(Plus I learned a new vocabulary word -- guilloche -- while reading the description, which is always fun!)
And I particularly appreciated the "Ripe for Recycling" section of Findings, where you'll find such treasures like these vintage enameled square links (which are even on sale!)
Enjoy the interview!
1. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?
At The Creative Block I sell my own jewelry and dolls, plus a few vintage pieces and occasional things like exceptional stone carved pendants from other countries and old carvings and castings, mostly from Asia.
Some day I will also post some of my crocheted and knitted, as well as recycled, clothing and accessories, but I haven’t had much time for those lately.
I used to be a weaver, and studied with Sharon Wheat, a truly amazing artist, for several years, as well as a term with Neda Al-Hilali but aging has reduced my wrist strength and flexibility to a point where I can no longer do that. I’ve taken workshops and classes in batik, dyeing, fabric painting, and doll-making here and there over the years as well. I’ve also taught myself a lot from books and magazines.
I’ve been making dolls as long as I can remember, and started designing and sewing clothes for them at age 10, taught by my aunt, a sculptor, ceramicist, wallpaper and fabric designer, summer camp arts counselor, etc., who also taught me some basic clay modeling techniques.
I started crocheting at 7—my mother worked and I saw our housekeeper making lace edgings and asked to learn. I don’t think I’ ve made a lace edging since, and am now a dyed-in-the-wool freeformer, but it was a very helpful start.
I taught myself to knit, largely because I’m left-handed and couldn’t find a teacher. I used a basic text with pictures and just turned it upside down. Now I teach right-handers by sitting across from them & playing mirror-image. I started knitting because weaving isn’t especially portable and I wanted a way to keep my hands busy at parties, I designed and sold knitted and crocheted garments, and won ribbons at county fairs as well as admission to juried shows and occasional prizes with them, but the commissions and other sales were more fun.
I can’t remember when I started actually making jewelry rather than just stringing beads, but I suspect my aunt, who lived with us for several months when I was 10 and again for about a year and a half starting when I was 13, had a hand in it. My father had taught me to use hand tools, including pliers as well as a hammer and saw, at around 6 or 7, so I had some basic skills that just needed direction.
In my 20s I also tie-dyed fabric & designed clothes made of it which, along with my dolls and some of my ceramic pipes, were sold at a gallery called “A Fly Can’t Bird But a Bird Can Fly” in New York.
Since then I’ve sold off and on in various stores and galleries in New York, California, and Washington, where I live (but am not selling anywhere but on etsy and the occasional craft fair) now.
Now I’m almost 65, and my knitting and crocheting are limited by carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis, but I still do some. Luckily, jewelry making and sewing seem to use a different set of muscles, so I can still do those fairly freely.
2. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?At The Creative Block: etsyBead, JET(Jewelry on etsy Team),EGADS (etsy Guild for Art Dolls and Such, EAST (Earthpath Artisans Street Team), etsyBeadWeavers Team, mini-makers Team
At Findings: ESST (etsy Supplies Street Team)
At both: etsyMOM, etsyChai (the Jewish Team), etsyTrashion Team, paganteam, freethinkers team
3. How did you get involved with Etsy?
My friend Laura Kane (who makes amazing fantasy dolls) opened her shop on Etsy and was so enthusiastic that she convinced me to do likewise. She also got me involved in some teams once I got here. That was The Creative Block, of course, in April of 2006, though I didn’t actually list anything for around 6 months.
Then in 2008 we did an Artists’ Garage Sale sponsored by our city arts dept, and made more in one day selling supplies than we ever had at a weekend crafts fair, so decided to take it online and opened Findings that June. It’s been extremely successful, pretty much breaking even after its first year.
There seems to be a much broader and steadier market for materials than for finished work, and I’d guess it helps that I price many, maybe most, of the items at Findings at $5-, don’t list anything I wouldn’t use but try not to duplicate the big retail sellers, and provide really good personal service and fast shipping. All of which of course takes time away from my own work even as it pays for my materials.
4. What inspires your creations?
I’ve done several interpretations, in both jewelry and beaded fabric sculpture, of “Overheard on a Saltmarsh” a poem by H. Monro, and finally think I’ve got it (in fabric sculpture—I think there’s an album on my Picturetrail.)
Last year we went to Paris, where I fell in love with the work of Niki de Saint Phalle—it’s colorful, sensuous, and features large women, including a series of “Dancing Nanas” that really resonates for me. I think that influence will be showing up in my work for awhile.
5. What is your biggest challenge related to your Etsy shop?
With The Creative Block, keeping myself motivated enough to make time to produce and list when nothing is selling.With Findings, to keep sourcing new and interesting things while maintaining an adequate stock of reliably-selling items & getting it all listed.
6. What is your favorite item in your shop (currently for sale or previously sold)? Why is it your favorite?
That’s a hard one. I did sell a steampunk piece called “Watch the Eye” that was my shop banner and is still on my cards, but my current favorites (besides my steampunkin earrings) are probably the Midnight Garden brooch, which features a carved jasper flower and a rainbow tourmaline dewdrop, both from China, and a handcast brass spider from Thailand and “Colorblind Hummingbird Finds Nectar in Dark Blossoms”, a partially recycled necklace with a disability-related theme.
7. What advice do you have for other folks selling or buying on Etsy?
Don’t quit your day job, but do find a niche you can fill.
8. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.
I’ve taught everything from kindergarten to college in places as diverse as Brooklyn, NY, Berkeley, CA, Port Townsend, WA, and several cities in China.
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/siragwatkins?ref=name#/siragwatkins?ref=name (although my husband’s more active on my account there than I am)
My husband and I will both turn 65 in the next 6 mos and will have been together for 40 years. We are CouchSurfers, and have traveled in Europe as well as the US and done a lot of hosting, too.
9. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?
And I’ve just started a blog http://thosebluerememberedhills.blogspot.com/
Plus my husband, Seth Watkins, who’s an award-winning photographer, and I have a shop on zazzle--http://www.zazzle.com/off_the_wall