Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Mai McKemy and I have the joy of living in the lovely Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina. My husband and I are relatively newly married and we both graduated from Appalachian State University. We have two silly cats who have more nicknames than we care to admit and our parents keep waiting for us to have a couple of “real” kids.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
As you may imagine, my husband and I are both huge nature nerds. We enjoy hiking, exploring, taking drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway, attempting to identify birds and trees and growing vegetables in our little garden bed.
I enjoy baking and cooking healthy recipes that actually taste edible and I will often turn to the kitchen when I need some “down time.” I have an appreciation for elderly people and the stories they tell about their lives and I cannot behold the sight of baby furry things without squealing like a three-year-old. (Google baby chinchillas and you will know what I mean.)
What first made you want to become an artist?
I believe the awkward circumstances of being a young social outcast led me to the art world. Art was a place of comfort that I could always turn to–a place where I could be myself freely, without judgment. If my peers were jeering and finding fault with me for any number of reasons, I could always silence them with drawings of horses or shaded bowls. I had many heroic art teachers who paved the way for me to adopt a creative life but I, like many other artists, was innately creative from the beginning. I think “the calling” chooses the artist; we can choose to pursue that calling in return, or ignore it, and settle for a far less interesting life.
Please describe your creative process.
My creative process begins, firstly, with an obsession with nature. While this is a heavily sourced muse for many artists, I enjoy attempting more difficult challenges with my designs that others wouldn’t ordinarily embrace. I thrive on the details. And I often pay for it, as many long late-night hours and an aching back usually prove. Even at a very young age, I was deeply inspired by miniatures—whether they were dollhouse scale or accessories to my favorite toys. I also find it important to avoid cliché representations of common motifs and instead, prefer to focus on conveying woodland themes in new ways.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My stepdad made me a tree stump table for Christmas. It’s beautiful; the rings on the surface glow under the resin coating. It has legs made of thick branches. He put a lot of time into it and I love it.
Name your top five books, movies, musicians, and websites besides Etsy.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Experiencing Father’s Embrace by Jack Frost
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson
Kare Kano Manga series by Masami Tsuda
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
First of all, believe that you have something unique to offer the world, then make the very best and most unique product that you can. It can be discouraging to try to get noticed in a vast sea of talent but have faith that you can make it happen! Being successful often has more to do with your attitude than your luck. For more of my advice to new sellers, see this Etsy article.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I love all of Etsy. I think Etsy is a marvelous place; the sheer creative energy to be found in such a place is, at times, purely baffling and awe-inspiring. I love how the designers here on Etsy are purveyors of the avant-garde; we are the trend makers–we have the power to directly shape the aesthetic world around us.
On a less philosophical note, I would love to see Etsy expand on Seller tools. I would appreciate the ability to utilize discount codes for our shops and would love a way to organize, search, and better filter our sold orders. Buyers should also be able to select shipping options and insurance coverage at checkout. I would also love the ability to place items in multiple categories. I’m looking forward to the changes that will allow buyers to complete payment for their purchases before items in our shops are marked as sold.
How do you promote your work?
Firstly, by making unique products and spending a lot of time attempting to perfect my photography. Great items will very nearly market themselves. I have seen even mediocre items that have fantastic photographs sell very well. If you spend time working on an interesting product that looks appealing, blogs and other publications will take note.
With that said, I often find it worthwhile to approach blogs with submissions, purchase online and print ad space, or participate in online curated galleries like PaperNStitch and Poppytalk. Social networking sites like Facebook, blogging, and Twitter, however, aren’t my thing.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
It goes without saying that I hope Woodland Belle will be flourishing more than ever but I hope I’ll be spending more of my time raising kids with my husband, laughing with old people, collecting cute, furry creatures and eating low-fat chocolate chip cookies on my front porch with a mountain view.