Meet Your Maker: Isabelle Abramson

I'm very proud to present our very first pottery artist on the Meet Your Maker series today! Isabelle Abramson was one of the first artists I "hearted" when I first joined Etsy and she's held a permanent place in my favourites ever since. I'm just so completely blown away by the delicate intricacy of her designs. I'm a sucker for lacy things, but lace porcelain? How is that even possible? Well, you're about to find out! I'm so pleased to show you some of Isabelle's stunning work and incredibly honoured she has agreed to share her story here with us. Welcome, Isabelle.

WHO are you? Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
I was a school nurse before I was an artist. I was able to slowly teach myself to make porcelain pottery through a lot of trial and error. My work tends to be very feminine, detailed, functional porcelain artwork with a lot of time spent on each individual piece.

WHAT inspires you?
I love the detail and craftsmanship that I see in antiques and some vintage furniture. I think that, except for in very high end home decor, a lot of that attention to detail has been lost. The spaces that feel the best for me are really simple, but decorated with a few ornate pieces of art or furniture.

WHERE do you work? Describe your workspace.
My studio is tiny (I think only about 200 square feet), so I have to be very conscious of what I fill the space with and how I work. I usually only have one or two pieces in process at any given time so I am totally focused on what I’m working on and then as soon as a piece is finished it goes into the kiln, because there’s not anywhere else to put it. It’s taken a few years to find a way to use the space in a way that is the most efficient, and I’m sure it will be an ongoing process. That being said, I really love my studio. I’m totally used to it and I feel good working there so I think I might feel like I was swimming if I moved to a larger space now. Also, commercial space in Boston is really expensive and the rent in my studio building is based on square footage, so having this tiny studio frees me up to focus on my art and not have to worry about overhead.

WHEN do you feel most successful? When do you feel most frustrated/insecure?
I feel most successful when I’m steadily selling artwork at a pace I can keep up with and making just a little more money than I need to get by. I feel most frustrated when things don’t come out right or break in the kiln. I always learn something when a piece doesn’t work out but if I spent a long time on something it’s definitely a bummer when it doesn’t turn out to be something I can sell.

WHY do you do what you do?
I really enjoy being my own boss. I feel like I’m good at the things that one would need to be good at to run a very small business like this. The balance of alone time where I create intertwined with the social part of selling is a great way to work.

HOW do you do what you do? Describe your creative process and/or your typical work day?
A lot of my focus in how I work is keeping the website stocked in a way that I feel like I’m providing a good variety of items that look good together as a collection. I can usually only finish one small piece or part of a large piece in a day. I slip cast the body of the piece before I leave the studio. At night when I’m home I look at what’s been selling on the website and what seems like it would fit with the other things I have and I start to think about what the design will be for the piece that I work on the next day. Most of my day is spent sitting at a desk with reading glasses on and an x-acto knife in my hand.

Final words...
It’s a really hard time to be selling something that is fundamentally unnecessary. I would tell anyone starting out not to forget that it is abnormally hard to be doing something creative as a job right now, especially if you rely on outside feedback for encouragement or direction. Focus on making your art better and less on people’s reaction to your art. When it is truly a labor of love it comes through and the people who buy your things with see that. Also, don’t quit your day job if being stressed about money is going to interfere with your creative process.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Isabelle. Your self-taught journey is such an inspiration, and your words of wisdom to new artists and entrepreneurs really hits home. I think you've shown us a side of pottery that many people have never seen before and I hope we'll all spend a little more time appreciating the art form from now on. I know I will!

Please take a moment to visit Isabelle's website and Etsy shop.

All images by Isabelle Abramson.

Shop Update: Trendspotting

I made this apron in the summer but only got around to listing it last week. At first I was worried that the colours were too bright for Fall. Then I came down off my haughty horse and told myself no one cares if their apron matches the season. Who is thinking about fashion when they're covered in cookie batter? But wait, I know for a fact that some people do put such thought into their kitchen accessories. Case in point: I met a lovely lady at the craft fair who proudly described to me her extensive apron collection and how much she enjoys pulling out specific styles depending on the season or holiday. So there, self. Yes, I realize I had a full-on argumentative discussion with myself. And yes, I realize now that I shared that with all of you. Moving on.

I was thrilled to receive a free issue of Chatelaine in my mailbox recently and even more thrilled to come across this little blurb on page 30 declaring orange as a key colour trend for Fall this year! You heard it here first, folks: Dear Edna is trendy. Excuse me while I climb back up on my haughty horse. :)

Happy First Day of Fall

As much as I love summer and hate the dead of winter, I have to admit I really, really love Fall. I always have. Maybe it's because I've always been a bookworm and back-to-school seriously gets me jazzed; but, nerdiness aside, how can any season compare with the cozy comforts of soft wool, hot tea, baking, apples, and pumpkins, not to mention the gorgeous changing leaves and that familiar crisp air!

There's also no other time of year when I feel more motivated: from knitting a blanket to finishing a book, from building my business to building my wardrobe, I just seem to feel endlessly inspired to get stuff done. In fact, I'll be heading out tomorrow to satisfy one of those cravings in an all-day thrift shopping adventure with my good friend Carla. What do you think the chances are that I'll score something as beautiful as the items above? A girl can dream... and, if not, there's always Etsy.
Happy weekend and first day of Fall, everyone!

Couples Who Craft Together...

