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Featured Seller: katherinejlee

Dec 15, 2010

by katherinejlee

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Katherine and I sew and print home textiles from my apartment in San Francisco. (Go SF Etsy!) I’ve been in the Bay Area for about two years now, but I grew up outside of Chicago and am a New Englander at heart. Something about getting rain and snow every day really does it for me.

Predictably, I nerd out over art, crafts, fiction, food and animals. My other passions include true crime stories, yoga, watching YouTube video tutorials of girls doing their makeup, and telling embarrassing stories about my little sister. Things I do not yet do well but hope to someday conquer are throwing ceramics on a wheel, interacting civilly with negative, passive-aggressive people, and writing back to pen pals in a timely manner.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

Creating things is all I ever really do! Even when I’m not creating new goods for my store, I have another project in my hands: writing fiction, knitting, quilting, cooking, painting, illustrating, making presents for my friends and family. Or, to quote my friend Talia, “A lot of gerunds.”

FS_katherinejlee_1.jpgWhat first made you want to become an artist?

It took me a while to figure out I wanted to be an artist, actually. My mom was always pushing me to pursue a career in medicine, or something science-y. The idea was laughably implausible. Mom dragged my sister and me to museums and libraries, signed us up for drawing and music classes, and taught us to love art and stories. She did this as a tireless single mother, all of which was very inspiring and affecting. Hmm, science? I really don’t know what she expected.

Eventually, I graduated from Williams College with a degree in English, was handed a hefty fellowship to pursue art in any way I wanted, and opened my Etsy shop as a way to kick start a speedy self-education in screen-printing, sewing, and running a small business.

Please describe your creative process.FS_katherinejlee_3.jpg

It’s pretty hard for me to focus on a single project. I started out making whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, after which I would play catch up to finish all my actual orders. I’ve learned to narrow down my designs, colorways, materials, and products. It’s a more efficient system, but custom orders and one-offs are still fun when I have time!

Sketching helps me develop ideas, then I sew everything from scratch and make use of silkscreens and stencils. I only use organic cotton, hemp, linen, recycled wool — all the good stuff — and water-based inks that don’t contain harmful chemicals. I use all my scraps so I create very little waste. I constantly revise my designs, rethinking materials and methods of production, to create a more thoughtful product.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

My mom made me a very flat, quilted pillow when I was a baby because my neck was so short. When I got old enough for real pillows, I still slept with the quilted pillow on top. I lost it in a hotel a while back, and it still makes me sad.

What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?

I’ve been on Etsy for about a year now, but I still feel pretty green! First, I’ve learned that it’s important to set concrete goals and deadlines for myself on a daily or monthly basis. I do my best work with a plan and a little external pressure. Also, taking thoughtful, styled photos makes all the difference. My boyfriend and I work as a team to create the “catalog look.”

FS_katherinejlee_4.jpgWhat are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?

My new favorite feature is the You Might Like suggestions on the homepage. Genius! I also love the Forums. My standing motto is “make it up as you go along,” but there are times I feel utterly lost and need the guidance of seasoned sellers.

I would love to see an upgrade to the Etsy messaging system. I enjoy using convos, but things get cluttered pretty fast.

How do you promote your work?

I try to put new items in the store every week and re-list daily to attract views and visits. I also probably spend a bit too much time on the Internet: Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. Refresh, refresh, refresh.

In ten years, where would you like to be?

Writing and making art. Same old things. But better.

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