Interview with Christine Rademacher of NotJustCats Etsy Shop
I’m really lucky to be able to use my sense of humor and my love of kitties to help me make a living. I dabbled in pottery making in high school art classes. After I graduated from college, where I studied science and took absolutely no art classes, I bought a potters wheel and electric kiln to continue the pottery hobby. I found it more fulfilling to make funny little animals to perch on the rims of my plates and bowls than to make the actual plates and bowls. One day I was making a tiny cat and as I formed the tail, the shape started to remind me of a calla lily. So I made it a cat with a calla lily tail. I was immediately excited about the idea of making kitties with all sorts of weird tails. I was very lucky to get into a good local art fair that year and my cats were a huge hit convincing me that I
could at least try to make a living in art. That was in 1996 and I’ve made and sold over 10,000 little animal sculptures (mostly cats) since then. They don’t all have strange tails. I love birds so I make of lot different birds perched on cats’ tails. I’ve also branched out into humorous sayings on my work and pieces that I call dioramas that are like 3D cartoons. And virtually all of my work is under 3 inches tall so it’s easy to haul around to art fairs and to mail to customers. The greatest danger to my ceramic animals comes from my 3 cats, Eddie, William and Flora, who are constantly trying to “assist” me.
Etsy Shop: NotJustCats
1. How did you get interested in cats? How old were you when you had your first kitty?
I grew up on a farm and there were “barn cats” around from the earliest times I can remember. Most of the photos of me as a kid shows me clutching at least one kitty. When I was in high school my mom accepted a house cat from a neighbor and living with Zelda the black cat in the house was a whole new way of experiencing a feline companion. But the first cat that was truly mine, as in “bonded to me heart and soul”, was Puff, who I got when I was 32 when I bought my first house. I use the name “Puff” in a lot of my artwork.
2. Please describe your creative process.
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I don’t really have a process. Good new ideas occur to me throughout the day and I have to immediately write them down or they’re gone forever. Especially the sayings that I write on little signs on a cat’s tail. If I were able to plan what to create I would be a different kind of an artist and would make serious, intellectual stuff instead of the silly things that I do. My sense of humor is the driving force behind most of what I create, and I can’t force a new idea, it just happens when it happens.
3. How did you discover Etsy? Did you consider other ways to sell your products?
I first heard of Etsy in about 2008 in a local newspaper article. I had already been selling at art fairs and in a few galleries and shops for 10 years and didn’t even consider trying to sell online at all at that time. In summer of 2010 I thought I’d try it as a way for my regular art fair customers to buy my stuff year round. It has turned out that that rarely happens but I’ve had lots of new customers all over the US and in a few other countries.
4. Do you sell your products in a local store in your area?
I sell at a few galleries and shops but they make up a pretty small portion of my sales.
5. 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 had my first Etsy sale about a week or two after I listed my first item in August of 2010 and thereafter a few sales per month, and then a marked increase that first Christmastime. I’ve had an item shown in a blog or two over the past 1 1/2 years but I didn’t really notice an increase in traffic. But my sales have increased steadily. It’s been easy and fun to sell on Etsy.
6. Do your customers ever give you new ideas for products?
One idea that came from a customer that’s been very popular is a sign on the cat’s tail that says “TALK TO THE TAIL”. It’s on the backside of the tail of course, and the cat is sort of looking back at you. A friend of mine suggested “NO CAT LEFT BEHIND”, which is great. And my sister had me make a piano-tail kitty for her mother-in-law which I thought looked very cool, so I’ve made a lot of piano cats since then. So, I have had a few good ideas from customers and friends but 95% of the ideas I produce are from my own little demented brain.
7. Have you thought of featuring a Ragdoll cat is some way? (Had to ask.)
8. Are you a one wo/man show?
I am a one woman show.
9. Do you have a blog?
I don’t have a blog but I think it would be fun, as I greatly enjoying writing.
10. Do you do custom ordering? Can someone return it if they don’t care for it?
I do make custom critters for people. I’ve never had anyone not care for their animal sculpture. My Etsy shop policies say that buyers can return an item, but no one has ever asked to.
11. 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?
In general I love to make people’s pet cats because I enjoy hearing how much they love their cats. And I love seeing photos of their cats. A few years ago, in the course of just a couple months I had two separate orders for a three-legged black cat from people who had such cats. One was missing a front leg and my sculpture did stand up okay on 3 legs. The other one was missing a back leg so I had to create the sculpture as a cat leaning against a cactus sort of as a fourth leg, so the piece wouldn’t topple over.