Biscuit Scout

Photo courtesy of fibesquad.wordpress.com

Have you experienced the phenomenon? You’re walking around your town and all of a sudden you see an everyday object covered in something bright… and fuzzy? No, it’s not graffiti, it’s yarn bombing.

Photo courtesy of twilighttaggers.blogspot.com

South African artist Lynn of Biscuit Scout has taken this idea to the next level, creating practical items for the home with whimsical knit covers. From light fixtures to armchairs, her modern chunky knitting style could make the perfect addition to your living room. Here she gives us a glimpse at how she got started, her challenges and advice.

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
My washing machine was really old and had rust marks down its front. It looked very shabby and I was trying to figure out how to disguise it. I couldn’t paint it. I didn’t have a sewing machine to sew an outfit for it so I thought I’d knit one! I knew how to knit but hadn’t done since I was a teenager. I lied when I went to buy the wool – I said I needed enough to knit a blanket. And that started me up this path of knitting large things.

Do you intend for your pieces to be functional or simply function as sculpture?
A bit of both – a knitted article is not suitable for high traffic.

How difficult is it to mold your knitting to a 3-D form?
My Mom taught me to knit when I was about 6 years old. The beauty of knitting with wool is that it stretches so can be moulded to fit once you have the basic dimensions and shapes.

How are your materials sourced?
I’ve found a range of local wools which have a lot of natural colours which I like to work with. I’ve only worked with these and have recently added a range of beautiful and brighter colour cottons (Vinni’s) which are hand dyed by previously unemployed women.

How has your work evolved?
I’m still finding new things to knit. I’m busy sewing my first knitted handbag together at the moment. I hope to finish it today.

What is your greatest challenge?
The shipping costs from South Africa. Yikes!

What inspires you?
This may sound corny, but there is inspiration everywhere – it just depends on how you look at things.
Tell us about your etsy business.
My friend Shelley told me about Etsy about 4 years ago. I joined in April last year. I would love this to be my full time job, but as it takes so much time to knit each object, the finished project is quite expensive and this limits my sales. And then there’s the shipping costs!

Aside from your etsy shop, where can readers find your work?
www.biscuitscout.com (for South African readers – prices in Rands)

What advice do you have for new etsians?
Enjoy the community. There are so many amazing, talented and friendly people on Etsy.

Now I know my A B Cs

I first fell in love with Summerville‘s Alphabetty print when I was thinking about making some new throw pillows for my couch. I’m such a type nerd, why wouldn’t I want letterforms in my living room? I really admire her quirky illustration style and the colors she chooses to print them in. Enjoy her advice, fellow crafters!

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I specialised in print making at art school, and have always been interested in textiles and sewing, principally in quilt making. It made sense for me to produce fabric designs in small pieces for me and others people to use in their projects.

How did you learn your craft?
I learnt to screen print at school aged about 16. I took this skill with me to art school, then rediscovered it after i had children and decided to take it to another level by offering it for sale.

How has your work evolved?
The technique has evolved slightly – I still draw my designs using pen and paper, but now i tend to use photoshop to help me repeat the designs after scanning them in.

What is your greatest challenge?
Trying to keep off Twitter, haha. I find school holidays a challenge, but both my boys have grown up knowing they have an easily distracted mother, so they’re pretty good at letting me get on with things.

What inspires you?
Living on a farm, the countryside, leaves and flowers, charity (thrift) shops, old ceramics and fabric, good design, colours that clash a little, Elle Decoration UK & Living ETC.

Tell us about your etsy business.
I discovered Etsy after discovering the design blogs Decor8 and DesignSponge – Both Holly and Grace are big advocators of the site, and I was blown away to find it. I spent hours trawling through the work for sale, this must have been around 2006/07. At the time I was making paper collages and opened up an Etsy shop called ‘Lusummers’ selling them. I did this for about a year—juggling little kids with making—but once I started screen printing again, I shut that shop and opened ‘Summersville’. I don’t think I made too many mistakes although I didn’t know too much about photography, I quickly learned that to make good sales I’d have to have some great shots. I was lucky though – with both shops I’d only been open a day before having a sale. Etsy is my main source of income, but I wouldn’t describe it as totally full time. Three quarters maybe.

Where can readers find your work?
Obviously at summersville.etsy.com and I’m working with a web designer to create lusummers.co.uk where I’ll have my own web shop. Although I’ll still be shipping worldwide, I want to attract more UK shoppers as most of my customers are in the States. I also have a few things for sale at internet shops blueberrypark.co.uk and clothkits.co.uk.

