Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Yellena James. I am 29 years old and I’m currently living on the Central Oregon Coast with my super-talented musician husband and two cats, Masha (good kitty) & Fisher (bad kitty). I was born in Sarajevo and lived there until the end of the civil war, in 1995. During the war, I had to sneak past numerous snipers to attend a high-school that was dedicated to the arts. That’s where I really grew passionate about my own art. The school had electricity most of the time, which meant heat and music, and similar-minded people who just wanted to create and get away from the horrible outside world. After moving to the US (via Orlando, FL), I received a BA in graphic- design from UCF and eventually made my way to the West coast en route to New York city.
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
When I was 7 years old, I was in a city-wide competition to do a drawing that had a “21st-century” theme. I drew a bunch of robots wearing aprons & baking cookies. I wish I still had that drawing. It took 2nd.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I think that my works come from a desire to put something in front of myself that I would really want to look at later. Inspiration is everywhere: the works of other artists, books, design blogs, catalogs, my husband, my sister (danca.etsy.com), my friends, vintage patterns, fine-point pens, velvet paper, felt, deep-sea creatures, Julie Mehretu, music, cacti, moss, wallpaper, micro-cosmos, macro- cosmos, pebbles, plants, animals, the universe… that’s about it. =)
What are your favorite materials?
Pens, inks, markers, good-quality paper. I also love to work with acrylics. I could spend hours in an art-supply store, just touching EVERYTHING.
What have been the most valuable lessons learned from other artists on Etsy?
Well, I joined Etsy in February and spent two or three months just roaming the halls before finally posting my first piece on the night of May 6th. The forums are full of facts and opinions – all of which are valuable in some way. I find that the vast majority of etsy sellers give freely and are very helpful towards “newbies.”
Why should people buy handmade?
It’s the thought that counts. You can feel the love one has for his/ her craft through their product. Plus, no middlemen. Every package I’ve received from an Etsy seller has felt like a gift to me.
What features/services would you most like to see on Etsy?
I really love Etsy the way it is, It’s so well designed and well thought out. It surprises me every day. Pure masterpiece.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
When I am not in my studio, I am either on my way to the post-office, coming back from the post-office, eating, sleeping, reading, hiking, and/or hanging out with my husband – watching movies (mostly documentaries), yelling at Fisher or teaching Masha new tricks. Honestly, the big reason my husband and I moved to a small town on the Oregon coast is so that we can both focus on our work. We spend most of our time in our respective studios.
Read any good books lately?
I think the last good book I read was The Turning Point by April Kingsley. It’s a great collection of interviews and insights by Abstract Expressionists on how the whole movement got started back in the 1950’s. The more I read about them, the more I felt connected to their work. I particularly enjoyed Robert Motherwell’s interview. Very inspiring.
In ten years I’d like to be…
… in Brooklyn. I love Etsy! =)