T.E.S.T. interview: Menace Creations

We hope to introduce you to all the great etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 19th in our series, an interview with MenaceCreations.

I loved the Enginearrings title and the item. How does your training as an engineer influence your art?

Thanks, I'm glad you like them! Civil Engineering is all about simplifying a problem, and capturing it's essentials. In my earlier work, I strived for photorealism to the extreme of shading individual leaves on a tree separately, or drawing individual blades of grass separately - even my "sketches" took me hours to complete, and as a result my drawings, although they were impressively accurate, lacked life and movement. In my more recent work, I've been more successful at catching the essentials of my subjects - the movement and shape, and allowing the viewer to fill in the more minute details. For example, drawings like my jellyfish are something I wouldn't have been capable of a few years ago.

I think this newfound respect for simplicity is also what has drawn me to start exploring origami again. There is something incredibly elegant about making complex shapes out of nothing but paper. I'm particularly proud of having developed my own origami/kirigami dragonfly pattern. You can see an example here .

I love the natural feel and flow of your pieces. What is the creative process behind collecting the materials and creating the pieces? Do you spend a lot of time gathering the materials?

I've always been a bit of a tinkerer and collector, and I'm very drawn to the natural world, so I find it really gratifying and cool to use found objects and upcycled vintage pieces in my work. When I crafted just as a hobby, I would just "come across" cool things every so often to craft with on hiking trips, visits to the beach or browsing through a vintage store.

Now that I'm crafting for a wider audience, I've had to start planning my supplies collecting a lot more carefully. I go on full-day seaglass-hunting outings with my ever-eager little sister, I have a circuit of thrift and vintage shops I visit on a regular basis for different supplies. I buy brass findings in bulk (conventional brass production uses over 98% recycled materials). I'm currently sourcing some fair-trade recycled glass beads for my necklaces and sari scrap ribbons to hang pendants from in place of chain. I do still use some conventional materials, but I'm working very hard to gradually transition to all environmentally-responsible materials.

It does take me a lot longer to get my materials this way. I'd say about a quarter of my crafting time is currently dedicated to acquiring materials, but I love every moment, and I know that it makes my products unique. You won't find a necklace like this one anywhere except for the Menace Creations shop.

What was the most exciting part of your venture to open the Menace Creations Etsy shop?

The most exciting moment for me was when my first notecard order arrived from the printers. It's a dream come true to have a stack of professional looking greeting cards with my artwork printed on the front and my company name and URL printed on the back. What's even better is that people are actually buying them.

Do you find a lot of support in your family, friends or community? If so how do you keep them involved?

My parents and partner are unwaveringly supportive of everything I do, which is really helpful in my moments of self-doubt. My partner has helped me with everything from photography to banner design to notecard layout, and my parents promote me on facebook. My friends are all encouraging, and more than a few have remarked on my crafts and artwork "Wait, you MADE all these things? Why the hell did you ever go into engineering?!?!"

My most avid fan by far, though, is my younger sister. She looks up to everything I do, and wants to help out every way she can. She comes materials-searching with me, gives me advice and inspiration for my artwork, even folds origami for me, and always thinks I'm the coolest older sister ever, even when nobody else agrees with her.

It's really great to have such an awesome support group.

Any suggestions or lessons for fellow creators who want to take their hobby to a greater public?

Have a clear goal about what you are trying to sell and who you want to sell it to. When I opened my shop, I really wasn't sure what I would sell except for "my crafts". I went out and bought materials for all sorts of different things, most of which ended up deciding I wouldn't sell anyway. Even now I have trouble controlling myself and not starting 27 unrelated projects at the same time, and I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out how to narrow my focus.

Which is your favorite item in your store?

I wouldn't try to sell anything that I didn't think was wonderful in some way, but I have a particular soft spot for these snail notecards.

Earlier this year I left engineering school for mental health reasons, and was feeling very down on myself. Getting back to drawing and crafting was very therapeutic for me and that little snail was one of my first sketches in years, and I'm really proud of it.

Check out more of MenaceCreations artwork, cards and jewelry in the MenaceCreations Etsy Shop. Interviewed, June, 2011, by Pusha

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