Robots, Giraffes, and Superheros:
Interview with IttyBittiesForYou
By Stephanie Lynn, age 24, Massachusetts
Jennifer, age 21, from Kentucky, designs adorable robots, animals, and other imaginative figures from polymer clay baked to the ultimate cuteness. She has amazing style and is selling her wonderful art for a living at IttyBittiesForYou.etsy.com and BoltsAndBots.etsy.com. You may also remember her Crime Fighting Team in last month's article "Crafty Stuff to Snazzy Up Your Space". I enjoyed her work so much that I just had to feature her again though a full length interview. I hope you enjoy!
Please tell us a bit about yourself and your style of art. What makes you stand out from other artists?
For nearly as long as I can remember, I've been creating with polymer clay. So the fact that I now run two Etsy shops doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. Clay has been such an integral part of my life that it would seem strange not to create with it on a daily basis. Over the years my style of art has changed, but one thing has remained the same: my pieces always make people smile or laugh. I love dressing my robots up in funny outfits or as figures in popular culture that everyone can relate to. Putting dogs in superhero capes and making them fly through the sky is another favorite of mine because it's unique and unexpected. I think that my items stand out from other artists because not only do they have the ability to make people chuckle, but they can also be very sentimental.
How old were you when you started making polymer clay pieces? Who or what inspired you to get into your craft?
Polymer clay found me nearly 14 years ago when I was 8 years old and in elementary school. I say that it found me because, little did I know, it was going to change my life forever. Once I started creating with clay I continued to do so throughout my entire childhood. It served not only as a creative outlet, but also a stress reliever after a long day at school. Nearly everything around me inspired me to continue claying as I was growing up. I was always a crafty kid, so claying just kind of came naturally for me.
I noticed you've been on Etsy since January 2007. What made you decide to start a shop, and how has this experience been for you?
Finding Etsy has literally changed my life. Back in January of 2007 I was going through some very rough times in my life at a very young age. When I found Etsy, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. All of the talented artists on Etsy inspired me, and I realized that if they could do it, so could I! Even though I was excited about my new venture, I was still very nervous about putting my work out there for literally the world to see. Other than a small craft show at my church, the general public had never really seen my miniatures. But I'm so glad I took the leap. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life because it has given me confidence when I needed it most, I've met tons of new people, and it allows me to be creative on a regular basis.
What are a few challenges you've faced while mastering your craft and running an online shop? How have you persevered through those challenges?
To be honest, I don't believe that I have yet mastered my craft. I think that it will be a lifelong journey because I feel like my work is constantly evolving and changing. But along the way, I have been faced with many challenges. Specifically the most difficult challenge for me is handling people who try to put me down and don't take my job seriously. I feel like I take my work seriously and I am very passionate about what I do. But I have persevered by surrounding myself with extremely supportive, motivating, and honest people such as my fiance and his family. It really helps to have people who have your best interests in mind, especially when being self-employed.
Do you experiment with any other art media?
While I spend the majority of my time playing with clay, I find myself trying all different kinds of crafts. My fiance and I are always on the lookout for new supplies to experiment with. Lately we have been trying to perfect snow globes and soap with polymer robots in the center. This summer I'm hoping to learn how to screen print and intend to try my hand at some photography. When I was in high school I took pottery wheel classes at a local art school and loved it. If I had my way, I would try every single craft and art medium under the sun!
What do you do when you're not making cute clay pieces? What are some of your other interests, hobbies, and activities? Are you currently in school?
Creating my figurines does take up the majority the time during my days because it is what makes me the happiest. But when I'm not actually making my pieces, you will most likely find me on campus at my local university. I'm a junior majoring in Liberal Arts. It's pretty cool because it allows me to create a major that suits my individual talents and tastes. With that said, my major consists of English, Popular Culture, Cinema Studies, and my favorite, Media Informatics. In Media Informatics, I am learning about exciting computer technologies that have helped my Etsy business far more than any Business course I have ever taken.
What are some of your personal and professional goals for the future?
Graduation is in the near future for me which is both extremely exciting and nerve-wracking. Currently I'm trying my best to network and align myself so I will be able to hit the ground running once school is finished. To be honest, I'm finding that there is very little distinction between my personal and professional lives. I am so passionate about my Etsy shops and my creations that I allow - and welcome! - the two to mesh together. So many of my personal goals overlap with professional goals and vice versa.
What professional advice would you give to readers aspiring for a career in the arts?
To use an old cliche, just follow your dreams and do exactly the thing that makes you the happiest. I have found that my business is most successful when I shed the misconception that I need to conform with the crowd and be like everyone else. Once I found my style - which can be difficult to find - I figured out that I could do no wrong. For anyone aspiring for a career in the arts, it's important to know that it takes very hard work and dedication. Long days and sometimes sleepless nights are the norm, but in the end, it can be extremely rewarding and worth it!
Where can readers see more of your work and learn more about you and your business?
Wow, there are lots of places you can find me on the Web! The two most prominent places are my Etsy shops:
I also just started up my blog, http://ittybittiesforyou.com and an online community for people who sell their handmade goods, http://getindie.ning.com. Stop by and say hi!