Interview w/ Willywaw!

My personal favorite, Jellyfish in Pink Small Tote.

Take a minute and read the following interview from Willywaw, the etsy artist responsible for what I believe are the summer's best totes! I love the prints and the colors!  Not only does she make and print these totes she also is an illustrator:

My friends call me Ash, short for Ashley, though I’ve been called Carrot-top and numerous other 
nicknames bestowed upon me by my Mum. I live in Narragansett, Rhode Island with my 
husband, Joe, and our dog, Cody, a rescued Alaskan husky mix. Our little house is on a salt 
marsh river just a short paddle to the sea and my studio takes over any spare bit of space I can 
find inside or out.

I was a studio art major in college and for a time designed clothing and outdoor gear before working as a freelance illustrator for the past fifteen years or so. I started screen-printing my own designs last spring with a desire to have more control over my work and the freedom to create what and when I wanted. My design studio is called Willywaw, named after the ferocious arctic winds that sweep down coastal mountains and blow onto the ocean.

(Rhode Island Coast, Cody, Frog men)

Nature and wild places inspire me the most but I'm influenced by colors and shapes as well. I relish pouring over books and magazines, getting ideas from unlikely places. I have a small library of field guide books that I treasure. My sketchbook is more of a collection of loose paper with drawings and notes kept in piles. Since I scan most of my sketches to work on the computer it is easier to keep them that way. I like working in a variety of mediums from oils to watercolor but screen-printing is fun because combines art and design and I am able to create functional pieces for people to use and enjoy. I enjoy figuring out and drafting patterns as well. I mostly print on organic cotton canvas and hemp for my totes, pillows and tea towels, use t-shirts dyed in Vermont, and post-consumer recycled paper for my note cards. Currently I am enamored with Fabriano Medioevalis paper made in Italy and am printing greeting cards on the stock. My fabric comes from NearSea Naturals, Sew Eco-Logical and Hemp Traders and I do most of my sourcing online.

(Inspiration block, sketches, dragonfly greeting card)

A typical workday for me begins about 5 am. I’m up with the sun and the birds, Cody wanting breakfast, and Joe leaving for work (he’s a ship builder). Rarely are two days ever the same but I check email and fill orders, some times sew a bit before Cody’s walk and second breakfast. I definitely like working early, it’s quiet and I can concentrate with a clear head. I have a small room for an office and spread out all over our house during the day. We definitely ran out of room a few years ago and are close to needing a large, separate studio but I love working from home despite the lack of space. I tackle the biggest project mid-morning around 9 am whether is printing or working on new designs. After lunch I’m more at ease to sew, cut, heat-set ink, or burn screens. Sewing is by far the most time consuming. I never have enough time to work on new designs and since joining Etsy I seem to be online much more than I expected. In the evening I ponder new ideas, sketch and work on “the list” which is everything to do for the next day. Some days I take off to paint outside, work in the garden or on our little house. My summer project is to build a shed with sleeping loft and trap door for my nephews.

(Prints drying, my cluttered corner office, work table set up in the kitchen)

We still have plenty of time to spend at the beach, surfing or kayaking. Joe’s passion for the ocean, diving, and underwater photography is a huge influence in my current work. We snorkel at the mouth of the river and dig for Quahogs, gather shells from the rolling surf and find mermaid’s purses among the seaweed. We are greeted by nesting Ospreys in the spring and watch the Plovers and Least Terns tend their chicks in mid-summer. There's lots of swimming and surfing and picnics and scooting about in our little boat, Squid. By fall the beach turns quiet again and the crowds have gone home, the water is still warm and the colors on the marsh start to change to burnt orange and raw umber. Winter is the hardest time for me because I miss being in the mountains. We both love to telemark ski and mountain bike and I spent several great years living in Utah and Idaho before coming back east. 

(Farmer's market booth, Spring collection of totes, Humpback Whale greeting card)

Etsy has been an incredible outlet for my work. I've found that the more I put into it the more I get out. I've met and sold to people all over the world and have been able to create a nice little business for myself with a lot of potential. I sell at a local organic farmer's market as well in the summer and by word of mouth and for now that is keeping me very, very busy and quite happy.

I have several favorite artists on Etsy -

My new friend from Alaska, who makes the most meticulously crafted boxes as well as rubber stamps from her own illustrations (we share a fondness for mushroom spore prints) is at http://www.maggiehallam.etsy.com

My favorite, super cozy, wooly slippers are made by a Cape Town artisan athttp://www.sheepskinslippers.etsy.com

And I can’t forget my first Etsy friend from across the pond,http://www.halfanacre.etsy.com, with her funky wooden creations, hag stone wreaths, sock bunnies and fantastic sense of humor, who gave me a great review in her blog and encouragement when I was a newbie. For a fun read go tohttp://www.halfanacreblog.blogspot.com and to follow The Warren go tohttp://www.sockbunny.co.uk (That's Widget pictured)