Monday, December 26, 2011

Mary's Granddaughter Cindy

Well, it's been some time since I updated our team blog, but what can I say - it's a busy time of year to be a maker! But I'm making it all up to you with an interview with one of my favourite team members, Cindy Steiler of Mary's Granddaughter. I was a longtime fan of her work, and then she and I started chatting earlier this year about the direction of our team. I was struck by her dedication to our team and her ideas about it, and thought that asking her to share more widely would help us begin a dialogue about our team. So she kindly allowed me to interview her in this season of busy-ness.

Cindy is a longtime member of Folk Reveries, and a successful multi-media artist. Her work has been shown in galleries and in books and magazines (and was just featured today in Etsy Gifts newsletter!) The women she depicts move among media, from embroideries to dioramas to paper goods. She has much to teach us, Etsy-ers, so gather round!!

Mama and her Girls

Dru: How long have you been a working artist? (or, how did you begin?)

Cindy: I've been making art for my entire life though I have only been selling my own personal work for about three years. I studied art and theater in college and worked for years as a set designer/builder and scenic painter.

The Mender Diorama

Dru: I know that you collect antique photographs. How do your collections (this one and others) intersect with or inspire your art work?

Cindy: I do have a rather large collection of Victorian photos. I am not even sure how I started collecting them. I think I stumbled upon some tintypes at an estate sale years ago and was hooked. I find it a little sad that these photos are homeless and not being cherished. I also collect Victorian clothing, old hangers, buttons, doll parts, found feathers, and odd little things I find at flea markets, thrift stores and estate sales.

I draw inspiration from my collections. They feel like a connection to the past. Sometimes they make their way into my work like the little antique bisque doll arms from Germany or feathers I find. I've modeled some of my dolls from women in my photographs.

(Note: Cindy's vintage shop is Happy Steiler).

Victorian Photographic Garland

Dru: What are you currently focused on, and what are your near-term goals?

Cindy: My near-term goal is to survive the next five months. I have 5 shows between January and April so there is much to do. I feel fortunate to have been awarded a residency through the Brush Creek Arts Foundation in Wyoming. I'll be there for a few weeks next month and the uninterrupted studio time is a blessing.

The new pieces I'm working on are a departure from what I've been doing. I am excited to see where they go. I have also been working in clay which has been a lot of fun.

Dru: Tell us about your typical work day.

Cindy: I wish it was more disciplined and routine! It always starts with coffee and answering emails and ends with my pencil and sketchbook in bed. The in between time is always different. My resolution for the coming year is to foster a more disciplined and organized working environment. I just rented a studio space outside of my home with this goal in mind.

Little Bird in charcoal grey and sky blue

Dru: Your project, "I Learned From My Mother Who Learned From Her Mother", sounds amazing. what inspired it and what are your plans for the stories?

Cindy: My great-grandmother Mary Steiler taught me to crochet, knit, embroider and sew when I was a child. Through her patient lessons I found great joy and satisfaction in creating by hand. While we worked she would share stories from her life. Through these stories I developed an appreciation for the past, tradition and family.

Through my work I hope to capture the essence of my relationship with my grandmother while exploring and celebrating all women and girls; our relationships, our daily lives, and our traditions. I want to use my work to preserve and continue the traditions of both craft and story in a way that honors these lineages.

From this sprang a new project called 'I Learned from My Mother, Who Learned from Her Mother'. Through this project I plan to explore and document traditions and traditional craft passed from generation to generation within families through storytelling and art. This will be achieved through a mix of traditional needlecraft and sculpture and will also employ my background as a set designer to create small installations. The images of the pieces and stories will be assembled into limited edition hand bound books.

If you'd like to contribute here's a link:

You Reap What You Sew No. 2
Dru: What advice would you give to new artists who are selling on Etsy?

Cindy: Etsy is a great platform to sell our work. It comes with a fabulous customer base and it's nearly free to get started. Take the time to learn about tagging, titles and SEO. These are important to be found in searches and not always intuitive.

Stay true to yourself and take all advice you receive, including mine,with a grain of salt. It's easy to get wrapped up in Etsy's merchandising reports and the latest trends. You will hear you must tweet, Facebook, blog in order to be successful. You will have to call orange 'pumpkin' in autumn and 'tangerine' in spring. You will be told you have to make tons of treasuries and join numerous teams. I see many artists spending more time with the above that actually creating. To me that's sad. My advice is to keep Etsy in perspective. It is a selling venue not a lifestyle choice. Stay open and explore other opportunities to exhibit and sell your work as well.

Don't forget why you make art in the first place. Explore, grow and have fun! I ran into the pitfall where my work started to feel like production work. I was constantly and still am asked to remake pieces that have sold. While it's flattering and comfortable it is also boring. It was preventing me from working on new pieces and exploring new directions. I felt stagnant as an artist. Now I'm am working on a new body of work and it feels so good.

Sketchbook No. 2 - Victorian Woman

Dru: What attracted you to the Folk Reveries team, and what are your hopes for it?

Cindy: I was attracted to the Folk Reveries team for a few reasons. First of all so many of my favorite artists who sell on Etsy are members and also aesthetically it was a good fit. I also liked that it didn't seem all about promoting one's self.

I think when you do business in the virtual world connecting with others is important. I would love to see a shift to more meaningful discussions on process, inspiration, opportunities, etc. on the discussion boards. I think we have much to offer each other both creatively and professionally.

Connection No. 4 in yellow and aqua

Thanks so much, Cindy! This is just the kind of looking back and forward that we need to begin the new year.

Be sure to check out Cindy's shop and her blog, and consider participating in her projects (I am!)!

Happy holidays to all of our team members!


earthangelsarts said...

Stunning work and wonderfilled interview. Thank you X

Mandy Behrens said...

This is a very inspiring interview and I feel rejuvenated creatively after reading the thoughtful responses. I couldn't agree more with Cindy's hope for meaningful discussions about the creative process. Cheers, Mandy

Fox And The Feather said...

Dru, thank you for posing such meaningful questions - this is a great interview filled with both information & inspiration.

Cindy, thank you for sharing so openly. You are certainly a mentor & inspiration to many! I especially enjoyed your thoughts on staying true to yourself - something I've been thinking a lot about lately.

And your work indeed resonates with a sense of past & connection; it's beautiful & evocative. This sentiment is wonderful: "While we worked she would share stories from her life. Through these stories I developed an appreciation for the past, tradition and family."

Best of luck in the next few months! Looking forward to hearing about your residency :)

Janeane said...

Love Cindy's work. Great article.

Natalia Designs said...

Awesome work!

joanne May said...

Beautiful inspiring work and an interesting interview.
I'm so pleased to have found your blog again!