Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Michelle Chang and I live and work in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn in NYC. I’m originally from Seoul, Korea but I consider myself a New Yorker as my family moved to NYC when I was 7. I studied fine art, architecture and design at Cornell University and graduated with a B.S. in Design and Environmental Analysis. With that degree, I went into Interior Design. I worked as a designer in NYC, France, Korea and Japan, all during my twenties. I moved to San Francisco after I returned to the states and received a BFA in illustration at the SF Academy of Art. I then came back to NYC and worked as a freelance illustrator for many years. About 5 years ago, I started to learn jewelry making and absolutely loved it. I discovered that I could use all of the skills that I have been using up till now when I make jewelry, which includes sculpting, drawing, and design. About two years ago, I decided to switch careers once more and start my own jewelry business on Etsy. So here I am!
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I have too many interests… must be the Gemini in me. Needless to say, anything of a creative nature interests me and living in NYC allows me to indulge those interests. I love to see film, art, plays, and live music. I like window shopping for jewelry and accessories. I’m an avid reader so I can spend many happy hours in a bookstore. I also love the outdoors and am very physically active. I play tennis and squash, bike, rollerblade and run. When I can get away from the city, my loves are scuba diving, hiking, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. I can’t forget my dog Murphy who accompanies me everywhere.
What first made you want to become an artist?
Ever since I was little, I loved to draw. It was very apparent that I had talent in that direction so it was a no brainer that I was going to be an artist. I dreamed of being a fine artist growing up and my parents were very supportive by giving me art lessons from a young age. I can draw and paint just about anything, but my favorite thing is portraiture.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
I don’t think I’ll ever have enough time to make all the jewelry I envision in my head. Everywhere I look, I see things that inspire me… ornate fences, metalwork on a belt, signage, flowers, sidewalk grills, even t-shirt designs. I always see patterns and designs in many mundane things, may they be sand dunes, wood grains, or clouds. Depending on the design, I may make a wax model for casting, or work directly with metal. Sometimes I do a combination of both. I work mostly in silver and gold, sometimes with precious or semi-precious stones. I also keep an eye out for trends that appeal to me and do my own take on it.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A painting of my dog sitting in the passenger seat of my car.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Islands in the Stream by Hemingway
The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky
When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Ogre by Michel Tournier
Fanny and Alexander
American Music Club
Sea Change by Beck
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
You should not launch your site till you have enough sale items that show you as an artist with your point of view. Everyone, including myself, agrees that presentation is key. Give some thought to your store banner and your product pics. Be as informative as possible in your product descriptions. After all, customers are buying sight unseen. Finally, do not be discouraged when sales are slow in the beginning. You need time for people to find you.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I like many features on Etsy, among them Featured Sellers, Treasuries, and Pounce. I love the Etsy Labs, especially the Virtual Labs. As for new features, I’d like to be able to re-list my items in bulk, instead of one at a time. It will save so much time!
How do you promote your work?
I’m afraid I’m not doing as much as I should be doing to promote. I’ve been too busy with my orders! I want to mention here that I’ve gotten most all my wholesale orders from retailers finding me through Etsy. I do accept nearly all offers for reviews and review-giveaways, as ultimately I want to drive more traffic to my store. In the future, I hope to participate in select accessories shows here and abroad.
In ten years I’d like to be…
In ten years, I’d like to be employing a small group of people for production work, which would free up my time to work on new designs. I would like to be sourcing some of my materials from abroad and possibly having some parts of my jewelry made there, incorporating indigenous techniques. I may be living and working from someplace far from the (sometimes) maddening crowd.