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An Interview With Simon Doonan

Dec 11, 2012

by Karen Brown

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

As Creative Ambassador-at-Large for Barneys, author, cultural observer, and window dresser extraordinaire, Simon Doonan has influenced our fashion sense for over four decades. His bestselling works include Confessions of a Window Dresser, Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, and Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You. His newest book, Fashion Asylum, is due in 2013. As a regular contributor to Slate, his recent piece on the decline of fine art launched a wave of online discussion. I continued the conversation with him about art, craft, and style. 

Karen: I’d like to jump right in to your piece on Slate. You wrote:

“…a lack of skill and craft among artists is sucking the life and the gravitas out of the art world. There are, thank God, still some artists and designers who are bucking this trend and making gorgeous stuff. You won’t find it at trendy galleries or at Art Basel. You are more likely to find it among the potters and craftspeople on Etsy.

Simon… do go on.

Simon: Well, I’m sort of geriatric about my Internet activities but my husband, Jonathan Adler, has shown me how much great stuff there is on Etsy. He is a potter and loves to look at craft, you know. He started off as a teenage potter selling his stuff at craft fairs. In fact, one of our first dates was in Philly at a crafts show. Something that both he and I have always enjoyed is the magic of what human hands can do.

Karen: So craft has been part of your work, too?

Simon: Oh, yes. One of the key components of my approach was to do things that people never did. So I did incredibly filthy, untidy windows. I did a window with colostomy bags – unused colostomy bags, I want to stress. But in the ’80s, windows became perfection; props were made of fiberglass with perfect surfaces.

Karen: I remember. All the designers went for those seamless matte black finishes.

Simon: I went the other way and used wigs made out of paper mâché and chicken wire, and sheep made out of bubble wrap. I was rebelling in a way, revolting against flawless fiberglass props that were machine made. I collaborated with craftspeople and artists, hairdressers who could make a giant Christmas tree out of wigs. We did an entire room out of pasta for the Sophia Loren window, just making things out of other things. So much of my work was about surrendering to the craftiness of display and realizing that it is actually more charming than some flawless technology. I’m grateful to the world of craft for that.

NY Mag

A foodie-themed holiday window composed of espresso tins, cans, paper cups, and paper bags.

Karen: Sellers on Etsy need to convey a feeling for their work in a small space on a screen. Do you have any advice for Etsy sellers on how to display their work effectively?

Simon: A window display can be intensely complicated, but for things online, clarity is the mode du jour. Let your object be the focus of attention. The moment calls for simplicity and minimalism. You don’t need a lot of hoo-ha. It’s about good lighting and clarity so that people can feel they are touching the thing. Craft is always tactile.

Karen: That tactile quality…why do you think modern industrial culture seems to devalue just that, work done with the hands?

Simon: Well, actually I’m not entirely qualified to answer that question – remember, I have been a window dresser for 40 years. Camille Paglia, who is so smart, writes about this so well in her book Glittering Images. But I can say in the 1960s, when Futurism came along, the idea of handmade things was considered sort of grotesque. People talked how in the future we’d eat little white pills and wear white Courrèges boots. Everything from germs to dirt to winkles was not part of the Futurist vision of the early ’60s. It was supposed to be all Joe Columbo all the time. Since then, thank God, we’ve had a lot of neo-hippie humanist movements and bohemian revivals.

Karen: So what would you say about personal style for the craftsperson?

Simon: You can be a great craftsperson and be very stylish. In terms of personal style, I encourage women to approach it without any self-critical or masochistic thoughts. I talk about this in my book, Eccentric Glamor. There is no such thing as a faux pas. There is no such thing as a wrong choice. The fashion landscape is so huge that you have to approach it as self-expression, which brings you to the question of “Who are you?” That’s the question you should be concerned with, not trends. When you know who you are, then you are just wardrobing that persona. You’re not frantically looking for a transformative something in a store. Fashion is great for the soul and a little vanity can be very life-affirming for an artist or craftsperson. Just give yourself permission; the really hard-working artists sometimes self-deny. On days when things aren’t going so well in the studio, maybe you want to throw on your beret and play with your identity as you play with your designs. It’s all about being idiosyncratic and being yourself.

Karen: In your career, you undoubtedly came in contact with some garments that had some wonderful handwork, some wonderful craft. Does a particular designer, couturier, or garment stand out for you?

Simon: I think Miuccia Prada has always done fabulous original prints, with lots of stuff on the hem like raffia and oversize beads and cracked mirrors – you’d think no one could attach that to a skirt. Yeah, she’s a gal who does a lot of crafty things, usually in the skirt. Dries Van Noten is a Belgian designer with original prints with lots of embellishments. Belgian designers are probably favorites of people on Etsy. Super creative and very craftsy.

Karen: To me, it seems that no matter how prominent they ultimately become, the people who are the most fun and the least pretentious have usually done something with their hands in their careers.

Simon: I think it’s the people who can actually create something with their own two paws who know the meaning of creative satisfaction.

Simon kindly shared some of his Etsy favorites with us to illustrate the post. For more, check out the related items below!

