Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Amy Henderson and my location is a bit arbitrary at the moment but essentially, I am en route back to Austin. Prior to moving back to Texas I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am originally from a town in West Texas called Abilene.
I hold a fine arts degree in communication design. This was the result of a need for a major life/career change after coming out of grad school at age 23 and pursuing a career in the medical field for several years. My master’s degree is in communication disorders. In my former life I worked as a medical speech-language pathologist providing rehabilitation therapy to patients who had suffered a head injury, stroke or other neurological condition or trauma.
My creative outlets are varied as I have been doing both jewelry and photography work for many years. More recently I have returned to illustration. Some day I hope to pick up my mixed media studio art again as well. While pursuing my fine arts degree I spent a great deal of time in the fiber arts department taking as many courses as I could fit into my crazy schedule. I am enamored with all sorts of lines, thread and texture. The evidence is in both my illustration and jewelry work and will become more so in my newest series coming later this summer. I am one of those schizo Etsians who have more than one shop here. Morphologie is my other piece of real estate.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
My main gig is that of graphic designer/art director where I have been very fortunate to win national awards. Creative mode is my “normal/on” setting around the clock. Egads, I sleep in creative mode. Between trying to keep all the plates spinning for two businesses plus personal commitments my time gets shot. I wish someone would finally invent some time extender in a can as most of us could sure make use of more than 24 hours in a day. When I do finally break free of my daily routine, I head for the rugged outdoors whenever possible. I am all about nature and road trips out west. And I am all about our national parks…. um, to the point of being somewhat fanatical. I also love spending time taking in museum and gallery exhibits. All of these things greatly help me to recharge and refocus.
What first made you want to become an artist?
Not really a single pivotal event but a series of experiences such as trying to entertain myself as the only child in the house and later attempting to keep my sanity while dealing with trauma and disease day in, day out in my former profession. Creativity has always been my bent from childhood, I just took the long road to make it into a career. My boyfriend is a very talented metalsmith artist and his assessment resonates with me, being which is to hold something in your hand that did not exist yesterday is extremely satisfying. I thrive from the entire mental process of it. As a kid, I remember my sheer twitterpation when my parents bought me a book with all sorts of art and functional how-to projects in it. The projects were largely created from common objects/materials around the house and out of the backyard. I mean what kid needs television when they could be making their own shoes from cardboard?… c’mon now.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
I live and breathe with my creative headgear on. I can’t find the “off” switch but if I could I am sure I would be better rested. I favor the organic so my own process of achieving the final outcome is in that vein as well. I reserve the meticulous for my graphic design work so approaching my personal work in a more freestyle manner is a great counterbalance. Of course, craftsmanship must remain meticulous in all but the style of the work itself gives me room to breathe and explore. And this exploration is important. Taking a material or design, etc. to the point it fails or breaks is a necessary part of my creative process because how else will one know what the limitations are, how far it can be taken.
Regarding my materials, that could be just about anything. In my illustration work, I enjoy working with just a ballpoint pen honestly, plus sometimes India ink and watercolor. I love creating mixed media pieces with thread, paper, wax, stainless steel, wood, etc. Yeah, I think I have always been a little obsessed with wood.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Hmm, It is difficult to limit it to only one. My small collection of furniture hand built by my grandfather and my childhood clothes handmade by my grandmother all warm my heart a great deal plus the first ring my boyfriend designed for me. The bezel is less than perfect as this was a few years back before he was the art jeweler extraordinaire he is today but this gives it a little extra character. The ring is made of repurposed piano ivory and computer diodes in a sterling setting. Well, it is very cool. And it fits my scrawny monkey fingers.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
Gosh, I love to read. Now if I just had the time again to read an actual book and not just the cereal box and not just flipping through trade publications or skimming someone else’s Wall Street Journal. Aack. I will work toward having a more interesting response in the future.
I am both a documentary and foreign language film geek. One of my favorite foreign films is Reise der Hoffnung (Journey of Hope). It has been years since I have seen this film but I still think about it often.
Generally, I prefer the authentic raw-around-the-edges, less produced variety such as the blues. I never tire of Robert Johnson or former Austinite Toni Price. And I am still a bit misty-eyed mourning the recent loss of Bo Diddley, one of my all-time favorites. Nothing is better than live music, something that Austin does well. While working in my studio I like to listen to Jetsonian mid-century lounge music and Latin jazz and well, sometimes silence is quite golden when I need to concentrate intensely.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
I am still a bit new to Etsy but after being in business for myself in addition to working in the creative industry I do have a good sense of the basic nuts and bolts an artist or designer needs to have in place. Honestly, I could write an entire segment on this topic but I will keep it brief this go around.
In a nutshell…. take the necessary time to hone your craft; take excellent and complete product photography; present a polished and cohesive image (b-r-a-n-d-i-n-g); be professional; charge appropriately; develop a business plan; and re-evaluate that business plan frequently. Keep your shop fresh. Do try to avoid the appearance of an abandoned shop as this negatively impacts buyer confidence. Lastly, read The Storque, Etsy’s own blog, to take advantage of the many tips and other pertinent info plus interesting artist profiles that reside there. Having this resource will just make you feel better, guaranteed.
I would like to expand somewhat on “charge appropriately”. Have a pricing formula in place. There are plenty of resources out there with suggested guidelines. A pricing formula should take into account all the time and costs required to get your product to market from start to finish (conceptual development through execution) including product photography and listing the item. So do not undervalue your goods or others with “rollback” pricing just like the mass-produced market. This is part of what the Indie/DIY/anti-consumerism movement is responding against. Your time and creative ideas are very valuable. It is not an assembly line and you are not punching a clock. You are not a mass producer or mass marketer. Your ideas cannot be outsourced like many other types of work, treat them accordingly. And for those wanting to actually make a living at this, it is mandatory you have a firm grasp of the cost of business and profitability in order to establish appropriate pricing and even more so if you desire to sell wholesale or on consignment. Beth, an Etsy admin on their Business Operations Team, has written a great series of articles for The Storque on the art of pricing. Check these out.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I enjoy the Treasury section quite a bit. There are some excellent repeat curators/addicts in there (you know who you are… *wink*). I have discovered many of my favorite artists from the treasuries. Additionally, it is a great place to socialize.
As far as new features, I definitely desire a more flexible manner to group products in our shops to offer better merchandising/presentation and in turn to greater assist the prospective buyer find what they are looking for. And without having to relist a good portion or the entirety of our shop especially as it can become necessary every time an item sells. The new interface allowing us to easily drag and change the order of product images is much appreciated! I would like to see the same feature for our actual product listings.
How do you promote your work?
Honestly, due to other obligations I have done very little promotion to date but I can tell you some of what I will be doing the remainder of the year to market my work/increase visibility such as purchasing ad spots on select art/design blog sites. Second to “know thyself”, it is very important to “know thy audience” and sometimes this requires trial and error until you find your “people”. I recently created portfolios on Trunkt.org and will be expanding those at a later date. I will begin my own blog this year. (Egads, I am such a late bloomer!) I also plan to submit work for select juried exhibits and publications as time allows. I also would like to submit articles for publication at some point. This is definitely something people should take advantage of here at Etsy as you have the opportunity to contribute content to The Storque.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Possibly teaching. Writing more. And closely involved in an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and livelihood of artisans in less advantaged nations.