Monday, February 20, 2012

Good to Know -- Insights for the Creative Life

Rocket Kiddie Ride ©Feltmates, on Etsy
Independent creatives from around the world have found to be a beneficial business tool on many different levels. Today I am pleased to interview a talented and successful artist who has made her shop on Etsy, Feltmates, an important part of her success as a felt artist. Yoko Nomura opened Feltmates from Wisconsin in May of 2008. She creates absolutely charming characters from felt using 3D sewing construction techniques and felting, with brooches and pincushions being her largest shop sections. With over 700 sales and gallery exhibitions around the United States, Yoko has wonderful insights to share. She's given us all thoughtful insights that are good to know.

Georgianne Holland: In your profile on Etsy, you talk about blending traditional craftsmanship and a contemporary style. Can you please talk to us about how you define your traditional skills, where/how you learned them, and how art involving needlework fits into your professional goals? To stir up your thought process:  the traditional needle arts used to be considered homemaking skills, not art. Also, many needle-crafted items are imported to the U.S. How do you want the consumer to think about you being a maker of American handmade, in that reality?

Yoko Nomura: I studied ceramics in college.  After graduation, I worked as a designer for a company which produced handbag lines in collaboration with well-known designers.  I learned many important skills from this experience.  I was involved in the entire process, from concept and design to making the patterns and the sample handbags. 

Lion Measuring Tape ©Feltmates, on Etsy
In the late 1990’s, I became acquainted with some felt artists.  I was inspired by the idea of making your own material in which to work with. I started to design my own work with my own material, felt.  Felt was first made more than 8,000 years ago.  This ancient handmade fabric was the perfect medium for me to work with.  It merged the skills I had learned from working in ceramics and in fashion design. I am still fascinated by the way the felt can be made into almost any shape.  In this way, felt can blur the disparity between craft and art.  I am happy having my work defined as either and do enjoy making both functional homemaking supplies and sculptural pieces.    

G.H.: Is Etsy your primary avenue for merchandising your art? If not, what other avenues do you use? Your sculptural pieces, like Knitting Chicken and Rocket Kiddie Ride, would be ideal in a gallery setting! I'd certainly want to see them in person...
Y.N.: I am very grateful for the success I’ve had on Etsy.  In addition to Etsy, I have also shown my work in group exhibition in galleries around America.  Also, I do some craft shows around the Midwest during the holiday season.  I usually preview my work and announce my schedule on my Flickr site ( ) and also by sending out emails to my mailing list.  Flickr helps me judge how people will react to my new ideas when I receive their comments and feedback.
Knitting Chicken ©Feltmates, on Etsy
G.H.: What advice do you have for using Etsy as a marketing tool? If you could turn back time, would you do anything differently? As you have been shopkeeping there since May, 2008, I'll bet you have insights to share :)
Y.N.: I have had galleries and magazines which have contacted me because they saw my work on Etsy.  I think a lot of people search for new artists on Etsy because there are so many amazing artists that have shops on their site.  Like everyone mentions, your photographs are so important.  Customers are not able to touch or see your artwork in person until they purchase and receive it.  I try to take pictures that look nice and have little difference between the photographic image and the real items, different view points and angles help.  Also, try to keep your shop looking fresh.  This is good for both new and returning customers.  Try new ideas and different colors choices to give customers more choices. The most important thing is to continue to enjoy making your work!  I believe that this feeling of enjoyment comes across to your customers.
I hope you will take a moment to visit Feltmates to see Yoko's terrific artistry, her bright and inspiring photos of her items, and the fun selection she has to offer at this time. When you do, it will be easy to see why so many consider her Etsy shop to be a favorite!
Thanks for stopping by,

No comments: