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Featured Shop: Modernist Cat

Jul 31, 2013

by Crystal Gregory

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Hello! My name is Crystal Gregory, and I design and manufacture a unique line of modern litter box covers and dual-purpose pet furniture for my shop, Modernist Cat. Originally from Vancouver, British Columbia, I now live in Seattle, Washington with my husband Gavin, our two Canadian hairless cats, Jackson and Elliott, and our Italian Greyhounds, Lusi and Linus. Our four-legged kids are a huge inspiration for all of my products.

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I have always known that I would be a working artist, but my focus on pet furniture design was a complete surprise. After getting a BFA in mixed media and an MFA in photography, my husband and I purchased our first home, a 1950s style ranch house. A lot of work needed to be done, and with only 950 square feet to work with, we were conscious of every design decision. There was absolutely nowhere to hide our cat’s litter box. I couldn’t find anything out there to blend with our collection of mid-century modern pieces and knew that I had to come up with a solution, so I did!

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With no formal training in design, I was naturally influenced by my pets, my home, and my love for design icons Charles and Ray Eames, Paul McCobb and Finn Juhl. The understated elegance of mid-century modern design exemplified the style I wanted to infuse into my line of pet furniture. Since we live in a space where every square foot counts, my pet furniture couldn’t just sit there and be beautiful: it had to be clever and do double duty.

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Designing a pet-friendly home quickly became a passion of mine. I’m constantly trying to come up with new ways to incorporate elements into modern spaces that accommodate cats’ and dogs’ natural instincts without being an eyesore. Ironically, that’s how my creative process usually begins: by me stumbling across an ugly piece of pet furniture and thinking, “How I can make this better, more functional, more pet friendly, more design conscious?” I can spend weeks — even months— brainstorming ideas before making prototypes, sourcing materials, and settling on a finished design.

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Once a design is complete, it’s time for my four-legged kids to join in the fun. Photographing them can be a challenge, but it’s so rewarding when I get the shots that I want. Plus, taking my own images enables me to incorporate my love for animals and photography, so I get a ton of satisfaction in it. Next, it’s a matter of sourcing packaging and writing copy for my listings. A lot of time and effort goes into each product before finally getting it up for sale. Then the real work begins: handcrafting each made-to-order item. I take pride in the fact that each of my furniture pieces starts off as a spark of an idea and evolve into a finished product that people — and pets – can admire and enjoy.

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Taking on so many roles — from designer, photographer, and maker to shipper and accountant — constantly pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to face new challenges head-on. Most importantly, it has taught me to appreciate my success, which gives me the confidence to keep creating and growing my business.

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I never could have imagined when I opened my Etsy shop three years ago that it would become such an asset. It’s been the ideal platform for developing my brand, while providing access to a global marketplace. Etsy has connected me with so many amazing people who appreciate owning products that are sustainably sourced and handmade, and their feedback and support has been essential to my shop’s success. I’m excited to see what the future (and Etsy!) has in store for Modernist Cat.

Final two photos by Kirstie Tweed, all others by Modernist Cat.

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