Contributor post by Natalie
Please join us in welcoming Left Hand Asylum, our featured member!
Tell us about yourself
Born in San Jose, California, I left before my first birthday to find my fame and fortune in the Big Apple—I’m still waiting. Being the oldest of four children and moving around every few years, I found it hard to make long-time friends, so I would spend most of my time by myself drawing with a pencil and sketch pad. I never really had the confidence to show my work. Even with the encouragement of family, friends and teachers, I was still insecure, so I abandoned the thought of ever becoming an artist.
I worked for many years at various unfulfilling jobs in the customer service field, until I felt the need for some sort of change and touched down in Arizona in August of 1995—the thermometer read 117 degrees—so, I was crazy then too. Shortly after arriving I met my partner Craig and we have been together ever since.
Fast forward many years and I found myself unemployed with no desire to continue in those still unfulfilling fields. I would stay up late surfing the web and came across a site with papier maché. Although I’d never dabbled in this medium, after seeing the prices they were asking, I thought that I could do this. My own personal twist was to incorporate recycled materials—being green, you know.
As each sculpture I made sold, I decided to try and sell them on my own website. Trying to get a web address that I liked—and that was not already taken—was a long and frustrating process. I do most of my creating late at night, and often Craig would wonder to whom I was talking. Of course it was to the sculptures that all had opinions on the direction they wanted to take towards completion. Since I am left handed and slightly crazy, Left Hand Asylum was born. The tag line ‘Mixed media art creations from the Madhouse’ encompasses the many different media I work in and doesn’t pigeon-hole me.
When did you open your business and what make you decide to do so?
I opened up on my first site back in September of 2012 to attempt to reach a larger audience. I have since moved over to Etsy and keep this website to post pictures of my sold art sculptures and an occasional update on current pieces I am working on.
Tell us a bit about your products
While I started out just making recycled paper mache sculptures, my smaller pieces came about because my best friend KC suggested that I come up with some things to sell at an arts and craft fair she was attending. Since my sculptures tend to be time consuming I bought a block of clay and decided to make magnets, then branched out into ornaments. I started with cats, skulls and zombies, but my product line has grown to include southwestern style items, sci-fi fan art, as well as visual puns and parody and a line of gingerbread shaped ornaments.
What inspires your work?
I was cleaning out my refrigerator and ran out of the cleanser I was using. As I was ready to rinse and toss the empty bottle into the recycling bin, it somehow reminded me of a giraffe. This 409 bottle eventually became ‘Lolly’ and although she is sold, she can be viewed on my first website, LeftHandAsylum.
What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?
Goals, hmmm. I think the main goal I hope to achieve this year is to gain a bit more confidence and stop second guessing myself so much. I am hoping to master the concept of Twitter and blogging also.
What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?
I like to get to know the people that purchase my magnets and ornaments, that adopt my sculptures. I have met many a customer that has turned into a friend.
Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?
The second bedroom became my studio after my ‘stuff’ started taking over the house. While waiting for shredded paper forms, layers of paper strips, or coats of paint to dry, I am usually online, marketing and researching or updating on my Etsy or Facebook page.
Where can people find out more about you and your business?
I have a newsletter I put out every once in a while, and I frequently post on my Facebook page with ongoing projects I’m working on. www.LeftHandAsylum.com.
Why do you believe people should buy handmade, such as your products, vs buying mass-produced products from box stores?
Each one of my pieces has character, a story to tell, and my sculptures are truly one of a kind.
What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?
Pricing! Listen to your gut and never underestimate your worth. I over-priced and under-priced many times in the beginning.
I have also learned that not everyone will appreciate what you make.
Any advise for those thinking about selling on Etsy?
Do not think that all you have to do is post some pictures, set a price and sit back while the sales come flowing in. Join teams and be active in them.
Read some of the blogs–there is a lot of useful information out there.
Reach out and connect with others.
Visit and favorite items in other shops.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?
I have a local craft group of friends I meet up with every week in the local mall’s food court. We usually grab a bite to eat and either have a project with us to work on or just enjoy a relaxing conversation without distractions.
What is your favourite quote?
Being the only left handed person growing up that I knew of for the longest time, my mother use to tell me:
“Everyone is born right handed, only a special few learn how to overcome it.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I have always been an introvert until I started doing craft shows. My art has opened me up. I don’t like talking about myself, but my art? I could talk for hours.
If you would like to be featured, please go to the CIJ Etsy Forum and fill out the questionnaire. Please note you must be a member of the CIJ Etsy team to be featured.