Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Jen Bennett Gubicza and I am 26 years old. I live in Salem, MA with my husband, who is a very talented illustrator. I like to think of myself as someone who is happiest when things are busy. My husband says I’m a “workaholic,” but he is very understanding and often encourages it!
In 2001, I graduated with a BFA in graphic design from the Maryland Institute College of Art. I was fortunate enough to study under Ellen Lupton, who was a mentor, is an inspiration and has become a friend.
I’ve known exactly what I wanted to do for a very long time. When I was in high school, I was able to work as an intern for Big Blue Dot: a studio specializing in strategic thinking and design for companies who are devoted to kids. I got to work on great projects for well-known clients and have fun doing it! Now that I have graduated from college, I work at BBD full-time. In addition, I teach typography 2 nights a week at the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University in the fall and spring semesters.
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
I’m sure there were others, but I remember helping my mom make a stuffed pillow-type cat for the new baby who lived across the street. I remember the texture of the blue terrycloth, and I also remember the large, ribbon bow-tie attached to the bottom. I think he had light yellow on the insides of his ears. I also used to draw a lot. All over the walls, too. I remember that I had a little pink desk that I used to draw on instead of paper. My mom would encourage me to clean off the crayon, but once it was clean, I’d draw all over it again.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
My husband: He has a fantastic color and design sense. We have a new collaborative collection coming out shortly. My stuffed animal versions of monsters he has drawn. It’s fun bouncing ideas off of each other. He was also the reason I made my first fat creation. He did a drawing of a bird that was so fat he couldn’t fly. He needed to be suspended by a rope! I made him “yellow bird” for his birthday about 4 years ago.
My design work: Package design helps me to visualize how something will look in a flat pattern and also in 3D. Also, working in the kids’ market brings me inspiration every day!
Trips to the zoo: I try to imagine how to transform all of the real, exotic animals into patterns for new, fat, stuffed animals.
Toys: I have a pretty good toy collection. I love toys and toy packaging. It’s like candy – all the bright, shiny things to look at!
What are your favorite materials?
Any fabric that doesn’t fray! I mostly use faux suede and fleece. I also love working with vintage Japanese kimono fabric. It’s very delicate, but I could be absorbed in the patterns and colors forever! Such beauty and detail!
What is your favorite color?
Blue. It can be calm or exciting, but always a pleasure to look at.
Any tips on selling handmade stuff?
Get some business cards with photographs of your products on them. You’ll be surprised at how many people you meet who would like a card. It’s an instant advertisement and showcases your work in a portable way.
At craft fairs, have a binder/book with your portfolio of work. Obviously, you can’t bring everything, but people like to look at past work and they may be inspired to order custom work.
Create a web site. I don’t update mine as often as I should, but I have things up there for others to see. The more avenues people have to access your Etsy store, the better.
Wear handmade goods. Most handmade goods are unique and eye-catching. I’ve given out loads of cards to people who have complimented my bag/wallet/earrings, etc. and asked me where I got them. I tell them Etsy.com, the person who made the item, and hand them one of my cards so they don’t forget to visit.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I like going for walks outside. There’s a beautiful quarry not too far from where I live that is gorgeous and peaceful. Walden Pond is another lovely spot to go walking. I love seeing animals of all sorts, so I’m always up for a trip to the zoo. Of course, watching bad movies is fun, and reading is another pleasure of mine that I don’t do enough of.
How can Etsy be improved? Any feature requests?
Categories within shops, shopping cart, shipping calculator. All of these have been said before, and I know they are coming! But, since you asked…