Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Swell Dame Inc. [interview]

Good afternoon, everyone! I'm happy to be introducing Swell Dame Inc. to you today. Swell Dame is run by a creative lady with a very steady hand- Amber, who will be sharing with us. Now, I will let you read on to find out more about her and what she does, in her own words. Enjoy viewing her lovely creations as well! 

When I say _____ you think ______:
Quill: I think of writing which is pretty obvious because outside of my art, my greatest passion and job is being a freelance writer.

Candle: The Renaissance side of me thinks about how romantic it is to write by a candle. Of course, it's not recommended for your eyesight. hehe

Socks: I don't know why but I think of Norwegian winter socks with the beautiful patterns on them. I guess it's because I haven't knitted in awhile.

Rabbit: My answer may be a bit boring, but I think of Spring.

Can: I think of a piece I haven't done yet but have the image of it in my head. Without giving too much away, it would deal with the conflict of humans with the environment. However, I think the piece would have to wait until I'm more well-versed in inlaying wood because that's the way I see it.

Fire: I think of a lot of things. I think of the curious irony that I'm obsessed with a medium that reflects my element as an Aries which is "fire" and fire has always fascinated me. hehe Of course, I also think of my family calling me by my nickname, "Flame thrower," which started soon after I started doing pyrography. hehe

What are a few adjectives that describe you? 

 I would describe myself as - passionate, enthusiastic, dreamer, unique, loud, curious.
What can we expect to find in your etsy shop? 
You can expect to find a eclectic bunch of items that range from art pieces to jewelry to home decor. I also offer custom pieces including plaques and accessories. I try to offer a piece of art that is fit for any budget, so my customers don't feel pressured to buy outside of what they're comfortable paying for.

Do you have a specific style? 

I'm still developing my style but I want it to be influenced by the art deco and art nouveau movements. They appeal to me so much for a number of reasons - the artists' lines are so clean and gorgeous which is perfect for pyrography. And both of the movements weren't contained only on canvas, you can still see them everywhere - on buildings, in jewelry, clothing and the home. They're timeless, stylish and functional and I hope they're reflective in my work.
How did you get started in making handmade?
 I started making handmade as young as five or six. When we sold at local flea markets and garage sales, my mother would set up a table for me and my sister to sell stuff we made, which was mostly friendship bracelets. hehe

But I didn't start making handmade as a serious business venture until a year ago when I found I was really good at working with wood.

Was there a special way that your shop name came about?
It's kind of a funny story because I wasn't even looking for a brand name yet. Up until that time, I knew I wanted my brand to encompass being feminine but  could tell the customers it was vintage/retro and fun. Eventually, it was when I was looking through a slang dictionary for one of my writing projects, I started matching up slang terms and came up with "Swell Dame."


Something unique I noticed in your shop is your pyrography pieces. Could you expand a bit about that form of art and why it appealed to you? 
Pyrography is Greek for "fire drawing" and it's burning an image into wood and sometimes leather. It can be done in two ways; you can either burn it by hand by using a pyrographic pen tool or you can do it by laser. I prefer to do it by hand because it feels natural to me and I have an addiction to the rush I feel when I'm creating something underneath my fingertips.

It appealed to me because I was inspired by lowbrow/pop surrealism art about two years ago; it was something different to look at and to be absorbed by. Among the talented artists that are a part of lowbrow, I really became a fan of two - Audrey Kawasaki and Amy Sol. They use wood as their canvases and they paint their whimsical art nouveau imagery on the wood, which against the grain, really highlights the beauty of their work and the wood at the same time.

Although I knew I wasn't a very good painter, their use of the wood captivated me. So I looked at other types of things you could do with wood and came across pyrography. My first experiment with burning images into palm tree leaves ended badly, but I moved into burning images into wood and everything took off from there!

What is a normal day of crafting like for you? 
Actually, each piece takes about three days of crafting for me. During the week, I will most likely draw out my design on the wood but I don't really start the piece until the weekend when I have free time. I sit on my back porch, listen to the radio and burn the design with my pyrographic pen tool. Then when it's done, I let the wood cool down for a bit while I set up my paints if I decide the piece needs a little color. After I'm done painting, I let it dry over night and the next day I apply 2-3 layers of finish to the piece to protect the wood. And this is where the process diverges into three processes: if it's jewelry, I attach it to the necessary accessory. and the piece is done. If it's a piece of art, I apply a piece of eco-friendly felt and hammer a sawtooth hanger to the back of it. If it's another piece, like a shelf sitter, then it's pretty much done after applying the finish.