Recycled Beach Glass Inspired Wind Chimes - Harvest
Recycled Beach Glass Inspired Wind Chimes - Harvest
Sold
HOLIDAY SALE - Man of the Rainbows (original drawing, 2012)
HOLIDAY SALE - Man of the Rainbows (original drawing, 2012)
Sold

5 Featured Comments

  • kgpaintings

    Kirsten Gilmore from PaintingsByKEGilmore said 5 years ago Featured

    Simon and Karen, thank you. It helps to hear people who do understand contemporary art and yet still desire for a return to both sincerity and skilled craftsmanship in art-making. This past year, I have turned away from much of what I was taught to believe and value in art school and am instead devoted to gaining skill at painting acrylic abstracts. Nuances of color and brush strokes replaced worrying over whether the result would be "cool" enough conceptually. Painting daily has been the best way to grow and a satisfying way to live.

  • BarkingSandsVintage

    Jeni Sandberg from BarkingSandsVintage said 5 years ago Featured

    Loved Simon's piece on Slate! The separation of skill and expression seen clearly in many of the works at Art Basel is mystifying to me. So much contemporary art is merely about expressing an (often intentionally shocking and provocative) idea and leaves behind any notion that there should be an actual skill or craft involved with creating it. I've seen a room full of inflated balloons called 'art'--and watched it sell for huge amounts of money. I'm with Simon. I'd rather buy a pot on Etsy and know that the seller has worked, often for many years, to perfect their craft.

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 5 years ago Featured

    I loved talking to Simon and actually felt lighter and happier when I was done. His ability to share the excitement and energy of creativity through simple conversation is a major talent. The two things that stood out for me the most were his appreciation of craft and his respect for women. As he might say, "So groovy!"

  • AlliCatCrafts

    Allison Lyndes from AlliCatCrafts said 5 years ago Featured

    It is refreshing to hear handcrafting spoken of with such reverence from someone as prominent in the style world as Simon Doonan. I love his perspective that art and style come from both the heart and the hands. Creativity and skill mean so much more together than they do apart.

  • allstarorganics

    allstarorganics from allstarorganics said 5 years ago Featured

    Simon and Karen's conversation criss-crosses the horizon between craft and fine art, and asks the question, "What is the distinction between the two?" As Simon's comments make clear, the distinction lies in the eye of the beholder. With farming, when a particular variety of planting stock looses its vigor, the plant breeder goes back to the original source of DNA-- the wild plants full of hardiness, resistance, and adaptability-- and uses that material to reinvigorate the worn variety. In the same way, fine art continually pulls from the roots of craft and borrows from it the practical fundamentals, attention to function, untamed vision, and fantastic range of expression. There is a singularity to craft, an independence, and almost lonely process of experimentation and risk, that inevitably includes the possibilities of both satisfaction and failure.

154 comments

  • leeannasjewerybox

    Leeanna from LeeannasJewelryBox said 5 years ago

    I love the term, " creative satisfaction" . I am defiantly adding that to my coin phrases.

  • Rt9NJvintageFun

    candy donnelly from Rt9NJvintageFun said 5 years ago

    Having lived near Barneys, and enjoyed/admired his windows, what a treat to have Simon share with us some of his vision. I have all of Jonathan Adler's books, words can't express my thrill. Can we sign them up to do an on-line Lab in 2013, what an event that would be!!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 5 years ago

    Fascinating!

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 5 years ago

    Fascinating take!

  • DewyMorningVintage

    DewyMorningVintage from DewyMorningVintage said 5 years ago

    Wonderful interview! "It’s all about being idiosyncratic and being yourself." Love this! Thank you Karen!

  • justindurand

    Justin Brown Durand from HeartPumpArts said 5 years ago

    Great interview- thanks so very much for including my drawing! Really a nice surprise :)

  • shadowplaynyc

    Xime-Ali from Shadowplaynyc said 5 years ago

    Out of this world!!! We are huge admirers of Simon, thank you for this fantastic article! So honored to have been featured!

  • iheartfink

    kristen from iheartfink said 5 years ago

    Thank you Karen and Simon! "The fashion landscape is so huge that you have to approach it as self-expression, which brings you to the question of “Who are you?” That’s the question you should be concerned with, not trends." yes! wonderful!!

  • pollymakes

    Polly Tucknott from PollyTucknott said 5 years ago

    "Craft is always tactile." Totally agree - that's why I make papercuts, then screen print onto silk cushions so people can really feel the picture. Touch is such an important sense.

  • sealmaiden

    Sylke from sealmaiden said 5 years ago

    awesome!

  • neile

    Neile Cooper from neile said 5 years ago

    Wonderful! I think I need to get out of my sweats and engage in a little "life-affirming" vanity. Thanks so much for a great read.

  • kgpaintings

    Kirsten Gilmore from PaintingsByKEGilmore said 5 years ago Featured

    Simon and Karen, thank you. It helps to hear people who do understand contemporary art and yet still desire for a return to both sincerity and skilled craftsmanship in art-making. This past year, I have turned away from much of what I was taught to believe and value in art school and am instead devoted to gaining skill at painting acrylic abstracts. Nuances of color and brush strokes replaced worrying over whether the result would be "cool" enough conceptually. Painting daily has been the best way to grow and a satisfying way to live.

