We head to Orcas Island, WA this week..
Name: Erica Ekrem
Occupation: Bookbinder / Graphic Designer
Etsy Shop: Odelae
I live with my sweetheart and our children on an island off the coast of Washington state. I'm the designer, photographer and maker of Odelae Handstitched Books. I work from a small and cozy studio in the nearby village of Eastsound, a twenty minute drive from my home.
When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?
I believe we are born creating, so I would say I did it from the very beginning, albeit in the simplest of ways-- making smiles appear on the faces of strangers and opening hearts in that way that only babies do. Then, as a child, I forgot this or maybe I was never taught that I was an artist. I grew up in a place where art classes weren't offered in school and my family was more focused in the practical: the responsibilities of taking care of animals and growing food, making ends meet-- very much the Midwestern rural farm life. It took me awhile to remember myself as an artist. In college, I got in touch again. I studied Architecture, Art and Graphic Design. Then I took a required bookbinding class and my passion was kindled. Five years later, I opened an Etsy shop and now, I've been selling hand stitched books on Etsy for about three years.
How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?
I searched through an 8" inch thick dictionary for months, exploring the English language and researching etymological meanings. It was a challenge for me to cover all the feelings and associations that are conjured by my work in one short title. Finally, I chose Odelae (pronounced 'O-Del-Ay'). It's a name that I made up and, to me, it expresses more of a lyrical feel rather than a specific meaning. It's singsongy, abstract and a little old world feeling.
Has your Etsy shop become your full time job? If not, would you like it to be?
Until recently, I was offering freelance graphic design alongside the bookbinding. Last summer, I began feeling like all the screen time wasn't healthy and the stresses of meeting clients needs and deadlines were getting to me and, in turn, my family, so I decided to let go of most of it. And that left more time to focus on my Etsy shop! I took on my first big order from Urban Outfitters/Terrain a few months ago and with a little help from husband and friends, turned up the production output. Things are beginning to happen; collaborations are popping up and it's now my full-time work.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The first place I search for inspiration is in my heart. I ask myself, "what world do I want to live in?", "what makes my heart happy?", "what feels good?". And as always, if I take time to really listen, I get an answer. Also, nature plays a huge role in my work. I believe everything we see is alive and interconnected. I look to the land where I grew up--- the flat wide-open prairie where the sun ruled the sky; and to the land where I currently live that's covered in forested mountains and surrounded by the femininity of the ocean. Many folktales are centered in relationship to the land and the characters are strongly connected to the creatures and plants around them. These tales inspired me as a child and continue to do so. Part of my mission in my bookbinding work is to share this idea of interconnectedness and the responsibility of caring for the life on earth.
What is your most cherished handmade item?
One of my favorites is a wooden cedar box that was given to me by my aunt. After two decades it still has that foresty, cedar scent that is so enlivening. It holds the little golden locks of my kids' hair (when they snuck themselves their first haircut) and my nature findings, like stones and feathers.
Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?
I like tending plants and being outside in the fresh air, close to the earth. I especially love to grow flowers. I also practice tea ceremony and work with the tea plant in that way. I like to play guitar and am in the process of discovering my voice. It is so freeing to get over a fear of singing in front of others, even if my family is my only audience. I love to swim. I like to hike off trail whenever possible-- to see what I might discover. Exploring life in whatever ways I can: roadtripping, reading and especially journeying in the inner worlds of the mind via different meditation and drumming techniques.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be and why?
Recently, I begin wondering what it might be like to help others in a more direct way, maybe through art therapy or dreamwork. Also, I've been inspired to build my illustrating skills.... I don't think I can get away from the whole artist identity thing. It's who I am.
Five years from now you will be…
Living happily with my family in a communal setting close to nature, singing my songs and helping others with my art.
Describe yourself in five words:
curious, openhearted, humble, brave & visionary
Carrying on with the five theme, if I were to turn on your <insert whatever type of music player you use here>, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
Heart Song by Paul Wagner
The Crystal Ship by The Doors
Rain by Sea Stars
Star Blanket River Child by Brightblack Morning Light
Beyond the Sea by Django Reinhardt
Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop or participating in craft shows?
Let your work express your unique self. Show your heart to the world. I believe it's the most valuable offering we can give and it's what your audience will remember. Be the strange, loving, intriguingly quirky and beautiful being you are. Your audience will applaud you.