We are starting a new blog segment this year... Interviews with a Featured Artist of the Month. You may have noticed before that we have a widget on the sidebar that features the Etsy shop of our Featured Artist (the lucky RNEST member who comes to our monthly meeting and gets their name picked out of a hat)... but we wanted to do a little something more. So, now, to help you get to know our artists a little better, we will be posting an interview with our Featured Artist each month!
The artist whose name was picked out of the hat at February's meeting is Kira of KiraArts!
Business Name: KiraArts
Etsy Shop: http://kiraarts.etsy.com
Profession/Day Job: Housewife
Craft(s) of Choice: I sew plush monsters and other critters out of recycled clothing (socks and sweaters), fleece, felt, and pretty much any fabric I can get my hands on!
Where in/around Rochester do you live? I live in Lyndonville NY, which is actually an hour northwest of Rochester (between Rochester and Buffalo)... but RNEST is still kind enough to let me be a member!
Besides your main craft of choice, do you enjoy any other crafts? Drawing, painting, graphic design, photography, crochet, scrapbooking, general crafty crafts
Is there a craft you've always wanted to try, but never got around to learning? Jewelry-making. My high school offered a class, but my schedule was too full for me to take it. Also, I dabble in so many other crafts, that I feel like I just shouldn't add another one to the mix. Although I have been known to make simple necklaces for myself using “donut” stone beads and leather cord.
Did you go to art school or are you self taught? I took lots of art classes and painted a lot in high school. I studied graphic design in high school and college and have an associates degree for Visual Communications from Monroe Community College. I think it’s pretty amusing that my main craft that my Etsy shop is based on now is sewing plush toys. As far as sewing goes…I am self taught.
What’s your first craft-related memory? I drew a lot as a kid. I had an obsession with mice and I used to draw little mice in the margins of all my school papers in elementary school. But the ones on my math papers I drew with little frowny faces, because I didn’t like math!
How did you get started with Etsy? In late 2006, after discovering the book “Stupid Sock Creatures” by John Murphy, I started making “sock monsters” out of my worn-out toe socks (I had an obsession with toesocks at one time…for awhile I didn’t even wear “normal” socks. I’ve since grown up a little…but only a little!) I made the monsters for fun and would often hand sew them during church (since keeping my hands busy helped me pay attention). Many times, I would give the finished monsters away to the church kids. The kids’ moms all encouraged me to start selling my monsters and one day, my friend Amy told me about Etsy. In May of 2008, I finally built up the nerve to start an Etsy shop. And in December 2008, I did my first craft show.
In your creative life and work, of what accomplishment are you most proud ? The fact that I learned to use a sewing machine! I hand-sewed every part of my monsters in the beginning. When I wanted to start selling them, I knew I would need to start using a sewing machine in order to make production go faster and for the pieces to be more durable. My husband bought me a machine for Valentine’s Day. I was intimidated and terrified of the fast-moving needle at first, and had no idea how to re-thread the machine when I needed to change thread colors. But I’ve overcome all anxiety when it comes to the machine now and it is my most valuable tool.
In your creative life and work, what’s “the one that got away”? In high school, and even after high school, I wanted to be a painter and sell paintings. But I had a few issues. First of all, most of the paintings I would do tended to be deeply personal to me and I would have a hard time parting with them. Then there was the issue with not knowing how to price my work. I would see art pieces at craft shows, shops, or art galleries that were priced for hundreds or thousands of dollars. I couldn’t imagine who would buy a painting from me for $500 or more. Painting seemed like a more high-brow arm of the art world that I was too intimidated to get into.
What inspires you, or makes you want to go dashing off to craft? Wandering craft supply stores or reading craft blogs. Sometimes I’ll spend the day at my parents’ house while my husband and parents are at work, and I’ll take the time to catch up on reading the craft blogs I enjoy, and I end up wishing I was at home so I could dash up to my sewing machine and start making things!
What influences your creativity? I think the shows I watched as a kid (and still watch as an adult) influence me a lot. I’ve always loved cartoons and puppets. Just the fact that I call my creatures “monsters”, when they aren’t scary, is a nod to the friendly monsters like Grover and Cookie Monster on Sesame Street, or Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc. I think it’s kind of funny that the word “monster”, for me, invokes images of furry, funny creatures instead of something scary. I also think the fact that I am really just a big kid influences my creativity!
|"Nubbins" conveniently displayed in a vintage suitcase at a show!|
How to do get past a creative block? Sometimes you just need to walk away, take a break, and come back to it at a later time. This was something I learned when I used to paint. It’s amazing what looking at something with fresh eyes can do.
