Joel Robison

As an art director, I spend entire days looking at photos. For an average monthly issue, we shoot thousands and I sort through every single one. Needless to say, it takes more than a nice smile or a sunny day to make me pause on a shot. But when I stumbled across Joel Robison‘s imaginative work, I did just that.

My definition of art has always had to do with purpose and intention, so the fact that these are so well conceptualized, planned and executed speaks to me. Check out the selections I’ve included here, visit his shop for more and read what he has to say for himself below!

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I create the work that I do because I feel that it best allows me to express my feelings, wants, dreams and ideas. Photography for me has grown into an opportunity to share how I see the world with the world around me.

When did you start taking pictures?
I started taking conceptual images about 3 years ago and I’ve learned everything pretty much on my own, through trial and error and just by experimenting. I do put a lot of pre-planning into my images and I’d say that majority of my photos have had at least an hours worth of planning or setup just to get everything the way I want it.

Post-production really depends on each image, my time frame usually ranges between an hour to three hours and I usually end up with something that is quite different than how it looked in camera :)

Where do you work? What type of environment stimulates your creativity?
Well, I have a “regular” job as an Educational Assistant working with students with various learning needs in a high school. I’m most inspired by nature and being outside in the forest or mountains really helps me to think and be creative, when I’m stuck indoors or in a big city for too long I start to feel like my creativity is depleting.

How has your work evolved?
My work has definitely changed and evolved in the past few years, I think in the past I didn’t do many images that depicted sadness or intense emotions, I’m comfortable doing so now. I’m more willing to try new things and keep developing my skill set now rather than depend on what I already know.

What is your greatest challenge?
Having patience when things don’t go my way. I get into a groove around photography and editing and when that gets broken or when I have to adjust it’s not always easy for me.

What inspires you?
The world that doesn’t actually exist inspires me. I love to create images of the impossible but make them look possible.

Tell us about your etsy business.
I started using Etsy a few years ago to sell mostly just little paintings and such and then I opened up my print shop last June after some requests to start selling prints. There’s always a learning curve and my first few prints didn’t ship so well so I had to re-ship them at my cost, I think now I’ve got it under control although I need to list items more frequently!

What advice do you have for new etsians?
Network and create treasuries, browse and favourite and see everything that there is on the website!

Where else can readers find your work?
my flickr
my facebook
my blog

Old New Again

It’s no secret I have a slight fascination with typography. My collection is constantly being added to and a steady stream of new work from Old New Again is doing nothing to help curb its growth. I first fell in love with the ampersand above: a well-design letterform—YES!—painted and distressed wood—YES!—oh, and proprietors Liz & Rick are from Wisconsin—YAY!

Liz took a moment to share a little bit about the pieces they make, the lifestyle they live and what it’s like to have an etsy business as your livelihood. Enjoy!

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I’ve always loved wood and that sort of old primitive look, but wanted something “fresher”… so I came up with our style. Rick lost his job a few years ago, so it all just sorta worked out beautifully! Now it is our only source of income, and we are so blessed!

How did you learn your craft? Tell us about your process—start to finish.
I grew up in an art family. My dad has been a full-time artist since I was a child. My uncle taught college art. My brothers are both artists. So I can’t really say when it started, because I never remember it starting. It was there from the start.

Where do you work? What type of environment stimulates your creativity?
We have a workshop that’s about 7 miles away, in the country. While it’s lovely to work there in the summer, it is very cold in the winter (it’s heated, but it’s a big place so it isn’t the warmest). And in the winter there’s no natural light (in the summer we open the huge overhead door).

I do all of my computer work and shipping in our basement. Some day I would love to have a great big shop with lots of light year-round, where Rick can do his “dirty” work (cutting, sanding, staining and varnishing) and I could have a separate area to do my work.

How has your work evolved?
I try to watch trends and see what I can tweak. My biggest challenge is finding time to do new items. We are so busy that I don’t get as much time as I’d like to do new things.

