Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Johnny Ward. I was raised in the south end of Seattle, where I now make a living running MUD, a small shop that produces statuary and sculpture. Not much of interest happened for me until I joined the Army and, eventually, ended up on the central coast of California. There, I met a very creative, if maladjusted, group of people that became my friends, enemies, roommates and collaborators. Much through their examples, I began trying to find something different to do with my life. After the usual assortment of failed experiments, bad jobs, and mishaps, I lucked into a creative pursuit that held my interest and had a place in the market.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I live with my girlfriend and she’s got a 12-year-old son. So, I’m happy to say that I get to do a lot of the same types of things I did as a kid, only with the part about being an adult tacked on. Life’s busy, so a lot of what I do when I’m not making stuff are dishes and laundry. I try to respect the work/life balance. The truth is it’ll be paperwork this weekend, demolition derby the next, then camping. But it’s always back to work after that.
What first made you want to become an artist?
Like a lot of people, I was creative as a child. So, I guess what first made me want to be an artist was the positive feedback I got when I wrote a story or drew a picture that someone liked. Also, my father was a real ham, a gifted storyteller, and a very funny man. I think I had a sense that he had an act that he put on, and that he made all this stuff up and had a great time doing it. So, making stuff up was always fun.
What inspired me to be a working artist/craftsman was equal parts necessity and dumb luck. I was given the opportunity to work as a patinier at a statue factory and found it fun and challenging. Only after trying to make physical objects did I ever really develop an affinity for them. It’s still mainly the fun of coming up with something and the challenge of producing it that keeps me interested in arts and crafts.
Please describe your creative process.
A large part of my shop’s production capacity is dedicated to statuary, the lesser part to one-of-a-kind sculpture and custom work. The statuettes featured on Etsy are all made of concrete and finished with a variety of patinas, dyes and waxes.
I start with either an idea or an original. Some of the statues I produce are of my own design. Others are restored and repurposed architectural elements and antiques, or kitsch vintage stuff. Once I get an original I like, a flexible mold backed by epoxy and fiberglass is formed. Concrete is poured into the mold and agitated. Later, the item is pulled from the mold and its flashing lines are ground down. Then, any remaining surface defects are repaired and I put a finish on it.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Cherish is so loaded. I was afraid to answer this because what if there was nothing I really cherished? But, there is something, after all. I have an old plaster cast Indian head that my father made as a school kid. He signed the bottom of it. When my sister was a kid, she had it and wrote her name there as well. It’s painted and the paint is a hue that it seems you can’t even buy anymore. Probably lead based. Anyway, I’ll probably keep that thing the rest of my life.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Don’t be discouraged if you put some things on Etsy and nothing happens right away. There are a lot of awesome people that buy and sell here. They are really savvy about finding what they like. I think it helps to have an accessible price point and something unique.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
My favorite feature is the listing/relisting system. It is super easy. So is getting paid. Some type of organizational options in Conversations would be nice.
How do you promote your work?
I had a lot of help when I first started making things. At the time, I worked for a company that regularly attended the San Francisco International Gift Show. My employer brought the Johnnyhead to one of the shows in 1995, and I began wholesaling them. I’m still working with some of the same folks I met back then. Also, I spent a long time making statues for other shops before going out on my own. So sometimes my wholesale customers would find me or I’d meet them through the regular course of business.
Currently, I have regional sales representation and a small display in a permanent showroom at the Pacific Market Center in Seattle. MUD also has a website in addition to my Etsy shop.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
Ha! Ask me in ten years.