Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Rene’ and I have been creating my whole life. When I was a little girl it was mud art and Barbie couture out of toilet paper…now it is sock dollies, blankies, and other things for little ones to love. I have an affinity for children. My niece and nephew inspire me in so many ways. I am always connecting with children…maybe because I never really grew up. When I was little I took comfort in my favorite bear, Beannie. My grandma had done surgery on him so many times, but I loved him just the same. I always felt I was an old soul…I have always loved old, worn, well loved things. I strive to give each of my pieces that feeling. I began to rescue things from antique stores…things that no one else had any use for. I wanted them to be loved again. I made my first sock dollie about 3 years ago. Boy was she a mess. Her eyes were off center, her seams were crooked, but she was loved. Now I still rescue linens and vintage findings to use in my creations.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Most importantly before my art…I am a mama and wife. Savanna Jean, my daughter, is by far my most interesting creation. Before I became a mother I was a stage actress and dancer. I am trained in classical ballet, tap, and jazz. I miss it. My husband is a musician…saxophone. He plays with several bands around town and I’m lucky to get to sit in on occasion. I come from a musical family and it is a big part of our lives. Just this week my husband and I are teaching a music workshop for kids in our city of Omaha. We are also in the process of adopting an infant. It is hard to be patient, but we’ve got plenty to do in the meantime. I also work as an in home caregiver for the elderly and handicapped. I feel so very lucky to know and work with the people I care for.
What first made you want to become an artist?
It was just an instinct. I’ve never known a time when I wasn’t creating. I find it hard to contain all of my ideas whether it’s gardening, cooking, making gifts for people, decorating my house, writing poetry or dressing my body. I am surrounded by people who are gifted in these ways and I am just happy to have been able to learn so much from them. I always knew that I wanted to have my own business though…even when I wasn’t sure what it would be. I dabbled in a lot of things before I really found my niche. I also suffer from panic attacks and creating has been my natural stress reliever. Getting well has been an ongoing challenge. It sucks to feel bad sometimes, but I balance it out with lots of beauty and fun.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
My creative process is just a big ol’ mess…much like my workspace. I hoard things…ideas, buttons, ribbons, old skeleton keys, fabric from Biblical times. I am inspired by Kewpie dolls, specimens of all kinds (insect art, butterflies, Victorian oddities). I work in the living room ( my poor family- sometimes there isn’t a place to sit.) I am usually sandwiched between two cats and anchored by the dog at my feet. When I have an idea…I have to do it immediately. I create from a very pure place inside. A place where there is a fresh slate, anything is possible. Before I have even made a stitch there is this space and there isn’t anything to muck it up. I love that space. It is so calming to me. There is a mystical element that goes into creating for someone else. They have given me their ideas and I get to be a part of that. I really try to stay connected to that when I am making their piece. I try to imagine that child and how they will feel.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a quilt that was made by my ancestors. Their names are stitched around the patches and squares. It dates back to the thirties. Great aunts and their friends…great grandma and my paternal grandmother. My grandmother is the only one still living of all of them. Someone told me once that I was crazy to use it. “Put that away”, she said. I feel though, that I should use it….that is what they meant for it. It gives me great comfort. We use it as our Christmas tree skirt every year.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
Oh, this is tough…
Top 5 Books:
1. Me Talk Pretty One Day- David Sedaris
2. The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein
3. Anything by Anais Nin and E.E. Cummings
4. Book of Anne Sexton poetry
5. Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil
1. In America
2. My Life Without Me
1. The White Stripes
2. Loudon Wainwright
3. Nick Drake
4. The Black Keys
5. Ben Folds Five
*It was tough to just name five…I could go on all day.
1. Thyroid-info.com ( I have hypothyroidism and it’s important to be your own advocate).
2. Freerice.com…go there, it’s fun and you are helping others.
3. Myspace, of course…have to stay connected.
4. My brother’s website- he is a Broadway performer…
5. www.eliteskills.com -I write poetry…
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Take advantage of all the support! I was blown away when I became a member and there were so many helpful people. No matter what time night or day…you can always get in touch with someone that can help you and guide you. Also, be patient. I don’t think I made a sale my first 3-4 months (except for mercy purchases by well meaning family and friends (*_*). The sales will come, give it time. Just do your part by making your shop the best it can be.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I love being able to heart people’s work and shops. My favorites are about 100 pages long and more. Hmmm, new features I dunno…I’m pretty happy with all of the features already in existence. I like it simple.
How do you promote your work?
I need to be better about promotion. I don’t have a blog that I keep up. I am in awe of people who do this, but I don’t know where they find the time. My main catalyst is word of mouth and my etsy shop, which has led to many lucrative accounts in boutiques all around the world.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Nestled here in my cozy little house…doing what I love. I would love to have a bigger garden and get our little cottage all fixed up. I’m pretty happy now. I hope to have added some more to our family. I don’t aspire to make it “big”. I mean if Martha Stewart asked me to come on her show and make sock dollies, I wouldn’t say no, but what I offer my customers is something that can’t be recreated on a large scale. The point is to be personal.