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 5 years ago

    It is so motivating to hear someone as high up and as high end as Simon Doonan talking up craft as art. Hand craft and homespun is back, and hopefully here to stay.

  • themefragrance

    Theme Fragrance from themefragrance said 5 years ago

    We love you Simon!

  • IlluminatedPerfume

    Roxana from IlluminatedPerfume said 5 years ago

    Oh, Simon, how awesome to have him here. He's brilliant!

  • ABlindCat

    ABlindCat from ABlindCat said 5 years ago

    Wicked cool stuff! What great vision! A brilliant person. Conveying things in such a different & interesting light. Thanks.

  • ACupOfSparkle

    ACupOfSparkle from ACupOfSparkle said 5 years ago

    Great interview!

  • BarkingSandsVintage

    Jeni Sandberg from BarkingSandsVintage said 5 years ago Featured

    Loved Simon's piece on Slate! The separation of skill and expression seen clearly in many of the works at Art Basel is mystifying to me. So much contemporary art is merely about expressing an (often intentionally shocking and provocative) idea and leaves behind any notion that there should be an actual skill or craft involved with creating it. I've seen a room full of inflated balloons called 'art'--and watched it sell for huge amounts of money. I'm with Simon. I'd rather buy a pot on Etsy and know that the seller has worked, often for many years, to perfect their craft.

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry from pinksnakejewelry said 5 years ago

    Wonderful Post!!!!

  • emwi

    Emily Wirt from emwi said 5 years ago

    Loooove Simon Doonon! Great article, thanks for sharing. :)

  • whitevan

    Dennis from whitevan said 5 years ago

    Thanks, to both Karen and Simon.

  • sarahsnature

    Sarah Perry from sarahsnature said 5 years ago

    I read the interview and was very honored to have my work mentioned by Simon Doonan. I agree with his philosophy. Beautiful art should reflect the craftsmanship that goes into it . That craftsmanship contains a little piece of the artist's soul. I am inspired by the work of my fellow artists on Etsy. I believe there is more creative work featured on this site than in a lot of the galleries that I have been in. Thanks again.

  • MySelvagedLife

    Heather Torre from MySelvagedLife said 5 years ago

    I'm speechless! What an honor you've bestowed on Etsy and all of the fabulous artists that sell here! Thank you Mr. Doonan!

  • dbabcock

    Deb Babcock from BlueSkyPotteryCO said 5 years ago

    Great interview....and thanks for the shout-out to the potters of Etsy! :-)

  • aisglass

    Aiste from Aisglass said 5 years ago

    Wonderfull interview, and related items!:)

  • ripecardsandjewelry

    Adriana from ripeshop said 5 years ago

    Fantastic interview, love Mr. Doonan's point of view and take on the art of artists. It's so wonderful to see true artistry here on Etsy.

  • romyandclare

    Romy and Clare from romyandclare said 5 years ago

    Thanks for this great post. Love Simon's style! We are off to check out the books mentioned, Simon's and the Glittering Images book too!

  • BlackStar

    Katie McClanahan from WearYourWild said 5 years ago

    Wonderful to come here and see Simon. Thanks!

  • alenlapierre

    Alen Lapierre from alenlapierre said 5 years ago

    Thank you for an interesting talk.

  • ErinBlacksDesigns

    Erin Black from Midknits said 5 years ago

    I couldn't agree more about "creative satisfaction" coming from making things with your own two hands. I love what I do and feel the most grounded and centered when I am creating. Thank you for including my Wool Felt Balloon-Dog Toy as one of your favorite Etsy picks!

  • hasincla

    hasincla from travelwanderings said 5 years ago

    I feel very encouraged after reading this! I especially like the recognition to hard-working artists who sometimes need to step back and really relax and be themselves to create. Inspiring for me! It's wonderful that someone with such influence can see the value in making something with your hands.

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 5 years ago

    I agree with Simon. Great great interview!!!

  • AlpineGypsy

    Heidi from AlpineGypsy said 5 years ago

    Great interview~ I love a man who understands how important self-expression is, and encourages everyone to take part in it. And wonderful favourites! Thanks ~ Heidi

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 5 years ago Featured

    I loved talking to Simon and actually felt lighter and happier when I was done. His ability to share the excitement and energy of creativity through simple conversation is a major talent. The two things that stood out for me the most were his appreciation of craft and his respect for women. As he might say, "So groovy!"

  • ballandchain

    Katrina Balling from ballandchain said 5 years ago

    great interview! :)

  • VincentVdesigns

    Jaime Diehl from VincentVdesigns said 5 years ago

    Simon says: "You can be a great craftsperson and be very stylish." And I say, "that's right!"

  • moltenmira

    Mira Woodworth from MiraMiraDesign said 5 years ago

    I adore the idea of putting on a beret during a hard day in the studio. Playing with identity as we play with designs. This is going straight to the vault. Thank you.

  • BijouxOdalisque

    Bijoux d'Odalisque from BijouxOdalisque said 5 years ago

    When can I have him over for tea?

  • ittybittycouture

    Martha from ittybittycouture said 5 years ago

    I am probably close to Simon's age, and I'm not quite sure if I ever read anything on this subject that made me feel more validated and encouraged.

