Mar 30, 2008

Button Therapy

One of my absolute favorite shops on our street team is CALLOOH CALLAY. When you land in this shop you are met with immediate visual gratification. Eye candy. You'll find beautiful photography showcasing the handmade work, cohesive design concepts and oodles of one of a kind, unusual pieces made from vintage buttons and watch works, etc. It's all yours for the choosing!

Susan is the designer and owner at Callooh Callay. We talked a bit about her creations and her inspiration behind her work.

Susan... your shop is so compelling to look through. Your designs are so cohesive, elegant and visually appealing. Where do you take your inspiration from and have you always had an eye and a passion for design?

I like for the pieces to look as though they grew up together. Sometimes this means sharp contrasts, or sometimes a blending in, but I don’t want it to look like a bunch of buttons jumbled together. I think the inspiration comes from the materials themselves (I love the search for great buttons), and of course I’m always inspired by the great artists at Etsy.

My mother is an artist, an art educator, and an author of a number of art books, and the whole time we were growing up, we went to every last museum and cathedral there was, everywhere we went (at least that’s how I remember it). So I’ve always been exposed to visual beauty. When she started teaching art at my high school, I went a different direction and became a journalist, but I’ve always dabbled in arts and crafts—batik, papier-maché, a little of this and that.

Could you explain your creative process to us a bit? I know you are also a writer... how does creating for your shop differ from the creative process you go through in writing?

Writing is so much harder. The button jewelry is just playing around, finding combinations I like, solving a few technical issues along the way. It may take some creativity, but I don’t feel like I’m killing myself here. With writing, there’s the initial portion of the creative process when you just put words down on paper and try to stay out of the way, but that is far dwarfed by the blood and sweat that goes into revisions. Tons and tons of revisions. (I’m talking about fiction writing here; nonfiction has its own difficulties but is far less painful.) One of my favorite quotes is from Gene Fowler: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Has selling on Etsy inspired you to branch out? Are you making new pieces or items that you never have before? What percentage of what you make gets sold and how many things do you hang on to?

In the past month or so I’ve been making some steampunk pieces incorporating vintage buttons, and I’m branching out into different types of jewelry than just the little pins I started with. Some of the inspiration comes from other artists (on Etsy and elsewhere on the Internet), but also from Etsy customers. I’ve had one custom commission and am negotiating another that are a little more expansive steampunk pieces. I also have materials for collage, including three adorable vintage picture frames, so I’m hoping to do some more creative work as soon as I get time.

So far I haven’t kept much of my work, just a necklace and a pin, but I’m making one now—a black and white eye dazzler—that I’m planning to keep, and I need to make myself some barrettes.

You must have an enormous collection of vintage buttons! Do you collect anything else?

I have a number of masks, from Ivory Coast and elsewhere, and I have a boatload of rocks and fossils and thousands of books (I keep buying vintage children’s books to resell and then keeping them). After that it all gets pretty eclectic, a mix of vintage and handmade. Even my buttons aren’t really a collection, since I’m planning to use or resell them.

I have to comment on your shop's announcement (a quote by Frank Zappa) “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." What a perfect motto for the Indie craft movement and for upcycled/recycled vintage clothing, jewelry, housewares etc. Do you think people are finding joy in shopping on Etsy because we are all truly tiring of the mass produced, poorly made items found in big box stores? Is the Indie movement going to take over the world!?

I know that for many people, buyers and sellers, on Etsy, this is how we’ve always lived, or wanted to live. But (especially with handmade) there can be a big price differential. I wish I could buy all my clothes on Etsy, but it’s not happening anytime soon. I think there are some parallels to the Indie movement, such as fair trade purchasing, the trend toward organic and locally grown foods, and a desire to live more simply (though I must say Etsy works against this desire). So changes are happening, but you’ve still got to buy your kids’ jeans somewhere.

If you can resist clicking through to this shop after seeing a visual sampler of what Susan has to offer you are a stronger soul than I am. If you head over to Callooh Callay right now, you can receive free shipping on any jewelry or accessory from now through April 15. Just mention "etsy vintage" in the notes to seller when you make your purchase and wait for a revised invoice before paying for your purchase! Thanks Susan!


rachael said...

susan's creations are fantastic!

Callooh Callay said...

Thanks, rachael. And thanks, Bethany (aka roadtrip) for the great feature and the fantastic job you're doing with our blog.

Katie said...

I love Susan's shop. Her pieces look like they were always meant to be together. And the photos are fabulous. You could sell prints of those!
Great interview Callooh~

Joules said...

How nice to read this interview! I'm a huge fan of Susan's work, and feel quite fortunate, to have two of her vintage button pins, in my stash!