Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Aya, I’m 32 years old, I moved to Brooklyn NY from Tel Aviv, Israel about a year an a half a go to marry a guy I met online by pure chance.
We live in Williamsburg, which is the coolest place in the world, I really love it out here though I do still feel more an Israeli then an American.
Both of us are artists, Ned’s a photographer and I’m a painter \ crafter \ illustrator \ designer. We both work from home which is a big loft studio in an old horse and carriage stable right off the BQE. I love being able to be together all the time.
We also have 2 motorcycles called Jesse and Olga. Olga is the newest one and in the summer we go out on long rides. Now that it’s winter, they are both parked inside the apartment where the couch used to be.
I never wear any make up or perfume. I love eating out, especially since I started working from home, it’s nice to see some people and listen on conversations. I’m a serious internet addict and my favorite alcoholic drink is Absinth.
I’ve studied Graphic design in The Bezalel academy of art in Jerusalem, and worked in Advertising for 8 years.
I have 2 sisters back in Israel, I’m trying to talk one of them to joining Etsy, but so far, no success…
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I create more things! I paint and draw a lot, trying to bet myself brave enough to brace the gallery world and become a serious artist. I do some freelance graphic design and websites design (though I have to say, I’ve taken less projects and I procrastinate on a lot of the graphic work since I started being more serious about the Etsy store). I help Ned schedule and prepare for shoots. And I keep adding content to our 5 websites (how did that happen? No one knows). I also spend a lot of time online and I sleep sometimes.
What first made you want to become an artist?
My father is a graphic designer, He was still in school when I was born and I basically learned to critique art and graphics since I learn how to speak. I went to graphic design school thinking that wanting to be a painter is unrealistic and that I should learn something useful that will help me get a job.
While working in advertising, I started drawing and painting all the time again. I always carry a big backpack with sketchbooks and pens and watercolors around. I found myself drawing everywhere, on the bus on the way to work, in front of the TV, under my desk at work, in cafes and on the beach. I just couldn’t stop. I’m really happy that now I can dedicate almost all my time to just doing what I love and to making art.
I especially love the fact that so many of the methods and techniques I learned in design school and thought I would never use in “the real life” like mounting paper, block printing and figure drawing are a part of my work routine now. I guess I owe some teachers an apology…
Please describe your creative process (how, when, materials, etc).
I have to keep my hands busy at all times. I don’t know what that’s all about, but if I don’t make art I just play with my hair and bite my fingernails too much. I used to say that if I smoked, I wouldn’t make art. I don’t know if that’s true but it feels like that sometimes.
I wake up in the morning horribly late, we barely ever wake up before 2:00 PM, and after having breakfast and talking care of stuff in the house, I usually start making stuff when the sun goes down. We almost always work till sunrise and then crash and go to sleep.
When making art, I almost always listen to audio books, I love stories and reading, audio books means that my hands and eyes are free to craft or make art.
My main source of inspiration is, I think the making of other things, A lot of times while working on one project the idea for the next one comes to mind. Also, I’m very inspired by the materials I work with. One of my favorite things about Etsy is that because I craft a lot and things get sold, I get to buy more supplies often. I like working with the colors and nature of fabrics and papers, it’s a lot like graphic design or advertising in which the limitation of client and budget dictate the final outcome.
I also love working in different mediums, it keeps me interested with what I do, if I get bored or stuck with drawing, I turn on the sewing machine, If I get tired of that, I pick up a paint brush – It’s great to be able to do whatever I want all the time!
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Moving to NY I left almost everything I owned back in Israel, so I don’t have any big heirlooms like quilts or sweaters that my grandmother send me. I do however have a canal jeans sweater that I got in my first trip to NY to meet Ned. We bought it a few days before I had to go back. In the day before my flight, we were both really sad, we end up getting matching tattoos. I have a star on the back of my neck and Ned has a circle with a hole the shape of a star on his. After getting the tattoos, we cut a stencil and spend the night spray painting places that were important to us. When we got back to the studio, Ned spray painted the sweater. And I wore it on my way back to Israel, it was like carrying his hug all the way back to Israel.
Also, I have a very odd looking sock puppet in the shape of a deformed cat that my sister made when she was visiting NY. We walked around Manhattan all day, but in the evening, we learned how to make sock puppet together, we really reconnected over crafting together, it was a lot like being kids again, only I didn’t pull her hair or threatened to burn her alive.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and websites (besides Etsy).
This is hard! There are so many that I like.
