Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Nina van de Goor, I’m 27 years old and I live in the Netherlands in an ever-changing and expanding house filled with my favorite vintage finds, nice design pieces and handmade stuff, which sometimes drives my boyfriend, who happens to also live there, slightly crazy. Color, shapes, beauty and creativity in all their appearances are the things that make me happy and that never stop inspiring me. I’m in a constant struggle to balance my creative work and this “other side of me,” which is graduating from university in social sciences. This year I really need to finish my thesis, which is kind of difficult when you have so many creative ideas and a pretty successful small business that you love working on as well.
I used to say that I started creating things as some sort of counterbalance to the rational, theoretical stuff at university, but more and more I start to realize that this love of color, pattern and shape and the desire to create the things I have in mind have always been a part of me.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
The main thing is (or should be) trying to finish my thesis, which focuses on the rise of populism as an expression of people’s discontent with certain aspects of life in our modern society.
I also keep an interior design/art/craft blog where I post about beautiful and inspiring things on a daily basis, which is a lot of fun but pretty time consuming as well. I absolutely love thrift shopping and visiting flea markets. Also I like to go on all kinds of (foreign) trips, visit musea, read a good book and play board games. I try to spend enough time with friends and family (especially with my adorable eight-month-old nephew Kasper), though I regularly find it hard to combine being creative and working on a small business with being a social person. Being passionate about what you do is wonderful, but I find I never have enough hours in a day, and sometimes I really have to let go of making things and focus on being, you know, a kind and attentive human being and not someone who is always somewhere in the middle of a creative process. My boyfriend is a documentary maker and we share a similar passion for creating things that are beautiful and important to us, which works well because we understand one another in what we do, but sometimes there’s the risk of forgetting that there are more things important in life than your own little projects. Fortunately we’re able to warn one another when that’s happening, “‘You’re becoming a bit of a workaholic…” “What? Look who’s talking, you’re a workaholic yourself!” 😉
What first made you want to become an artist?
I never really wanted to become one (in fact in my family I used to grow up hearing some sort of, “If you want to become really poor and miserable, become an artist” mantra, so I guess for a long time I never really considered it a serious option!), and I still don’t feel fully comfortable when being called an artist or designer. However, I find the creative work matches my personality pretty well. I like to do things my own way, with a lot of freedom and constant variation. I have a hard time disciplining myself when I don’t do something that’s really meaningful to me, but I find I can work very hard on something that really gets me going. That doesn’t mean that I never ask myself questions about the sense of being creative and making & selling things, but somehow creating has this intrinsic meaning to me that I hardly ever find in regular jobs.
I guess my “becoming an artist” has a lot to do with admiration of beautiful things. Before I even considered making my own, I was already really fond of art, craft, design and mainly ceramics, so for years I was just a serious admirer. I’d been collecting midcentury modern ceramics and tableware for years when I started to realize that I had developed such clear ideas about my own aesthetics and what I felt I was missing in modern design, that I started finding ways of how to create the things that I had in mind.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
I work super intuitively; I hardly ever work with strict schedules, designs or plans. Sometimes I don’t make anything for days and focus on other things, and then one day I sit down in my studio (often already late at night), push the repeat button of my cd player and work for hours and hours, sometimes till 4 in the morning. Sometimes I only make one piece and realize that after that I’m done for that day, sometimes I make ten things after another and keep finding new ideas and possibilities. I almost always work with partly recycled materials and love how their shapes, patterns and colors lead me in a direction of what I want to do with them. I’m pretty bad at repeating myself, so even if I work in series or really like a certain pattern or design, I always try to find ways to keep varying so that no two items will ever be the same. I love working late at night, cause during those hours I experience a lot of freedom and the feeling that the time is really “mine” while during daytime there are always other things that seem urgent. At night I just sit down at my work table, listen to beautiful music, have a cup of coffee or sometimes a glass of wine and then I just wait to see what comes to hands and mind.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Probably a colorful Mexican Mother Mary statue made of tin, that I brought with me when I traveled through Mexico. I fell in love with it at about the first day of a five-week-backpacking-trip, which meant that I had to carry it with me for weeks, so it took quite some effort to get it home safely. Now I’m particularly careful with it, and it gets a beautiful spot in each house that I live in.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
The Millennium trilogy, Stieg Larsson
Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
All Jeu de Paumes books
Matisyahu:Live at Stubbs
Editors: An End
Jarabe de Palo
Six Feet Under
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
First of all: don’t rush things and be over-ambitious, and then get disappointed when your shop isn’t immediately super big in sales. Just start with a few interesting items that can stand out in the crowd, and see how it evolves. In the beginning I also wanted it all fast, but soon I realized that it’s nicer to have your business growing slowly, so that you can see what it all means and keep up with it in a good way. Having an Etsy shop isn’t just “playing shop,” it can be a lot of work and it brings responsibilities and sometimes worries. It’s good to be aware of that and take one step at a time.
Try to be original and don’t steal other people’s ideas: that’s so boring! It’s the creativity and originality that make Etsy such an attractive place. Make sure you offer something that people can only buy with you, and not for $1 less or more with tens of other sellers.
And also: try to keep the fun alive! People may contact you about wholesale or making similar items that you’ve already made over and over again, and that may be nice, but it can also make you feel like becoming a little factory instead of an artist. So don’t do things because you feel flattered or feel that you have to, you’re the one in charge in your own shop! (and I know it can be hard to say no! ;))
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I really like the Treasuries, they always lead me to lots of new discoveries. I also really like browsing through the gift guides. When I started selling on Etsy the whole place was a mystery to me (people sent me those emails “you’re in my Treasury,” and I answered “well, thanks!’” but I had no idea what a treasury was!), and I keep discovering new tools and sources of information, which is great.
It would be useful, especially for Europeans like me, to have a simple currency converting tool on Etsy, or the possibility to show prices in a few different currencies. In general, I think Etsy is pretty USA-orientated and though that usually doesn’t bother me at all, I think it would be great if people in Europe would also get to know Etsy a bit better. So maybe a big press campaign wouldn’t hurt?
Oh, and it would also be great if the listing procedures were somehow made a bit faster, or if it were possible to create some easily-adjustable listing profiles.
How do you promote your work?
I’m a fan of the probably rather naive thought that a good product sells itself… Combined with nice and creative product photography so that people get a happy feeling when looking at it. I have a blog that’s a bit about my work, but it also covers a lot of other subjects, like art, craft, travel and (interior) design. I hope that readers who like visiting my blog will also spread the word a bit about my work if they like it, and so far they’ve done so many times, so I’m lucky they do a bit of my promotion ;).
I think my work isn’t super middle of the road: it’s pretty specific, and not everyone will buy ceramics online easily. So I prefer a slow but steady and organic growth above quick and aggressive promotion campaigns. I’ve been lucky to get a lot of attention from national and international magazines lately, so that has also been helpful. But I don’t like to push things, that just doesn’t feel right for the kind of things I make. I prefer to make nice things above spamming everyone that they have to buy or feature my stuff… I’m sure it all comes at it’s own pace.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Can be anything, as long as I feel satisfied with it. I really don’t have a master plan or all kinds of goals. But I hope to be calm & comfortable, and of course still creative in some sort of way… (though it may be in a completely different area)
Photo Credit: Photographed by Caroline Coehorst, styled by Anne-Marie Rem.