  • caralunastudio

    caralunastudio from caralunastudio said 5 years ago

    So lovely! Thank you for this, Simon & Etsy! <3 " the magic of what human hands can do."

  • bedouin

    Nicole from Crackerjackarma said 5 years ago

    Terrific article and a pleasure to read. I love being a part of a site where ages across the board can be seen playing on the same field.

  • helenbobelenhbb

    Helen Lee from HelenbobelenHbb said 5 years ago

    Hmmmm...I get a very good feeling from this story...thank you Simon and Karen...

  • iloveludwig

    Astrid R. from AnAstridEndeavor said 5 years ago

    Wonderful. I vote for Simon as a regular on Etsy.

  • andiespecialtysweets

    Jason and Andie from andiespecialtysweets said 5 years ago

    This is a great perspective and encouragement to pay attention on honing individual craft and skill, rather then looking around to see what will "fit" in. Thanks always, Karen...and Simon!

  • JessieArch

    Jessie Archambault from 1509Partridgeberry said 5 years ago

    This is fantastic. It's so, SO important that craft is held as high as fine art, albeit in maybe a totally different regard. There's nothing "hoity toity" about creating something with your hands that serves a purpose. Don't get me wrong, I love aspects of the fine art world, but there's much more to art and craft than simply deeming something handmade as priceless...where is the real, practical value in that??! Great interview!

  • valeriephoto

    Valerie from valeriestitchery said 5 years ago

    What a great interview! I live in New York and the Barney's holiday windows are always amazing!

  • AlliCatCrafts

    Allison Lyndes from AlliCatCrafts said 5 years ago Featured

    It is refreshing to hear handcrafting spoken of with such reverence from someone as prominent in the style world as Simon Doonan. I love his perspective that art and style come from both the heart and the hands. Creativity and skill mean so much more together than they do apart.

  • Minxshop

    Minkie from RogueMinxClothing said 5 years ago

    This is very inspiring. Now I want to go around hand sewing beads on to everything I make. <3 Thank you! Also the cover picture is exactly why I want to make a men's floral shirt. Way to sell it.

  • malissasplace

    Malissa from MalissaRyder said 5 years ago

    Such an inspiring and positive affirmation for the art of handmade - thank you for this great post!

  • coolranchstudio

    caroline from ohchalet said 5 years ago

    loved this interview.

  • gmnyc

    Gina Michele from GMNYC said 5 years ago

    Oh, I LOVE Simon!!! Great interview!

  • FreshFromtheFlame

    FreshFromtheFlame from FreshFromtheFlame said 5 years ago

    What a great honour to have Simon involved in Etsy. Thank you for sharing.

  • PattiTrostle

    Patti Trostle from PattiTrostle said 5 years ago

    I really enjoyed this interview. It is very inspiring! Thank you so much!

  • millerkent

    Kent Miller said 5 years ago

    Dear Simon and Karen -- A most inspiring piece! Key ideas for me: Tactile. Play. Being idiosyncratic. Most fun and least pretentious. Creative satisfaction. Many thanks from this unreconstructed bohemian!

  • SundayOwl

    Lisa from SundayOwl said 5 years ago

    I just adore Simon Doonan. I would wait for his magical window displays and walk up to Barney's to admire them - he is an amazing artist. I love his dream world. Oh, and I love all of his books you must read them.

  • gossamer531

    Gossamer Tearoom from TheGossamerTearoom said 5 years ago

    Thank you!! Very refreshing interviews, both here and on Slate. Reading Mr. Doonan's perspectives about art is like re-reading "The Emperor's New Clothes"! I'm glad someone had the guts to say the things he has!! Bravo!

  • DiggingClay

    Teresa from ItsMyNaturePottery said 5 years ago

    Good post. He's got a real healthy attitude about life. I life that he's not uppity! Thanks for that. BTW, love the foody display.

  • ModernFibre

    ModernFibre from ModernFibre said 5 years ago

    Terrific interview. So amazing to have Simon in the Etsy realm.

  • sandrostumpo

    Sandro Stumpo from GalleryDiModa said 5 years ago

    The interview had smart points of view on art. I believe the best art is on Etsy. I haven't found one artist on here that doesn't love what they do. We all want to sell but, we chose to do what we love. There is a special feeling you get when you search the artists here. You can actually feel and see that every single piece was made with care.

  • xZOUix

    Zoui from XZOUIX said 5 years ago

    so good!

  • bojacobson

    Bo Jacobson said 5 years ago

    "Let your object be the focus of attention. The moment calls for simplicity and minimalism. You don’t need a lot of hoo-ha. It’s about good lighting and clarity so that people can feel they are touching the thing. Craft is always tactile." Direct and true. Some of the best things on Etsy aren't cluttered with additional, unnecessary concept. The things are worth appreciating, and made to be sold to people who appreciate them. All else is just in the way. Great interview.

  • synestheticon

    Melissa from LIMINALIA said 5 years ago

    I love this guy. What a pleasure to read this interview.

