Interview with Wendy Christensen of wendycats Etsy Shop
With Wendy Christensen, it’s All Cats, All the Time. Wendy is The Cat Herder™ at Bobcat Mountain Studios, perched high on a hillside in rural New Hampshire. She’s a Cultural ailurologist; award-winning writer, artist and illustrator; painter of cat portraits; designer and builder of cat jewelry; cat behavior consultant, and pet columnist. She’s the author of the award-winning Outwitting Cats and other books.
Wendy finds her bliss in creatively representing, in multiple media, the wonder, mystery and joy of cats in and of themselves, and in their relationships with humans. Her writing focuses on the social life, culture and behavior of cats living in groups with humans. Her painting focuses on capturing the uniqueness, beauty and “catness” of each individual kitty she portrays.
In all her activities, Wendy encourages and facilitates feline-human harmony; understanding and overcoming feline behavior challenges; creative environmental enrichment for indoor cats; and designing comfortable, easy-care shared living spaces that work for both cats and humans. She lives with over 10,000 books, her scientist husband, and their ten remarkable cats.
www.wendycats.com (under construction)
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Wendycats features unique handcrafted cat jewelry by cat artist and writer Wendy Christensen. Using gemstones, silver, copper, vintage cat jewels, millefiore glass, lampworked glass and more, Wendy fashions one-of-a-kind necklaces, bracelets, earrings and sets – all featuring cats. Some pieces include genuine KeyCycled computer keys, spelling out feline-friendly phrases such as “Purrrr” and “Cat Writer.” Wendy will be happy to design and craft a special piece of cat jewelry just for you, with your favorite colors and gemstones — and maybe your name or your cat’s name spelled out in keys! Contact her at wendy [at] wendycats.com with your requests and ideas.
Etsy Shop: wendycats
I think I was born interested in cats. I’ve lived with cats for most of my life, in groups of all sizes from a single kitty to a whole herd. My parents were great animal lovers. I think I was two when we got Cloudy, a big charcoal boy and my Dad’s all-time favorite cat. By the time I was a teenager, we had over 40 cats. People had figured out we loved cats — so cats just appeared in our yard. Sick and injured kittens, pregnant mama cats… we took them all in and took care of them. With 12 humans in residence, they all got plenty of attention. We were like a shelter in many ways.
I loved sitting out front with all the kitties, blowing bubbles for them to chase or just being together. I’ve spend an awful lot of time just cat-watching. I used to stay up all night to study the cats going about their mysterious catly business – balancing along the tops of walls, leaping to rooftops, meeting and greeting, meowing at the moon, gathering in small groups to discuss… what?
2. Please describe your creative process.
I dream up projects and solve problems while napping with my cats. I just think better horizontally. All the creative activities I do – jewelry-making, writing, lampworking, painting cat portraits, clay, gardening, coding computer software and all the rest are pretty much the same to me. They call for different sets of tools and materials, but the process is the same. While napping, I think through the intricacies of designs, string words and paragraphs together, sort through color options, plan exactly how to assemble something, go over in my mind how parts fit together and solve all sorts of practical implementation dilemmas. Then, when I hit the keyboard drawing board or workbench, I’m ready to go.
Another great thinking venue is walking. Something about the rhythm of walking induces creative flow in my brain. When I’m stuck on a project at any stage, I often lace up my hiking books and head up the trail behind my house, or just walk a few miles down the road and back. Problem solved!
3. How did you discover Etsy? Did you consider other ways to sell your products?
I was going to sell my jewelry on my own website until I discovered how easy Etsy makes it to set up and maintain a shop. As a software engineer, I designed and built many user interfaces, so I’m picky about such things. Etsy has an extremely good interface – very simple, straightforward and user-friendly. My only complaint is that you can’t change the name of your shop – you have to open a new shop with a new name. I wouldn’t have done it that way. But for someone that just wants to go into business quickly and easily, it’s just about perfect.
4. Do you sell your products in a local store in your area?
Not yet. I live in a very rural area, out in the woods of New Hampshire, and there aren’t a lot of stores anywhere nearby. But there is a local art and craft gallery I’d love to get my work – both paintings and jewelry — into. That’s a goal for the next year.
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 just started selling very recently, so I don’t have data for that yet. I hope that being featured on blogs and the like will help me get the word out to more jewelry-loving cat fans, though! I also plan to start offering cat portraits in my Etsy shop. I paint traditional cat portraits, plus tiny ones on gemstones that I can incorporate into necklaces.
6. Do your customers ever give you new ideas for products?
Oh, yes. In fact, I’m just finishing a bracelet for a friend who ask for charms and “More color!” Under her influence, I’m starting to include more colorful beads and gemstones in my work. I do love color.
7. Have you thought of featuring a Ragdoll cat is some way? (Had to ask.)
I’m learning to work in clay so I can make my own cat pendants. I hope to be able to create breed-specific pendants and other pieces. Just for you, I’ll make a Ragdoll my first project.
8. Are you a one wo/man show?
I am a one woman / ten cat show.
9. Do you have a blog?
I don’t blog – yet. (Too busy sitting around eating chocolates and listening to the opera, obviously.) I’m currently building a new website for my art work and jewelry. I hope to include a blog that will cover topics like my cats’ quirks, kitty quirks in general and behavior advice and tips. I love answering cat behavior questions, and I get quite a few via email.
10. Do you do custom ordering? Can someone return it if they don’t care for it?
I love getting custom orders. They pique my creativity and usually present design and implementation challenges I haven’t thought through before. They also give me opportunities to experiment with new materials I otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to use.
Of course I take returns! I want each and every one of my customers to be thrilled with their wendycats jewelry. If something’s not right, send it back for a full refund. I can also do repairs and modifications on an individual basis.
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?
I have a necklace I call “Purrrrrs and Roses.” It includes the word “Purrr” spelled out in recycled computer keys – or, as I call them, KeyCycled keys. It’s right in keeping with the notion of “upcycling” that’s so popular on Etsy. With the keys, the necklace becomes a statement piece in more ways than one. I’ve found that my KeyCycled necklaces are real conversation starters. Someone could ask to have their own name, or their cat’s name, spelled out in keys. But, of course, “Purrr” is the prettiest sound in the world!