Behind the Scenes this week brings you:
Name: Tracy Bull / Happy Owl Glassworks
Occupation: Artisan / Mom
Etsy Shop: happyowl.etsy.com
Tell us a little about yourself.
I own Happy Owl Glassworks which I've been running for almost 10 years now (hard for me to believe!). I make fused glass items in the form of night lights and accessories with a naturalist feel. In the past 5 years we've had two children, so creative time has changed from working with glass to working with children (and glass when I can fit it in!). My work tends to deal with animals and the details that are interesting to me, such as the direction of fur, the placement of eyes... the little things!
When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?
I began my business in 2003, back when we lived in LA and I got introduced to a very "handmade" culture. I was on Craftster and The Switchboards a bit back then, which is when I heard about Etsy. I opened up my Etsy shop within weeks of Etsy starting in June of 2005.
How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?
I have always loved owls--everyone seems to have some animal totem and, for me, the owl has been a very special creature in my life. It just seemed right to have the owl as part of my business name (like a tattoo, you have to know that you want to be around the name/image "forever"), and the name Happy Owl Glassworks was born because of the fact that I felt that this business journey would bring me some happiness. It just felt right.
How would you describe your creative process?
I have a lot of creative interests and not enough time, so I like to stick with what I know right now. Once the kids are in school, though, all bets are off. :) That said, I usually start with a lot of sketching and illustrating, whether it is a new animal for a nightlight or a new shape for a pendant. And sometimes I start backwards and draw the packaging first. I just love putting my items in packages that present the item well.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
It depends on the item. Regarding the nightlights, I peruse books and always find inspiration at my local natural history museum (that'd be Harvard around here). The world is filled with countless amazing creatures and I love to feature them on the nightlights. Simply and basically, COLOR is another source of inspiration--I love what glass does with color, and having fun using color with glass is one of the most fun and satisfying parts of the process. So when I see a bright peach sky with the magic light on deep green trees, it makes me want to replicate that in a pendant.
What is your most cherished handmade item?
This may sound a little sentimental and personal (but that's the point, right?): years ago my husband made the most awesome valentine ever, of a goofy series of photos that opens up as an accordion book. That's a bit vague but you just have to see it. I love that thing and smile every time I see it.
Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?
Cook, bake, eat, hike with my kids, practice guitar and pretend that I'm going to be really, really good at it in some decade in the future.
What are your future goals and where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
We live in a cramped apartment, and I would love to have a house someday with acreage enough to let the kids run wild and come in exhausted from a day of play while we both work on our creative efforts in a little studio out back. To dream...
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop?
Go for it, and start small. There is very little monetary investment in making a few items, taking beautiful, flattering photos of them and posting them on Etsy. Tell your friends through FB, Twitter and whatever other social media gets your ideas out there. It's just so easy these days, it's hard to give a reason not to at least try!
I just have to add a little extra to this interview. I started doing shows back in 2006 in Boston and then a little later in Northampton, MA. Tracy was always at these shows and I have to say she is simply just a stunning and amazingly sweet person. Her quality of craftsmanship and attention to detail is off the charts. I have one of her Kiwi nightlights in Aqua that I have had in my bathroom for years and also quite a few of her small pins that I wear on various hoodies. I have loved this new Sunday feature and all the new amazing artists that I have met but I just wanted to put a special little personal note because I have "run in the same circles" as Tracy for many many years now. Please check out her shop you will not be disappointed!