  • WoodenItBeadLovely

    Leslie M from WoodenItBeadLovely said 5 years ago

    Mr. Doonan thank you for the encouragement. I love fine craft/ fine art. I have a great respect for other people's talent and skill. Fine craft is art and the best craftspeople are artists. In a world where so many are concerned about "brand" and "trend" it is refreshing to see the work of individuals who are true to themselves. There is some really fantastic stuff on Etsy! Do what you love and love what you do!

  • WalterSilva

    Walter Silva from WalterSilva said 5 years ago

    Great interview! Thanks for the tips too!

  • minouette

    Ele from minouette said 5 years ago

    What a wonderful interview! Thank you very much to you both

  • alangood

    alangood said 5 years ago

    I read Simon's book about window-dressing. He is an inspired and inspiring craftsman and artist. Love your blog, Karen! Thanks again.

  • duffybear

    duffybear said 5 years ago

    A little note that Simon Doonan is the author of one of my favourite books "Wacky Chicks". If you're at all interested in creativity, you have to read it.

  • thewomensrepublic

    Sara Brazil from SararaVintage said 5 years ago

    Simon's comments seem to come from a real love of process. It reminds me of our discussions in the anthropology of art. In many cultures, it is the act/process that is the art- the final outcome is just the result. A Navajo sand painting includes a beautiful final outcome but it is the healing process as a doorway to the spiritual world where its value lies. I love that he is putting a dialogue back that needed to be recognized.

  • mbueb

    Monica Bueb from MonicaBags said 5 years ago

    Fantastic article. I love how Simon allows us to think about ourselves differently and rise to another level of personal expression. Thank you, Karen, for bringing Mr. Doonan to the Etsy community!

  • ulovejewelry

    Universal Love Jewelry from ULoveJewelry said 5 years ago

    Yup..crafters on Etsy are the 'joint' ;) Thanks Simon&Johnathan.

  • allstarorganics

    allstarorganics from allstarorganics said 5 years ago

    I have more energy just from reading this. "Life-affirming" and "good for your soul" -- just saying those things, just acknowledging those things, begins to put life and creative energy into the proper perspective, into full gear. Thanks for pieces like this that dig into the philosophy of craft and creativity, without pretension or snobbery. Just a true zest for living and reverence for work well done -- wonderful!

  • kellydesigns

    Kelly Hendershot from kellydesigns said 5 years ago

    What a fun interview! I love your shirt in the photo, Mr. Doonan! You rock!

  • 443Jewelry

    Daria from 443Jewelry said 5 years ago

    I love this!!

  • pierrmorgan

    Pierr Morgan from pierrmorgan said 5 years ago

    What a great post. Thank you, Karen. Inspired me to create some pieced items I'd been hesitant to go for (because I knew they wouldn't be "perfect!"). After hearing what Simon had to say about rebelling against the slick smooth perfect surfaces of window dressing in the '60's I've put an end to the perfect line of thinking forever. Whoo-hoo!

  • dayslonggone

    Gwynne Collins from DaysLongGone said 5 years ago

    Thanks so much for this, Simon and Karen! I love your thoughts on not being trendy! Your words, Simon, are very inspiring! :) One of the best articles I have read on the Etsy blog! Thanks, again!

  • redyellowandblueink

    Bird Muse from RedYellowAndBlueInk said 5 years ago

    Wonderful interview, thank you!

  • VeronicaRStudio

    Veronica from VeronicaRussekJoyas said 5 years ago

    What a cool story.... I admire Simon and his husband Jonathan so much... And I truly love what Simon had to say in this article!

  • LittleFrenchShop

    Eve from MyLittleFrenchShop said 5 years ago

    Merci

  • sonyarasi

    Sonya Rasi from sonyarasi said 5 years ago

    Wonderful interview! Thank you!

  • EnchantedGlass

    Jaci from EnchantedGlass said 5 years ago

    A delight !!!, always, to hear from a successful artist who believes in keeping the craft in art.

  • CookieHoops

    Cookie from LashesfortheMasses said 5 years ago

    Thank you, SO juicy!

  • lizhutnick

    Liz Hutnick from LizHutnick said 5 years ago

    Great post. Thank you! :)

  • JustForGiggles

    Wanda M from JustForGiggles said 5 years ago

    "There is no such thing as a faux pas. There is no such thing as a wrong choice." FANtastic!!!

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 5 years ago

    Thanks!

  • Talking1

    Richard - TalkToMeGuy said 5 years ago

    Having been in the food 'world' for Many years I really smiled at your close by Simon: I think it’s the people who can actually create something with their own two paws who know the meaning of creative satisfaction. Made me smile ! Karen, I really enjoy this theme of posts about different perspectives, on the importance and pleasure of handmade! PS: ... I love the: "I did a window with colostomy bags – unused colostomy bags, I want to stress." Priceless!

  • VioletPhoenixInc

    Anne Kennedy from VioletPhoenixInc said 5 years ago

    Incredible interview! Very inspiring! Thank you for the insight!

  • Ellareki

    Ellareki from Ellareki said 5 years ago

    Blimey! In quite a short interview you didn't half cover a lot of ground. It was fascinating, thought-provoking stuff too. I've got so much new reading material to catch up on from here. More interviews like this please!

  • sarantos

    sarantos from SARANTOS said 5 years ago

    I love Simon. Now Etsy, will you please listen to him and stop burying all the fabulous artists behind the cheap fluff and focus on them like they deserve.

