Tell us a bit about yourself.
.tomate d’épingles. is a sister act, featuring Guylaine and Isabelle. We live in Québec city, Canada. We are self-taught jewelers, who share a love for all things shinny, and fashion!
.tomate d’épingles. literally means “tomato pincushion”; it’s a pun, in French, because the word pincushion (pelotte) and the word tomato (tomate) kind of sound alike. Our first jewelry items where all made out of buttons and sewing notions, so the pincushion felt just right.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
We both work in libraries.
Guylaine writes poetry and also paints.
Isabelle plays the cello and makes black and white photography. (or isn’t that all still being creative?)
Guylaine studied literature, and Isabelle fine arts.
We like going out to see our friends play music, laughing, and thrifting tiny objects. We are both very eco conscious, and it shows in all aspects of our lives.
What first made you want to become an artist?
Our mother encouraged us to do all forms of arts, when we where kids. She was a very crafty woman herself, knitting, sewing, creating fabric and cardboard doll houses, making salty play dough we would love to eat almost as much as we would love to sculpt… We still continue to enjoy arts and crafts as a family activity with our mom, but we don’t eat play dough anymore.
We both where attracted to different aspects of arts; Isabelle was always more visual, with sculptures, pictures, and her fine arts studies, while Guylaine was the reader and the writer… and quite a dancer! Art has always been a part of our lives, so we never really “became” artists, it’s just our way of expressing ourselves.
Please describe your creative process (how, when, materials, etc).
Guylaine loves to think, think and think some more. Then, almost always in the middle of the night, it hits her, and that’s where it all begins. She goes out and scavenges all sorts of bits and baubles that inspire her. And then she thinks about it some more, while she is sorting all her treasures by shape, color, size – she’s an organized pack rat.
For Isabelle, it’s mostly textures who talk to her. She often gets ideas just before falling asleep and sometimes when creating a model, she gets new ideas. She is known for her famous glue explosions and bleeding fingertips. She never comes out of it without a band-aid, or something permanently stuck to her living room table.
When we both use the same materials, the final result is never the same. We inspire each other that way.
We both love to use recycled or reclaimed materials, not only for eco reasons, but the aesthetics of it also attracts us.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
We both own handmade quilts our grand-mother, great aunt and mother knitted. They are made out of multi-colored squares, the center being crocheted flowers our grand-mother made, then the outer squares our great aunt, then our mother… in chronological order of generations. Guylaine is desperately trying to learn to knit herself, so she can add a few squares to the quilts. (So far, all she can do is knots and holes.) Isabelle finds it fitting that the knitted squares became her bed cover, because she remembers vividly that our grand-mother was actually able to knit… while she was sleeping!
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites (besides Etsy).
William S. Burroughs
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Lucia Lucia, La Hija Del Canibal
Being John Malkovich
and any Woody Allen movie
(swedish) Death Polka
Nils Petter Molvaer
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What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Have fun! Anytime we start being stressed out or feeling overwhelmed, we stop and think: “We must be doing something wrong, ‘cause this is supposed to be fun!”
Good pictures are almost as important as your items. We are constantly trying to make our pictures even better. Nice packaging also goes a long way.
Don’t get discouraged if some months, sales are slow. Just try new ways to promote. Use the “down time” to create new items, or try a new craft. Create a blog, read a book, go for a walk. We try to enjoy every moment!
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
Etsy rocks! It’s fantastic in many ways, especially the community aspect of it. We love the Storke, the forums, the chat, the Etsy Street Teams… anything that can help us communicate with other Etsy artisans. We made several dear friends on Etsy, through those tools.
We also love the fact that we can shop locally (Geolocator and Shop Local), which is great for us since, in addition to buying handmade from small businesses and talented artisans, we are always looking for ways to reduce our eco footprint.
Since we both work in libraries and spend all our days searching for stuff or sorting stuff, we would love to see more advanced search options, and we would love to be able to sort or shuffle our favorites…
How do you promote your work?
We mainly promote our store through Etsy itself, by being active members in the community. We also have a blog, we send out newsletters, have some items in consignment across America, and we participate in craft fairs. Word of mouth is a powerful tool as well.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Owning our own workshop / brick and mortar store and being full time artists.
But whatever we do, we’d like to keep enjoying every moment!
Thank you so much, Etsy! Merci!