This week we are in Chicago with a guy after my own heart for collecting vinyl toys..
Name: Mr. Walters
Occupation: I’m a full-time artist. I exhibit work, do the odd bit of illustration and graphic design, and I produce my own line or artistic novelties under the Nerfect brand, which I sell at shows, through stores around the Chicago area, my own website, and on Etsy.
Etsy Shop: www.etsy.com/shop/mrwalters
When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?
I’ve been creating since I could hold a pencil, but in terms of craft items, I used to hang out with my mother when she sold her homemade dolls at shows, and sometimes I would make my own things and sell them off a corner of the table. I guess I was around ten or so.
On and off since then I would participate in things like comic and ‘zine shows, but the Nerfect line, which I support myself with and continue with to this day, I believe I was at my first show with it in 2007.
That was the same year I opened the Etsy shop.
How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?
There is an old folksy saying, a Spoonerism if you will, “Pobody’s Nerfect.” You’ll see it from time to time on items at flea markets and people’s basement rec rooms. For example, there will be a plaster plaque with three owls on a branch, but one is hanging upside down, and then right above it would be, “Pobody’s Nerfect” and then you would roll your eyes.
Anyway, I’ve always been a big fan of that sort of thing, and as there is something always a tad off about what I do, or the occasional technical error, I started to refer to my own work as having a certain, nerfect quality. When it can time to name my empire, there was no other choice in names, really.
Has your Etsy shop become your full time job? If not, would you like it to be?
Not really. I get a nice steady amount of orders, which is a good thing, but there could be a lot more. Personally, I’d like to keep it as a part of my business model, but not as the sole outlet for my wares. I still like getting out and selling things to folks who are excited by them, be this at a craft show, rock festival, comic convention, or through my friends in retail who carry my wares.
How would you describe your creative process?
I naturally do a lot of doodling. I carry a Field Notes book from Coudal Partners with me everywhere, and as something hits me or if I see something I like, I sketch it down. I’m also a big fan of using the camera on my phone as a sort of visual note taker.
I’ve also been doing a series of daily drawings since 2005. Some are inspired by my “notes” from the day. You can see this year’s 4x6x365/13 drawings here:
Anyway, sometimes I dig something that I’ve put down so much that I more forward with the image and idea. This might mean redrawing and revising the concept, but no matter what, everything ends up in the computer where I digitally recreate the image again and make it something that is going to be great for the production process.
In the end, I think I’ve always nurtured and tried to improve upon these initial ideas. If an image strikes me as something I should explore, odds are someone else will love it when it becomes a stuffed doll or t-shirt design.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I enjoy a wide range of things and try to keep my eyes open as I move around the world. Sometimes these things mix together and grow into new ideas. Luckily I’m here to take it from there.
Do you also sell your work at craft shows?
Right now, I can only really afford to do shows in the Chicago area, but would like to take the show on the road now and again. I do the big craft shows here in Chicago, like Renegade, the DIY Trunk Show and the One of A Kind Show. I also like to keep a pretty steady stream of bookings during show season, so that means I do the fair amount of street and music festivals. Unless something screwy happens, I should be at the Coterie show at the Pitchfork Music Festival, and Riot Fest this year. I’m also heading back to the comic conventions; the first big one coming up is C2E2.
• How long does it take you to prepare for a show? Do you have any special methods of getting ready?
Usually once the shows are running, it doesn’t take me that long to prepare for shows. After each show, I take a stock, and if financially possible, I go to work restocking my line. Constantly keeping an eye on the stock and being mindful of your future obligations is a good frame of mind to be in.
I’ve also been doing shows for a while. I kind of know what works and what doesn’t for each type of show. I’ve also been able to build and streamline my displays pretty easily, and I always try to improve on them.
• Describe an experience from a show (good or bad) and why that pushes you to continue with your work
I’m always happy to have people be completely thrilled and excited when then come across my work at a show, and especially kids. The more they flip out, the better. It makes all the late nights and lugging worth it.
What is your most cherished handmade item?
My grandfather made a living as a carpenter and furniture maker. He is a big inspiration in my life and how I want to make the work I enjoy and make it something I can support myself with.
My brother recently sent me the hand painted sign from his shop which is pretty nice, but his personalized "Sure-Kill" Mosquito Eliminator is probably one of the most charming things I still have from him. You can see it here:
Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?
I like traveling, having a meal with friends, looking around the local thrift store, listening to music, exploring a new neighborhood, watching b-movies and old television, and hanging around with my wife and our three pugs and one water turtle.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be and why?
That’s like asking me if I weren’t a human, or in a semi-solid state. I can’t really imagine what misery that would be. I rejoice in the idea that all I need to entertain myself is a tool to draw with and a surface to make marks on.
Five years from now you will be…
Hopefully, still using my work to support myself and household, but with a bit more financial security. I’d like to have it somewhat more figured out by then.
I’d also like to be in a position to travel for my business and maybe just for a vacation now and again.
Describe yourself in five words:
Gentleman artist and amusing biped
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?
Besides the pile of old country albums I’ve been picking up at thrift stores lately, I guess here are five things I’ve been listening to while I’m working on the computer:
1. MJ is a Rocker… A recent find via ska DJ Wren, The Drastics perform Jackson’s songs in a rocksteady style and incorporate Michael’s vocals.
2. Early Dexy’s Midnight Runners when they were in their New Soul Rebels phase. If you’ve only heard “Come on Eileen”, you’re missing out.
3. Otis Redding… Doesn’t get much better than that.
4. Blondie. Not quite sure why, but I’ve been in the mood for Blondie lately.
5. Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to Danger: Diabolik. Great, weird, fun movie and the soundtrack really makes it.
Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop or participating in craft shows?
If possible, help a friend out at a couple shows. You can 100% love the process and what you make, but sitting through three days of a street festival might not be your cup of tea, but helping someone out you might be able to understand how you might make the best of it.
You should also go to as many of the larger shows as possible to see what people are making, how well they are doing and how they’re displaying their work. Most vendors welcome the chance to talk to anyone for a while, especially if there is a lull in foot traffic.
Also, I know this sounds lousy, but get some business training. I went to one of the better art schools in the country, and the biggest disservice it did for its students was not making some sort of basic business class part of the required classes. So much of what you’ll be doing after graduation requires business knowledge from having a design job, working with a gallery to exhibit work, or producing items to sell at craft shows.