Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello, it is nice to meet you! My name is Leila Marvel. I’m from the first state and live with my amazing husband, Bruce, and our little devil of a cat, Randall Flagg. I am quite an odd character: shy at first, I eventually open up and reveal my goofy side. I am drawn to Victorian pastimes and have hobbies such as frequenting overgrown cemeteries and watching war documentaries. I love the eeriness of a piano being tuned and enjoy the finer things in life like jumping on the bed.
I lived in Brooklyn during my quest in art school, later moving to Queens after earning my bachelor’s degree in Visual Communications at Pratt Institute. I have since returned to my hometown in the pursuit of a smaller, intimate life, though I still visit my old stomping ground for Grace’s Chinese food while I mull over silly memories of art school and dreams of making it in the design world.
I am an avid collector of antiquarian anatomy books and Catholic reliquaries. The human body is truly an inspiration in my work, the heart especially; I believe it is a powerful, eternal machine that goes beyond our blood and connects us, human-to-human. I am a strong believer in protective talismans as a guide in life and a cross can be found in each room of my home, protecting every doorway. Since I was a child, I’ve also had a curiosity with the supernatural. Though I am slowly realizing I am not meant to answer the questions of the spiritual world, I still know there are powers of good and evil. I often ponder on the answers I seek and incorporate my fascinations into my own art.
Things that make me smile: my cotton candy pink studio, cramped nooks, tattoos, Shakespeare, friends and family, other artists, sushi and bad ’80s horror flicks.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
During the day, I work my gears as a full-time designer at a rather small advertising and branding agency. I’ve been there five years and I’m truly happy I made the change from the Big Apple to a smaller city. When I have time, I love to do freelance work for many artist friends and folks in the Etsy community.
My true obsession is treasure hunting at flea markets or the cramped spaces of estate sales and antique stores. What truly gets me worked up is the mystery. When I find IT, all my senses are intrigued. I suppose it started from going to yard sales with my mom as a little girl and visits to my grandmother’s haunted third floor. I would open drawers and dusty hatboxes to find beautiful vintage lingerie and handwritten letters, often wondering the journeys they’ve traveled and the skin they’ve touched.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I believe it is in my blood. I was always very creative as a child. I remember my grandmother hanging my drawings in the kitchen from a string with clothespins and I thought it was the coolest thing. I always admired my mother’s whimsical ink drawings and knew I wanted to be an artist of some kind. Growing up, I wanted to be an interior designer, a chef, a poet, a vampire and horticulturist; it wasn’t until my late teens that I took the path of graphic design.
Creating is a passion of mine; I don’t think I could live without expressing it in some way. I’ve always been quite the imaginatarian, spinning webs of nightmares with the twinkle of happiness into both writing and art. Death has also made an appearance in my recent life, which has dramatically inspired me to paint well past my mourning stages. Over the years, my collections have morphed into assemblage art, later developing into eco-friendly jewelry.
Please describe your creative process.
Since my schedule is all kinds of bazurk, I plan for Sundays when I venture up to my pop’s old house in Pennsylvania. I spend the afternoon dancing with my vintage pieces and painting by the daylight. I love reconstruction and almost never sketch. I feel the pieces call to each other as my hands work in a rhythmic dance, eventually renewing timeless companions together.
My jewelry inspiration comes from life experiences, spirituality and my latest obsession, the art of war. Every story comes with each footstep, and an object carries forth a piece of history. This is one of my objectives within my own art, to tell a story. I’ve been creating my own war ensembles, military-inspired jewelry that reaps my fascination to such personal stories of battle, brotherhood and the hardship of history.
My process of painting is compelled by the soul even before the brush is romanced. Like the Victorians, I believe that a photograph can be cherished as a memento of the dead and a reminder that life is fragile. The faces are often painted in a somber state and they are dolled in dark attire, ready for what I like to call the Black Parade: a celebration and reminder of death. Some of my paintings also explore oddities of the sideshow world. I love to complete each portrait with a name and short story about each character within the Skeleton Krew Collection.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Two things come to mind; one is my Addams Family lunch box that contains every handwritten letter my husband and I that we passed between the halls of high school. The other is my very first rosary, which was a gift from my mother that was handed down from her mother.
Name your top five books, movies, musicians, and websites besides Etsy.
Well, I am known around my house for not finishing books. I believe I am in the process of four or five.
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King (I have yet to finish, two more to go!)
Preacher series by Garth Ennis
Lord of the Flies
The Basketball Diaries
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Strive for it, pray for it and have the passion! Do what you love; often, it is the inspiration and goals that keeps me pushing forward. Put your blood, sweat and tears into what you do. It is important to show that you honor your work! Have good craftsmanship, deliver excellent customer service and commit to it. Keep your look cohesive, from your shop banner down to the photos. The little things are important as well. I love to send a personal thank you note and take time to package my product well.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
One of my favorite features is the Treasury. It’s nice to see fresh items and themed collections, and it is an ever-changing way to see beautiful shops. I also heart Favorites, which is my little closet of goodies I covet. I cannot forget the Forums, which are like a big comfort nest filled with positive support.
In the future, I would love to see the Favorites section evolve into custom categories. It would be super rad to also see gift registries, since my hubby says I am hard to shop for.
When I do wear jewelry, I love to wear my own. It’s free advertising and often stirs up a conversation about my shop. Personally, I wish I had more time to promote, but one of the easiest ways to do so is on my Facebook fan page and blog.
I recently started doing craft shows and consigning to smaller boutiques, so that is a great way to get your name and product out there. Every year, I like to donate a few of my items to a local charity as well.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
I would like to be a mother, as it is a dream and fear of mine, but I know it will be the most beautiful creation of them all. I would love to create jewelry full-time and still do smaller freelance projects on the side. Overall, I am eager to see where the future takes me and what new chapters will begin.