Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Rowena and I’m writing to you from Bristol, England – home of trip-hop (Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead), Banksy, and a mighty fine suspension bridge. I live with my boyfriend Robbie, in a rambling Victorian house that we bought back in the days of yore when banks would happily lend mortgages to sketchy cases like us. We share our home with a various assortments of critters that wander in when we leave the front door open (hedgehogs, spiders, cats, musicians…..)
I was born and brought up in Somerset in an old mill house, surrounded by woods and garden and lovely green stuff and then I moved up to Scotland to study printed textiles at Edinburgh College of Art. After graduation I took a detour from textiles and have spent the last ten years self-employed, building up a collage/montage illustration career, firstly in Scotland and then here in Bristol. Red Ruby Rose is a fairly new venture for me… it’s the result of my yearning for a more tactile process away from my increasingly digital illustration working methods. I started making these clutches for fun and haven’t stopped.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I front an indie-pop band called Santa Dog. The group has been together several years now, our debut album came out last year on lovely Japanese label Quince and our third single is out next month. It certainly gets us out of the house – we’ve gigged in Canada, France, Austria, Belgium and Italy. This has resulted in various tales and events, ranging from a speedboat ride across Venice (with bandmates, guitars and musical gear balanced perilously on the back of the boat) to a late night visit to A&E in Hamilton Ontario and a dubious pizza in an Austrian ‘adult’ cinema.
What first made you want to become an artist?
Probably because I’m completely and hopelessly unemployable. I grew up in a creative environment – my mum’s an artist and my dad walked out of his office job to become a self-employed printer when I was 11. He knew nothing about printing at the time but set up a one man business in the house which he still does to this day… that risk-taking obviously influenced me. 9-5 was never a viable option…. I did a few temping jobs when I was particularly skint after college and it spurred me on to never go near an office again.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
Currently my day is Etsy-orientated. I get up when I wake up and spend the morning catching up with messages and making clutches, the afternoon packaging, posting and photographing and the evenings fitting in all the other stuff. I scour the internet for beautiful fabrics, and find myself plundering my own illustration and photography for new fabric designs. I also find time to complete illustration commissions and of course gig/rehearse with the band. This often means working late into the night….my social life has taken a serious nose-dive this year.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I couldn’t choose just one….. thanks to some wonderful trades on Etsy I have a beautiful starfish from Sugarsusan, bespoke earrings from lake and a stunning polaroid print from Tiffanyteske to mention just three of many lovely things. I also seriously covet owning an oktak purse, a rubyslounge deer,a bonspiel creation, a moxieandoliver bag, a pogoshop pogo and a luxedeluxe necklace.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
Possession – AS Byatt
All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
The Land of Green Ginger – Noel Langley
Manxmouse – Paul Gallico
The Forest of Boland Light Railway (Wizard of Boland) by BB
Some Like It Hot
Breakfast at Tiffanys
The Wizard of Oz
The Odd Couple
Music: This was so hard to choose… forgive me for the cheeky 5th choice under such luminaries 🙂
Ebay – for unusual fabric
Myspace – for connecting with bands
Choke – for Bristol band info and general belly-aching about life and ‘the scene’ (adult content)
Indie-pop rocks on Soma FM – amazing music lists, love this station
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
It’s a steep learning curve so there’s no need to rush….it takes a bit of time to soak up the Etsy atmosphere and to understand the site functionality. I found it helps to become a buyer first to see how the transaction works from the other side so then you can treat buyers as you’d like to be treated yourself.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
The treasury and the brilliant way it feeds the front page. Pounce is great and time machine too. I’m also a fan of the forums in limited doses (I peer over the edge and try not to fall into the rabbit hole). Often I’ll dip into chat, especially Friday evening to catch up with UK Etsians and I like ferreting through peoples favourites…. the best way of finding eclectic selections of shops.
As for new features, I’m not losing sleep over some of the biggies… of course stats would be nice, plus convos into folders and an overhaul of the search system. One little thing – I’d love is to be able to delete and upload photos in one click rather than one by one when I’m editing listings as a lot of my items are one offs and need new photos on relist.
How do you promote your work?
As well as Red Ruby Rose I have my alternative photography work at polaroidsandpinholes.etsy.com. I started both shops in January this year and initially I only promoted the photography shop, contacting blogs etc. The photography took off well to begin with and then Red Ruby Rose got busier and busier and I couldn’t work out why, as I wasn’t promoting it at all, I was just making and listing, making and listing. Then the penny dropped. I enjoy making the clutches more than selling photography prints…. there was somehow more life and passion in Red Ruby Rose and I don’t know how but word got out without me doing any promotion at all. I was very lucky to be featured in some lovely blogs and then it just took over and I surrendered my life to Etsy! In the last couple of months I have started to promote with blogs but I’m lucky to have repeat customers and word of mouth is important to me.
In ten years I’d like to be…
As happy as I am now.