What advice do you have for new etsians?
Just one piece of advice: Do awesome, clear images. There are hundreds and hundreds of tutorials out there to help you improve your photographic skills. Get that right and your work will sell itself!

White Earth Studio

I stumbled upon one of Nancy’s gorgeous forms in a treasury we were both featured in a couple weeks ago. Only after exploring her shop further did I realize that White Earth Studio was located in my home state—Wisconsin! I love the intricate nature and subtle coloring of her work. Here’s what she has to say for herself:

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I love the medium of clay, especially the smooth white porcelain clay body that I use. Since my childhood I have loved to create things. My first memory of clay is of making and decorating mud pies with lilac and dandelion blossoms. I seem to still be using mud and flowers as my inspiration.

How did you learn your craft?
I learned ceramics in undergraduate class at the University of Hawaii and North Dakota, workshops at Penland School of Craft, NC and Banff Centre of Fine Arts, Banff, Alberta and by doing an apprenticeship in Ceramics with a private full time potter in Washington D.C.

How has your work evolved?
My work has become much more detailed in the past five years. I have been teaching privately in the studio which has allowed me the luxury of working on these time intensive pieces. I think also that the work has evolved along with my practice of meditation. Working on the Thousand Petal Vases particularly feels like a meditation to me.

What is your greatest challenge?
Marketing! No doubt about it. I’m not techy enough to get things done quickly or without a lot of error and re-doing! I’m also on the shy side and have a bit of trouble with the ego part of marketing.

What inspires you?
All the amazing forms I find in nature, it is endless inspiration…anything from a snowdrift, a pear, a tree fungus or a branch.

Tell us about your business.
I found out about etsy from fellow artists. I opened my etsy shop in May 2009. My full time job is maintaining a ceramic studio. Selling on etsy is an arm of my business, I also sell on Alere Modern, online gallery, and am involved with the developing Shibui Designs, Los Angeles, and their associate Fifth Floor Gallery in Los Angeles. Locally at Cornerstone gallery, Baraboo, WI.

What advice do you have for new etsians?
I would advise new etsians to spend alot of time in the forums. This was really helpful for me in the beginning. Also, join a team to meet people, share questions and marketing ideas.

Porcelain lace

Are you all tired of hearing about me and my work? I do apologize, my blog has been a little 622-centric lately! In an effort to correct that, I present a new series of artisan interviews. I hope you’ll learn as much about their craft as you do about starting an etsy shop for yourself! I’ve gotten a lot of requests for advice for beginners lately, so I hope between my writing and recommendations from experienced etsians, you’ll learn everything you want to know!

First up, the lovely and talented Isabelle Abrahamson, a Boston ceramicist who somehow makes solid clay forms seem light as air.

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
My current body of work focuses on incorporating patterns of negative space into functional works of art.

Tell us about the business end of things.
I discovered Etsy by reading an article about Etsy in the New York Times Magazine. I had just started making selleable things and it seemed like the perfect venue for me. I opened my shop that day.

I still sell all of my work myself. In addition to my Etsy shop I also have a website www.isabelleabramson.com , which usually has a little more of a selection of new work than my Etsy shop. My things are so time consuming to produce that it’s never worked to split the profit of a sale with a store. I’m working with Viridis 3D to produce limited edition reproductions of my pieces. These might be available at stores someday but for right now I will sell them on my website and probably on Supermarket HQ (I’m pretty sure Etsy is not down with 3D printed pottery).

How has your work evolved?
I think that my work has gotten more elaborate as I’ve gotten more comfortable working with clay. You can do anything with clay. It’s just like clay :)

What is your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge has been to keep up stock. I don’t like making the same things over and over, and I tend to be sold out of popular items while I experiment in the studio with new things. I think it will be a huge creative relief to get over the hump of having to make any particular thing just to make money. When I’m focused on being creative my work is always better, though it may happen slower. This has been the draw of getting set up to do 3D printing. When I really nail a design I’ll be able to put in a couple thousand dollars to get it set up as a limited edition print, and it will stay available for a while without me having to try to recreate it over and over. I’ll be able to move on to the next thing and, overall, my collection of work will be much better.
What advice do you have for new etsians?
I would say to any new Etsy shop owner that having good pictures is incredibly important. Partly it draws customers to your item, but also it gives you the opportunity to sell the idea of your item to customers. I think a good picture can even make customers feel better about something after they bought it…. they get to remember falling in love with it. I try to take pictures that seem like they could be in your home. If you look at the earliest pieces that I sold they’re all taken in a photo tent and came out weird shades of pink. At some point I found a place in my house (my bureau in my bedroom) that has the perfect light in the afternoon and a couple spots near windows in the studio and the pictures became so much more inviting (in my humble opinion).