Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Brooke Marton, and I live in Baltimore with my husband Adam. We’ve just moved from a tiny one-bedroom apartment downtown to our own little house (with a yard!) in Hamilton, which is a neighborhood in the northeast part of the city. My interests include good music, good food, good design, good beer. I make a lot of lists. I drink a lot of coffee. I’m kind of a workaholic (but when you’re doing what you love, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.)
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I cook a lot, and my husband drags me with him on hikes and bike rides. Our house has been taking up a lot of my time and energy lately. It’s a bit of a fixer-upper, so there are a ton of projects that need to be done. I keep having to remind myself that everything doesn’t need to be done RIGHT NOW. But it’s really satisfying to transform a space and make it your own. I’m hoping to have the first floor done before Christmas, and I have big plans for our staircase this winter!
What first made you want to become an artist?
I think I’ve always wanted to be an artist. My father is an artisan/craftsman and has worked for himself since as long as I’ve been alive- so a traditional 9-5 type career was never really presented to my sisters and I as necessary or desirable. We were encouraged to be artistic and creative pretty much from birth- we painted and drew and built things and wrote things and always had projects going on. Every Christmas and birthday involved art or craft supplies or some kind. So making things has always been a part of my life.
I came across some information about soapmaking online a few years ago and was instantly captivated. I’ve always been a hoarder of bath and beauty products and had developed a perfume addiction recently that was starting to cost me some serious money. So initially I just planned to make some soap and things for myself, and experiment with blending my own fragrances. But as anyone who makes soap or scented products can tell you, this is a hobby that gets out of hand quickly. You want to get your hands on every new fragrance oil and ingredient you find, and your “collection” quickly surpasses what any normal person could go through in their lifetime. Making the jump from hobby to business is the next logical step. It helped that I’ve always been into graphic design, and packaging design in particular (as a child I would glue drawing paper over the faces of cereal boxes and make my own labels for them.) Creating my own line of bath and body products was like a dream come true in terms of combining so many of my interests- design, chemistry, perfumery, cooking, etc.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
I think if I had my life to do over again I would be a chemist- I really enjoy experimenting and formulating new products. The problem-solving aspect is really rewarding and there’s nothing like that moment when an idea you’ve been working on turns out just the way you were hoping- or even better!
I’m often starting with an idea to improve on an existing concept or fill a need that’s I don’t see being filled in the market. Sometimes I’m just looking to create the best version of a traditional product (say, lip balm) that I possible can. Other times I come across an idea by accident. My sugar cube scrubs came about after much tinkering with regular scrub recipes- in an effort to create a creamy scrub that didn’t separate, my batches kept getting thicker and thicker until I ended up with a batch so thick I couldn’t get it out of the jar. At the same time I was experimenting with adding soap as an ingredient in a different type of scrub to help the product rinse off with no oily feel left behind. Those two ideas converged and I ended up with my best-selling product!
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A set of hand-blown glasses my twin sister made for me as a wedding present. I love that they’re not only beautiful, but functional- I use them every day!
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Lolita and Ada, or Ardor by Nabokov
Anything by Philip K Dick
lots of cookbooks
A Clockwork Orange
Dune (geek alert!)
not a movie, but I’m a little obsessed with True Blood
Some current favorites:
Bon Iver (for driving on a cold/rainy day)
Andrew Bird (for driving on a warm/sunny day)
Spoon (for general rocking out, working, getting stuff done)
The XX (for chilling out)
Iron & Wine (for sleeping)
design*sponge (I am addicted, even more so now that I have a house to decorate)
the dieline (amazing, inspirational packaging design)
flickr (I love looking at other people’s photos)
epicurious (every recipe you could ever need)
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Photos are EVERYTHING! The importance of having good photos cannot be overestimated. You don’t need an expensive camera, but you do need to put the time and effort into styling, shooting and editing. Branding is also important, I think, and often overlooked. Other than that, list often to keep yourself visible and try to keep a good amount of stock in your shop. Don’t expect to wildly successful immediately- it takes time to build up a presence.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
Shop Local is really cool. I also like the Gift Guides- I always find awesome stuff in there I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed. Rearrange Your Shop appeals to my inner perfectionist- I was thrilled when you guys rolled that one out!
I would LOVE a shipping calculator, or at least the ability to have several shipping options the customer can choose from. An integrated system for coupon/promo codes would be very useful. I also feel like there could be a better system in place for sellers to organize orders and keep track of what’s been shipped- perhaps instead of just the “sold items” page, we could have an “open orders” page and a “shipped orders” page?
How do you promote your work?
I don’t really do any promotion, actually- I need to work on that!
In ten years I’d like to be…
Well if the past 10 years are any indication, what I see myself doing in 10 years and where I actually end up are two very different things! But I’d like to be doing what makes me happy- whatever that ends up being. A big house in the country, with land all around would be nice. Still happily married, raising some smart and interesting children. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at fame and fortune… but I think I can live without it. (I think.)