Name: Jennifer Skelly
Etsy Shop: Red Parka Designs
Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm an artist from Tasmania, Australia, who is in love with colour and handmade! I dabble in all sorts of creative endeavors but drawing is my true love and at the foundation of all my work. I love Tasmania, and although I'm a bit of a gypsy and love to travel I will always call this little island home. Apart from being an artist, I like to write (I love working on my blog!), go hiking, hang out with my husband on photo shoots (he's a photographer) and spend time with the other love of my life, my dog Benny.
When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?
I've been creating forever but only started to take my illustration work seriously during the last few years. I joined Etsy a few years back but only recently began to use it regularly. It's been amazing because even though my number of sales is still low they have all been from overseas and it has been really beneficial to getting my work out there in the wider world rather than just the Australian market.
How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?
My business name is after my favourite piece of clothing I ever owned! I still have it, in fact, but don't wear it that often now as it's a little small for me these days! I toyed with several names before I thought of Red Parka but once it came to me, I knew it was the one - it really fits me and my product and people seem to really like it too!
Has your Etsy shop become your full time job? If not, would you like it to be?
Red Parka is my full time job but only a small portion of my income is from Etsy, although I would like to grow my Etsy shop! I make most of my income from markets and I also sell on my own website. Additionally, I do a bit of freelance work but I'd like to do less of this and more Red Parka over time.
How would you describe your creative process?
It's hard to say as it's quite haphazard! I draw all the time and constantly fill up sketch books with drawings and only a small number of these go any further. When I have something I like, I'll work on it for a while, usually redrawing it once or twice, before scanning it and finishing it off digitally.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I find inspiration is all around me, all the time. It's just that sometimes you don't notice it. I try to remind myself to slow down and look at the details as often as I can, like when I'm walking the dog or shopping at the markets or even when I'm just hanging out at home. I get inspired by animals, nature, books, browsing the internet (design blogs mostly, and Pinterest!).... I love reading about other people's creative journeys because this always inspires me to keep going with my own journey, even when it seems an uphill battle.
Do you also sell your work at craft shows?
The big shows I do are mostly in Melbourne, Australia, such as MARKit@FederationSquare, Finders Keeper and in a couple of weeks The Big Design Market. I also do the local Salamanca Market most saturdays here in Hobart, Tasmania.
• How long does it take you to prepare for a show? Do you have any special methods of getting ready?
It takes ages for the big ones! It's not just getting enough stock prepared but organising the display sometimes takes a long time, especially as I usually have to fly to the shows so it's always a challenge keeping my gear to a minimum. I don't really have a method - like most of my life I have no big plan, I just work hard, do as much as I can then put a smile on my face and hope for the best! It may not be the most efficient but it's worked for me so far!
• Describe an experience from a show (good or bad) and why that pushes you to continue with your work
Um, I'm not really sure what experience to tell you about...... I guess what pushes me to keep working is whenever you get good feedback. At the show I did last week in Melbourne a woman came to my stall wearing some of my earrings that she'd purchased last time, told me how much she loves them and bought some of my new designs. I also have some customers who keep coming back to add to their print collection.... this is always exciting and inspires me to keep going because when someone makes the effort to come and shop with you, rather than just stumbling across you, well I think that's pretty special and humbling and exciting!
What is your most cherished handmade item?
Although it's been many, many years since I made lace, I absolutely treasure the rustic, hand-whittled bobbins for lacemaking that my late grandfather made for me when I was young.
Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?
My two other big loves after art are music and travelling.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be and why?
Probably a musician if I could - I studied classical music to quite a high level when I was younger and have worked as a music teacher and a performer in various capacities over the years. I love it, but it never brought me quite the same satisfaction as creating art does. I'm also an introvert and suffered from severe stage fright on occasions - sometimes I was ok but as much as I loved playing, I never felt at home on the stage. My personality suits being an artist so much better!
Five years from now you will be…
....still drawing! But hopefully making a more reliable income so I don't have to stress so much about making the rent each week! I might also be living in a caravan - I love mobile homes and the tiny house movement so it's definitely a goal of mine in the future to save the money to buy/build something I can live, work and travel in.
Describe yourself in five words:
Creative, adventurous, shy, silly, compassionate.
Carrying on with the five theme, if I were to turn on your <iiPod>, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
Sigur Ros, Belle and Sebastian, Sia, Regina Spektor, Angus & Julia Stone.
Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop or participating in craft shows?
The best piece of advice I could give you is to get out there and do it, even if you're not sure. You can read, research, practice etc for ever but nothing will teach you what you need to do than simply getting out there and starting. Also, find a creative community, whether it's local artists or people online (or both!) to chat to, share info and tips, inspire each other. It's easy for creative people like me to become a bit hermit-like and spend too much time alone in the studio (I know I do!) but it's important to connect with a community. I love helping my fellow artists and crafters in anyway I can because I figure we're all in this together and if we support one another we'll all have more success and fun along the way!