  • kathyjohnson3

    Kathy Johnson from kathyjohnson3 said 5 years ago

    Wonderful interview with great insight into the minds of crafters. To me, art is something that is created from the mind of a person with a vision and bringing that vision to life no matter how complicated it is.

  • Aristocrafts

    Aristocrafts from Aristocrafts said 5 years ago

    Super inspiring! Thank you very much for sharing this interview, Karen! Simon's vision on handmade and his advices are priceless!

  • BroochCouture

    BroochCouture from BroochCouture said 5 years ago

    A sincere heartfelt thank you for this piece. Could not agree more about self expression and creative satisfaction. Kudos to you both for past, present and future contributions to life in the spirit of crafting.

  • donnasutor

    Donna Sutor from veryDonna said 5 years ago

    What an inspiring way to start a day in the studio. Thank you for a wonderful article. I enjoyed Simons candid and heartfelt philosophy. His books are now on my "must read" list.

  • rosskirsty

    Kirsty Ross from MuguetMilan said 5 years ago

    Simon Doonan giving props to Etsy - Just love it! Thank you Karen Brown for this interview which delivers on so many levels. From the philosophical question of the value society places on craft to practical presentation tips for sellers, Mr. Doonan's thoughtful responses confirm Etsy's success in creating a meaningful marketplace. Bravo!

  • AnatomyVintage

    Amber Zaragoza from AnatomyVintage said 5 years ago

    Thank you, Simon and Karen, for such a great interview. To think that Siman Doonan and Jonathan Adler look to Etsy to find craftsmanship and admire this community makes excited about the company I'm keeping here. I feel as if my return to art and craft is long overdue. Reading this article has been such a great way to start my day!

  • WitsEndMagick

    Rita Vaughn from WitsEndMagick said 5 years ago

    Excellent interview. Thank you for introducing me to Simon whose books along with Jonathan Adler 's are now on my need to research list. I love Simon's statement about approaching personal style, "without any self-critical or masochistic thoughts" - is that not what most women do, without even realizing it ? (myself included of course) Simon you are fascinating, thank you for sharing...... p.s. Are you and Jonathan available for dinner?

  • agusha

    agusha from agusha said 5 years ago

    Thank you for this inspiring interview! I think that anyone who creates something feels a sort of creative satisfaction even though we don' call it that. Doesn't anyone feel like singing and dancing after completing a piece or it is just me? Thank you Karen!

  • studiosuseela

    Suseela from AliceinHolland said 5 years ago

    Definitely a smile raiser, this article!

  • memake

    Jane from memake said 5 years ago

    Thank you, both.

  • jamasters

    Jess Masters from RefinedRock said 5 years ago

    Fab interview!! Love it

  • klb00e

    Mother Lark from MotherLark said 5 years ago

    Thanks for doing this article!!!

  • silverlily786

    Fatema from SilverLilyJewelry said 5 years ago

    Loved reading this juicy interview! I enjoy following fashion and am naturally drawn to designers like Dries,Prada,Thakoon and Mcqueen (among others) for their innovative ideas and hands on approach that really shines through in their collection's.It is refreshing to see a high profile artist's like Simon,Jonathan and Karen highlighting craft and being your self :-)

  • ftortega

    Frances from MyLaughingLion said 5 years ago

    Great article. So nice to read about Etsy as a place to find skilled handmade art. Etsy is home to a vast handmade world that I am so proud to be a part of.

  • Meliorey

    Mercedes from Meliorey said 5 years ago

    Fantastic interview, too bad it was so short!:)

  • Sixoclock

    Helen from Sixoclock said 5 years ago

    I love this! I love the idea of embracing and even flaunting our human imperfections; that dark malignant edge that we usually try so hard to cover up. I think that's what art is all about that.

  • lmouer

    Lynsey from lmouer said 5 years ago

    Great interview! Thanks for sharing!

  • LoveButtons

    Julia K Walton from JKWaltonCollages said 5 years ago

    What unique and wonderful window displays. It just shows that it is the artist and his or her imagination, not the materials that makes the difference.

  • Parachute425

    Terry from Parachute425 said 5 years ago

    Ahhh Simon, funny as ever. The Slate article was a hoot and spot on. As a once-upon-a-time designer and window dresser I stand here in my white Courrèges boots and salute you. Thanks for the insight and the giggle.

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 5 years ago

    Interesting!

  • reneeanne

    Renée Anne from reneeanne said 5 years ago

    Awesome interview! Thank you!

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 5 years ago

    Yes, Parachute425, Simon is VERY funny and there were several quips that didn't make it into the final published interview. One of my favorites was this – Karen: There is such an incredible diversity of objects on Etsy. For example, there is someone who hand crochets human organs (Sarah at AnOptimisticCynic). I bought a crocheted colon and she threw in a free pituitary gland. Simon: A free pituitary gland? Now, THAT'S what I call generosity.

  • ForMen

    ForMen from MVOdesigns said 5 years ago

    Excellent interview. In my opinion Simon has hit on a big point about actual craft, art and mastery. Perhaps due to fame becoming such 'goal' in the last 20 years, but there is a real sense in our culture that I can just pick up a mic and become a famous 'artist' without mastering the craft. You can bet that's not how YoYo Ma or Ralph Lauren started. Cheers.