Do you remember way back in January when I first mentioned my recent obsession with needlework and my admiration for this Mr. Darcy pattern in particular? You may recall some other things I said in the new year, promising to set aside more time to learn new crafts and create things just for me? Well, I'm proud to say that six months later, I've killed two resolutions with one stone, and have completed my very own Mr. Darcy! Doesn't he look handsome? The pattern was designed by Naomi Shiek, a talented artist from Tel Aviv. You can download it for yourself here. Thanks, Naomi!

A certain someone was feeling left out of the tv-time productivity and (rather quickly) stitched up this beautiful letter E for me.  Ah, modern romance. He chose to go maverick, using more strands of embroidery floss than the standard two and alternating directions, but it ended up creating a rich berber-like texture that I really love! Thanks Mikey!

I've been looking for ways to incorporate some needlework into Dear Edna for awhile now and these two projects made me even more excited about it. I'm going to start playing around with some ideas very soon and hope to have some stitchery show up in time for the holidays. I can't let Mikey J's new-found talent go to waste! Ha!

Shop Update

I added three new reversible aprons to the shop this week. In my humble opinion, they are some of my best combos yet. One in particular sold within hours of me posting it! Can you guess which one?

If you guessed the deer apron, you're right! If you have your heart set on it, there is one for sale at White Elephant and I'll do my best to get another one made for Etsy as soon as possible. In the meantime there are eight more aprons waiting patiently to be photographed, listed and sent to a good home, so be prepared to see lots of beautiful new things added to the shop in the coming weeks!

Hamilton Happenings: September 2011

                                                                                                                     Photo by World of Good

Maybe it's the relief from the heat or a bit of that back-to-school buzz or a desperate attempt to enjoy the weather before the deep freeze; all I know is that there's something about September that makes me want to do stuff and get stuff done. Good thing there's heaps of stuff happening in Hamilton in the next four weeks. And not just stuff, really really amazing stuff! This might be the best lineup of events all year and I'm crazy excited about it all!

Art Crawl: Sept. 9th / James St. North / As long as people keep asking me what this is, I'll keep posting about it. But this time, I'm going to let someone else rave about it for a change: check out this video of last month's crawl by the HAM. (If you watch closely (at 1:53) there is a quick shot of my booth at the craft fair.)

Supercrawl: Sept. 10 / 1-12 / James St. North / Pretty self-explanatory: art crawl on a super-sized scale. Think BIG. Two-story knitted replica of the facade of the Brain big. Giant inflatable installation on the roof of Mixed Media big. Basia Bulat with the Hamilton Philharmonic, Plants and Animals, Junior Boys and Broken Social Scene big. You don't want to miss this, folks. They're expecting 30,000. It's gonna be epic!

Locke Street Festival: Sept. 10 / 10-11 / Locke St. / If attendance is any indicator (15,000 in 2009), this festival has become one of the city's favourites. Featuring over 200 vendors, musicians and entertainers, it's sure to be a fun day out for the whole family.

Want to attend both Supercrawl and Locke St. Fest? Not to worry. There will be a free bus shuttling between the two events all day! How's that for service?

Sew Hungry: Food Truck Rally: Sept. 16 / 11-2 / Ottawa St. Farmer's Market / Some of the best food trucks Ontario has to offer are all meeting for lunch on Ottawa St. and you're invited! From poutine to cupcakes, they're guaranteed to have your cravings covered. An exciting and unique event for the area.

Open Streets: Sept. 18 / 10-5 / James St. North / King Street East at Gore Park (from James to Hughson) and James Street North from York Blvd. to Guise Street will be closed to cars this Sunday, so walk, roll or ride downtown and enjoy street vendors, live music and your favourite local businesses.

AGH World Film Festival: Sept. 23 - Oct. 2 /  This event seems to get bigger and better every year. In fact, the lineup of films has convinced these two movie lovers to ignore TIFF entirely this year and focus on this local event. "Meek's Cutoff," "Terri," "Life, Above All" and "Small Town Murder Songs" are at the top of our list!

Localicious: Sept. 23 - Oct. 16 / Twelve downtown restaurants will feature special lunch dishes and prix fixe dinner menus featuring the best of our local harvest. The "Delicious Baker's Dozen" they've chosen truly are some of my favourite restaurants, so I encourage you to take advantage.

Shop Update

For awhile now I've wanted to create a full-size version of my flirty half aprons, but I've learned that sometimes you have to sit with an idea for awhile and wait until the right fabric crosses your path (or vice versa) before the magic happens. Luckily my creativity stars aligned this summer and I whipped up two special designs for the craft fair. One was a gorgeous grey and blue floral fabric with an eyelet lace waistband and straps, and it went to a good home on the first night of the fair (you can see it hanging behind me here). I promise to make another as soon as I can.

This is the other. I brought this fabric back with me from Portland and knew right away that it would inspire a special piece. The fabric is a little on the heavier side, more like a denim, so I went with a few pleats in front rather than a full gathered waist and combined it with a high, wide waistband and a slightly narrower top. The effect is a very flattering, feminine and tailored garment. I say "garment" because it's literally a few inches of fabric and a zipper away from being a dress. I'm so proud of it! The first time I tried it on, I instantly felt like Alice in Wonderland... and that's not a half-bad feeling to have when you're going about your chores, don't you think?

Please visit the shop for more pictures and details.