Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Anna-Marie but all of my good friends call me Minkie. I am a habitual collector of oddities; I have an infatuation with truly terrible vintage clothes, taxidermy, birds, and antiques. I went to high school and college in Oregon, which I consider to be my home, but I currently live in the countryside of western Pennsylvania, which is about 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. It’s beautiful here but I’m fairly certain all my neighbors think I am insane. This is probably fueled by the occasional sighting of me walking around in the woods wearing fishnets, dresses, and feathers. Also, there was that incident with the baby bunny and the sequin dress.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Right now, it feels like all I ever do is create. I have a long list of projects lined up for the next year. I am constantly pushing myself to expand, make more designs, and continuously improve my shop. When I do take time off, it’s usually to fly to Oregon to see my friends, or to escape somewhere with my husband.
I usually try to spend some time every day wandering around in the woods outside my house with my two dogs. It helps keep me centered and not get too wrapped up in my work. I also like thrift shopping, reading in our hammock, taking tea breaks, watching birds and other wildlife wander through our backyard, and trying not to get shot during hunting season.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I’ve always had artistic tendencies. I’ve always loved to draw, paint, and sculpt. I started sewing completely by accident about eight years ago when I started selling vintage clothes on eBay as a part-time job. It started with small alterations, which led to T-shirt reconstruction and eventually to full garment making.
Now, clothing and fashion are my sole creative outlets. I love clothes, I love the art in them. I like it when there is something unusual or unexpected in an outfit. I love having my aesthetic boundaries pushed and challenged.
Please describe your creative process.
I draw inspiration from an eclectic mix of elements. The vintage aspect is apparent in my clothes but I also am really intoxicated by clean modern lines, natural elements, and anything dark or moody. There are so many ideas bubbling around in my head that concepts will just spring out of me — usually at the most inopportune times when I don’t have paper and pencil to draw them out and I’m always I afraid that I will simply forget them.
Oftentimes, my designs will change a lot between the time I come up with an idea on paper and when I actually construct my first sample. I have really tried to make everything in my shop wearable on a day-to-day basis so I usually have to edit down my more extreme designs in order for them to actually be wearable. On top of that, I have to make sure they aren’t so complicated as to make them absurdly expensive.
I will often receive fabric and discover that what I had drawn on paper simply won’t work in real life. Essentially, my creative process is mostly a series of alterations to my original concept. The concept itself is easy and fun to attain; it’s all the work that comes afterward that’s the difficult bit.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A perilously threadbare Christmas stocking my grandma knitted for me when I was a baby. It’s cherry red with sequins, and sort of hideous, but I adore it. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it.
Name your top five books, movies, musicians, and websites besides Etsy.
(I am a bibliophile so I’m opting to kill the movie section and add to this one. Books and stories have so much more of an impact on me than movies.)
The Blind Assassin (the first book I ever actually wrote down quotes from)
Life of Pi
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
World War Z
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Read the Seller Handbook and the Forums like your life depends on it. I spent weeks reading and researching before I was brave enough to list anything and I am still learning hugely valuable things from both sources. I would be lost without them.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I would like to see the categories cleaned up somehow. I remember (years ago) when I first visited Etsy, I was turned off by how difficult it was to find things I wanted. I still have that problem to some extent. I find billions of amazing artists on here but when I need something specific, searching is always a tad difficult.
How do you promote your work?
I recently started running ads on a couple of blogs and went to my first craft show here in Pittsburgh but until that point, it has all been word of mouth. I also have a Facebook fan page where I post new designs and inspirations.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
I’d love to start a website that focuses on and promotes indie designers. It would be something that helps them with the production aspect of the business, that way they can do what they do best, which is design. As a designer, I know how difficult it can be to get the day-to-day sewing and business work done. It leaves so very little time to create anything new and I think it would be a lot of fun to fix that issue.
I’d also like to have a summer house in Oregon by that point. Something small, cute, and easy to clean, with a great metal and glass studio for my husband, and a decent backyard for my cat and dogs (since they will never die). I also hope to have amassed a treasure trove of upsetting vintage clothes so I can be that crazy old lady on the block.