I have a "Google Alert" setup for "Etsy and Cat" - which means that when that keyword appears on the Internet, I get an email letting me know where it has. That's how I discovered the Etsy seller, catmadecom. Wait until you see how fun these earrings are! I just love them!
So I reached out to Rita to see if she would be game for an interview about her stuff. Lucky for us, she was game.
Thanks, Rita, for the interview and for sharing your work with us.
How did you get interested in cats? How old were you when you had your first kitty?
I was 6 years old when my family moved to the village to live. Every house at the village then had a cat, and sometimes two or even three because there were many mice in the village and cats were needed to eliminate the problem. I always lived near cats, taking care and playing with them. But I developed a special love for cats after meeting Ryzhun in 2011. Its name means a warm, fluffy and red cat. It has huge eyes and mustaches. The male cat is smart and well-mannered, and we often talk to it. Ryzhun sleeps on my head every night. In winter, when it’s minus 35 degrees Celsius outside, the cat likes to sleep under a blanket curled up in a ball. I think Ryzhun was a lost cat or it was simply kicked out of the house. So when we met it on the street, my husband and I decided to take it home and take care of it. Ryzhun was about 3 years old when we first met it. It has become not just a cat, but a real friend and family member.
Please describe your creative process.
The first thing I do is to go online and look through hundreds of photos, read articles, watch videos, and look for my inspiration. After I feel like I’ve got ideas, I take my marker pens, an album for drawing, and start sketching future earrings. I draw each detail, select colors and think how to paint them. When the sketches are ready, I begin to prepare the polymer clay. I need to mix several colors to get the color I want. This is the hardest part in the process. It’s always easier to work with pure colors, for example, white and black cats are the fastest and easiest to produce. When the clay has been prepared and I’m convinced that the color of the clay is exactly what I need, I begin to mold the shape of the body and head of the cat. This is a very important moment – I make every body and every head from scratch with my own hands; I don’t use a shape, fabricated parts or some kind of machine work. When the cat has been molded, I place it in the oven and the clay hardens, which allows me to go to the next stage of the job – coloring and pasting of accessories. I buy accessories from the US, I use titanium and silver accessories. After coloring the earrings, I cover it with two kinds of different varnishes to protect the paint. I’ve described the process very briefly, in fact there are many more ins and outs that I think will not be interesting to read. The main thing is inspiration and Ryzhun very often helps me!
How did you discover Etsy? Did you consider other ways to sell your products?
Honestly, I can’t remember how I discovered Etsy website. It’s most likely that I stumbled upon it while browsing on the internet. No one had recommended the site to me. In Russia, I was trying to open my own online store but failed. I invested a lot of effort, time and money, but I couldn’t sell my earrings. So I ordered for professional CEO services and various advertisements, but still to no avail. But after opening a store on Etsy, sales immediately went up. In the first three months, I sold more earrings than what I sold in a year on my website. So I had to immediately close my online store and began to develop Etsy. But Etsy today is not what it was before. There are now many machine-made products, a lot of fakes from China and substandard goods. So people began to see this site like Ebay or Amazon.
Do you sell your products in a local store in your area?
No, I don’t have a store in Novosibirsk, and I don’t cooperate with local stores. I think that it’s more profitable to develop Internet business than to open a store in Novosibirsk. We have very different needs here, people don’t really need cat-shaped earrings because it’s cold here for 8 months in a year and we wear hats to cover the head. The Internet is an access to all world trading platforms.
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?
I believe that the sales I made in Etsy for four years are very small. I don’t spend time on advertising and promotion, and that’s why my sales are low. When someone writes an article in a blog about me or makes a post on instagram, my sales grow, I receive many orders, but then everything gradually fades away. For example, in 2015, the 9GAG portal published a photo of my black earrings, but didn’t give a link to my online store because I didn’t pay for advertising. The 9GAG administrator himself decided to post this, but anyway traffic to my store increased and I received lots of orders. The picture received about 543,000 likes; I was pleased. In 2016, the Chinese fashion supermodel Liu Wen appeared at a press conference wearing my Maneki Neko earrings. In the next three months after her appearance, I received a huge number of orders from China. Such examples confirm that popular personalities and blogs can help boost one’s business.
Do your customers ever give you new ideas for products?
I love my customers, I have completely crazy female customers who buy the entire collection at once or order for 100 earrings for personal use. I am often asked to do something new, a certain character or personality in the form of a cat, but I have a strict rule that I can’t abandon: "If I like an idea, then I will implement it, but if I don’t, then no amount of money would make me venture into it because I know I won’t be able to step outside of myself. Three years ago, a young man from UAE asked me to make earrings so that they could appear like diamonds before the eyes. But I refused because polymer clay in my opinion doesn’t match well with precious stones. Maybe in the future, I will make earrings from silver and try to use gems, but that’s only a dream for now.
Have you thought of featuring a Ragdoll cat in some way? (Had to ask.)
Ragdolls are incredible cats and I really admire them. They are great, I’ve long had an idea to make a collection of earrings based on cat breeds, but I haven’t got the time for that. I want to focus on space, Halloween and much more.
Are you a one-woman show?
When I started, I did that alone, my husband worked in another sphere of business. But two years ago, he left his job and we began to work together. It's good when I can engage in creativity, while my husband handles all logistics issues.
Do you have a blog?
We don’t have any website or blog. It's a big challenge for us. Of course, we want to create a website and a blog, my husband is working on that. Personally, I love Instagram, I'm proud of my 2300 subscribers because these are all real people and not bots.
Do you do custom ordering? Can someone return it if they don't care for it?
I often receive requests to make earrings from a picture of a domestic cat. Such earrings are harder to make – many small details, and I always worry if the buyer would like my work. So I first make the earrings, send the photos and the buyer tells me what to correct, add or remove, or if everything is OK, he pays and takes his items. For 6 years, I never had any customer returning any item, but I always tell the buyer that if you don’t like the work, then I will redo it. I can’t and have no right to send unique earrings without coordinating the design with the customer and carefully working out each element.
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?
When I read this question, I immediately thought about Halloween. In Russia, we don’t have the Halloween celebration culture, although I can say that for the last 3-5 years, young people have been trying to celebrate it, but it's still not so grandiose as it is in the US. I love Tim Burton's films, he's my favorite director. I often watch his cartoons and films several times to inspire me towards creating new works. So the collection of Halloween earrings is my favorite. I'm inspired by cats in the images of vampires, zombies, ghosts and witches. I think this is a combination of the incongruous.