It is no secret by now that I am a cat lady. I was searching for organic catnip one day and I found this shop! I LOVE it! She has some of the absolute cutest cat toys I’ve seen on Etsy. If you want to pamper your kitty, this is the place to go!
I am a cat person with an educational background in art history, who loves to create. My shop allows me to pull from all three of those when making new items. Each item in my shop plays with colors, patterns, textures, with the ultimate goal of having cats enjoy safe items. I have a great husband, three cats, a rabbit, and a lizard who are always there to make me smile!
What Inspired You to Start Your Business?
During the winter of 2011, Zazu (one of my cats) [LOVE the name!] was looking to play, but was not interested in any of the toys in the cats' toy basket. I had fabric stored away from when I used to make purses years ago, so I tied together a no-sew dangly cat toy that she immediately started chasing after. The response she had to the toy I made was a real inspiration, and I immediately realized that I want to make unique, safe, and durable toys for other people's cats to enjoy! Winter is chilly, so along with the toys, I decided to create comfy cat mats, too for them to snuggle on. The first mat was a hit with the cats - it is a white fleece paw print mat (a duplicate of which is now in my shop); my cats still use it and fall fast asleep on it all the time.
What Inspires Your Creative Process?
A lot of my subject matter and colors are inspired by nature, while others come from seasons of the year. In New England, we see a huge change from season to season, so it's fun for me to try to translate that into cat toys and mats. Recently I sat down to make Halloween toys, and came up with an autumn maple leaf design that incorporates foliage colors. My cats are a big inspiration in my process as well; I try to keep quality and their safety in mind when making items for my shop. My items are made to stand up to lots of hyper cat play time, and are made with materials that I would feel safe about if I were buying them for my own cats - cotton and fleece are my two favorite materials to work with. One toy sample I made for my cats even survived getting sucked up by the vacuum cleaner! [lol!] During my creative process, whether drawing up a pattern or sewing , it is almost a sure bet that at least one of my cats will be sleeping at my side assisting. They bring a certain calm to my studio, and they certainly are more than happy to help once the organic catnip comes out!
What is your Favorite Thing You’ve Made and Why?
This is a difficult decision! I am really proud of a Union Jack British flag cat mat that I made. It was a challenge to design, and a challenge to initially figure out how to sew - what edges to leave raw, what pieces to make... lots of construction and many hours went into making this piece, and I still feel proud each time I make another one.
Another item I am proud of is a red heart I made when just starting out with my shop. It came out well, is extremely durable, and Mr. Miyagi was even cool enough to let me photograph him posing with the toy (that shot is now my avatar!)
What Advice Do You Have For Other People Who Want to Start or Grow Their Etsy Shop?
Early on I was given a few bits of advice that have still been very helpful: list lots of items - the more you list, the more opportunities people will have to find your shop; photographs are very important - try a lot of different shots, and you will find the ones that work best for your shop; tags, titles, and key words are important! join teams and be active in them - I have learned so much from some of the teams that I have joined because people are there to help, and some have already asked the same questions so the answers are already available to you; and lastly, be patient! My Etsy shop is still growing and is still a work in progress. Don't give up if your first sale does not happen your first day/week/month of opening your shop!
Thanks so much for sharing with us! And thank you for making stuff for our fluffy babies! We spoil ourselves on Etsy, now we can spoil our “children” too! =)
I wish I could get my babies to wear these, lol! Aren’t her babies so cute!? I love when cats get involved in the photography, my own sweet Georgie loves to get into the shots when I do my photographs! =)
Today we have someone who I kind of found on a happy accident. I was looking for unique wedding cake toppers and I certainly found one! Not only that but I found the most AMAZING chess sets I’ve EVER seen! All handmade by a man named Jim Arnold. I don’t need to talk these up because they speak volumes all on their own!
So without farther adieu I give you Jim Arnolds Chess Sets!
As you all know, I’m a hippie so the set on the left made my heart smile!!
This is the wedding cake bride and groom I spoke of earlier. No one will ever forget it!
When I asked Jim to be one of my featured artists I was thrilled when he said yes! And after hearing his story, I’m so very glad I asked!
My life it seems has revolved mostly around wood and boats for the past 40 years. I've built houses and tons of furniture, but what steered me in the direction of wood carving was when I started adding little accents to my boats. First it was pirate skulls and mermaids on tillers, then mermaids and dolphins on rub rails and tillers and companionway hatch doors. I had a never ending line of work from the Florida marinas I kept my boats in over the years. I was introduced to wood carving by my Dad as a kid, he carved a squirrel and I thought it was the coolest thing I ever saw him do, I immediately picked up a piece of wood and tried to carve a boat, got about half a hull done, ha!
