Interview with Fran Downs of lovelettersshop Etsy Shop
Well here I am motoring along to beat the holiday deadline for painting pet portraits that will be given to several animal-loving recipients this Christmas. How honored I am to be involved in affirming people’s adoration of their furry family members.
I didn’t fully embrace my artsy nature until a couple of years ago when I watched my firstborn head off to college. Milestones like that tend to be mini quakes that shift the thinking and open up the eyes. Way back when, there had been those all-engaging art classes, but along came the all-consuming “day jobs” followed by a family to raise and a few more “day jobs.” Creativity had definitely been shelved for a while. A life-long love of animals, along with that simmering desire to just make something, had always been lying in wait and now, at long last, have surfaced and merged with one another. Oh joy of joys!
Etsy Shop: New Chapter Arts – home of lovelettersshop
1. How did you get interested in cats? How old were you when you had your first
When I was 7, our family relocated from east to west coast. I recall a huge white cat showing up at our rental house. I can only guess now that she must have been a stray, My mother, not really an animal lover, sensed my need for a pal during this time of adjustment, so she let her stay. I named her “Tammy,” and when we again moved 2 years later, she disappeared as quickly as she had appeared. Again my mother stepped in to find a replacement and thus we ended up with an underfed little calico kitten that we brought home in a flip-top sewing basket. “Missy” remained in my life for 15 years.
2. How did you discover Etsy? Did you consider other ways to sell your products?
A co-worker had mentioned doing a lot of her holiday shopping on Etsy. I knew I had heard of it before but dismissed it as one of those sites for lots of crocheted pot holders. Was I ever wrong! I first did some shopping myself and, in the process, discovered a pool of talented artisans offering an endless variety of unique and beautiful things. I was determined to be a part of it. In addition to opening an online store, I participated in monthly city art walks, which were great for person-to-person input and getting a better idea of what people wanted.
3. Do you sell your products in a local store in your area?
4. Have you been successful at selling your products on Etsy? Have you always been successful, or did you end up getting a lot more traffic after being featured on a specific blog?
It’s been a little slow going as I get more and more familiar with the tools for driving traffic to my store. When being proactive, I will go through the alchemy section on Etsy, where requests are made for custom work. Occasionally bidding on some of this requested work helps bring in views. Without a doubt, being featured in treasuries or mentioned on a blog has been enormously helpful.
5. Do your customers ever give you new ideas for products?
All the time. Since I feature their pet on canvas, it’s a new animal in a new pose each and every time.
6. Have you thought of featuring a Ragdoll cat is some way? (Had to ask.)
Funny you should ask. I have just finished a custom piece featuring a beautiful Ragdoll named Bentley. It’s one of my favorite breeds and was a joy to paint. An earlier piece featuring a Ragdoll, is a triptych (3 canvases) entitled “Hugo’s Den.” I liked it so much, I hung onto it until recently, when I listed it for sale on Etsy. Why not let someone else enjoy it? I can always paint another one.
7. Are you a one wo/man show?
Yes, I wear all the hats…artist, sales, marketing manager, bookkeeper.
8. Do you have a blog?
While I do have a Facebook page, I do not have a blog. Just too busy painting.
9. Do you do custom ordering? Can someone return it if they don’t care for it?
Most of my business is custom. In fact, before expanding into other subjects, I began by painting personalized wooden wall letters for kids’ rooms. In a world of mass produced goods, it’s easy to pick up an inexpensive reproduction. To have a one-of-a-kind keepsake, made just for you, is a special indulgence. (By the way, I also paint dogs, birds, fish, hamsters, etc.)
The space where a painting will hang is just as important as the painting itself. It’s essential that the painting coordinate well with the decor. The more information I gather up front, the more the chances improve for 100% satisfaction. Since I personally buy from merchants with a liberal return policy, I assume that my customers want to do the same. They must be thrilled with their purchase or their money back. That said, I make sure there are no surprises in the custom process, by emailing photos of the nearly-completed work in case there needs to be any changes made. So far, I have not had any artwork returned.
10. Can you share a story with us behind any of your products that you especially enjoyed working on? Maybe because of the story behind the kitty?
A couple of years ago when I was deciding on just what to paint (besides wall letters), I adopted the old writer’s adage, “write what you know.” So, I decided to paint what I knew and that was cats. I had grown up with them and did indeed know something about them. To add a twist to these paintings and make them true wall decor, I decided to paint them on more than one canvas. The first experimental piece was an orange tabby that was stretching across five canvases (sorry, don’t have a good photo of it). Sort of a jig saw puzzle for the wall…a real conversation piece. It sold quickly on eBay and I was off and running. I’ve concluded that the antics of some kitties are just too big for one canvas.
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