Today’s Interview of the Week, the first one for 2010! is RedCatArtBeads

1. Tell us a bit about yourself name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.
My name is Irina Dalah and I live and work in a little town in the center of Israel: Mazkeret Batiya. I’ve got a very loving and supporting husband and 3 deliciously lively kids. We are shomrei shabat: nearly religious Jews, that don’t work on shabat and keep all the kashrut rules.

2. Apart from creating things, what do you do?
In my unreal life I’m a computer programmer, working for an academic institution, on a human genetics project. It’s not much money, but I get tremendous fun out of it, and it’s the closest I could come to being the geneticist I planned back in the 8th grade, when I found out what genetics means.

3. Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
I usually get ideas for new pieces at all hours, in odd places: seeing another mother’s jewelry at the kindergarten; reading books and professional (both beading and science) magazines; seeing movies (I plan to duplicate sigourney weaver’s necklace from Avatar); at my beads class; at the crafts shops… once I got a design idea by watching the colors change on the main screen of “Windows Media Player” playing a terry Pratchett audio book. I also try to enter as many competition as I can.
Then, I rummage through my beads collection, to find something matching. Then I start working. Most time-consuming process is the design and materials choosing. I like best bead weaving and wire-wrapping, but I also work with gemstones, crystals, chain.
RedCatArtBeads in, the most common studio, her kitchen.

4. What led you to start creating your art/craft?
I’ve always had the germ of creativity. I’ve learned embroidery at 5y old, from my late grandma. She was a streamstress, and was always embroidering, knitting or crocheting something. She also knew how to do this special type of lace. I was the only grand-kid that was interested, and she was very proud of me. I also learned wood burning and wood sculpting from my gold-handed dad. Since I’ve started working, and having money of my own, I’ve made stained glass, paper-mache, hand-made paper, macrame… ceramics and glass-blowing are about the only crafts I’ve always wanted and haven’t tried.

5. How did you decide what medium you wanted to work with?
that is a very funny story, really. I’ve been bead-stringing for the last 20y or so. A couple of years back, when I’ve started buying supplies again, the seller at the craft shop kept tempting me to take a course… but it was too expensive. Then my sister-in-law told me that she’s taking similar classes – so I thought: she’s got far less means than us, 2 more kids than me, and she’s got the time? I can do it, too!
It turned out she payed far less, for only 5 lessons; I’m on my 34Th, and still planning for more. I have a dedicated shelf in the closet for beading supplies and tools, and I’ve already ensured both.
Beading is the only craft I’ve done so far, that doesn’t require too special a work-space, and can be done with plain enough tools, and inexpensive supplies. It is also, the cleanest and the safest to do around kiddies (the twins were 3 when I’ve started) that can still be turned into a livelihood.

6. what aspect of creating your art/craft do you find the most enjoyable?
I’d have to say the designing. Creating beauty with shapes, colors and your own hands and eyes, gives a sense of power.
But overcoming a difficulty is also rewarding. Being able to create something that no one else could, or thought of.

7. If you had to choose one other medium in which to display your “creativity”, what would that be and why?
Easy one: glass! I’ve learned glass blowing in high school (so we can make and adjust laboratory vessels) and, as with embroidery and knitting, I was very good at it. I yearn to be able to go back to creating with glass.
It always fascinated me the way glass is so fragile and yet so powerful and expressive.It strikes me that I am attracted to the combination of power, grace and vulnerability.
Work-in-progress, behind the scene peak.

8. What handmade possession do you most cherish?
a sweater I’ve knitted in high school. It is my own design, (both the shape and the pattern) and it has detachable sleeves, so it can be worn as a waistcoat. It was the ultimate wearable creation, and it had all the perks I’ve ever desired in a sweater. I can’t get into it anymore, but I still have it 😉

9. Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
books: terry Pratchett’s “Thud!”, Mercedes lackey’s “Black Swan”, j.r.r. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”, terry Pratchett’s “Unadulterated Cat”, Jane Austin’s “Northanger Abbey”.
movies: “Lord of the ring”, “Dirty Dancing” (Patrick Swayze’s version), “Pride and Prejudice” (Keira Knightley’s version), any of Pierce Brosnan’s “James Bond”, any of “Star Trek”.
songs/singers: Andrea Bocelli’s “Resta Qui” (kind of opera song and singer), George Michael’s “A different Corner”, Barbara Streisand’s “Memories”, Sting’s “Fields of Gold”, Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds”.
sites: I don’t use any other commercial sites, but I’ll try. I use google a lot, both for office work and for beading instructions, galleries and supplies; FaceBook’s fairy land: it’s a game, but it’s very pleasant; youtube: I even watch bits of “pride and prejudice” on it 😉 and I can find all of my favourite cartoons from 25 years ago;

10. What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
The treasuries are my favourite feature on etsy… especially when I’m featured 😉
I’d like to have the possibility of putting an item on more than one section: this way I could make sections by type of object(necklaces, bracelets, home decor etc) and by technique used (bead weaving, chain, stringing).
And I’d also like to be able to change/add a tag on as many items as I’d like and of course, we should have automatic discount calculations on selling (that is, if you mark an object as 20% off, it will automatically adjust the price for your buyer and the fee for themselves)!

11. How do you organize your business? Such as finances, keeping track of supplies and marketing etc?
Well, I don’t have a proper business, but my hubby keeps track of outbound and inbound sums, in an excel sheet. I would have to take care of that soon, since my income is becoming more regular, and my off-line marketing options increase.
Mostly, I’m still at the stage where I learn about how a business should be run, what marketing avenues there are and how to manage them.

12. How well is your shop doing? How long has it been open? Number of sales? Number of visits?
I consider that my shop is doing expectantly well. I’m in a very specialized niche, where my product is for connoisseurs: any woman could wear jewelry, only a few like bead woven ones. I also intend to increase my home-decor section, but again, not everyone would appreciate it.
Also, any woman, or man for that matter, would understand paying a lot for gold or precious stones, but not everyone is ready to pay, or even understand they should, for exquisitely handwoven beads. Most of our techniques are done by working one tiny little bead at a time, with a needle and thread. Anyone would gladly pay $30 for 10g or gold, but it would not occur to them that 3hours of carefully adding one bead at a time in a complicated pattern is worth at least that much, if not more.
My shop has been opened for 13 months, and I have 11 sales (average for these techniques) and nearly 22 thousand views. I would probably had more sales, but just when the season’s rush started (back in November) I had a stressful time at the office, and didn’t have a lot of time for my shop.

13. What do you think you’re doing right for getting the sales you have? Or what tips do you have for other Etsy sellers?
I don’t do enough for getting sales: I abandoned my blog – which I shouldn’t have; and I was too embarrassed to publish my etsy-versary and my end-of-year sale on twitter and FaceBook. I don’t make enough connections on both of them, either.
The only advice I feel confident enough in giving is: don’t give up! don’t take personally, any insulting convo or alchemy request! they are not the average on etsy, and there are idiots everywhere: paying attention to them is only rewarding bad behaviour. And as my brother would put it: no idiot is worth my sanity 😉
I would also advise anyone to be totally and perfectly professional in any dealings, with anyone. I had someone buy from me because I was polite to her friend, in explaining that her request was not fairly priced.

14. How do you promote your work?
I mostly promote my work in any free way I can: blogs (thank you ;-), forums, alchemies, myshoppingconnection, plainCraft (just add .com to these names and you’re there). But I also promote it by wearing it and offering business cards to any who compliment me on my jewelry. But I should maintain my blog, and publish more on FaceBook and twitter.

I am also considering buying some prime space for valentine, either on craftopolis or on craftcult.

15. In ten years I’d like to be…
in 10y time, I’d love to be in my own studio! I’d love to start giving lessons (I was always good at explaining), and permanently display my creations, and have a defined place for on-going projects (not having to fold them up in boxes for the weekend).
And, of course, I’d like to write a jewelry book with the best of my original designs, in a few different techniques… Climbing Flowers Necklace Stripe Scrolls – jewelry set Solstice Bracelet 1001 Hearts Necklace