 Do you have a favorite material to use or item that you create? 
I have two items of mine which are my favorites so far. And they're my favorites because they're originals of my own creations. With pyrography, it's easy to copy a design to wood and burn it but with an original design, it gives me a little sense of pride. And I've received a lot of compliments for them as well!

The first being Art Nouveau Mermaid Pyrographic necklace. As you can see, the piece is heavily influenced by Mucha's women. And sometimes for me, it can take one image to pull a whole piece together and for this, it was just a simple stock photo of a model holding a seashell, then everything else came naturally. I'm really proud of this one because it was the first original design I ever did with pyrography.

The second being Snow White. I was first inspired by reading a short story by Neil Gaiman titled "Snow, Glass, Apples." After I read it, the image you see in the piece was what came to mind. I had a lot of fun with it and and it's a piece that's very close to my heart.

What is the most enjoyable part of what you do?  
Burning the image into the wood. I always get excited to see what it will look like finished and the anticipation builds as I burn the image.

Is there anything important you have learned through experience? 
Business-wise, I've learned a lot about how everything is taken on a chance. What works for one artist might not work for another. And you'll have to shift all of the time over what works one minute that doesn't work the next. Some people would find that as a strain, but most of the time, I think it keeps things exciting for me.

Creative-wise, pyrography has really helped me with drawing and creating concepts that mean something in my original designs. It's definitely widened my perspective. 

What is next for you? 
I'm going to have one of my illustrations featured in a 2011 journal being made by Etsy seller fantazya. My illustration will appear on April 15 which will be my twenty-third birthday. :)

I'm slowly expanding my work as my budget allows me. I want to expand in jewelry by making bracelets, earrings and brooches. I want to expand in home decor with boxes and serving trays. Of course, I want to make more art pieces as well. And next year, I have a projected goal of making my own little journals that will be hand-bound, handburnt with my designs on the covers and made with recycled paper.

In the distant future, when time will allow it, I want to expand my work into other areas of woodworking. I'm fascinated by inlaying and I want to use a laser woodcutter/wood engraver to incorporate into my work.

Of course, I'd love to see my items in a boutique shop one day. *fingers crossed*
Thanks so much for sharing, Amber! Would you like to add anything else? 
I would like to add a small piece of advice for people who craft or are artisans such as myself. Sometimes, it's hard to find inspiration, so when I'm ready to do a new piece, I have the wood I want to make the piece with on my desk. That way, whenever I sit there, I can ruminate on what the piece could be when I'm working. So leaving, a small object of what you want to make something out of and putting it in a place where you can see it most of the time, may help a little with the inspiration part - it has for me.


Isn't she delightful? I am in awe of her skill in the art of pyrography.
If you would like to follow Amber, check Swell Dame out on:


Amber Grey said...

Thank you so much for the interview again! I had a lot of fun and it looks fantastic! :)

- Amber Grey

Samy said...

My pleasure, Amber! I'm glad that you like it. Thank you so much for participating. It was very nice getting to know you and your craft a bit. :)

ModredVintage said...

Nice interview and items.

Janet at New Moon Glass said...

Very cool! I've never before heard the term pyrography...

mruna said...

I love the old world charm these pieces have!

Joanne J said...

The wood ring is very unique looking.

Samy said...

ModredVintage: Thanks so much. I agree- she makes lovely items. :)


Janet: Isn't it?! This was the first time I really learned about it. It's quite interesting.


mruna: Thank you for stopping by! They do have that feel to them. ^.^


Joanne: Out of all the nice pieces, that one has probably been my favorite as well. :D

Amber said...

Super cute! Adorable items and really unique pieces. I love her name too ;)

shevilkenevil1 at aol dot com

Samy said...

I agree! Thanks for your comment, Amber. :)

Eva said...

very unique pieces! haven't seen anything quite like it before.