I'm so excited to share today's post with you. It's been too long since I've profiled or interviewed an artist on my blog so today I'm starting up again by interviewing Sharon Rohloff of The Teacup Incident. She's such a creative, joy-filled, inspiring person and this is one interview you will not want to miss!
The Teacup Incident refers a box of teacups that my mother gave me when I got married. My lifestyle is fairly casual so the teacups remained carefully packed away for years, waiting for “someday” when I’d entertain more formally. They just seemed too precious to use for pudding or paperclips.
I would look at them occasionally over the years and admire their pretty patterns. One year when I lifted a cup from its tissue nest it broke in two. Despite its coddled and protected storage it had become undone by time.
The broken cup made me sad. I thought "wouldn't this cup have preferred being used, loved and possibly chipped by admirers before it broke down?" I felt a little like that teacup because I too was waiting for the right moment to share my art with the creative community I enjoyed so much on the Internet. I decided then that that I would write a blog about creative living and started the Teacup Incident on my birthday.
Through my blog I’ve made friends far and wide and grown so much as an artist. It has taught me that there is a community for every interest; you just have to be willing to show up even if you don’t feel ready.
You started your blog in June of 2010 and have been blogging steadily since. Can you share a bit of your inspiration for starting your blog (were there other bloggers you particularly admired at the time?) and how your blog has evolved over the years? Would you say that this evolution was planned or did it come about naturally? You never seem to be at a loss for blogging inspiration. How do you stay motivated and passionate about blogging? Where do you see your blog heading next?
I started reading creative blogs voraciously in January 2010 when we had a lot of snowy days in Colorado. All those pretty photos and creative DIY projects lifted me from the winter doldrums. I have always had a lot of creative interests and the variety I found on the Internet fueled my passions as they popped up.
The bloggers I read have changed over the years with my interests and expanding technology. Blogs like Pam Garrison’s, Dispatch from LA and A Beautiful Mess were my inspiration when I was deeply into paper crafts and learning about photography. Blogs like My Giant Strawberry, and Dana Barbieri joined my reading list as I made friends through online art classes and found Creativebug.com. Abby Glassenberg’s blog “While She Naps” and sewing blogs like Sew, Mama, Sew, became my go-to blogs once I started sewing.
These days I look at blogs through Bloglovin’, Pinterest and Instagram. I click through when I find a title or photo that intrigues me. Changes in social media have influenced the way I write for my blog as well. I try to keep my writing short and full of pretty photos for pinning, knowing it’s the rare person who has time to read more than one post at a time. Social media is a work in progress for me.
My weekly posting schedule keeps me producing new art, photos and going out into the world in search of cool things to report on. Luckily I am pretty good at coming up with quirky topics. One way I do this is to pick two favorite themes such as: vintage, seasonal color, flowers, food, collage and books. I combine two or more topics and see if something feels fresh enough to post about. For example I could write about vintage flowers, seasonal food, make a collage featuring fall colors, or photographs of vintage cookbooks.
I usually have more topics in mind than time to write them up. Sharing my artwork in progress is also fun, especially on Instagram where one photo is worth a thousand blog words.
For nearly 2 years now you have been very focused on teaching yourself how to design and create soft toys. It's been so much fun and so inspiring for me to watch your creative process as it unfolded on your blog. How did you stumble upon toy making? What other creative outlets do you think fed into this newfound passion?
My toy making journey started with a winter excursion to a thrift store. There I found an old copy of Stuffed magazine, a Stampington publication about handmade soft toys, often called “stuffies” or “softies”.
The feature article was about a toy maker I greatly admired at the time, Trish Millener, of Sweet Nellie. Her adorable crochet “snoots” were to me the epitome of sweetness and charm.
That weekend I ended up reading every article in the magazine, fascinated by all the creativity the magazine showcased. Every artist shared a background story about their toys and gave a detailed description of how they were made. Many artists said, “I don’t use patterns, I just start cutting and sewing and see what happens.” Or “I’ve always been an impulsive artist, rarely planning out the outcome in advance, which makes for interesting outcomes – but it works for me”. This “jump right in and try it” philosophy resonated with me because that is how I approach paper arts.
I was deeply inspired by the generous construction information and daring attitudes of the toy artists. I pulled out my grandmother’s 1970’s sewing machine and started playing around with vintage fabric scraps from the thrift store. Before long I created a quirky donkey toy and a pink cat with kittens, each with little stories about their lives. I fell in love with the challenge of turning my sketches into fabric toys. My years of collage work translated into patchwork and combining fabric patterns. Experimental sewing on cards transitioned into using bright thread colors to highlight details. Just like painting, I never know what the toy will truly look like until it is finished. That’s part of the thrill of creating!
When I started I had so much to learn. I hadn’t sewn anything more complicated than pillow covers since high school. I hadn’t done embroidery since grammar school. Luckily toy projects tend to be pretty small and don’t require a big investment in either time or money. The Internet was a big help in educating myself. Thanks to sewing blogs, Creativebug.com classes and YouTube, I found many helpful people and instructions. After lots of practice and many mistakes, I’m still having fun inventing new toys.
You recently opened an Etsy shop called Pink Ginger Kitty. Congratulations on its grand opening! Can you tell us about it? What do you offer in your shop today and what other products do you hope to introduce in the coming months?
Thank you! I’ve been showing my toys online from the moment I started making them. After a while I started getting inquiries about would I consider selling them. I would tell these kind people “They are prototypes. I’m still learning how to do this.” I also gave away and sold a few toys to friends and relatives who encouraged me to open a shop. Now that I’ve been sewing and developing toys for 2 years I feel the quality is high enough to satisfy potential customers.
My first offerings are a select group of my favorite animals: Pocket Kitties (Mama cat with two kittens in her “basket”) and a few Dachshunds in cheery prints. I’m also offering the best of my Garden Party Girls in my shop. These handmade dolls are dressed to reflect an era when ladies dressed elegantly and wore hats. While they are certainly ladylike, their arms can be crossed to show off a spunky attitude. The Garden Party Girls all have background stories that relate because they were conceived as a group of neighborhood friends. It has been fun for me inventing new ladies to add to their mix.
In future months I hope to add digital patterns for the animal toys so sewers can make their own custom versions. I also plan to offer digital patterns for making Garden Party Girl doll accessories such as aprons, coats and hats. It is a lot of fun to switch their accessories seasonally to give them a new look.
Your blog is very full of joy. It's probably the most joyful blog I know. Everything from the colors that you use to what you write about to what you make and share is infused with joy. Even when you post about difficult or sad things, which isn't often, your upbeat personality shines through. How do you keep such a positive outlook? Are there specific practices that help you stay sunny in your day to day life? Do you have tricks for shifting your mood when you're feeling down?
I am generally an optimistic person but keeping a positive outlook takes work! I have the usual problems and upsets that most people have. I choose to share mostly happy news on my blog because I think of it as my happy little corner of the web. It is created for fun and solace and that’s what I hope my readers find as well.
Seeing the bright side of life starts with paying attention to little things: what makes you happy, what touchstones bring joy? Perhaps it’s a pet, a hobby, a group of friends, or being in nature. Make a list of these things and when you’re feeling down, focus on something from your list. This often means “being here now” and consciously letting go of thoughts such as worry, ruminating over past hurts, feelings of competition or wishes for what might have been. It helps to have hobbies that you find absorbing as they give you a chance to lose yourself in creating. My touchstones are drawing, sewing and photography.
You seem to have such a talent for "filling the well" as Julia Cameron puts it in The Artist's Way. You're constantly on the lookout for inspiration and beauty, whether in nature or at a flea market or an art festival or even just a well-curated shop. You also often find (and share) inspiration from books (thank you for all the great suggestions over the years!). Does this gathering of inspiration and collecting of beauty come naturally to you or is it something that you need to work at? Can you share some of your favorite ways to find fuel for recharging your creative batteries?
I have an endless curiosity about life and art. Often I find myself thinking: “That’s beautiful! How did they think of/create that? What would I use if I were to try something like that? I want to find out more about that.” I’m also very visual so hunting for ideas on Pinterest and Instagram feed my need for visual stimulation.
Eric Maisel in his book Brainstorm, Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions, says that productive obsessions lead the way towards meaningful art. What he means is its OK to become obsessed with your ideas, to burn at fever pitch if the project feels worthy to you. This is how writers write novels, musicians make an album and artists paint whole bodies of work. The key is to allow what you find personally absorbing to take over your mind and not let thoughts like “will it be profitable?” or “how much time will this take?” derail your project.
When I am searching for fresh ideas I try to notice what catches my interest and look a little deeper at why I’m paying attention. Is it the shape or material that grabs me? Perhaps I want to explore new forms in my sewing. Is it the juxtaposition of colors? Maybe I could copy them in some way. Sometimes just the surprise of what’s in front of me provides ideas: a flea market full of possibilities, a craft fair with lovely artworks and artists to talk to, a restaurant’s unique décor.
I write my observations in my journal and use them to jumpstart projects or little obsessions to investigate further, either at the library or on the Internet.
If I’m truly stumped for ideas I go for a long walk someplace inspiring with my camera/phone.
What do you see on the horizon as your next creative adventure?
My Etsy shop, Pink Ginger Kitty, is my next creative adventure. I am currently developing a winter version of my Garden Party Girls who will be dressed for the season, perhaps in fancy dress or with additional accessories like coats and gloves. I plan to combine all their stories in a newsletter format and write Garden Party Girl neighborhood stories in monthly installments. Fans can sign up and enjoy exclusive access to downloadable wallpapers, sketches from my toy workbook and Etsy shop updates. I plan on having a Pink Ginger Kitty shop board on Pinterest and an Instagram # to share toy inspiration and studio photos.Thank you, Sharon, for sharing your creativity and your joyful outlook on life with us today! I'm looking forward to seeing where these next five years will lead!
Thank you Anne for your interest in my art journey and your encouragement over the years. Seeing your art blooming in new directions has inspired me to reach further than I ever thought I could. Here’s to the next five years of awesome creating!
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Sharon today. Pop on over and check out her blog, her new Etsy shop and her Instagram feed for more inspiration and to say, hello!
Be sure not to miss the other posts in my Artists Series; they can be viewed here.
*All photography in this post is © Sharon Rohloff. Used with permission.