Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Amy Barker-Armato. I am an art historian turned graphic designer and letterpress printer. My husband Tim (a geologist turned sculptor/programmer and letterpress printer) and I live in a small bungalow that has a small back yard with an enormous garden that produces enormous heirloom tomatoes. We are located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a city that we love.
Armato Design & Press is my full time occupation and has been for a year and a half. Along with our work on Etsy we do custom design and letterpress printing for weddings, businesses and individuals. To see our other design work visit armatodesign.com. We are also starting a wholesale card line that is available in a few Minneapolis shops. My main responsibility in the business is design and marketing, Tim’s main responsibilities are printing, keeping me sane, and continually suggesting off-the-wall ideas to keep my mind nimble. (He swears that some day our press will have an internet connection.)
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
It was a portrait of my mom on the back of the recipe card for the dish she was cooking one evening. I was probably 4 or 5. It was a drawing in pen. Drawing and coloring were tools my mom used to keep my hands busy and my mouth quiet so she could get dinner on the table. She saved the recipe and it is in my recipe box right now.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I am inspired by vintage patterns, illustrations, textiles, my garden, as well as other designers and artists. Minneapolis is a great place to live for creative people. The community here is so vibrant and giving. There is always a new gallery opening, or arts event to go to, or class to take. I find going to these events inspirational as well. I have degrees in both art history and graphic design. When I’m stuck and need inspiration I always find myself going directly to my art history books or going to one of our local museums. I am often inspired by old ideas or motifs and trying to modernize them in some way.
What are your favorite materials?
Paper, ink, color, photopolymer, and my two-ton, one hundred year old vintage printing press, though I would have to say I have a love-hate relationship with the press lately. There is a level of what can only be described as magic involved in letterpress printing. Sometimes a piece prints beautifully on the first try while other times a 4 hour set-up time is not enough to get the same piece right. Fortunately, the latter is rare but one can never really predict how a piece is going to print. Because of this I would also have to add chance, serendipity and magic as favorite materials. Such is the nature of letterpress, and I love it. If you are interested in seeing video of our press in action visit http://armatodesign.com/GreenZebra/?p=171
What have been the most valuable lessons learned from other artists on Etsy?
I am always learning from and being inspired by Etsy artists from shop set-up to promotion to the work itself. I think the most valuable lesson I have learned from Etsy is being persistent and having confidence in my work. It has been a leap of faith not only to set up shop, but also to keep at it and find different ways to make it successful. I have also come to highly value the community I have found at Etsy. I love knowing there is somewhere I can go when I have a question, need to vent, or want to celebrate my success with others who have experienced the same things.
Why should people buy handmade?
Buying handmade is a hopeful and purposeful act. When you buy a handmade item you are investing in a person, their dreams, their talent and their future. The reward for the buyer goes far beyond having a cute new purse or necklace or card. Buying a handmade item really tells the world that the person behind that product is important. It fosters human relationships and the human spirit. I started my business because I wanted a life that was about more than making money. I wanted a life centered on family and creativity and thought I could still make money despite having these goals. I spent way too much time in a job that I didn’t like and didn’t feel good about. So I left that job and created Armato Design. This too was a hopeful act. Etsy is full of hopeful people creating things that fulfill not only their artistic desires, but also their hopes for a life and a world that they can be proud of. People who buy handmade products are doing so because they want these things too.
What features/services would you most like to see on Etsy?
I love, Love, LOVE Etsy. My favorite aspects of Etsy are the different shopping methods and the fact that it looks like the cohesive, smart, well-designed web site that it is. The improvements I would like to see most have to do with capabilities relating to individual stores. I would love other payment options beyond PayPal. I would love the option to run promotions in my store through the use of “promotional codes” so that if I run a promotion through a specific marketing effort in my store (through a blog advertisement, for example) a buyer would just have to type in a code to get a special price and I wouldn’t have to send an adjusted invoice, etc. And finally… Etsy Labs – Minneapolis!
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I love being home. From gardening to cooking to entertaining to just being quiet, I love the little home-life my husband and I have set up for ourselves. I also enjoy reading various blogs and writing on my blog about design stuff (http://greenzebra.armatodesign.com), reading good books, watching Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, going to the farmer’s market, eating really good food, running and walking it off by the Mississippi River and going to happy hour with friends.
Read any good books lately?
I just finished reading Margaret Kilgallen: In the Sweet Bye & Bye which is a collection of essays on Kilgallen’s work that accompanied the exhibition of the same name (organized by Eungie Joo and Clara Kim and presented at REDCAT, Los Angeles June 16-August 21, 2005). Reading this book made me think a lot about today’s handmade movement, the philosophy behind it and Kilgallen’s pioneering place in it. I think Margaret Kilgallen would have loved Etsy.
In ten years I’d like to be…
In ten years I would like to have a thriving wholesale card business so that I can pick and choose my client work. I want to have a sun-filled studio within walking distance of my house where all of my old equipment can be safe from the elements. I want my husband to become my full-time pressman and programmer. I expect to continue spending quality time with friends and family. I want to travel more. And most importantly, I want everyone in my life to stay healthy.