Friday, March 25, 2011

Window shopping on Etsy

Since I've discovered how to curate a "treasury" on Etsy—that's their term for a mini online exhibition featuring 16 items from Etsy shops—I've found it to be an enjoyable way to browse the rather overwhelming assortment of handmade and vintage objects on offer at that online marketplace. A friend called it window shopping, and I thought that was a pretty good way to describe it.

Spider robot by Practical Creativity
I start with an idea or a theme and start searching the site using a few key words, selecting items that strike my fancy and that seem to complement each other in some way. Although I start with one theme, soon other commonalities emerge, such as a certain color palette, and by following that, my collection becomes further refined and hangs together rather nicely. I think I just like playing curator—how often do we untrained art admirers get to do that?

The first treasury I gathered was inspired by my desire to see if there were other artisans out there making oddball things from found objects as I like to do.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover a lot of really quirky junk art, so I further refined my search by limiting it to small things, and named that treasury Scrappy Miniatures.  That got a gratifying number of hits, and a friend even bought one of the items (Llama Boy), so I thought, "Hey, I helped somebody sell something, how cool is that?" Which naturally made me want to do more. But how do you follow an act like that? (The spider robot pictured above is one of the objects in the Scrappy Miniatures treasury. All but one of the images in this post are from the treasuries I've curated.)

Robot paper doll by KellyNewcomer
Well, it was February, and there were a lot of Valentine-themed treasuries that were all about romance and sexy this or that, which just makes me yawn. I think the way we celebrated the holiday as kids was more fun (which I wrote about in this blog post), so I put together a treasury of upbeat Valentine things, named Happy Valentine's Day with Love and Good Cheer.

My most popular treasury so far has been one about postal correspondence, in which I included some vintage items for the first time ("vintage" meaning not handmade, but purchased at an estate sale or something and then resold on Etsy). I'm disinclined to buy vintage stuff on Etsy because I'd rather score my own finds at estate sales and garage sales, but it's fun to look at what others have out there, and sometimes it gives me an idea of the value of those old hankies I thought I was splurging on when I spent a couple of dollars on them, and then found similar (or once, even, identical) ones for $7 or more plus shipping.

Tea Time assemblage by Lorelai Kay Designs
One treasury came about because I was doing "research," to help me better position something of my own. I had created a pattern for a small fabric bunny, and decided that I wanted to use it as a basis for making art dolls, because it's more unique and fun than just making bunnies, and I don't really want to be a one-woman factory trying to crank out stuff in quantity. To get an idea of what might be a realistic price range for comparable art dolls, I started searching for them on Etsy, and, wouldn't you know, got inspired to create a treasury of them. I'm disappointed this one hasn't had more hits, because I think art dolls are tremendous fun, even if most of them are quite expensive (but it doesn't cost anything to look!), so go have a look at Playing with Dolls, OK?

Pietra the un-Easter bunny by Arty Didact
Now, contrary to what I said above, here's a picture (at left) of one of my art doll bunnies, since I mentioned them anyway. (The cat just had to get in on it when I was photographing.)

I've just got two more treasuries to show you (you are clicking on all these, right?). One that is color-themed, but where I took my Etsy shop name, Arty Didact, to heart and offered a little etymology to go along with "In the Pink."  And the last one, which was inspired by our recent snowstorm, which I posited as the real reason for the expression "March madness."

So there's your little Window Shopping with Arty Didact for today, kids. I should explain: We used to have a local newspaper that was really just a shopper, and there was a regular column called Window Shopping with Wendy, and it was really just an advertising column—all the mentions were there because the stores paid to be mentioned. It was pretty darn cheesy, and maybe this is, too, but I have found it quite enjoyable to browse this online marketplace in this way, and I thought you just might, too. Cheers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Messing around in books

I like books. I like to read them, of course, and I like the look and feel of them, and I like messing with them—writing in them, sometimes drawing in them, and, if the book's not precious and I don't want to read it anymore (or at all, in some cases), I like to carve the pages or otherwise alter the book.

Truthfully, though, I've done very little of that, and tend to get rather intimidated by the sculptured book as art form. Looking at the work of artists such as Jennifer Khoshbin and Brian Dettmer doesn't help, either. No, that's not quite right. These amazing and accomplished book sculptors are certainly intimidating in their skill and artistry, but also inspiring. I don't have to attempt to engage in the same level of intricacy and precision to take inspiration from their wonderful creations.

I'm not as inspired by most of the altered books that come up when I do a Google image search on the topic, though. It begins to look like a fad, and a highly redundant one, to me: too many images of fairies and butterflies and other things with wings (not that I don't love things with wings as much as the next person), and an overall similarity of images and textures and colors. You know, kind of pseudo vintage romantic whatever. And, it seems to me, not really responding to the book as a starting point, but just using any old book as a platform. Pretty soon you'll be able to buy books just for altering at Michael's (an arts/crafts supply store chain in the Twin Cities, and probably elsewhere), if you know what I mean.

Which brings me to The Beasts of Tarzan, a book I picked up at a used-book store a long time ago and, enjoying the imagery and melodrama of the text and its illustrations, thought I could have a bit of fun with it. It sat for a long time before I did anything at all with it, and then I got the idea to carve out niches and use it like a curio case to display some sort of little beasts, to play off the book's title and theme.

I found some guidelines on creating niches (that link isn't where I got my guidelines, but it pretty much says the same thing), and got as far as making a block of the pages by gluing the edges, and cutting my niches, and then pretty much stopped there, with the book, that is.

I was drawn to the "blocks" of paper that I had lifted from the niches as I was cutting them out, and so I turned my attention to those, making them into miniature artworks, two of which I traded or gave away, and three of which I've listed for sale in my Arty Didact Etsy shop. (Didn't I just sneak in a bit of shameless self-promotion there?)

Meanwhile, the book awaits my further ministrations. I'd really like to play a little on the metaphoric idea of beasts, and so, as I usually do, have made it that much more challenging to myself to come up with the kinds of objects and images that will convey the vague notions floating about in my head. Usually, I just need ample time to ponder an idea or theme before I create anything with it; but I keep discovering, in art as well as in writing, that it helps to get those thoughts out of my head and share them with others in order for them to coalesce into something more concrete. Like talking to my husband or a friend about it, or writing about it in this blog. Even just this much, just voicing what's in my head, is enough to get my creative practical gears churning, I find.

So, thanks for listening. And if you care to use the comments feature to say something about your particular beasts, I'd love to read what you have to say.