In the mid 90's I left Florida, my boat, everything, to help care for my Mom who was ill. During the down times over the course of that year, I carved a chess set and made a table for it that kind of looked like the set my Dad taught me how to play on. I made it for myself, and never had any intentions on making another. A friend asked me how much it would cost if I sold it to him. I thought of a price in my head and then doubled it just to see his reaction...he said that price was cheap and I sold it to him. I went back and made another. After 18 months of taking care of my Mom, I was flat broke! No job, no home, and at age 42, I had no choice but to go back into construction in Florida. I noticed there was a local craft show coming to a park in my town, and I had been saving up wood from 'dumpster diving' the bins at the houses we were building. I made 5 pine sets for that show, and had to borrow my boss's van to get them there. I sold three at that show, took several more commissions, and the following Monday morning my boss asked how it went, I told him there was good news and bad news, good news..I made several hundred dollars, bad news...I said, "I quit!", as I tossed him his keys back. He smiled and ordered a set for his family for the coming holiday season.
That was over 1,000 chess boards and 32,000 pieces ago, and business continues to get better and better all the time.
(What did I tell ya? GREAT story!)
The Creative Process:
All the time, I hear from other carvers how "tedious" my work must be, 16 pawns, 4 rooks, 4 knights, 4 bishops, 2 kings, 2 queens. The same stuff over and over, but making chess sets has allowed me the freedom to expand and grow my carving abilities, and there's no end in sight. The different themes I carve are subjects that interest me, music, boats, history, and different cultures. The easiest way for an artist to be unique, regardless of the medium they choose is to choose subjects they "know". There's an endless supply of ideas and different individual themes within those categories (if you browse through my Etsy shop, JimArnoldsChessSets you can see how many of my sets fall into those categories), I always have 10 ideas stuck in my brain ready to come out, but the problem I created for myself is that I do custom commissions. People can contact me and I'll hand carve a custom theme set based on 'their' request. I'm guessing 70% of my sales are custom commissions, and there's nobody else in the world that does this, lots of big chess companies say they do and lots of individuals say they do, but I've created more unique, fun, and playable designs then all of them put together, and I'm not slowing down.
(Don’t you dare!) =D
My favorite set:
Impossible to answer. My favorite set suggested by a customer...the DJ Chess Set...my first "what the.." set. Its been featured in several magazines and tons of internet articles. While working with my client on this set, the idea of using musical notes for pawns came to be. Since then, I've made at least a dozen themed musical sets and enough musical note pawns to write a couple Mozart pieces.
'My' favorite sets are the ones that come to me while I'm sleeping. I always keep a notepad and a pencil on the nightstand. Four times I've jumped out of bed in the middle of the night and completely sketched a set of pieces and the custom boards that went with them (then I went back to sleep). The four sets were"
The Samurai Chess Set
(Also MY favorite!)
The Scottish Wars for Independence Chess Set
The War of 1812 Chess Set
The Great Train Robbery Chess Set (aka, "Train Robbery at Straker Flats")
All four are exactly as I dreamed them, these are my current faves, but I have a flying saucer set "Aliens versus the Goths" (the board is the flying saucer), and a cast of characters that includes Alfred Hitchcock, Dick Cheney, and Queen Elizabeth, a Heaven versus Hell set (three levels, intense religious carvings and 15th, and 16th century styled Satanic pieces, and the most customized themed board I've ever done), the "First Nation's Chess Set The Sioux Tribe versus the Crow Tribe" (I'm about a third of the way done with this and it should be my masterpiece). Lots of carving on the pieces, relief carving all around the table, and a carved table post that could be a competition contender by itself...its for the 2013 Calgary Stampede Western Art Auction if I get it done on time.
(Can’t WAIT to see these!!)
Advice on growing an etsy shop Art bizz:
Do your homework first before jumping into the deep end. Etsy provides volumes of assistance for shop owners. Take the time to check it all out, it will save you months, if not years of time in the long run. The Etsy provided information is invaluable!
Join the "Its A Madcap Life Team" at Etsy, there are hundreds of different 'teams'. These teams are often stuffed with promotional ideas. I've found A'esha Miller's "Its A Madcap Life" to be one of the best at Etsy. They maintain a presence on virtually every social media site and most art sites, they promote your listings on all of these sites, their discussion pages are filled with promotional activities, and they offer help at any point in the Etsy shop process. No matter what your specific field, Its A Madcap Life will help... a lot. Some of the most successful shops at Etsy are members of Its a Madcap Life. If you carve wood then of course, you want to join the "Wood Carvers of Etsy" a worldwide collection of selling woodcarvers on Etsy.
