This Seller Wednesday, we’re going to take a look at a spectacular seller who used the earnings from her Zazzle stores to help the Tibetan people exiled to India. Tammy, from the Zazzle store SupportforTibet, talks about her trip to India and Nepal, and how you can get involved in helping the Tibetan people.
Zazzle: First off, tell us something about yourself:
Tammy: I was born and raised in York, PA. My childhood experience with foreign pen pals gave me a lifelong interest in travel, languages, and cultures. As a teen, I began to explore my passion for artistic expression, mainly writing and photography. These passions have been intimately entwined ever since!
I have lived in 7 US states and 3 foreign countries. At present I am traveling in and researching Tibetan exile settlements in India and Nepal, which I showcase in words and photojournalism at Everyday Exile Project.
Zazzle: When and how did you first become interested in art, and how long have you been making art?
Tammy: I have been interested in art since childhood. My first “medium” was crayon! My mother tells me I was disqualified from a coloring contest at age six because the judges said the work was too good to have been done by a child my age!
I started painting and a variety of crafts as a teenager and sold them to my mother’s friends and co-workers.
Zazzle: What inspired your trip to Tibet? Can you elaborate on why you chose Tibet?
Tammy: Firstly, I am not in Tibet. I work in Tibetan refugee settlements in India and Nepal. There are over 160,000 Tibetan living in exile. Tibet has been forcibly occupied by China for over 50 years. I do not support anyone traveling to Chinese-occupied Tibet.
On my first trip to India, which began in late 2009, I came to McleodGanj, capital of Tibet in Exile and home to the Dalai Lama since his escape into exile in 1959, to explore Buddhism. The place and the Tibetan people captivated me. A planned one week stay turned into a 4 month volunteer position. That experience led me to return this year for an extended trip to help bring awareness of the Tibetan situation to others.
Zazzle: What spoke to you about the plight of the Tibetan people?
Tammy: I saw the physical and emotional scars of former political prisoners who have survived unthinkable torture. I held their hands as they told their stories. Hearing my friends describe their experiences in, and their difficulties escaping from, Tibet called to me.
Tibet is one of the world’s largest human rights crises, and yet it is largely ignored by international media outlets. This gap stems both from Chinese oppression of media coverage, as well as the fact that western nations rely heavily on Chinese goods and finances.
Zazzle: What got you interested in selling your art on Zazzle?
Tammy: I joined Zazzle after some fellow users of another print-on-demand site recommended it. I loved that Zazzle allows users to add as many products as they wish to a single shop for free. Zazzle’s design features were also much easier for me to navigate.
Zazzle: How did you use Zazzle to sponsor your trip?
Tammy: I have 8 Zazzle shops. Between them, I earn enough to pay roughly a third of my living expenses while in India. Cost of living here is fairly low. But even so, I am living on an extreme budget and am unable to provide material assistance to locals. Some of my Tibetan acquaintances, mainly former political prisoners, need assistance with basic cost of living. I would also love to raise my earnings enough to be able to provide such things as textbooks to refugee students.
Zazzle: If you had to choose one, what was the most inspirational moment you had while you were in India?
Tammy: I would have to say having His Holiness the Dalai Lama stand less than 5 feet away from me at a puja to speak to some fellow Tibet supporters. The Dalai Lama is forbidden from returning to Tibet and has lived in exile since 1959. Despite that, he is the most radiant and kind human I have ever encountered.
Zazzle: Do you have any plans to return to India, or do you have any other trips like it in mind?
Tammy: I intend to make the Tibetan exile settlements of India and Nepal my home for at least half of each year. I am writing and doing photojournalism on the Tibetan human rights crisis. At some point I hope to publish at least one book on the subject.
Zazzle: Switching gears a bit… What tips can you give someone who is just starting out on Zazzle?
Tammy: I would encourage them to learn a lot about SEO and social media marketing, and to add new products to their shop(s) constantly. One of my biggest issues is that internet connection in India is sometimes not strong or stable enough to add new designs or continually promote my work.
I would also tell them to be patient. It may take up to a year to start seeing significant sales.
Zazzle: Lastly, how can other people get involved in helping the Tibetan people?
Tammy: There are dozens of ways people can get educated about and support Tibet and Tibetan refugees. First, find out what is happening. Start by reading my blog at Everyday Exile Project.
Check websites dedicated to news from Tibet and Tibet in exile (a list of such resources can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=177376918958482).
Write to your government representatives asking them what their position is on Tibet, and asking them to take action to support Tibet. Write to local/national/international media outlets asking them to cover news from Tibet.
My own work is more than two thirds funded by donations/sponsorships and online earnings from my Zazzle shops. My Tibet related Zazzle shop is Support for Tibet. I am happy to answer questions from fellow Zazzlers regarding the specifics of my work in the Tibetan community, so don’t hesitate to contact me!
You can find all of my Zazzle shop links and updates on my artistic pursuits at my Facebook fan page:
Thank you Tammy!