Shop Etsy

Featured Seller: toybreaker

May 26, 2008

by toybreaker

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Bethany Shorb, I’m a 32 year old designer and sole-proprietor of the Cyberoptix TieLab Studio, located on the second floor of an old furniture factory in downtown Detroit, Michigan. I’m originally from the East coast (Connecticut/Boston) but moved to the Detroit area nine years ago to attend Cranbrook Academy of Art for graduate school. I received my BFA from Boston University and my MFA from Cranbrook, both in sculpture with concentrations in photography. I love bacon, artisan cheeses, raw fish and Spanish red wine. I spend most of my time screen printing, photographing a bevy of terrifyingly beautiful male models and playing other people’s music.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

The TieLab is my full time job, so that takes up the vast majority of my time. My nighttime alter-ego (Toybreaker/Dethlab) can be found out and about playing electronic music – we were fortunate to play at the Guggenheim Museum last year and have lots of events lined up for this summer. I’ve made circuit-bent music for years but my fiance and I have been focusing any of our free time on our dj gigs around the US and Canada. Although I’m classically trained in the visual arts, playing music is a huge passion, I just wished I listened to my mom when I was little and took keyboard lessons!

What first made you want to become an artist?

I always knew it was what I wanted to be, and thankfully my family supported my decision. I have fond memories of rolling a color print developing tank in my dad’s darkroom (aka the annexed kitchen) when I was a tiny little kid.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.

I only work with my own original illustrations now – I had started out with found Victorian images but grew bored with working with imagery that wasn’t exclusively mine. I’m inspired by curiosity cabinets, medical anomalies, subtly subversive political humor and bad puns.

Each tie is hand-screen printed one at a time with ink and a squeegee, no press or other equipment. Although far more time-consuming and far less cost-effective, I only use nontoxic, water-based ink rather than Plastisols and am a 100% solvent-free shop. Above all, I am committed to responsible design practices – it is not a trend in fashion, it is a a duty within effective design and day-to-day business operations. While I still use synthetic fibers in many of the ties to suit my vegan clientèle, I am committed to being as environmentally responsible as possible in all of my printing and related manufacturing processes. In the garment industry, screen printing is notoriously environmentally unfriendly. I want to do what I can within my means, re-thinking tired industry standards to make the trade better.

My packaging papers and tissues are made from 100% post-consumer fibers, the protective plastic for mailing orders is also recycled; by using packaging that is attractive, I like to further encourage our customers to re-use it. The new line of silk scarves are woven by Fair-Trade practices and I enjoy repurposing locally obtained antique objects for adornments (see the Escape Artist tie with the vintage skeleton key).

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

My engagement ring – it was co-designed and fabricated by my fiance and a very talented jeweler friend. They very thoughtfully placed the diamond in a non-traditional manner as I’m apt to break absolutely anything from working with my hands.

Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.

I have to admit having precious little time to read much of anything in print anymore (reading and multi-tasking sadly don’t play well together), but I’m certainly a fan of dystopian sci-fi and other novels by Ballard. So instead I’m going to recommend one book recently finished in the airport; two more blogs and two incredible independent record labels:

Crash (J. G. Ballard)

murketing.com

core77.com

Ghostly International

Interdimensional Transmissions

Movies:

Blade Runner

Lunacy (Jan Švankmajer)

Brazil

Delicatessen

8 1/2 Women

…Plus anything directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, David Lynch, the Brothers Quay and of course all movies featuring Alan Cumming or Crispin Glover.

I’m a rabid consumer of music, the top five songs I’ve been playing out this month are:

The Reflecting Skin – Traffickers

Kiko – Slave of My Mind

Rude 66 – Strings of Death

Perspects – Autobody (Franz and Shape Remix)

Fairmont – Fade to Saturate

Sites:

beatport.com

flickr.com

burnlab.net

cbs.nu

coilhouse.net

What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?

Don’t get discouraged! I started off very slow and from a different world of running my own online shop. In slower months, build up your stock for busy, holiday times and work hard on your photographic presentation. Getting organized has been my biggest challenge and what I’ve been working on most as I grow.

What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?

I really enjoy Shop Local and Pounce – I don’t get to play with too many of the features, but I’ve grown to know some other artists and crafters in my area through those.

With my dj gigs I frequently travel on weekends, I would love to see a way to globally insert a quick message into each listing noting you are away until a certain date. I have frequent requests for expedited shipping and I find that people rarely read through the shop announcement or profile where I post my travel schedule.

How do you promote your work?

Mainly through design and lifestyle blogs and somewhat through social networking sites. I also try and keep my portfolio sites current (flickr, trunkt, coroflot, seeking designers, talent database, etc). I find that taking the time to present yourself well photographically is the best promotion in the world. I also enjoy well-placed gifts, I love putting ties around the throats of other dj’s, bands and pretty faces about town. Excellent customer service trumps the most expensive advertising.

In ten years I’d like to be…

Doing pretty much the same thing I do now, but in a perfect world I would really like to be able to have some of the studio duties somewhat more automated so I can afford the time to travel. Working for myself has been an incredible freedom but also means if I leave town, nothing gets done!

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