07 Nov Stories of Starting Podcast Episode 16: Heather Boyd, YouTuber, Wire Artist, Comic Writer
Today I am interviewed by my daughter Montreal photographer Mimi Boyd in my home art studio.
Heather Boyd is a Montreal artist who specialized in custom wire art and jewelry. Her YouTube tutorials have over 2 million views. Viewers share their work and inspiration in the Facebook group Wire Art & Jewelry Makers Club. She sells her jewelry and custom cake toppers made with her husband’s wire bicycles on Etsy. She also creates goofy 4 panel comics on Instagram and share inspiration for artists and entrepreneurs on her blog Start by Staring.
Watch the interview here:
Heather: Hey guys, we’re here for another Stories of Starting podcast. This week the tables are turned because I had a little technical difficulties. For my last two interviews the audio did not work. Sorry for Rob and Patti, taped your interview and it went kaputt. This week my daughter has offered to help me out, which is awesome! Please introduce yourself to start with
Mimi: My name is Mimi B Dolls and I am going to be interviewing Heather Boyd Wire.
Heather: Yes! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Mimi: To get started, what were your hobbies growing up?
Heather: Hobbies for me, basically in one word, crafts. I was weaned on arts and crafts. When I was super young, we always did a lot of arts and crafts. In fact, I always love to tell the story that when Nan, who is my mom, was in the hospital, in those days, they would keep the moms in for a week at a time before they let them out with their new babies. And what my mom would do would, she would make little crafts and little greeting cards with little bits and pieces out of the hospital, napkins and things, and send them home with my dad for the other kids. I honestly believe I was truly weaned on arts and crafts.
Mimi: Very interesting. All right, your story and your journey from living in Toronto and having a full time job and then to moving to Montreal and completely changing your lifestyle.
Heather: I did study Fine Art and I became a graphic designer in Toronto. That was in 1988 I worked for a year in a corporate neckwear company. Which was the fancy name to say neckties. So we actually printed company logos on neckties. That was in the days where you had to use line tape. Everything was manual. There were no computers for doing graphic art.
I loved the work, but my boss was a complete psycho. So after a year of dealing with a lot of verbal abuse and seeing the employees treated bad, I had an opportunity to take a sublet of an apartment in Montreal from my friend Jennifer. And so I said, sure, why not? So moved to Montreal. I quit my job and started selling hand painted buttons on the streets of Montreal.
Mimi: Wow, and that was making a good income?
Heather: Oh yeah, you know. I used to make about $3 a day standing on the street corner, selling my stuff. I don’t know, I just was floating on a wing and a prayer. I somehow managed to just scrape by my first summer and then met your dad.
Mimi: I was going to mention that…meeting Marc.
Heather: I was selling in Old Montreal in August of that year. I’d been struggling all summer. I had started to make little wire things. Just getting random hardware store wire and making little weird bracelets. I set up in Old Montreal one day. I never usually sold there. And Marc never usually sold there. And for some reason we both went there that day and there were no spots left. I set up under a drippy air conditioner and he happened to be right beside me. We didn’t speak the same language. I couldn’t speak French. He couldn’t speak English. At one point he handed me a little piece of wire. I took it and twisted it into a little penguin. He thought it was pretty cool. So we’ve been together ever since.
Mimi: How did you get your wire business started?
Heather: The wire business has been an evolution. I started by selling on the street for the first few years. I was developing my own designs and making little cats and little icons out of wire.
Then I was doing some wholesale. I landed some contracts in the Musée des Beaux Arts and the National Gallery of Canada and little galleries around Canada. I actually had a guy that I met selling on the street who was from Japan. He was importing stuff to Japan. I would ship my stuff to Japan and he would send Yen in an envelope, cash, which was pretty cool. That was awesome. So we do wholesale, we sold at craft shows and festivals, and a lot of art shows. We did that for quite a while. Then things were difficult during the recession. We weren’t making too many sales, with the dollar stores and the Walmarts and all that sort of thing. I took a bunch of part time jobs, cleaning jobs and different teaching jobs. I was teaching art and stuff. Then I started selling on Etsy.
