking there looking at previous years like event and seeing, okay, how many people generally said they were coming because yeah, I’ve definitely had a few that were bombs. So you want to know that they’re advertising as well. Not just you doing producing people and foot traffic and just if there’s other reputable makers that do it. And it’s something that’s been long withstanding, I think are good ways to start.
When you have a bad market, is it usually the market, the weather, sometimes just timing and do you ever give them a second chance?
I would say timing can play a lot. There’s sometimes you don’t think about like one time I had a market in Minneapolis and it was during a Vikings game and it was on a Sunday and it was like, oh, people aren’t really coming out and shopping, right? And me not being super into watching football, I’m not thinking about that. But you have to think about it from a business standpoint. So there are some that I’ve given a second chance and it’s turned around because it’s like that same group but they’re doing a different day or something. But there are others that I would say no, I won’t go back to that because I know the hosts don’t advertise. They’re not excited to even have you there necessarily.
Yeah. Let me ask you about that because I do feel like I produce a culinary market for Stone Arch Bridge Festival, and I feel like my job is to make my vendors happy and provide traffic, want to come back, make it easy for them to set up. But I have also been around other markets where they act like you’re doing them a favor by showing up.
Is it more likely that the market producers cater to you or do you cater to them?
That’s a really good question because I’ve seen that as well. I feel very grateful to have the opportunity. So I always feel like, okay, I am a little bit indebted to you for putting this together, but I always want that in respect in return.
Just to say, okay, here are the details. You have the details in advance. Here’s how we can support you during the market where you can contact us, not just kind of, okay, set up and we’re gone and on your own. So just that two way communication and respect for one another is important. But yeah, I highly respect anyone who puts a market together because a lot of work goes into it well, and.
I feel like, I don’t know, I feel like market makers talk too. And if you’re not kind or you don’t provide them the support that they need, or security or whatever the issues are, that gets around, and that sure does how people decide not to do markets too. Right. Is there ever such a thing as too many markets for the makers or is there just the more markets, the more makers, and everybody will eventually be fine? Because I feel like we’re sort of saturated after COVID.
Yes. It feels like, well, and even as someone who applying to them, sometimes they feel overwhelmed of, I have all these options, what do I pick? Yeah. I do think sometimes, especially in a community like ours, that values art so much and we have all these farmers markets and things, I do feel like it can feel a little bit much. And I did almost 20 last year, and that was a lot on top of working full time, so I’ve scaled it back this year. But I think, yeah, we need to find that happy medium because sometimes that can also affect traffic, too, where it’s like, well, people don’t know where to go because there’s 20 on the same day.
Yeah. So do you ever anticipate that you would do this full time?
That’s a hard question, and I grapple with it because I am a true Enneagram Six, so I’m very focused on security and stability. So I like that I have that reliable stream of income and benefits that come through having my day job.
I still love this so much, and I just know I can’t give it up, not anytime in the near future. And if there was a circumstance where I felt like, wow, this is really booming to a level that I just have to do it. I would never say never.
All right, well, Brittany, it’s been really fun to talk to you. It’s courage and clay, and you can find her on Instagram. And do you have any markets that are coming up that are big ones that you want to tell people you’re going to be at?
Yes. Speaking of Coinciding markets, we all know this weekend is going to be artaworld in Northeast, which will be crazy busy. But I will be at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. They’re doing May markets series, and I’ll be there in the Rose Garden area both Saturday and Sunday.
And what about June? Do you have any June or July markets?
Nothing yet. I’m waiting to hear on a couple so a couple of things I’ve applied to.
All right, well, good luck on that, and we will make sure that we stop by and see you at one of these markets.
Thanks, Brittany. I appreciate you being on the program.
Okay, and we’ll put link to all of her socials in the show notes so that you can find Britney’s jewelry. It’s been great to talk to you.
All right, thanks. Our channel.