Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Linda Smyth, I’m 28 and live in Philadelphia, Pa. I’m originally from Richmond, Virginia, but have been living in Philly for the past nine years. My current creations are the jewelry lines Fleathers and Rabidfox. Before this I was a photographer, then a costume designer and make up artist as well as making and selling various fashion garments around stores in Philly and Brooklyn. These days I more so focus on the jewelry as opposed to making clothes and am starting to get a little more into interior design and making accessories for rooms and spaces. I graduated from The University of the Arts with a BFA in metals and fibers from the crafts department. My favorite techniques are casting metal and lost wax process, electro forming copper, carving antler and exotic woods, knitting, crocheting, screen printing, sewing and working with leather. My obsessions in life are collecting antique everything, owls, deer, mushrooms, sea creatures, elephants, antique sewing tools, freaky eskimo and native american dolls, bird cages, loggers, pirates, sailors, gypsies, my dogs and tattoos. I am currently working on growing a japanese flower garden on my body, it’s coming along nicely.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I own a boutique in Old City, Philadelphia called Topstitch, where we sell hand made clothing, accessories and art made by independent designers and artists as well as vintage clothing and accessories, so when I’m not making I’m out hunting for vintage treasures, as well as running the biz. I also do some fashion styling and body painting on the side and also starting a community screen printing studio geared towards printing textile yardage. I am very involved in the DIY community in Philly, this city has a lot to offer in that realm. When I’m in Transit, I’m rollin around town on my scooter with Leeloo (my chihuahua) in my bag, which is the most fun! One day I’ll have a sidecar so I can bring all 3 of the dogs, they get a little jealous of the little one.
What first made you want to become an artist?
Probably my first crayon, as soon as i figured out how to hold a drawing utensil I knew my purpose in life and from there on out I have always had to keep my hands busy. I used to sketch at the dinner table (drove my mother crazy) and would get in trouble at school for drawing on the desks. That was probably my first art show in first grade when Mrs. Kumar made the whole class walk around my table to see what I was so busy drawing, embarrassing yet exciting. My parents have always been very supportive of my passion for art. These days my productive pastimes are cutting up leather, and making small animals out of wax.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
The Fleathers line was developed from my attraction to leather fringe and feather jewelry, I wanted to merge the two and came up with Fleathers (leather feathers) Leather is such a common and sturdy material that takes shape and ages well. There are so many color options in leather that the combination possibilities are endless, that is my favorite part of the process concocting new shapes and color stories. I have been working with leather for the past five years, I find recycled leather all the time whether it be from vintage clothes or upholstery samples even old couches. People donate a lot of it too. It is very important to me to use recycled materials in my work especially when coming from animal derived materials. I have recently started collaborating with other artists that have been printing on the leather for me to make some incredible patterns to work with. The rest of the process is all in the scissor handling, every shape I cut is a little different so it is tricky when I have to duplicate something.
My other jewelry line is Rabidfox, that I create with Rebecca Pulver. It is cast metal jewelry made of sterling silver or bronze that has been plated in gold. We also work with a wonderful technique called electro plating that creates a heavy copper shell over whatever we choose, making the jewelry quite light, yet durable. Becca and I transform our love for collecting toys and chotchkes into precious metal jewelry. It is a wax animal farm meets mad scientist laboratory in our studio where the wax animals are manipulated to be cast into metal. The both of us are complete opposites but always complimenting each other in our strengths and weaknesses yet are aesthetics spawn from the same interests in making big, bold and sometimes dangerous jewelry. The themes tend to lean towards the cute and cuddly Noah’s Ark style or to the more hard core ‘call of the wild’ end of things making the collection dynamic and appealing to a variety of audiences.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My Rabid fox “hungry for hippo love” ring rarely leaves my finger, I also have some neon green rooster feather earrings that are 10″ long and completely out of control, my Victoria Chan (Nomaddicts) turquoise leather fanny pack and the soft pink velveteen baby blanket my mother made me.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
Books: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy by Tim Burton, The Metamorphoses of Ovid byAllen Mandelbaum, Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series.
Movies: Barbarella, Life Aquatic, but pretty much all Wes Anderson movies, Labrinth, Blade Runner and Earth Girls Are Easy.
Musical groups: Nina Simone, The Beatles, Led Zepplin, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock
Websites: www.misscrew.com (flyest fly girls ever!), www.designspongeonline.com , www.krischau.com (cutest paintings, there are a couple of me and my dog), www.comespywithme.blogspot.com (these ladies know about fabulous), www.fleathers.com is still under construction (which is why I love etsy so much!) check out the splash page, it’ll bring you back to etsy, and I just started a blog for my store ihearttopstitch.blogspot.com.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Make sure that your display pictures are clear and interesting to look at, that will set you apart from everyone else that is on the same page. Your descriptions should be informative, but have a little fun with them and always communicate with the buyer even if they ask you a million questions over and over, lastly, put your etsy address on your business card and everywhere else you possibly can, it’s the best way for people to see your latest and greatest!
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I like the shop local feature as well as being able to pick any where in the world and see what people are making on etsy there, AMAZING!
How do you promote your work?
One ear at a time… I prefer word of mouth perhaps the trendier and more affordable way to advertise, also by just giving or trading with friends, the more people wearing it the better! It’s always great to be featured whether it be online, in a magazine spread, through vending events or at the various stores I sell at that just keep getting the word by sheer exposure. I have a few good stylist friends in the music industry that help me to get things seen too.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Living in the tropics, making my jewelry on the sea shore with the help of the local women in the community wherever I am.