Jen lives in Ottawa, Canada where she handcrafts modern organic kids’ gear and decor for SewnNatural, the shop she shares with her mother. In the fleeting spaces in between mothering, she shares musings, recipes and eco-living tips on her blog, the SewnNatural studio. She is also a member of the Artisans Gallery Etsy Team.
When I look around at the gifts I give and receive, the clothes my family wears, the art on our walls, the dolls I offer my child, I know who made every bit of it and where it all comes from. I’ll pay for that knowledge. And I’m not alone. Our growing hunger for connecting with people is reflected in the popularity of farmer’s markets and purveyors of carefully made food. Call it conscious consumerism, call it locavorism, call it the handmade movement. Many people are now searching for community through interactions with craftspeople and artisan producers.
Photo by SewnNatural
Etsy’s new, curated Artisans Gallery team is full of makers from around the globe who promote and embody these goals in their work. These artists work by hand; they only use commercially made, mass produced components if the end product is a unique artisan design, and a distinct style can be seen in the body of work. If they use industrial machinery, their pieces must have significant individual alterations. 90% or more of the hands-on work must be contributed by the shop owner. There is a genuine connection to a single pair of hands, to a single creative spirit.
As team member Daria from LaLaShoes said, “things made by hand, with a lot of thought and care, are special and irreplaceable. The energy and emotions they carry can’t be put there by a factory machine or an assembly line. That includes the little imperfections that make them so unique. I usually think of factory-made things as inanimate, and of the handmade things as alive. I simply believe well-made handmade things can bring much more joy to the people that will use them, as they do for those who make them.”
In that spirit, let’s take a studio tour with members of the Artisans Gallery team to tell some of the stories behind the artisanal work we see on Etsy.
Victoria, the painter behind Furiousdreams, has been painting for 30 years and working primarily on landscapes for the last decade. “Color is as important to me as form. My work often represents animistic principles in terms of a collusion between nature and innermost emotions. I want to provoke both political and apolitical metaphors; place as a public and personal responsibility, and its abstraction in memento. How do I work? Usually quickly once an idea or inspiration hits. I’ve learned to come back to the work over time and finish after long review. Not every painting is an initial success, but the point is to keep working.”
Maria of mariagotijoyas has been creating with her hands since she was a child. “Trying new techniques, improvising and experimenting with metals and materials are what I like most. Especially making one of a kind jewels. Everything I create starts with melting silver.”
“Then I cut, saw, file, polish, transform and weld the metals to obtain the piece I have in my mind. Last year I moved to a new studio, a place where I have all my tools, machinery and the materials I need for my working process. Until the move I had everything in a little messy room in my house.”
For Lee, team founder and the potter behind OneClayBead, pottery is like meditation. You have to be completely in the moment to throw. Hand building and sculpting also demand a fierce concentration. “I am not so much making something in clay as watching it emerge. There is nothing else quite like it. When I was starting out, another potter told me that first you try to center the clay but then you realize that the clay will center you. I found this to be true. No matter how perfectly a machine makes pottery, it will never make a centered person. I think often of the long history that is told through pottery shards, and I imagine what my work might say to people living 5,000 years from now. I hope that it tells a story of the time when we humans evolved better and more sustainable ways to live on the planet.”
Paula of PaulaArt is inspired by objects that are lost, tossed and forgotten. “I find working with what most people would consider ‘trash’ challenging and fulfilling. There is nothing quite like finding unique objects that have been weathered and beaten up by life and creating functional art from it. My process seems to happen in the moment; when I hold an object and place it with other pieces I start to get a feel for what is possible, what belongs where and ultimately how I will put it together. It feels magical when it comes together!”
For Daria of LaLaShoes, designing and producing something with your hands is the best feeling in the world. “I need for my designs to take life under my hands. I need to put some of my physical energy into them. It’s more like an energy loop than a straight line from A to B. Apart from being very rational and mathematical, I’m too passionate to send my designs to a factory to be made. I’m a selfish designer — I want to keep for myself that feeling of bringing a project to life. All this made me decide not to become an industry designer.”
Roxana is the artist behind IlluminatedPerfume, a line derived from tree resins, leaves, spices, flower petals, sacred woods, citrus peels and more. “This is a tradition that goes back to antiquity — when fragrances were created by hand, in small batches and the plant materials used were like precious gem stones. As an artist the story I am most interested in telling is the vital interconnection between humans and the plant kingdom. My canvas is the skin of the individual who chooses to adorn him or herself.”
Thongbai of ThongbaiTatong works full time in a home studio that houses a fabric addiction — more than one thousand meters in total. “When I am inspired by something or someone, I know exactly which fabrics I am going to use for my next piece. I let my imagination lead me to where and how I want each piece of my work to end.”
Jetty of JKphotography experiments with layers of painted backgrounds, cross processing and ink on negatives. “I try to touch a mood with delicacy. My process can be very diverse. I enjoy the road to the final image, if there is ever a final image.”
Jewelry designer Jean of 3squares left a very stressful job a couple of years ago to focus on her passion. “I love what I do, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Some days I struggle, just like everyone else. But an encouraging word goes a long way. I recently received this note out of the blue from a seller I had never met. It was titled ‘I’m a fan.’ He wrote, ‘I had to go beyond clicking the little heart to say your work is inspiring. The mixed media textures, the use of negative space, and the themes you play with and finesse across your line… You make art, and I needed to tell you that I really, really like it. High five.'”
Rose, the artist behind Waterrose, loves hand embroidery and creates both traditional and “indie” work. “Both styles help to stretch my skill. I think about the wonderful embroidery of all those women and men who have gone before me. It feels like reaching back and speaking the same language. I also think about my pieces lasting into the future and the impact of my creations.”
Schemata‘s Sarah has been hand painting one of a kind holiday ornaments for about four years. She spent her first year finding the right combination of materials and developing her techniques. “Since then it’s become a wonderfully playful process that I look forward to in my studio. My process is very organic, with much of the design and patterns happening on their own. I have control of the palette of colors, but the actual design they make is created through the drying process. For me that level of surprise is exciting.”
Silvia, the knitting artist behind Silvia66, finds it hard to describe how much she loves to knit. “I have walls full of sketches, my cabinets are packed with yarn and the shelves are full of magazines and books about knitting in many languages. When I’m not actually knitting, I’m reading or thinking about knitting. I must confess, I am a knitting addict.”
Thanks so much to Jen and the Artisans Gallery Team for letting us into their studios! It’s always so interesting to see where and how people make their work. You can open the door to your studio by sharing photos on our Flickr pool, Etsy Open Studios.