Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Felicia Nilson and I’m one of those so-called rarities, a native Los Angeleno who lives about 15 miles from where I grew up in Northeast L.A. I live with my husband, Paul, and three very spoiled felines named Willoughby, Emmett and Buster in Burbank, California. I worked at NBC in Burbank for over 20 years before leaving the workforce in 2000. A desire for some Arts and Crafts style tiles for a kitchen renovation motivated me to take a class in tile making at a local recreation center, and over the next 10 years ceramics became more and more a part of my creative life. The local Art Federation would have a yearly Christmas sale and that’s when I realized that people would actually pay for ceramics that I made! Several years at a local college with a wonderful ceramics program has taught me about the more technical aspects of ceramics, but my sculpture technique is self-taught.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Creating pieces for my Etsy shop has taken up a huge chunk of time lately, but when I’m feeling the need to recharge I love to immerse myself in a good, guilty pleasure book, something that doesn’t take too many brain cells or give me agita. Antique markets are another favorite pastime. My husband and I love to prowl the flea markets for hidden treasures. We like to collect old oil paintings, American art pottery and small animal bronzes.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I agree with idea that we all grow up with the innate ability to be creative and artistic and it depends on whether that ability is consistently nurtured at a young age. My mother always encouraged and enabled me to be creative, even if it meant using her spices to make a “sand” painting, or all her flour and salt to make salt dough Christmas ornaments, or melting pieces of crayon over the stove to drip over a glass Coke bottle. To this day, there is an old humidifier box stored in a cupboard in my parent’s kitchen covered with drawings I did when I was 5 years old (yes, it’s a really old box).
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
I tend to work in cycles. I’ll be totally obsessed with making little hand sculpted animals, and then the next few weeks I’ll only make vases. I find it difficult to make the transition between the two without first clearing my work table, putting everything away and getting a fresh start. I must have a very compartmentalized personality because I eat my food the same way: fries first, then the hamburger, but never mixed together. Seeing it written out makes me sound anal retentive, but I’m actually a bit of a slob. Right now my creative output is solely ceramic. Even though clay is my sole focus, what I make in clay is another matter altogether – it runs the gamut from functional to decorative, from silly to sophisticated, from cute to creepy. I once had a fellow potter tell me that my work was, “all over the place.” I think they meant it as a put-down, but I took it as a compliment. I like that my clay work is all over the place yet is still recognizable as my work and style to my regular customers. When I first started doing Etsy my clay time was one or two days a week, if that – that number has risen quite a bit since then! It was such a slow process that I never realized when I went into full-time potter mode. I have a “sorta” studio in the garage with everything I need, except for enough room. I do all my throwing in the garage but all of my sculpting is done in the house at a table I set up in front of a TV and near the computer. I have a favorite 6-hour miniseries that I put on when I’m going to be sculpting for a while and just look up at the good parts. I use white stoneware for most of my work and porcelain for the jewelry.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A very thick hand crocheted blanket my mother made me before I got married. I’ve used it every winter since her passing in 2001. My favorite handmade Etsy possession is a necklace hand sawn by Etsy artisan LynnyYvonne with my and my husband’s name on it in a circle – I almost never take it off.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
My book shelves are filled with all kinds of art reference books but especially those pertaining to ceramics and antiques.â€¨My guilty pleasure: Pop-up books, especially those by Robert Sabuda. I say they’re for when the kiddies are here but they’re really for me.â€¨When I do have a chance to read nowadays, the books I read are mainly for escapism and a relaxing read: The Outlander series by Diana Galbaldon, the Harry Potter series, the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. It drives my husband nuts that I always read the last chapter of the book first. I tell him it’s because I need to know who dies at the end so I don’t get too attached to the character 🙂
Pride and Prejudice (the BBC version with Colin Firth)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Music: I know this is blasphemy to most people but I’m not really a music person. My movie favorites list could number 50+ but I’m stumped when it comes to music. When I’m working in the garage I usually work in silence but if I do have music it’s usually old standards by Frank, Dean, Ella, Louis Prima right up to about the Beatles. I also like movie soundtracks from old musicals like My Fair Lady and Camelot.
Crazy Aunt Purl
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Join a really active Etsy team – there’s strength in numbers, both in the moral support they can give and in promoting fellow teammates. Finding the right team for you might mean reading potential team threads to see if you like the “voice” of the team. When I first started 2 years ago I immediately joined the Etsy Mud Team and met many knowledgeable potters and made some good mud buddies, but now I belong to the CCCOE (California Crafters Club of Etsy) and they are a fun and supportive group that is a perfect mixture of vintage, supplies and handmade – the quintessential Etsy! What’s great about the CCCOE is that we’re all California-based so I’ve actually met a good number of team members in person, which adds to the camaraderie on the thread (d*ng <— a little sumptin’ for the ladies on the thread, you know who you are). What’s important is that you find a team that you really feel a part of. Also, I would say that, if possible, to have customizable items in your shop. When things get a little slower in the summer, the custom items were the one thing I could rely on.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I love the unlimited feedback that you can leave. I wonder if buyers know how much a well-written positive can affect a seller – a really good or funny one will leave me glowing the whole day! I also like that you are able to send photos with convos. Many people won’t open a regular email with photos attached so this is a nice feature. My favorites are when buyers have convoed me photos of their cats with the ceramic cats that I’ve made. The orange kitty is Peeper who belongs to Mephitine – it was just a happy coincidence that they look so much alike: â€¨These dubious kitties belong to kking9. Here’s a short video of me making a cat rattle.
As far as a feature I would like to see, it would have to be the ability to search my sold listings, whether by title, buyer or description. Also, to be able to save convos in differerent folders such as Custom Orders or Pending, or even “save as new” so I know which item still needs my attention.
How do you promote your work?
Just being on Etsy can be enough to get your work seen. Country Living magazine contacted me through Etsy and my Monogram Vase is in the Jan/Feb 2010 issue. I don’t use any of the social networking sites although I’ve heard they can work. I’ve had some luck with the carousel ads on Craftcult and have done some Ceramics and Pottery showcases on Etsy. Plus, I can always rely on my CCCOE teammates to include me in a treasury now and then – they’re really good about promoting active members.
In ten years I’d like to be…
As happy and healthy as I am today, surrounded by equally happy and healthy friends and family.