Mimi: That was one of the questions, how you got started on Etsy. How that all evolved. So explain.
Heather: I started on Etsy when it was brand new. It had been around for maybe a year or so. It wasn’t super user friendly. I was posting things and you had to keep track of sales and renewing things. It was pretty complicated. I started telling on Etsy and put up random stuff, random jewelry and things. I made a sale here or there. I remember my first sale was a little pair of drummer earrings, and I was so psyched.
Mimi: I remember that.
Heather: I think they broke in the mail. I was upset, but I figured it out. Then one day on a whim, we put one up of Mark’s bicycle decorations.
Mimi: I remember that specific day.
Heather: Wasn’t that crazy? We put it up and I was like: Oh, I don’t think it’s going sell. I put it up anyways. We put up one of his tandem bikes as well. Then we had sold a tandem bike, and when the person left to review about the sale, they said: “I love the tandem bike. I used it on my wedding cake!” I was like: Whoa, that’s a good idea.
Mimi: So what did you end up doing with that idea?
Heather: We rolled with that idea and we started marketing our stuff as wedding cake toppers.
Mimi: What happened when you marketed your stuff as wedding cake toppers?
Heather: The sales went up and we paid our mortgage! (high five)
Mimi: You love going to coffee shops.
Heather: Oh yes.
Mimi: Tell me more about that addiction.
Heather: Obsessed. Didn’t we talk about this in your podcast?
Mimi: We did
Heather: It’s funny because when I first came to Montreal that big coffee shop thing wasn’t really a big a big thing. There were Van Houttes.
Mimi: Van Houtte is an adorable coffee shop if you’re ever in Montreal.
it’s amazing. And it’s a very typical Quebec brand. They sell coffee in stores, but also have coffee shops. I remember going there before internet with my little sketchbooks. I would go to Van Houtte. I would sketch up designs and ideas. I would get a big bowl of cafe latte and their oatmeal muffin. I would sit there and just brainstorm and work. Funny that years later I’m taking my daughter. We often go to coffee shops.
Mimi: You work there too. You’re on your computer and you do your Etsy stuff and you do your YouTube and all your stuff. And it’s great. It’s like the evolution of coffee shops and there’s so many great ones now everywhere in Montreal and on the West Island as well.
Heather: Oh, so amazing.
Mimi: Name me one of your favourite coffee shops.
Heather: I would say one of my favourites is a downtown in Griffintown. There’s Café Lali. I love it because it’s an art gallery and coffee shop. The mom, Isabelle, owns the art gallery aspect, and the daughter Anne Marie, owns the coffee shop. It’s right near Guy and Notre Dame. I highly recommend it.
Mimi: Awesome. So another one of our urban adventures is going to live, stand up comedy. Tell me a bit more about your obsession with that.
Heather: I don’t remember exactly how long I’ve been going. I remember one of the first shows I saw was with some friends of mine. We went to see Helen Hong at the Comedy Nest. I loved it so much. I’ve always loved comedy, but never had really gone out to stand up. Then when I realized how easy it was and how affordable it was to go. Often we’ll go every week now to The Nest. We’ll share go on a Newbie Tuesday and get a free ticket for Thursday. It’s just a great way to get inspiration and just let loose. I love it.
Mimi: I do too. Tell me about more about your urban adventures and what you enjoy within those.
Heather: I would say it’s just general inspiration. I think when you work at home you can get very isolated. The environment at home is very nice. It’s bright and there’s a lot of great advantages to it. But you also need the stimulus of meeting other people and going to see new things. I love to go to the art galleries and get inspiration. Just to get out and about. And honestly it could even be considered exercise. Sometimes we track how many thousands of steps we’ve done.
