T.E.S.T. Interview: Keepsake

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 60th in our series with Deborah of KeepsakeToronto.

What is your photography background?

I studied for a bachelor of Fine Arts where I majored in photography. This is where I discovered my passion for the traditional medium.

How much of your time is divided between Keepsake, and your fine art photography?

It's tough to not favour one over the other. Because of my background in photography, I already have quite an extensive body of work. Keepsake is only a year old, and there are more opportunities to sell Keepsake jewellery than there has been to sell art, so when I have free time I work on building the collection. I did promise myself that I would only create brand new Keepsakes once the photographic work has been printed and publicized; I only produce brand new subjects for Keepsake as fast as I create and publicize brand new subjects in my photographic art. Its a challenge, but it motivates me.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

It's tough trying to pursue a career as a photographer. Particularly in the arts industry. I have been searching for ways to make my product more marketable to the general public; I always thought my photographic art would translate well to jewellery. It took me a little while to figure out how to accomplish this, but sure enough, after some years, I figured it out. Keepsake is what is helping me overcome my challenge in trying to 'make it' in the arts. In other words, Keepsake is what has attracted more awareness to my art and vice versa. Both art vehicles to building awareness for each other. Its something that will be a continuous challenge, but it keeps me on my toes, and from getting bored. It makes success taste that much sweeter.:)

Was there a moment you can pinpoint that led you to work with the idea of capturing memories?

When I think back to my childhood, totally pre-photography, I just remember my father letting me borrow his little point-and-shoot camera when we went out on a walk. I was 8, and I was snap happy. The element of chance excited me. I took these photos, had no idea what they would look like other than what I saw through the view finder, but I had these moments collected and stored in a bank.
I've also always been fascinated by historical documentation. How is it possible for something to capture a reality and then display that reality so perfectly, in a future setting? It still blows my mind. Here, you can actually make time stand still.

For Keepsake, do your subjects mostly hold personal significance?

All of my subjects hold personal significance. These subjects caught my attention, and I felt the need to capture them and show them to the world. I am my artworks and my artworks are extensions of me.

What would you say is the main selling point of your products and how have you marketed that to your customers?

People have responded really well to the fact that my Keepsakes are miniature artworks. Most, if not all that have seen my work, mention how they have never seen this done before and how it is such an original idea. To hear that is such a compliment. All of my artwork (Keepsake and photographic works) are created the traditional way: either with my Nikon F2 or my Pentax point-and-shoot, 35mm film and a dark room. My pieces are mostly limited edition if not one-of-a-kind as well. Also, I have recently created a Keepsake vintages collection where I sought and source vintage jewellery from different places and re-purpose them with my fine art work. There is only one of each kind of these pieces. People have expressed the appeal to all of these aspects to them.

I find your product shots full of story, incredible depth and texture. Could you tell us what you use for the background?

Moving from South Africa to Toronto and acquiring all sorts of vintage furniture from late grandparents, my apartment is dressed with some of these pieces. The background you see in my product shots is of a hand carved vintage wooden table, I think from China. I feel it compliments my pieces really well.

Deborah's upcoming shows:

  • Midnight MRKT: Nov. 22, 9 pm - 1 am, 461 King St. W, Toronto, ON
  • Let It Snow Market: Nov. 23, 10 am - 6 pm & Nov. 24, 11 am - 5 pm, Annex Art Center, 1075 Bathurst St., Toronto, ON
Check out the other items available from Deborah in her Etsy shop! You can find more of her work on her website, fine art photography website,Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.

Interviewed by Christine of StoryFolk in November 2013 in Toronto.

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