Tell us a bit about yourself.
My Name is Kim Brown-Dye. I am 33 years old & live/work in the footprint of a historical brick building in Oakland Chinatown, California with my hubby of 7 years, my cat, Boudicca & a few friendly ghosts.
I am a vagabond at heart & am happiest when traveling. I adore road trips, but I don’t drive.
I love the smell of fresh cut grass & laundry mats, but I hate mowing the lawn & doing laundry.
I fancy myself a bit of a psychic/empath, but no one believes me.
I have an unnerving knowledge of antiques & collectibles which is the envy of my friends while watching the Antique Road Show.
If I wasn’t a milliner, I would seek a Masters Degree in Museum Curating or Archaeology…
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I am a huuuuuuuge flea market/estate sale junkie and so can be found most weekends foraging for old bits of lace, forgotten photos, vintage costumes, folk art, and other things with a soul & a past. I am also a history nerd I spend a lot of time in the history wings of the Oakland Museum & Oakland Library which are in my hood.
Other than that, I watch A LOT of ghost/paranormal shows. Ghost Hunters, Most Haunted, Paranormal State, Psychic Detectives. I think this obsession with ghosts & the paranormal is somehow connected to my love of history. I’d like to think the past lives on in the form of ghostly apparitions, EVP’s & unexplainable bumps in the night.
Apart from treasure & arm chair ghost hunting, I also enjoy drinking a good ale in period costume, so if there is a Renaissance Festival or Dickens Faire with an ale stand – I am there, but I will not do the fake accent!
What first made you want to become an artist?
I come from a family of artists/crafts people. There were never idle hands in the Brown household, as we were constantly drawing, papier mache-ing, embroidering, latch hooking… My mom taught me how to machine sew the age of 9 on her 1920’s, straight-stitch-only Singer. My first project was a replica of the black & grey, bow-bedecked hat from Madonna’s Borderline video.
In 2000 I graduated with degree in Theatrical Design with an emphasis in props, mask & puppetry design. I also dabbled in costume design, but found sewing was too aggravating & not sculptural enough for me. Millinery was the perfect melding of costume design & sculpture & I fell head over heels in love with the craft.
After graduating, I found jobs in puppetry/millinery to be far & few in between & so I found work at a fabric store which led to a position as an operations manager in an interior design workroom in San Francisco. There I learned the in & outs of running a small business, but lost my creative soul. I figured if I couldn’t make a living creating, I wouldn’t create at all & I made nothing for 4 years.
Concerned, my hubby encouraged me to start my own business doing something creative (queue the awwwww) so on New Year’s Day 2007, I scribbled a business plan on the back of an envelope. In April of 2007 Topsy Turvy Design was up & running. I came to Etsy shortly thereafter & have been a working artist ever since.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
How – Copious amounts of Café Du Monde coffee.
When – I find I am most productive in the evenings & wee hours as my days are spent marketing, sourcing supplies & shipping.
Materials – All my hatties are built completely from scratch (see Handmade Portrait) using olde world buckram & wire frame construction & the yummiest of fabrics & fluff. I adore antique trimmings & feathers & will use the real deal whenever possible.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My mom’s hand sewn & embroidered crazy quilt from 1977. I will send a jpeg to anyone who wants to see it, because it should really be shared with the world!
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
Books – Growing up I was heavy into to bodice rippers & biographies (again history nerd). I don’t have time to read much these days, so my favs are mainly reference books…
– Treasury of American Design & Antiques – Hornung
– PT Barnum – Kunhardt
– Fairground Art – Weedon & Ward
– Magie Lumineuse – Remise
– 1908 Sears & Roebuck Catalogue
– I also love Found Magazine – pages 36 & 37 of issue #2 are my all time favorite finds.
Movies – Aack – so many, but these are the ones most often in my DVD player..
– Harold & Maude
– The Magic Toyshop
– Desperately Seeking Susan
– Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
– Black Adder box set
Music by Artist /Song
– Prince / “Take Me With You”
– Cat Stevens / “Wild World”
– The Specials / “Friday Night Saturday Morning”
– Max Raabe & His Palast Orchester / “Tainted Love”
– Hedwig & the Angry Inch Soundtrack / “Wicked Little Town”
– Cyndi Lauper / “Time After Time” & “She Bop” are tied
-666photography (now on Etsy!)– responsible for some of my most drool-inducing imagery
-avalon-rose-design – my wonderful web designer extraordinaire
-madametalbot (now on Etsy!) – a visual feast
-victoriana – everything you ever wanted to know about the Victorian era
-offbeatbride – terribly addictive
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
The more work you put in, the more returns you will see. If times are slow, make new product, improve upon your photos/descriptions & market your store outside of Etsy.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
It is not a feature, but rather a feeling. I love the sense of community here at Etsy. It is an incredibly rare & beautiful thing!
As far as new features, I would love a way to list tags more easily. Perhaps a copy tags option… I would also love to include personal photos in the profile section, as I adore seeing artists & their creative spaces.
How do you promote your work?
I am extremely fortunate to work with a phenomenal team of photographers, models & graphic/web designers. Presentation is everything in online business. Great product images & a quality product to back it up, will promote itself.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Celebrating my parent’s 45th wedding anniversary (today is their 35th) with my family, hubby, Boudicca & a couple of latch hooking progeny who we will name Luna & Park …
Check out the Handmade Video Portrait of Topsy Turvy Design and read the Storque article here!