Mimi: You can do that on the health App on your iPod or iPhone.
Heather: There we go. So it’s actually my form of fitness.
Mimi: What are the ideas and thoughts that come to your head when you’re on the bus? You go on a lot urban adventures and part of that urban adventure is taking the bus downtown. Both of us are people who like to daydream and percolate ideas. When you’re on the bus what types of ideas do you download?
Heather: Wow. That’s a cool question. It’s true that I actually really like public transit, ass much as people dis it a lot of the time. I love that time. It’s funny, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “meditate”. I’m not one that will sit down and meditate. I love the concept. But I don’t do it.
Mimi: Me too, I’m too fidgety.
Heather: Exactly. So riding the bus downtown is a good 40 minutes of meditation.
Mimi: Absolutely. And also you write comics. Is that a place on the bus that you percolate your comics or where does that take place? Do you you think about those on the bus? I know we think about a lot of them in the car. Explain a bit more about the comics and how that’s evolved.
Heather: The comics have been a great passion project. They actually started with conversations that we’ve had together. Of course, the iconic one is the one about the coffee. We were at this networking event and McDonald’s was having their free coffee week. We picked up a couple of coffees and you got hot chocolate.
Mimi: I got a hot chocolate and you ordered a coffee. They made some type of mistake, so they ended up giving us two small coffees and the hot chocolate.
Heather: We went to this this networking event and you drank the hot car chocolate and the coffee.
Mimi: I had a few sips in the coffee and then I started pouring the coffee into the hot chocolate thinking that it would equal to one.
Heather: The whole commic goes I say “You’re going to be so buzzed, you drank a hot chocolate and a coffee. Then you said “But I mixed them”. Then I say “Yes, but you still ingested them”
Mimi: And that’s the whole comic!
Heather: I know. It was just this glow of conversation. We didn’t question it. Anytime we had these quirky conversations I’d create comics. What happened with that one is I posted it on Instagram and it ended up going viral on Reddit.
Mimi: On Reddit, but in a negative form.
Heather: Which was crazy because everybody was saying, “Oh, this makes no sense. These people are crazy.”
Mimi: And what did you do to like turn it around?
Heather: I didn’t know about it for a long time. Then somebody had commented on one of my YouTube videos. I’d created a video about how to make your own comics. They said, “Oh, your comics are pretty popular on Reddit in the Comedy Cemetery.” And so I go to this subReddit the Comedy Cemetery, which is where comedy goes to die! They wanted me to do an AMA, which means asked me anything.
Mimi: Everybody thought you were just going to be fried.
Heather: So I said I’ll do this AMA at 10:00 PM tonight. Everybody kept saying, “Don’t do it.” “She’s walking into her own funeral” and all this stuff. I said, what the heck? So I went on and we had a great old chat. I ended up becoming friends with half the people in the sub Reddit, which is great. And they ended up giving me feedback on the comics so that I was able to improve the aesthetics and become (slightly) more clear with my thoughts and ideas (not necessary).
Mimi: And you became more popular!
Heather: I sold a comic for today!
Heather: That was definitely a situation of taking a negative or perceived negative event and turning it into a positive. I’m still writing comics. I think I have almost a thousand.
Mimi: That’s crazy. That’s fantastic.
Heather: And our private account that nobody will ever find out about!
Mimi: This is your podcast that we are filming currently. What inspired you to make this podcast.
Heather: The Stories of Starting podcast is a real evolution. I write a blog called Start by Starting. So it’s all about the events I go to, things I learn and try to share with people. I started a series called Stories of Starting where people could submit their own stories to put on the blog.
Mimi: Right. I actually did one.
Heather: So you did one, which was beautiful. And Emily, my niece, your cousin wrote an amazing blog post about how she manifested her dream home. People seemed interested, but nobody submitted. I thought maybe people don’t know where to start. Maybe they think it has to be perfect writing. I wasn’t quite sure. People loved the idea, but they didn’t want to take the initiative to write a blog post. So I said, why don’t I just interview people and learn their stories and then just put it out there.
