inspiration weeks Day 10: Ashley Anna Brown of Fern Animals
The story of how Ashley and I became friends starts with a tinsel tree and flickr. This is the tree I posted on flickr one day back in 2007 holding my ashleyg inspired ornaments for the holiday ornament exchange.
What happened was Ashley ( fern animal Ashley) either left a comment or emailed me on flickr inquiring about the tinsel tree and where I had bought it because she was looking for something like that to display her ornaments at craft fairs. I had next to no idea who she was except that she made adorable animals but it was no problem for me to buy one for her at the small shop in the tiny town that I work in and mail it to her. In return she sent me some beautiful handmade items and a friendship was forged. You see she is still using this tree . This is a picture she just posted from a recent craft sale in Boston.
She is really a talented artist as well as the maker of some of the sweetest little animals ever. Her sewing skills are envious but they developed from many years of hard work and practice. She wasn't just born with the ability to make tiny removable suits for petite animals. Ashley wanted me to show you her very first fern animals but I was already going to do that to emphasize that last point. If you are creative and have an imagination just start making things. With practice the skills will follow.
What inspires you in your creativity?
I love to scour antique shops and flea markets in search of weird toys
(I am most attracted to creepy cute stuffed animals and figurines -
ones that look like they need some loving) and vintage fabrics. Fabric
patterns and colors inspire me more than anything else. Just a few
months ago I finally visited a huge fabric warehouse here in Western
Mass and any time I am feeling unmotivated, I know I can just go there
and get lost in the piles and piles of vintage materials. I also tend
to get my best ideas for projects while driving. The longer the drive
the better. Not all of these ideas come to fruition - actually most of
them don't, but it helps to make the trip feel more productive and
exciting. Now I just need the extra time to work on these great ideas!
Can you describe an environment : time, place and company ( people or pets) where you feel most creative?
Most days I sew alone in my cozy studio with my cat, Kitchen, curled up on my lap. She runs in as soon as I sit down to work, and moves from chair to chair with me as I switch between sewing machine, and computer and back again. It's kind of silly actually, and a little inconvenient most of the time, but terribly cute. Sometimes when I'm feeling worn out and need a break, but still have lots of animals to make, I sew up all the parts that need to be done on the machine, and put the pieces in a basket, along with a generous pile of cotton stuffing, a needle and thread, my trusty needle nose pliers and small screwdriver (my absolute favorite stuffing tool) and move into the living room to watch a movie while stuffing some bodies (Kitchen will follow me to the couch, too). I love watching movies while working, but I get more work done in my studio listening to NPR or Pandora Radio.
If you tried to trace back the series of events that lead to you
making things and opening an etsy shop where would it begin?
I can pinpoint the exact time I made the first Fern Animal. It was
late fall of 2005, I was in art school, and I was taking a web
authoring class. It was nearing the end of the semester and for my
final assignment I didn't want to make just another artist website, I
wanted to make a shop. I was planning on trying to sell knitted things
I was making at the time: hats, scarves, baby sweaters, but at the
last minute I decided to quickly make up a couple little fabric
animals because I thought they would be easy to photograph for a mock
website (without having to deal with getting models). I made three
messy animals, and a friend photographed them for me. While we were
working on the photos in the design lab, people started talking about
how much they liked the little animals, including one of my
professors, who ended up buying Fern Animals number 2 and 3, right on
the spot (I kept the very first one for myself). I was blown away by
this unexpected enthusiasm for these funny little animals, and I knew
immediately that I had to make more. I initially sold casually to
friends at school, and through my website, and then at my very first
craft fair, the Boston Bazaar Bizarre in December of 2006. But it
wasn't until my friend Elise (of ArglyeWhale) convinced me to try Etsy
that Fern Animals really took off. I stumbled into my very own small
business all by accident and it was amazing. Still is.
How did you learn your crafting skills?
My mom taught me how to sew and quilt when I was young and I have
always spent my free time creating. I always considered myself a painter, but it felt good to use different materials like fabric and
thread. In high school I experimented with stitching into paintings,
and I altered my own clothes to fit better and made my own school
bags. I loved being able to walk proudly down the hall knowing that no
one else would have the same sparkley purple velvet book bag that I
had (yes, sparkley purple velvet) and that I made it myself. I also
made my own dress for junior prom. It was empowering. It still is.
What do you have planned for 2009?
I have so many plans for 2009! Where do I begin? (This is always the
problem.) The number one thing that I NEED to work on this year is
organizing my business stuff. Tax time is always messy and scary. I am
so completely unorganized with this stuff it's ridiculous. The most I
have done is to reserve a drawer to stuff all my receipts into
throughout the year. It's very daunting, the pile is huge. But, I'm
What do you have planned for 2009?
pretty sure after doing my taxes last year I told myself that I would
make organizing my business stuff a priority and I didn't do it then
either. We'll see. But, I have lots of great ideas for the fun part of
having my own business - making stuff! I want to offer more
made-to-order animals in my shop, like I did with ornaments for the
holidays. It worked really nicely and was a relief to be able to sell
some animals that weren't completely one-of-a-kind (Though they are
all hand made individually, so really they are still - I just feel
more comfortable having my studio assistant help me with these ones,
compared to the more expensive limited edition animals, or custom
orders). I also have plans for new limited edition animals and small
themed collections. I'm excited about finding more unique vintage
fabrics to work with, and am thinking about a whole collection of just
vintage animals. I also want to find the time to focus on drawing
again. It's been a while - making Fern Animals (and making enough to
pay the bills) is really time and energy consuming. But I'd like to
try to sell some drawings and prints and find a good balance between
sewing and drawing again, like when I was in college. I was offered an
opportunity to maybe teach some small crafting workshops recently, so
that is something exciting that I am looking forward to working on as
well. 2009 looks very promising and packed full of ideas and projects
What advice or encouragement would you offer another creative person
contemplating taking a big step to open a shop or blog in 2009?
Well, I am a pretty impulsive person, so I am always telling my
friends to just go for it. I actually probably annoy a lot of my
friends (or anyone who shows a tiny bit of interest) because I am
always trying to convince people of how easy it is to set up a shop
and get started. It's so simple and with Etsy there are tons of people
already there, just waiting to find your work. I do have to say
though, that there is more to it then just posting items in your shop.
I think I often over look how much time really goes into keeping up
with my blog (Oh! Another goal for 2009 - be better at blogging on a
more regular basis!), posting on my Flickr, emailing friends and
customers (who often become one in the same), and either announcing a
shop post with enough notice that people can plan on being there for
it, or posting regularly, every day or so (so you are more likely to
show up in the Etsy searches). I really believe that if you have
unique work that you love and stand behind one hundred percent, and
can put the time and energy into it, you, too, can have a very
successful online presence. You just need to go for it. Really. It has
changed my life.
That last picture was my two little fern animals in a photograph I took just for this special occasion. I for one would love to take a class with Ashley, I will try to get some more info on that. Last night I dreamt of buying a large cottage on a lake and offering creative retreats with all the wonderful artists who have inspired us this last week and a half. We could feast on organic food, go for walks in the woods, canoe trips on the lake, make music by the campfire and there would even be a very nice resident doctor if needed. Well they say everything starts with an idea.
A little later today I will post the answer to "guess the nature inspiration" but as of writing this post no one has guessed it so I will either award the most inspiring answer or pick a winner at random. Tomorrow is a very special day at Resurrectionfern and I hope you will all be back to help me celebrate.