  • FrillRide

    Sally Yon from FrillRide said 5 years ago

    Thank you so much. I have always had a great fondness for eccentricity, especially in clothing and how people present themselves to the world. One of my biggest rants is that 'making stuff' has been eroded from the school curriculum. Cuts in school Art programmes together with standardized testing have deprived a generation of children in this country. Small children especially should be allowed to learn through their hands. No wonder, as Simon says: “…a lack of skill and craft among artists is sucking the life and the gravitas out of the art world."

  • metalicious

    Stephanie Maslow Blackman from metalicious said 5 years ago

    Very cool read, thank you for sharing!

  • PinkCheetahVintage

    PinkCheetahVintage from PinkCheetahVintage said 5 years ago

    What a cool article!! Love that galaxy skirt, too :)

  • DUEALBERI

    Antonia and Fabio from DUEALBERI said 5 years ago

    Absolutely gorgeous shirt!

  • PinesVintageClothing

    Pine from GoodOldVintageOnline said 5 years ago

    Great post..inspiring!

  • LoisGaylord

    Lois Gaylord from LoisGaylord said 5 years ago

    Excellent article, with some great (and personally timely) advice about fashion. I need to make myself a bunch of new clothes. And I agree with Simon's last comment: "I think it’s the people who can actually create something with their own two paws who know the meaning of creative satisfaction."

  • QuirkMuseum

    Michael Quirk from QuirkMuseum said 5 years ago

    Great Post - so many very cool handmade pieces to be found on Etsy. Can I get a new hat at Barney's?

  • allstarorganics

    allstarorganics from allstarorganics said 5 years ago Featured

    Simon and Karen's conversation criss-crosses the horizon between craft and fine art, and asks the question, "What is the distinction between the two?" As Simon's comments make clear, the distinction lies in the eye of the beholder. With farming, when a particular variety of planting stock looses its vigor, the plant breeder goes back to the original source of DNA-- the wild plants full of hardiness, resistance, and adaptability-- and uses that material to reinvigorate the worn variety. In the same way, fine art continually pulls from the roots of craft and borrows from it the practical fundamentals, attention to function, untamed vision, and fantastic range of expression. There is a singularity to craft, an independence, and almost lonely process of experimentation and risk, that inevitably includes the possibilities of both satisfaction and failure.

  • RetroRevivalBoutique

    RetroRevivalBoutique from RetroRevivalBoutique said 5 years ago

    What a fabulous interview! ^__^

  • Pysar

    Yuri Pysar from Pysar said 5 years ago

    great interview,! thanks a lot. LOVE Etsy for being so intrested in creativity, handmade & art :)

  • hartleystudio

    Ann Hartley from hartleystudio said 5 years ago

    Excellent and very timely. We all struggle at times to know who we are when our job is to make beautiful pieces for others. I could adorn a stranger but I'm stuck all day in pajama pants. I can't wait to read more by Mr. Doonan.

  • lucianita

    lucianita said 5 years ago

    Awesome interview!!! The quintessence of style, fine arts, and craftsmanship brought together majestically!!! Congrats Mr. Simon Doonan, Sir!!!

  • bellaoceana
  • KrystynPecora

    Krystyn Pecora from QuirkAndSparkle said 5 years ago

    Thank you Simon! It's always refreshing for someone in fashion to respect hand crafted items over the mass produced, mass marked business that is fashion today. I think there is a big difference between "fashion" in that sense and "style". I think its far more stylish to wear something or own something that is made by craftsmen (or women) who have a dedication to quality and uniqueness. Anyone can look like the current Hollywood trend, look around, those people are all around you on a daily basis - that just simply fashion. I think the Etsy shopper, the person who wishes to look unique and not another carbon copy; those are the people who embody style.

  • arabrabc1

    Barbara from aspicunlimited said 5 years ago

    Simon Doonan and his windows are the greatest--because he has fun with what he does, loves the creative spirit, and respects craftsmanship!!! Thank you for this interview!

  • arabrabc1

    Barbara from aspicunlimited said 5 years ago

    And also, what a fabulous portrait of him!

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    Polkadot Magpie from ThePolkadotMagpie said 5 years ago

    "own two paws" that's the ticket. Thanks Simon and Karen.

  • gilstrapdesigns

    Debra Gilstrap from gilstrapdesigns said 5 years ago

    This was a great and very informative interview it was something pleasingly different and I like it!!!!!!

  • secretjewellz

    Kat from SecretJewellz said 5 years ago

    I've never heard of Simon Doonan." Gasp!!" Until this post. Being Australian and living in a country town and all. But i have to say i <3 you now Simon Doonan and thanks Karen for bringing the interview to here to the Etsy blog. For a minute there i was thinking i was in the etsy of old that embraced "Your place to buy and sell all things handmade" that used be on the front page but is now gone. Now all things handmade here also means factories hiding behind the guise of collectives and all things trendy. Oops!

  • GourmetHandbags

    Sonya from GourmetHandbags said 5 years ago

    Wonderful interview!

