I’m excited to introduce Cara, of Chewy Tulip, to you. She’s a self-proclaimed artist since the age of five, textile designer since college graduation, general merry-maker, letter enthusiast, kind of a weirdo. Read on to find out more about what inspires her, how to balance a creative lifestyle, and some small business advice.
1) Your style is very specific and wonderful, and I’m certain I could spot it from a mile away. Is this something you’ve worked hard for, or does your style/brand just pour out of you naturally?
My art/business/brand/style is definitely an outgrowth of my self-expression. I devote a lot of brainwaves to defining my style (even just fashion-wise), but it doesn’t feel like work to me. It’s just what I do. Self-expression is a major part of why I’m here (I kind of made it sound like I landed here from another planet, but I pinky-swear that I’m human. Just like you…). It’s a lifelong process, though, and part of the fun is that it changes all the time, while still paying tribute to what came before it. There are echoes of my five-year-old self in most things that I do. Take this photo, for example. Not only do I still love to play “dress-up,” I will often wear strands of silly beads just like those…even if I’m just making a run to the grocery store.
2) As someone with a successful Etsy shop, what advice can you give to someone just starting out in the world of selling handmade goods? Any resources you’d recommend utilizing?
Shoot high! Keep trying! You might start off not having any idea at all about what you’re doing, and that’s totally okay. If you’re afflicted by the deadly disease of perfectionism in all that you do, don’t let it stop you from starting anything – there will always be a landslide of improvements that you could make, but you’ve got to start sometime. Now is good. 🙂
I really like Etsy’s articles for advice about everything from taxes to photoshoots. They were tremendously helpful to me when I first started my shop. The best advice I can give is to value your work. And price it appropriately: you put your time, your thought, lots of effort, all your skills, and maybe a little bit of your heart into this thing. That’s worth a lot.
3) You dabble in an array of paper arts, as well as 3D crafts like puppets! Is there an area of the art world that you haven’t tackled yet but would really love to?
I am currently working on my origami skills, because I think it’s cool to be out in the world with just a little piece of paper and be able to leave behind a neat critter. (I assume you’ve all seen Magical Daydream’s paper crane project? Because wow.)
I already paint, draw, knit, crochet, weave, dye, screen print, etc. I love how embroidery looks, but I generally don’t have the patience to work on such a small scale. Pottery? Black smithing? Welding? (Actually, I did try that once, and it’s pretty neat, but the likelihood of catching on fire increases dramatically as soon as you get near the torch. I try to pick activities where I won’t have to stop, drop, and roll.) I do intend to revisit some old favorites, like painting “for real” on a canvas, and playing the clarinet. Playing music used to make me feel really energized; I think it lights up a different part of my brain. I don’t usually plan learning a new skill, but I always say yes if an opportunity to learn happens to drop in my lap. Although often, the “opportunity” is me inventing an excuse to try something new.
4) Something I really like about your art is that you often incorporate animals, and you regularly feature your cat, Taco, on your blog. What about animals inspire you?
Animals are silly, and they don’t seem to get caught in any identity-crisis stuff. They just are, and you can take it or leave it. Plus, they are super cute and generally covered in a fun texture (fur, feathers, scales). It’s amazing how diverse life is, and that all of these different organisms all evolved together to live on this tiny speck of a planet.
Pets all have their own personalities – which is part of why I have so much fun giving them “human problems” in the Anthropomorphic Mail Art Project, which is a mail art exchange that I run from my blog.
5) Speaking of inspiration, I’m sure we’d all love to hear a list of things that you love!
Ummmmm, aaaaaaaanimals? (Okay, okay, we covered that.) Unexpected color combinations, close up photos of insects, textural contrasts, kazoos and didgeridoos, We Are Enfant Terrible, children’s books in French, patterns in nature and textiles, silly things people say, absurdity, fountain pens and inks, toys, rainbows, neon, Daft Punk, outer space, mythical creatures, invisible friends, bubbles, polka dots.
6) What are your thoughts on having a day job, making money from creativity on the side, and living a creative life all at the same time? Is it overwhelming or a good balance?
I’ve experienced the gamut, I think – from a day job with a 70 hour workweek (which left me no time for a creative life) to no day job at all (where the only constraint on my creativity was a lack of money). A creative life is fueled by new experiences (and sometimes boring experiences) which can come from a day job, so it can definitely work…as long as you can juggle your time. I’m still looking for that ideal balance, but I think I may have nailed it with part time freelance, part time chewy tulip, and part time play time. Or maybe I need one more part time freelance job…we’ll see!