Heather: And so that’s how it happened. So we film the interview, I download the transcripts for the written blog, and then the audio for podcasts.
Mimi: That’s excellent.
Heather: You were on it as well.
Mimi: I am on it. You should definitely go check that one out.
Mimi: You enjoy being a part of communities. Your big one is Creator HQ and your Wire Art & Jewelry Makers Club. When you are with these people, how does it make you feel?
Heather: There’s two completely different communities. Creator HQ is the community that we’re both a part and we’ve been part of for a long time. They do a lot of in-person events in Montreal. You’re doing workshops, networking and events with fellow creatives. There are people that are creating content for YouTube, for Instagram and entrepreneurs. It’s really expanded. At first it was all YouTube and now they’ve expanded to all kinds of creators. In fact, they have the REC Creator Conference that happens four times a year that we’re going to this Saturday.
Mimi: Very exciting.
Heather: The podcast course/workshop that I took at Creator HQ, which is replaying that REC, is how I learned about starting this podcast.
Mimi: Fantastic. And your jewelry makers club on Facebook. Explain how that makes you feel and how you started that.
Heather: The Wire Art & Jewelry Makers Club on Facebook was actually inspired by my YouTube mentor Sunny Lenarduzzi. I took her online course about improving my YouTube channel. One big thing she emphasized was about creating community.
Mimi: That’s so important. I totally agree with that.
Heather: Oh my goodness. It’s really crazy! So I started this Wire Art & Jewelry Makers Club. Now it has 2,500 members. Facebook suggests it to people that are searching for that. People share photos of their own work or also work inspired by my tutorials.
Heather: With the images that they post in the group I create slideshows for YouTube to show people what the people that have watched my videos create. They are stunning and people love it because they love to be able to share their work.
Mimi: You had also mentioned that you are a YouTuber. Yes. What inspired your YouTube.
Heather: I probably wouldn’t have started YouTube if it wasn’t for you. Mimi had a YouTube channel. She had a few channels actually. You had your music channel and your doll channel.
Mimi: I had a random channel. I think I morphed the music one into many different things. When I realized it wasn’t going to work I got rid of the music one. I even tried making a beauty video once and never posted it. It was the most embarrassing thing on this planet but I really wanted to try it.
Heather: That’s what I love about you is you try things. I think that’s what gave me the courage to start YouTube in the first place. My first video was a crappy little tour of my dining room table, which was my studio.
Mimi: What’s your niche on YouTube?
Heather: My niche now on YouTube is wire art and jewelry. When I started I was doing jewelry, but I was also doing crafts. I was doing duct tape crafts. I was putting up food videos, vegan food videos, vlogs, so many different things. And then when I started doing this course, I realized you really have to narrow down and find your niche, which is what I’ve done. After I started doing that my channel really grew. By YouTube standards, it’s not crazy big. But I do have 24,000 subscribers and 2 million views.
Mimi: Congratulations. I’m so happy for you. Where can we find you on social media?
For Instagram I have @HeatherBoydComics @HeatherBoydWire and @HeatherBoydBlog which is all our life out-and-about stuff. Most of my things are @HeatherBoydWire YouTube Twitter and all that stuff! And you can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Heather: And what about you? Where can we find you?
Outro: Thanks so much for tuning into Stories of Starting. If you would like to inspire others with your story big or small, be sure to reach out via StoriesofStarting.com until next time, always remember your story matters.
Check out Mimi’s doll photography:
and her website: https://mimibdolls.com/
Heather Boyd Wire on YouTube: http://bit.ly/2GfRFSt
Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/HeatherBoydWire
Official Website: https://www.heatherboydwire.com/
Start by Starting Blog: https://www.startbystarting.tv/
Stories of Starting Podcast: http://storiesofstarting.com/