What inspires you?
Everything! I love color and texture. I am constantly thinking in these terms. When I go to the pet store and see an amazing little hamster with the most beautiful brown and white fur… I think WOW I LOVE THAT BROWN!

What’s your favorite piece or use and why?
I adore our long skinny 6 hook shelves! We have them all over, as our house is pretty small and we have two children (Molly is 17… not a child anymore and Samantha is 9). I am all about functional pieces that look great and help me keep things organized.

Tell us about your start on etsy and any beginner mistakes.
I found etsy from an amazing artist, Jenn ( We got to know each other on ebay when we were selling our ACEOs. Beginner mistakes: hmmm…. that’s hard to say, because all the mistakes are just sort of stepping stones. Sounds cliche, but it’s so true.

What advice do you have for new etsians?
My advice would be to focus more and not try to try too many different things at once. My second bit of advice would be to initially spend 90% of your time on getting your pictures right and making sure they fit in well in treasuries.

Where can readers find your work?
We are exclusively on etsy! ♥

Bo Betsy

As I mentioned, I have a new obsession. Bo Betsy was one of my original inspiration artists in my last post, but I decided to ask her for an interview instead! Cath has quite the variety of work in her etsy shop, but my favorite by far are the marine/floral/abstract pieces in the most fantastic color combinations.

Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I embroider because I can’t stop. I don’t know that there has ever been something I so loved to do that I didn’t want to put it down. Stitching is certainly like that for me. There’s something wonderful about hand stitching… each slow, purposeful stitch adds up to something lasting and beautiful.

What are some of your first memories of the craft?
I first learned to embroider in junior high home economics class. I loved it. My mom recently found an embroidery I did back then—of an easter egg. A sort of sampler with lots of different stitches and colors. Very similar to the colors and variation i use now! When the class ended, so did my embroidery until five years ago, when my baby daughter’s pink sweater with gorgeously bold hand embroidered flowers inspired me to pick it up again.

Tell us about your process—start to finish.
I have been using mainly new fabrics in colors I love for my hoops, which are my current obsession. I’ve also discovered the amazing stash of scrap pool table felt my dad has at the pool hall he has owned for nearly fifty years. It’s 80% wool, super dense, and i’ve got loads of it now in the most beautiful colors—I love the stuff!

Typically, my only “plan” is a color scheme (and maybe a new stitch I want to try out)… I’ll pick the fabric or felt and a few floss colors I love together. Often, i’ll start with a buttonhole stitch flower (I don’t know when I’ll tire of them—I know I will eventually, but for now I’m in love) then embellish it with unique stitches and colorful goodness.

Where do you work?
My happy place is generally on the couch next to the ott-light lamp in our cozy country bungalow. I just have to ignore the voices from the kitchen and laundry area, telling me things are piling up… I’m pretty good at that.

How has your work evolved?
My first beloved project was embroidering one of my son’s drawings onto a handkerchief for father’s day. I’ve stitched a ton of sublime stitching and Aunt Martha patterns and wonderful vintage patterns I’ve found online. I started doing monograms and words on handkerchiefs and pillowcases and have stitched up tons of custom wedding hankies. The amazing Sandy Mastroni, a Connecticut artist who is also on etsy, has allowed me to recreate some of her art in embroidery, which is a joy. I began doing custom portraits of children and babies—and even stitched the faces of three adult siblings onto a duvet cover for their parent’s 50th anniversary.

Something changed in me last spring, and I started going in a new direction. My etsy shop has been directed largely by requests from customers, and I suddenly craved creating and experimenting with stitches in new ways. Most of my work up until this point has been prettying up something functional – pillowcases, handkerchiefs, tea towels, underwear… My current hoops are just decoration. Dare i say “art”?

What is your greatest challenge?
Learning to smile and say thank you when someone compliments my work—instead of rolling my eyes.

