Today I have the pleasure of talking to Robin of The Fancy Lamb. It's a fun little shop that repurposes vintage fabric, maps and books for new, fun uses. I asked Robin some background questions to help us understand her a bit more. Robin's favorite color(s) is the combination of pink and brown (good choice!). Because of her shop and her hobbies, her favorite weekend activity is to go and browse through estate sales. Her favorite breakfast food (on a rare occasion) is French toast, but she states "On a day-to-day basis, Diet Mountain Dew. (Does that count?)" Her dream vacation is to go RVing with her husband and 3 dogs: "No timeline, no planes to catch, no rules." Now that we have a bit of a background, let's jump right in. This one's a bit longer, but definitely worth it! :D
What started you in your art/craft?
Well, I have always been pretty crafty, thanks to my family. My mom sewed quite a bit. And my grandma was a knitter, weaver, photographer, and many other things all rolled into one. So when I was a kid, it was not unusual for me to go to a pottery class, then come home and make some handmade paper, then finish the night off by cross-stitching in front of the TV. That’s right, I was cross-stitching at 12 years old. I was mature beyond my years!
Then, once I got into high school and college, I kind of let the crafting bug go by the wayside. I was so busy during those years with school, work, extra-curriculars. And crafting wasn’t exactly “cool” in the circles I frequented during that time.
But then over the last year or so, I’ve had this itch to just MAKE something. Anything. As long as I made it with my own two hands. So I picked up sewing again, which got me rolling, and I started brainstorming other creations.
What are your favorite materials/tools?
Most importantly, all of my crafts have to include at least one vintage component. I’m quite the treasure hunter, and you’ll find me hopping from one estate sale to another on the weekends (and sometimes during the week too, if I’m lucky!). And I’m constantly picking up materials that I can use to create something new and useful.
I suppose my favorite materials would have to be all the lovely old books that I gather. I love everything about them: the feel of the worn fabric covers, the weight of the pages, and even the smell. I use the covers to create my Vintage Book Journals, and I am often able to use the pages elsewhere. For example, I’ll use unique illustrations to create my Upcycled Tile Coasters.
I’m also a huge fan of vintage fabrics, which I use for my sewn goods. Sometimes I’ll find raw pieces of fabric, but sometimes I’ll find a set of curtains that I love and I’ll deconstruction, then reconstruct those to create something new from them. Quality vintage fabrics, in patterns I like are a little bit harder to come by than other materials though. I suppose that makes my Everyday Bags and Zippered Pouches that much more special to me.
Who's your biggest inspiration?
(Warning, this is very cheesy…) I think I get inspired by my husband a lot. He is a graphic designer and a huge art buff and he has given me the courage to try new things, and not be scared of being creative or making mistakes. I’ve loosened up a lot since I met him and I’m very appreciative of that.
How long have you being producing your work/How did you get started in it?
Well, in late 2008, I saw a Call For Artists for a local juried craft show. It was called Green With Indie, and it was focused on arts and crafts that promoted upcycling, recycling, repurposing, etc. I said to myself “Hey, I could really do this!” and I applied. And to my surprise, I got accepted! The next 3 months were a whirlwind, because I was really starting at ground zero. I had to develop my entire brand, gather my materials (and I mean gather…I can’t just purchase my materials in bulk since they are primarily vintage), plan my product lines, develop price points, and design my booth display. These are things that often evolve naturally over time, but I dove in headfirst and was determined to be ready for the show.
And in the end, it all came together. I had a great show that exceeded my expectations, and got awesome feedback from customers. Following the show in late March 2009, I photographed my remaining inventory and started listing on Etsy. And I must say, I LOVE Etsy. I love the community aspect of it. I’ve gotten to know some of the other sellers, and I love talking to people who have similar interests and goals as me. It’s been a huge support system.
Where do you hope your art will take you in the next year?
I plan on doing more shows over the next year. I already have a few on my calendar (Big A$$ Indie Art and Craft Show and Strange Folk Festival) and have a few others on my short list that I plan to apply to.
In addition, I’ll continue to sell on Etsy, and I’m starting to branch out into selling unaltered vintage items too, in additional to my handmade items. I am considering opening up a second shop to keep my vintage and handmade separate, but haven’t decided yet. I also just opened an ArtFire shop, and am hopeful that traffic there will steadily increase as ArtFire becomes more well known. Eventually, I’d love to be able to bring in a comparable income to a day job by selling my little pretties. But of course, that’s easier said than done!
Is there anything you want people to get/take away from your work?
The most rewarding thing has been hearing the personal details that draw people to my work. The Vintage Book Journals are big in this regard. I can’t tell you how many people have said “I loved this book as a child” or “the title of this book reminds me of my sister” or some other personal detail that makes the journal meaningful to them. I recently worked on a custom order for a lovely woman whose daughter was graduating from high school. She wanted to give Vintage Book Journals to her daughter and all of her daughter’s friends. And she painstakingly picked out books that spoke to each recipient’s character. One of the recipients was an aspiring musician, so she gave him a journal that was based on the importance of music in one’s life. “Charm and Personality” went to another recipient who was known for her friendliness and tact. Each of the 10 journals had a special meaning like this, and she was kind enough to share those details with me. It really touched my heart.
I also see this with my upcycled tile coasters. People will often select a set of Road Map Coasters based on their favorite city, or a place where they recently visited and have fond memories. It’s really nice to hear about WHY someone is purchasing a particular item and what makes it meaningful to them.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?
I would suggest that you really take the time to learn about Etsy before you try your hand at selling. I spent about 3 months poking around before I started listing any items. Of course, there’s no harm in learning as you go (and I’m still doing that) but there’s a lot of value in having a good understanding of things beforehand. Read the Storque, attend Virtual Labs, talk with people in the forums…there are so many opportunities to learn valuable information.
And make treasuries! It’s a great exercise for multiple reasons. First, it’s putting your name out there. Other treasury-makers will see your treasury, find your shop, and perhaps include you in a treasury, which means exposure for you. Second, curating treasuries is hugely beneficial for improving your eye for good photography and aesthetics. It gives you an opportunity to look at other good photographs, and analyze what aspects about those photos make them so visually pleasing. Then you can transfer some of those realizations to your own photography. You should be constantly improving your photography. It’s a never-ending process.