Right now I’m reading Spook Country by William Gibson
And listening to the audio book version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
And also Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
I just finished The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith and was very impressed by her writing
And I always find new interesting things in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods
Some of my favorite authors in Ursula K Le Guin, Terry Pratchett and Philip Pullman.
We don’t have a TV in the studio but we do have a movie projector, and it’s the best way to see movie, mostly because when we watch a movie, we just watch a movie, it’s not in the background of doing other stuff. My favorite films are:
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me – I’m probably the only person in the world that like the movie better then the TV series.
Ghost in the Shell
My musical taste changes all the time and is very eclectic, but here are some artists who manage to stay on my favorite list for a while:
Bill Callahan from Smog
Ruth Dolores Waiss
I spend a lot of time online, surprisingly in a small amount of websites.
I think that aside from Etsy, flickr is where I spend most of my time, something in the way photos make people accessible is really appealing to me. Mosst of my friends in the last 3 years were made through flickr.
Instructables represent everything that’s good about web 2.0.
I love The Purl Bee, this is a blog by my favorite fabric store, Purl SoHo. I’ve learn a lot about crafting and everything there is just so beautiful it makes me want to make things right away.
Baren Forum is a really interesting (though the design is very boring) site with a lot of information about block prints and 4 yearly prints exchanges. I really like the aspect of an artist community that it has. I just got back prints from my first exchange with them and it was a wonderful experience.
Plan B is an Israeli comix site, with new art every few days, I love seeing the work of those artists and most of the illustrations and stories manage to be sad, funny and painfully simple.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
I have a lot!
First of all, photos are important, they are about 90% of what sell your items, so put effort in learning how to take good photos, or if possible, do like me and marry a professional photographer.
Second, everyone including me asks all the time “where do you promote?” because it feels like there’s some magic place in which everyone that posts get to make a lot of sales without putting any effort.
I just realized that there is no such place (sigh) and that I should ask myself more “how to promote” rather then “where”. I’ve noticed that being a part of the online community means more then just typing “20% off in my store till Friday” and disappearing. That just like any other community, it means both talking and listening. So, be a part of your own online community, listen and read blogs, write stuff in your blog that’s interesting for others to read.
Don’t advertise, no one wants to be exposed to more advertising – interact.
I wrote an article about it in my blog if anyone what to read farther.
Third – take yourself seriously. Especially when dealing with clients. Etsy is a really friendly place and almost all of us are just starting to understand what it means to handle a store. But even if you are just making your first sale, learn to think like a business.
I solved 100% of the dilemmas I had about dealing with buyers (no payment, returned items and so on) by asking myself 2 questions – 1) what as a buyer would I expect to happened now? and 2) What would an established e-commerce site like Amazon do in the same situation. Usually, the answers match and that’s what I do, no matter what the cost is. It worked every single time.
Fourth – list everyday!
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I can spend hours and hours on Etsy every day (I actually do…) I love etsy’s clean no-nonsense design. I love the cohesive look of the store and think it’s one of Etsy’s biggest strengths. My first interaction with the Etsy community was the treasury I still spend a lot of time over there. I’m constantly humbled by the beautiful art people make and the ground breaking style and level of invention and originality. I try to get at least one treasury every week to show off my good taste and push the art that I like. Also, and this is a confession, I’m a Forum addict. I can’t even estimate the time I spend there. It’s fun and it’s a huge help, especially when sales are low, just to see what other people are going through, it’s both great emotional support and constant source of information. I love the new birthday page!
I would love to see a tag profile, sort of like a shipping profile in the “listing new item” I have a lot of similar items and that would save me a lot of time in listings. Also, it would be really great if non paying costumers would get an automatic e-mail after a day or two to remind them to pay. Explaining to people that they “forgot” to pay is the thing I hate the most in dealing with buyers.
How do you promote your work?
I had my flickr account from way before I joined Etsy, so a lot of people there know me and it’s easy to promote there. I also have a personal blog and that encourage me to start a a new blog that’s dedicated to art (the other one’s very personal) I also use louchelab, our joined website, to showcase my work and my own design and art site. I really like the sub-etsy social networks like We-love-Etsy and IndiePublic and my newest discovery is Cut out + Keep which I especially like for their amazing design and cool interface. I really want to be one of those people who pass business card and start the whole word-of-mouth thing, but I’m not brave enough, right now 100% of my promotion is done online.
I was also really lucky that some people who bought my Tarot Deck promoted me in their personal websites and forums. Like here and here. And in Adam’s beautiful tarot site.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Doing just what I’m doing now only famous and rich.
Check out the Handmade Video Portrait of louchelab and read the Storque article here!