What inspires you?
Mmmmm…. Color. I notice color combinations in movie scenes, magazines, fabrics, vintage children’s books—all around me—and incorporate them into my embroidery.

A few embroidery artists have also been hugely inspirational to me. I tend to be a perfectionist in my stitching, which has it’s place, but Aimee Ray’s book Doodle Stitching got me to realize that it’s the imperfect, organic sorts of designs and lines that are the most fun for me to look at. I remind myself of that, and try to stitch in some wonky-ness.

And Carla Madrigal’s amazing stitching… Who could not love it? The stitches, the colors—that is what is the art. Not some design or outline she stitches along. It is gorgeous and freeform and fantastic.

Tell us about your etsy business.
I first happened upon etsy at a crafty wonderland christmas show in Portland. Several of the business cards I collected took me to etsy shops. I’d never known there was a site like etsy out there—and it got the wheels turning. The next May (2008), I opened my etsy shop. I’ll have had bo betsy open for four years in May. It’s changed so much in that time—i’m excited to see what the coming years will bring!

What advice do you have for new etsians?
If your art/craft allows, I would suggest offering custom work. The custom work I’ve done was invaluable for building sales, relationships, and glowing feedback. Working with people to create what they want gives you the awesome chance to make people happy—and let your work and customer service really shine.
I also tell customers that I’d love to have their feedback in the shop after they receive their order… And I always leave feedback for them quickly after the sale, as opposed to waiting for them to leave feedback first.

Where can readers find your work?
A wonderful place called The Marketplace at Rain Dance Ranch, here in Newberg wine country, is carrying my embroidered hoops. And now, an amazing gallery called knack has my hoops. You can find knack nestled into the charming Multnomah Village of southwest Portland.

I should also say that my facebook page is a nifty way to keep in touch with the friends I’ve made through bo betsy. I’d love to see more people there!

Digital sit-down with Hannah Stouffer

Hannah Stouffer is the brilliant hand behind Grand Array (which I posted about back here). I asked her to give us all a little insight into how she does what she does.

Digitally rendered illustration for Wiley Publishings instructional book on Photoshop
Hannah Stouffer's digitally rendered illustration for Wiley Publishing's instructional book on Photoshop

How did you get your start as a professional illustrator? What was your first big job?
One day I told myself that I was going to be an illustrator… then I started telling everyone else… and one day when I was riding the bus I got a call from a big pharmecutial company that wanted to pay me to draw.  I don’t even know how they heard that I was gonna be an illustrator, but it was really surreal and it all kind of snowballed from that point.  If you believe in something enough and want it, it will all work out.  I swear.

What are your inspirations and influences?
There are many.  I don’t even know where to start.  I’m very easily overwhelmed and I’m attracted to so many things… sometimes I feel like I might explode… in a good way.  I was reading this Pictorial Encyclopedia last night from 1990, I tend to do that a lot… I only made it from A-D though . . . but it gives me a bunch of good information and ideas without allowing myself to be influenced by contemporary phases and trends. I’m extremely interested with classifications and sub-cultures . . . both historically and in our current society.

What is your process?
Research then draw, and hope that it all goes away when I close my eyes at night.

Is the work that’s in commercial campaigns and magazines a sketch you did for yourself first that they liked or do you create work with a specific client in mind?
I’ve decided recently that in order to keep the basis of my work as real as possible its important that I create most of what I do for clients on my own terms.  I usually create a series of works for a gallery show, or for myself and  then incorporate into the work I do for clients, or even license it out for other projects and product.  This isn’t always the case as clients do often have something specific in mind- but more often than not I make work for myself first.

Any advice for aspiring illustrators?
Hustle.  Everyday.

Anything else we should know about you?
I’m wearing black reptile skin pants and this amazing oversize ‘Party Prowler’ tee right now that I got at the flea market, I just ate some string cheese and I feel like a million bux.