Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Interview with PotatoBenevolence

Part of an ongoing interview series profiling EtsyVeg members.
Interview presentation by Kylie of

Meet Michelle of Etsy's PotatoBenevolence

Q. Etsy is a unique blend of artists with many different creative styles and approaches. What is your own "philosophy" or approach to creativity?

I think creativity is a profound quality in humans. I’m fascinated by art done by children because they are simply creating, they don’t have all the trappings adults may have. On the other side of the coin, artists like Hans Bellmer communicated complex social and gender ideas through visual means. I think that sometimes visual messages make a greater impact on a person, and you feel like you have a deep-rooted connection with another person without ever talking to them.

Animals, how they look and act, have fascinated me for a long time. Working with my hands is very important to me. So I combine the two to express ideas about life, in snapshot moments like vignettes or dioramas. For this reason I also like to take photographs. My art is not serious. It is an outlet to have fun and to share. Creating art for me counterbalances the more ‘heavy’ ideas floating around my mind.

Q. What do you sell in your Etsy shop?

Reproduction painting and illustration on prints, postcards, cards; sometimes sculpture (wool or polymer clay) of anthropomorphic birds and other animals.

Q. What are your creative inspirations?

I’m interested in nineteenth and early twentieth century social history, so this creeps into my art. For example, slang expressions may be the basis for a drawing. Or a certain medium, like lithography, I will try to emulate to an extent.

Q. How did you get started creating?

When I was a child, my dad had a workshop, so I learned how to do woodworking. He showed me a lot of great things like mechanical movement--how cogs and small motors work. When I was older I picked up a pen and drew a picture, and I haven’t stopped since. It’s amazing how practice improves skills…this is especially true with oil painting.

Q. What other artistic tendencies do you have? Do you have other crafty/artsy skills that you already do or would like to try?

I like photography a lot. I admire many photographers’ work. Capturing light with electricity or chemicals is fascinating, and freezing a moment in time. At the same time, photographs are deceiving. They are not a representation of reality. They are manipulated either by subject matter or by the developing process or camera used.

I'm nuts about the patterns and beauty found in nature, so I like taking photos of trees, flowers and clouds. I also like to take photos of buildings with seemingly human characteristics, such as pain, fortitude, soul.

There are many
photographs I admire by other people, and here are my photos.

Q. What would you like to try to make, that you haven't already? What is your dream project?

Hand wound automata like
this one.

Q. Do you have any other hobbies/interests/passions?

I’m also interested in philosophy, social issues, reading non-fiction and some fiction. I enjoy walking, eating potato dishes, and engaging with people. I also have a keen interest in older movies, generally pre-1960.

Q. How long have you been on Etsy, and are you an Etsy addict? :)

I started with Etsy in late March 2009. If being an addict means checking stats every day, tweaking the shop twice a month, checking out the forum every day… then yes, I am an addict! I also look at other sellers work. I am blown away by the amount of talent, passion and sweat on Etsy.

Q. Is etsy a large part of your business? How else do you market your work?

Because Etsy is better known than other sites like
DaWanda and Zibbet, it is the focus of my efforts. Etsy generates the most sales and interest in my shop. Although, I am surprised at the amount of people who still do not know about Etsy. I try to spread the word wherever I go! As Etsy grows, and sellers become ‘buried’ and consumers become overwhelmed, I hope sites like Zibbet gain a bigger market share. I like the more intimate feeling.

Q. What are your future plans for your shop/business?

I’m going to keep my shop open for a long time and work part time to support myself. It’s risky, but I’ve got to have enough time to create. I’m also working towards getting stuff together for gallery shows. Once I have some of these under my belt, I can apply for government artist grants. I don’t work well under pressure, so I don’t set deadlines. I just take the days as they come.

Q. How long have you been vegan/vegetarian? How does being veg play into the rest of your life?

my cameras,
the Hasselblad at the forefront

I have been a vegetarian for twenty years. Being vegetarian is a part of who I am. I want to decrease the amount of suffering in the world, not add to it. I think animals are ends in themselves. Thinking about it… all of my friends are vegetarian, and I can’t live with people who eat meat. It’s a good thing my husband is vegetarian!

Q. What is the last recipe you made? What are your food vices or cravings?

It’s a pretty basic recipe: roasted potatoes, carrots, onions, and string beans in an olive oil, soy sauce, paprika, pepper marinade, over rice. It’s yummy! My food vice is rennet-free cheese (Dubliner cheese, to be exact). It’s the best cheese out there. Sometimes I crave mint milk chocolate bars- they are creamier compared to dark chocolate mint bars.

Q. What is your favorite vegan/vegetarian store/restaurant/blog/website?

Here’re a couple:

the 'beast' i.e. Ford LTD II - love this car (it's my parents)

Next week, Meet Sue of LuLuBugJewelry in an interview by Yvonne!

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