What does your workspace look like most of the time? Honestly and embarrassingly…pretty messy. I’m always trying to clean it, but I come across something while cleaning that inspires me, and so I start a project, which makes a mess again. And the fact that I make things out of recycled materials makes me prone to hoarding a little. I am always thinking “I can use that for SOMETHING!” My husband keeps me grounded in reality and is probably responsible for keeping me off the show Hoarders! (just kidding! I’m in NO way that bad!)
What (if anything) do you like to watch/listen to while you create? I enjoy watching (more accurately, listening to) movies and TV shows. I like pretty much anything animated or involving puppets. Anything Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks Animation, or Jim Henson, I love. Cartoon Network’s “Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends” is a regular (I think all the kooky imaginary friends give me inspiration). I have all 6 seasons via iTunes. I love the recent seasons of Doctor Who (which I also have via iTunes). I also like listening to director/actor commentaries on DVDs of my favorite movies, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Yeah…I’m quite the geek. Music wise, my favorites have been a mix of Owl City, Mumford & Sons, The Piano Guys, the soundtrack to Tron: Legacy (Reconfigured), Daft Punk, Imagine Dragons, Florence and the Machine, One Republic, The Glitch Mob, and Avicci.
Do you craft with anyone, such as your kids/grandkids/friends? I don’t have any children of my own, but I teach art lessons for my friends who homeschool their kids. And I still hand sew the finishing touches of monsters during church among my friends, with their kids creeping over to watch me and check out my latest critter.
Did you have a "crafty" childhood? Yes. My mom is very crafty…so I definitely had a crafty childhood. I remember her making “cars” for us out of empty diaper boxes. We did a lot of rubber stamping. Mom would often make our Halloween costumes, like the year my brother and I were robots with cardboard box and tinfoil bodies and dryer hose arms. And Mom still loves to do traditional holiday crafts (like egg dying for Easter and pumpkin carving for Halloween) even though both my brother and I are out of the house. And Mom has always liked to shop at craft shows. She would often take me with her when I was a kid, and now, she comes to my shows to help me with my booth.
Did you always want to be an artist? Oh yes. I’ve always loved to create. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a children’s book author/illustrator like my favorite author Steven Kellogg (who I’ve had the privilege of meeting twice in my life. Once when I was 6 and again when I was 28).
What craft sound or smell do you hate? That awful sound when I’m trying to sew though too many layers of fabric and the sewing machine needle jams (or worse, breaks!)
Glue gun or a soldering iron? Glue Gun. Melting metal scares me a bit.
Knit or crochet? Crochet. I know how to do both, but I'm better at crochet and I find that it's easier than knitting. My grandma once told me “once you learn to crochet, you’ll never go back to knitting” She was right!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in selling your work? I have a hard time pricing my work. I want to price it high enough to do myself justice and not sell myself short, yet have my products be accessible and affordable. I love the “craft” part of having a craft business…but it’s the “business” part that tends to frustrate me. I always lament that I never took any business classes in school. I often feel like I just don’t have a head for business. I’d love to just be able to make things and have someone else do all the business stuff and I can just get the money when the works are sold. Thankfully, my husband helps me a lot on the business end.
What has helped you the most in developing your creative business? At the risk of sounding cliché…practice, practice practice…and my family and friends. My husband has been very supportive (even when I get crazy and stress out before a craft show) and helps me develop ideas. My mother often will come to craft shows with me to help. My friends always give me good suggestions and ideas. They also come to craft shows and buy my work for their kids, or as gifts for nieces and nephews. And of course, I get lots of support and advice from my fellow RNESTers!
What kind of people do you envision your customers to be? You’d think that because they seem like “toys”, that they’re mainly for kids. I like to think of my work more as “huggable art” than “toys”. While it’s true that kids love my work, I have fans of all ages. It doesn’t matter if they’re 8 months or 80 years old, my work seems to cover a very wide demographic (Although I’d say the majority of my non-kid fans are female.) I envision my customers to be fun-loving and appreciate quirky, cute, and colorful things, no matter what their age.
What do you hate about your craft ? I don’t “hate” it, but sometimes the hand-sewing can get tedious. And if I’m doing a lot of it to finish monsters in preparation for a show, my wrist starts to really hurt. That’s the part I hate. When my wrist starts to hurt really bad, I start to fear that I won’t be able to do this anymore. But if I wear my wrist brace and take it easy, it gets better.
What do you love about your craft? I love reusing old clothes and being creative with the designs. It feels especially special when a sweater has a story behind it or I know the person who used to wear it. (a few of my favorite monsters are ones I made from a yellow/grey/black sweater my husband used to wear).
|Kira with her husband (right) and the monsters she made out of his sweater (left)|
(Coming soon) Click here for the interview with Erin of SunshyneSilverwear, who was January's Featured Artist.