  • lauraprill

    Laura Prill from lauraprill said 5 years ago

    Thanks for valuing what we do with our own two paws ! A very inspiring post...

  • tresameyerdesigns

    Tresa Meyer Clark from MeyerClarkCreative said 5 years ago

    More interviews like this would be perfect.

  • kathiroussel

    kathi roussel from kathiroussel said 5 years ago

    Loving the affirmations here regarding the art of the hand.The art world has become mired in conceptualism and theory and frankly has become a predictable bore for the most part. The range of art here on Etsy runs from the sublime to the totally unpredictable and there isn't a day that I don't find something that moves me, makes me laugh, inspires or excites. Big name stores are looking to Etsy designers for ideas. The influence that Etsy artists and designers are having on the marketplace speaks of a larger shift that's slowly but surely occurring in the world as people become more and more disenchanted with big box junk stores and a world over stuffed with mass marketed throw away goods. People want to improve the quality of their lives and are choosing to surround themselves with fewer things made with heart and skill. I think we are witnessing the rebirth of the Renaissance! Thanks for your wonderful insights Simon-- and thanks to you Karen for bringing this lovely creative spirit to us looking ever so stylish in his amazing shirt!

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns said 5 years ago

    I'm such a fan of those ShadowPlay prints. Cool stuff! And the window display is incredible - never seen anything like it!

  • irinisklavounou

    irini from IrinisWorld said 5 years ago

    Oh yes, i agree entirely with Simon. It is so very important to keep ones originality alive and kicking. Creativity is a sensitive creature and easily falls prey to compromise and as easy as it might be to follow the trend, its much more fun to take a chance, throw it all in the air and cross your fingers for a happy landing. As a new seller this is precisely the spirit i am looking for in Etsy. Thank you.

  • tynelson

    Ty Nelson from TigerBombe said 5 years ago

    When I thought of myself as a Neo-Hippie I never realized it was a movement that fits into a larger demographic surge now on the Barney's radar... The best fashion is always where the top-down and bottom-up trends meet and production is limited to actual demand!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    Sometimes I worry about what I wear or how I look but really so long as I'm happy it doesn't really matter. When I was a kid I used to try and wear clothes that made me feel uncomfortable but really you shouldn't force yourself to do something your not really into! Great article.

  • houseoftravis

    Travis from strangepainting said 5 years ago

    Window dressers and arts! This has got to be my favorite Etsy Blog of the year. Tell us more, Doonan!

  • Xenotees

    Xenotees from Xenotees said 5 years ago

    So great!

  • butikonline83

    Hendri . from butikonline83 said 5 years ago

    i love this!

  • StacySix

    StacySix from StacySix said 4 years ago

    Fabulous! Eccentric Glamour is one of my favorite books for style - not fashion, but creating one's own unique style and having fun with it. I love hearing Mr Doonan's thoughts on craft!

  • Thisisnotgoodenough

    Peter Mack from PeterMackArt said 4 years ago

    Justin!

  • rosalynvintage

    Rosalyn Martz from rosalynvintage said 4 years ago

    Wonderful and inspiring words, thank you Simon for the great words of wisdom on knowing "who you are" and finding satisfaction on honing skills and craftsmanship plus enjoying it. Great interview, Karen.

  • dorisclark1

    Doris Clark from dcartwork said 4 years ago

    I loved this article and the discussion on handcrafted! It is one of the best things about etsy.com. So many talented people sharing their craft. Thank you!

  • perebags

    Sarah from perebags said 4 years ago

    I absolutely love Simon!

  • ralami

    Rahila Alami from BiBiGems said 4 years ago

    What an inspiration!

  • savedbysalvage

    savedbysalvage from savedbysalvage said 4 years ago

    This was great!!

  • lapisbeach

    Lauren from lapisbeach said 4 years ago

    How did I miss this interview?? Yipes - thanks for linking back from Jonathan's! Thank you both for your time and for sharing it with us on Etsy!

  • cocorosecouture

    Bree Johnson from cocorosecouture said 4 years ago

    great great article inspired me in a lot of ways

  • kpoklemba

    Katie Schmitt from PassengerSeatArt said 4 years ago

    Great article! It is so true to say that creativity and fashion lets you be you, if you let it. Window displays do not get enough credit. I used to run a retail store in Rock Center and do the windows, it was so freeing and so fun. Nothing like the Barney's, Macy's or Anthropologie displays, but still fun. I cannot imagine how stunning Jonathan and Simon's apartment must be. These two are brilliant!

  • CasaBlahBlah

    Ursula Koenig from CasaBlahBlah said 4 years ago

    Wonderful interview. Simon is simply the most insightful and great artists we've got. Plus he is so funny. I will say on Etsy it is very challenging to showcase your wares - but I still love a great product story and display has to be involved. The great tight rope I walk on here. But it's so fulfilling. A wish would be the ability to add more photos, inspiration/mood on each piece I create. Cheers!

  • shoprodinia

    Rodinia from ShopRodinia said 4 years ago

    An insightful and very funny interview. Etsy, thanks for reaching out to so many interesting people to provide the community with great reads each week.

  • gordong

    Gordon from BennysHouse said 4 years ago

    Love Simon, and his partner Jonathan Adler.

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