Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Janine Basil and I’m in London in good old Blighty (Great Britain, for those that don’t recognise the slang!). I’ve had many jobs in my time, but I started off with hairdressing. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be, as I was actually too terrified to cut hair. C’est la vie! Since then I’ve been a cutting room assistant, window dresser, and fabric seller at a market. Throughout this time, I’ve always sewn and created.
I’m horribly ticklish. My skin is creeping now just thinking about it. It gets to the point where all someone needs to do is put their hand near me and I’m flinching and laughing. I’m rapidly turning into a grumpy old lady; my boyfriend will confirm that for anyone who doesn’t believe me. Also, I hate peanuts (I’m not allergic, I just hate them!).
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I’m not a wild social party animal, so going out a lot isn’t really my thing, but I do like cooking for friends on occasion. It’s nice to have friends around and just have a good chat.
I watch a lot of old movies, but then, I’m normally creating when I’m watching them. Actually, do I do anything other than create? I’m not so sure these days!
What first made you want to become an artist?
I don’t think I had a choice in the matter. I come from a family of artists and crafters. My paternal grandfather was a photographer and sculptor, my maternal grandmother painted, and my mum and dad both knitted and crocheted when I was younger.
I would get a lump of my grandfather’s red clay and make something, which he would fire for me. He would also give me candles to melt and reform into my own weird shapes (I was about seven at the time, melting this stuff down on my own. I’m not sure if my mother knew I was doing that!). From then on, it never really stopped.
Please describe your creative process.
I seem to work best in the early mornings and late evenings, so I often save the afternoons for packing orders, answering emails and maybe slipping into a little housework (too little, probably!).
There are many processes I use: machine embroidery, blocking felt, sinamay, buckram or parasisal straw on wooden hat blocks (pictured below) and sewing, to mention a few.
My favourite material is buckram. This is a loosely woven cotton fabric which is infused with starch or adhesive, allowing it to be softened with water and pulled over a block to create a solid but lightweight base. I use this for most of my fascinators. For extra strength, I sew wire around the edge. I do use many traditional millinery methods, but I mix in other methods I’ve developed over the years for my other sewing projects.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a lot of items I’ve bought from sellers on Etsy, and I wish I could say I had something from one of my many artistic relatives, but alas, I don’t. I have a feeling that my most cherished pieces will be the ones I’m about to receive from two friends (and fellow sellers) with whom I have been working to create a couple of necklaces. One is by Susan of Lynwood Jewels and has been dubbed “Queen Nean of the Planet Zog” because of its rather cosmic look! The other is by Bernice of DaleBCraft who does some amazing and really unusual wire wrapping. I’m already in love with both of them!
Name your top five books, movies, musicians, and websites besides Etsy.
The Lady Vanishes
The Lady Killers (The original Ealing Comedy.)
Passport to Pimlico (in fact, most Ealing Comedies!)
Horror of Dracula (…And most Hammer Horrors!)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (Andd most B Movies!)
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Try and find your niche. Try to be original. Stick with it!
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I really like the Suggested Shops. I know it’s been a little controversial since it started, but I really like loads of the stuff suggested and I’ve seem some fantastic smaller shops that I might never have found otherwise. It still needs some tweaking and I really want to see a “don’t show me again” button on there.
How do you promote your work?
I’ve yet to work out how to promote my work successfully. I tweet and I Facebook a bit. Twitter has worked to an extent, but I avoid spamming as much as I can. I’ll tweet when I have some new items listed and sometimes when I sell, but I balance it with retweeting other items and interesting things I’ve seen.
One exciting thing I’ve been incredibly lucky with is receiving attention from blogs with very heavy traffic. There was a week when my comic style fascinator and headbands seemed to go viral! I was being told by my friends of all the features all over the Internet. It was amazing and overwhelming at the time; I had no idea it was coming and I got a lot of orders. I think now though, I’m prepared for almost anything.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
The last two decades since leaving school didn’t go how I thought they would, so I’m not even going to think about it! I’m in a good situation now, I have a wonderful and supportive boyfriend and I’m loving what I’m doing. If it’s as good as now, then whatever it is will be fine.