Just spend some time at first looking around the site, its huge, and there's help available at every turn. Etsy is the place to be!!!
I definitely agree with you on that one!! Etsy is my favorite of all the sites I’m a part of! The community aspect is incredible and the people are so helpful it’s like having hundreds of guardian angels helping you along the way! Ok, that sounded cheesy, but it’s totally true! =)
Well I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did! And please check out Jim’s incredible chess sets at
You might have seen Natalie Portman clutching a purse made from the book Lolita on the runway and thought to yourself as I did, “where can I get one of those!?”
Well look no further! Here I present to you the beautiful and whimsical purses of Karen from Novel Creations! These purses are bright and unique, perfect gift for that bibliophile in your life (like me, for example *wink*wink*.. j/k)! From the classics to recent works these one of a kind works of art put a new meaning to the term “book bag”! (Yes, it was cheesy but I just had to!)
Some of my favorites!
Let’s hear from Karen:
How/why did you get into this and do you find it fun?
Working for a used book store, I would bring home the books they wanted to throw away. I just could not see them taking a dive in the dumpster. I collect books like the crazy woman that collects cats!
With an attic full of books, I realized I could make into a purse. After a lot of trial and error, I figured it out and this has been a fun-filled adventure learning how to make these purses better and better each time I make them!
2. When designing a piece for someone, what is your favorite?
I am a perfectionist so I am assembling with great care as I know once my customer receives her purse, she will be looking at it intently. So, it has to be perfect! All of the books are my favorite! I love custom orders because then I get to read a new book!!
3. What would you like to say to new customers/potential buyers?
A book purse makes a unique gift for that special person that has everything! I just betcha they don't have a book purse!
Great gift ideas for girls of ANY age! Visit Novel Creations on Etsy and be sure to use the code WICKEDJEWELRY to get FREE shipping to anywhere in the US! Thanks again, Karen!
Today’s spotlight is on a woman who makes bathtime fun! =)
I met Kristi in the Naughty X Nature Group on Etsy (FABULOUS group!! LOVE them!!) and got to know her in BNR’s and group games. Being a bit of a clean freak, I had to browse her shop. In addition to having the expected soaps, lavender, vanilla.. she has the most unique soaps I’ve ever seen! Sure to give you a smile and spark your curiosity!
Yes! Beer and Oreo scented soaps! Tell me you don’t want to order them just so you can smell them! =)
I asked Kristi to share with us about her business, I know you’ll find it as inspiring as I did:
I LOVE what I do with a passion and I thank God for the odd circumstances that brought me to where I am now. I was recovering from a neck fusion surgery and my husband happened to send an E-mail home to me from Entrepreneur magazine on the top 20 stay at home jobs for moms. He said he could see me doing one of two of them. One was basket making and the other soap making. I sort of scoffed at it and went on reading my E-mails. Somehow that E-mail kept bugging me so a couple of weeks later, I went back to REALLY read it and the soap making sparked an interested in my house-bound, bored self. So, I had my husband drive me to our local craft store (I was still on meds and healing from surgery) and bought the basics to make a few small soaps. I got to work and made some lollipops, pumpkins, fall soaps since it was Oct/Nov. I then gave them out to friends and family who really were impressed with my first time attempt and said I should go bigger! So from there, I did my research (being an RN and have gone to medical school for a year) I found out that there is a LOT of science involved and was overjoyed that I had found something that could combine my love of crafting with my love of science. From there, it just took off and I became incorporated in November of 2010 as Kristi's Klean Kreations.
I have since joined a networking group called Biz Moms which has helped my business grow locally and help me to find small businesses in town that will carry my products. They also support each other to no end. It was one of the best things I did. One women owns a Post Net that was sponsoring a nationwide contest for small businesses. I entered and used my contacts locally and on Etsy for support. I ended up in the top 5. This was huge! I ended up with a feature story in my local paper in the business section and I also won a gift card as a runner up prize. Of course I didn't win the $15,000 but there is always next year!!
Just about anything I see in nature or geometric designs spark my creative processes. I have made a soap once based on a stained glass candle holder.
I think my favorite soap is my Autumn Leaf Soap which I will be making soon. Smells like hot apple pie and has fall colored leaves scattered and poking out of the top. MMMMM
(Looking at these makes me CRAZY hungry, lol!!)
My advice for new people in business is to stay strong and definitely join at least one networking group.
Thank you so much Kristi!! As I’m sure your curiosity is now peaked and you are wondering what other crazy cool soaps can be found in her store here is the link: