Name: Elly MacKay
Occupation: Maker of Miniature Worlds
Etsy Shop: Theater Clouds www.etsy.com/ca/shop/theaterclouds
Tell us a little about yourself.
I live on Georgian Bay in Ontario, Canada with my husband Simon and children, Lily and Koen. I spend my days in my studio making things out of paper. Recently I have begun creating picture books. I just sent in my illustrations for Shadow Chasers. It will be out next spring with Running Press.
When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?
I have been making 3 dimensional paper things since I was a little girl. My Mom wrote books on how to Make Pop-Ups and I was her 'helper'. I began selling my dioramas at 1st Hand gallery as a teen. After my daughter was born I combined my love of paper arts with photography in this new way. I started my shop on Etsy then, about 3.5 years ago.
How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?
I looked at my little theater and all of the wee clouds and Theater Clouds seemed like a good fit.
Yes, running my Etsy shop is my job now. I balance it with doing illustration. Many of the jobs have come through publishers seeing my work on Etsy.
How would you describe your creative process?
I keep a sketchbook and am always writing ideas down. I often have to wait to do personal work. On my free days, I put a pot of tea on and make, make, make. I never expect the first thing I make to work out - it takes the pressure off. Often I will play with the elements for an idea and find unexpected results too. My process allows me to capture a moment in the progression of an image. Sometimes I like these better than the original idea. I like to keep changing the scene. Sometimes I take up to 100 images. I will usually find a few I like in the series.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I draw a lot from my childhood and the place I grew up. I was raised in a converted church and had stained glass on my bedroom windows. I used to love watching how the light would look completely different depending on the weather and the time of day. It influenced how I work with light. We also had a giant window that overlooked the fields and bay. I still close my eyes and think of the land there when I need to slow down. The forest, weather, animals, all make their way into my little theater.
Do you also sell your work at craft shows?
I plan to in the future when the kids are better travellers but we are a long way from most venues. The only one I do is called Art in the Garden, in Big Bay, Ontario. It is quite close by.
What is your most cherished handmade item?
My most cherished handmade item is the miniature theater my husband made me for Christmas 4 years ago. I told him what I had been imagining- a miniature theater with spots for wires, a movable front, open sides, etc. It was such an amazing gift.... partially because it was such a beautifully crafted thing and also because it meant that he believed in me and was willing to support me while I made a go of making things for a living.
Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?
I like to garden with the kids, spend time at the beach, go for hikes with family, and go out with my friends on Tuesday nights. It might seem like an isolated place to some folks but we are good at making our own fun.
Was there ever any other job you dreamed of having growing up?
I always wanted to make things. For a while I wanted to be a set designer. I suppose I am now, just on a very small scale. Someday perhaps I will get a chance to work on a large scale.
Five years from now you will be…
Hopefully doing the same things I am now. I plan on having this old house a little more comfortable by then though. We moved into our house in the spring. It is Victorian and full of charm but needs lots of work too.
Describe yourself in five words:
Traveller - though for now - just in my theater
Carrying on with the five theme, if I were to turn on your <computer>, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?
I Know What I Know
Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
You Can Call Me Al
*I'm not surprised... I put Graceland on whenever I need a lift.
Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop ?
Yes, knock their socks off - have everything set to go and make it cohesive before you launch: Have a good number of products, great photography, descriptions, shipping profiles... everything ready before it goes live. I missed out on using social media from the get-go. I would set that up too right away. It has been so rewarding getting to know my patrons outside of Etsy. Different platforms seem to encourage different types of interaction and hearing directly about an idea you are working on can be so beneficial.