Tell us a bit about yourself.
hi there—my name is kathi roussel –artist, jewelry designer, mother, etsy fanatic, living in the good old rust belt region of the us—buffalo, ny. my days are spent with my nose literally to the grindstone (my blog is titled grindstone girl’s daily) I go from my home – a cool loft like dwelling above a wonderful second hand book store and restaurant in the heart of historic Allentown in the city – to an old industrial building 3 miles away. I have a wonderful studio in an artist organization called the Buffalo Arts Studio. The BAS is a not for profit organization that provides affordable studios for artists along with educational programming for the community and artists, and hosts a gallery and gift shop as well.
When I’m not working I love being at my home which is filled with my husband Peter’s paintings, my children’s artwork, (I have three wonderful sons—Morgan, Cooper and Henry)– my sculptures, lots of vintage items, colorful walls and painted floors, and one of my favorite things—an antique Chinese wedding bed….oh and my three cats!!! , maria, gitana (our Spanish kitty) & dora— nicknamed slinky malinki in honor of fellow etsy seller and pal slinkymalinkicat!
… my husband rehabbed our very old building –took him 2 years of gutting and reconstructing. A large amount of the work was done by our own two hands—a true labor of love. And speaking of labor of love… I had my 7 year old son Henry at home in a birthing pool in the front area of the space – so our home is marked by birth, growth, toil and love! Initially ½ of the space was used for a public gallery. Eventually, as much fun as it was, it became difficult to have a couple hundred people visiting for openings in such close proximity to our living space each month, and we both agreed we needed to focus on our own work. We have since turned the gallery space into living area, which has been a slow process—still not quite finished…
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
when I’m away from my studio—I’m home. I find plenty to keep me busy. In fact I would say there is hardly any downtime these days. I tend to my etsy shops – I have two – my handmade jewelry shop, and my vintage shop, 5gardenias.etsy.com. If I’m not emailing, I’m packaging items to mail out, or making treasuries—a terribly fun addiction (as anyone will agree), photographing new items for both stores—or on the run to find vintage goodies, another wonderful addiction, or messing with my blog. If I find a few moments, I love to garden. Plants make me very happy, helping & watching things grow is incredibly satisfying. We have a very urban little sanctuary we made for ourselves—filled with shade loving plants and inspired by Japanese gardens—although not nearly so zen, or well organized—but an oasis none the less. Outside the garden gates is an adjacent parking lot, which can get pretty dirty and ugly and loud in the summers. So the garden is a wonderful contrast. Up on the 2nd floor where we live we have a deck with planters and troughs filled with herbs and lavender and geraniums… I’d really love to have a vegetable & fruit garden—maybe the roof? Either that or perhaps a green roof someday—that would be fantastic!
What first made you want to become an artist?
there was no great epiphany as far as art goes or how I came to it—more of a slow steady evolution really—I come from a family who had very little interest in any of the arts. I guess I made my way there by accident, or just by a process of elimination. I know that I found myself feeling comfortable in my skin when I was making things. It made sense to me. Time has a wonderful way of disappearing— a meditative state of sorts exists when one is immersed in creating. I love the feeling of materials in my hands, of the smell various mediums (love the smell of oil paint…) I was first attracted to painting—I went and studied painting & drawing initially – attended a couple of art schools. Then some years later I realized I was more of a 3D kind of girl—it was a liberating discovery. I went back to school AGAIN after two of my sons got a bit older. I decided I wanted to learn to make something utilitarian—so I entered a ceramics program and learned to make functional pottery, hand building and throwing on the wheel– but sculpture is where I really found my voice. I have made many large pieces and installations. I’ve worked with clay for over 15 years. It’s my love—its earthy softness is so therapeutic and appealing. More recently, I turned to jewelry making- working in metal and mixed materials– I needed to find a way to earn a living. Jewelry making allows me to make sculpture on a small scale. I taught myself metal work from books and an hour-long demo on soldering with a jeweler friend. It has been a long slow progression with A LOT of trial and error. I still have so very much to learn. That is the great part though—I love learning and challenges— it keeps life interesting!
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
I go to the studio most every day. Usually I take care of emails, and etsy business in the early morning, then get off to the studio around 11:00 am. I stay until 5:00 or later depending on family schedules. I have a big table where current projects are in the works, in various stages, some waiting to get started, some waiting to be completed—one unfinished piece often suggests a new piece. A piece of odd metal on the table can offer a seeming infinite number of possible designs. There is usually no end to the possibilities—it can be difficult sometimes to know which idea to zoom in on. Sometimes I just have to clear the table and start fresh if I feel any staleness creeping in. I love making new designs—I find I get bored much too easily from having to make the same thing over and over. I try to keep a balance between one of a kind pieces and repeatable items in my shop for this reason. I have sketchbooks, or scraps of paper for making quick linear notations. Usually just a sketch to get a shape or effect I’m interested in—nothing too elaborate as I don’t want to freeze the design in some pre conceived realm. I need a certain amount of spontaneity present in the act of making—to me it’s the life force of any object! This was just as true with my ceramic work and paintings. I believe in being flexible and letting the material and process act as a guide as one moves forward in making—while always keeping the inspiration for the piece in mind! Most of my work is inspired by nature and science—as with a recent series I finished for a show where I combined knitted forms, cast ceramic elements, textiles, and other mixed media. I call the series “wall jewelry” as the pieces are constructed in a traditional necklace format—but are meant to hang on the wall. Some of the pieces are pictured on my earlier posts on my blog, kathiroussel.blogspot.com
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
my most cherished possessions are the paintings and artworks made by family member and friends. Nothing gives me more pleasure than knowing something has been made with care and passion by the hands of someone I know and love. I look around my home and feel so fortunate to be surrounded by the beautiful, weird, funny, odd, thought provoking, mood enhancing & charming objects made from human hands. It’s a tour through the history of a small family’s experience of living years of life together. Very poignant really….
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
let’s see ..this is hard because I truly love so many– —and my preferences change according to mood, time of year, time of life…etc…
I’ll try to zero in on a few favorites—but hate having to leave anything out!
i’m going to have to put my hubby peter’s website as number one, kepa3gallery
Metalcyberspace a directory of a huge magnitude of metal artist’s websites
Dinasaurdesigns artful hand made items out of Australia
Katjaprins amazing jewelry artist!
Stealthissweater really fabulous sweaters with politically inspired text knitted in – very humorous and wonderfully anarchic!!
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
LOVE your customers—without them there are no sales! make sure to communicate your appreciation! let them know when you plan to ship their purchase. try to stick to your promised date! if things are running late—let them know. put some thought and care into your packaging—it represents another aspect of your work and shop—AND it makes people feel good to know you care! treat your customers as you would appreciate being treated—it’s that simple!
your photos are KEY!!! invest in the best camera you can afford (and a good lens) if you are a novice at photography—check out many of etsy’s wonderfully helpful tutorials. or search around on the internet. ask fellow etsy artists. the first thing people see when they come to your shop are your images! you only have a few initial seconds to entice a customer. excite them with your imagination and well lit , focused photos (i’m a big fan of natural light)!! be sure to use all 5 frames available to you so people can see your work from a variety of views. try to be consistent –pick a few good backgrounds and change them up for variety every so often. Come in for some good close-ups—many people take pics from too far away.. the beauty of digital is the delete button—so don’t be afraid to spend time experimenting.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
there are so many—i think etsy is brilliantly designed, and offers amazing opportunity for the inexperienced to the seasoned seller. etsy encourages growth by offering a vast array of tutorials and info. The storque is jam packed with fantastic articles & features, written by wonderfully creative writers/ doers/ artists/ admin. etsy staff is the most friendly, on the ball, helpful, and energized group i’ve yet to come across. I sincerely appreciate the fantastic job they do—making this one of the most exciting sites on the internet.
Also—i love the treasuries- another brilliant etsy feature.! I get pleasure from making them and viewing them—joining sellers and buyers in a supportive and friendly network. I find myself constantly in awe of the wonderful work I see featured in the treasuries—not just on the FP, but in all of the lovingly curated treasuries in the listings. I find myself connected to others in the most wonderful way— I think everyone knows what I’m talking about !! i’ve met some of the coolest, most amazing, inspiring, friendly, lovely, dear, funny, marvelous people here on etsy—and i’ve made many friends from all over the world—it makes me incredibly happy. days can go by without a sale—but if i’ve had some chats with friends—or met a new artist who’s work I love and am inspired by—i’m a happy girl. it’s a beautiful thing- really– very much so!
new features I’d like to see..
I would love to be able to arrange items in my shops –move them around with a click and drag—that would be incredibly useful and really help to clarify categories in shops! People could group types of items they make—so many people make a variety of things—it can get a little confusing for customers some times I think…
How do you promote your work?
I send cards to my local customers with etsy info. i’m participating in a 2 page add with a local group of buffalo etsians in a great little mag called blockclub to let area buffalo peeps know about etsy and make shopping easy and fun – to spread the word about etsy. I post photos on my blog fairly often featuring my work from my jewelry and vintage shops. (i want to start featuring other etsy artists as well—when I can find more time—it’s a lovely give and take process and adds variety and interest). i’m sure as time goes on I will find other appropriate venues in which to advertise—i like the ones that don’t cost an arm and a leg the best– like word of mouth!
In ten years I’d like to be…
in ten years I want to be doing what I love most at the time (things can always change and grow…) with the people I love, wherever that may be! hopefully somewhere beautiful like the coast of almalfi—or some greek isle….hah!!