I asked Martha 3 questions and found out so much wonderful-goodness about this beautiful etsy seller and fellow team member! Read on…
1) What is it that you make? Why? How Did you get Started doing it?
“Question 1, all parts: I have 2 Etsy stores. Wear Your Passion is open. Nuevomexcelente is “on vacation.” My friend finally got her first novel published this summer and she asked me to do some tees for her signings. And that’s where it began. Why not do some tees, but in the more modern graphic style, stencil printed, for people joining the craft/DIY revival either to make a living or just as hobbyists? Why shouldn’t they be proud and excited and want to celebrate and share their creative passion with the rest of the world? I love wearing my “I Sew, I Create” tee and almost always get stopped. It’s a positive message.
Nuevomexcelente began with southwestern/western themed aprons, one of which was published in the first Apron-ology. None sold. I couldn’t compete on price points because I had to purchase smaller amounts of fabric. I also had my Chicks, Babes and Bad Girls earshrines up. I wear them everyday and years later I get stopped more than once a week still. But, for some reason, they don’t translate as well in stores or on the web. I sold one pair. Earlier this year I put up my animal face pillows and beanbags. They were a bit pricey, but not for what they were and how they were made. I sold a bean bag. In particular, the ability to purchase wholesale to be able to price competitively is a problem. I can no longer afford to make that investment unless I know the products will sell enough to recoup the money. It is what it is for now.
My life in craft began with the nightmare of 7th grade sewing. Yet I was smitten by the designer patterns and wonderful fabrics in the stores and just kept on sewing, mostly teaching myself. When I left for college I’d mastered hand tailoring and took my machine with me. Around 1980, in grad school at UNM, I taught myself how to stencil and how to design and cut them as well because I needed some unique, but cheap fabric for my furniture. Canvas, fabric paint and stencils and voila! After my dad died and I passed my Ph.D exams (I never wrote the dissertation), I moved back to Los Angeles and spent the rest of the ’80s working in the Pacific Design Center where I was surrounded by ever changing design all the time and that’s what really triggered the creativity to start pouring out. I was in my 30s so I was late to the game. I taught myself to faux finish and also kept working with fabric paints. I played in a lot of media and about this time southwest style began getting “hot”, which lasted for about 10 years. And that sealed the deal for me. Among other things, I did a series of floorcloths and took them around to some of the New Mexico based design stores which had opened outposts on Melrose. I also took some muslin and made a great hand painted vest to wear as my “sales outfit.” One store, based in Taos, didn’t need the floorcloths, but they wanted my vests for the Taos store, except in black velvet. So, I figured out a way to paint on black velvet and make it hand washable. I moved back to NM in late ’89 and by March 1990 I was in business with a hand made, hand painted clothing line and a sales rep based in Santa Fe. I didn’t get rich, but I made a living until I decided to quit just in time as southwest style was pretty over by then, in 1997. But I was also able to not only dabble in other ethnic design styles and sell those garments too. (And just a note about that: all my degrees are in history and ironically that background allowed me to easily research other designs across the world. But it also made me quickly see the connection between similar design elements, geometric ones particularly, all across the world and over time spans among cultures that never had any contact. And that similarity allowed me to be able to combine elements from so many different cultures for new designs that worked easily together). I also was busy experimenting with other media. I love to learn new things–techniques all the time. I did walls for a showhouse, I painted a store, I created furniture finishes. It got to the point where the joke on me still is, “Hey, if you don’t keep moving, Martha will probably try to paint you!” I taught stenciling at UNM Extension in Spring ’96, which I really loved. I was totally absorbed in all of this creation. I worked 12 to 14 hours a day. I was totally happy and didn’t mind being single and didn’t want to look for a boyfriend anymore (as I have notoriously bad judgement with that–hey, meet the guy I stupidly married 4 years ago). My life was in balance and even my mother noticed I was a very different and better person than I was in L.A. Duh!
I moved to Prescott, AZ for 4 years and completely did a whole crazy house, inside and out that landed me an article in the paper just before I moved back here in 2000. And please note, I come from a color averse family who ironically manufactured paint, and boy, am I just the opposite. I love color! I am unafraid of it. I also had started doing a line of smashed tile mosaic furniture. I made the furniture (thank you power tools) and painted it and tiled the table tops. Just as I was getting ready to market it I came up with early onset breast cancer. After 6 months of chemo I prepared to move back to ABQ while I taught stenciling again at the junior college and also Adult Daycare, which was an interesting experience. And once I got back here (and I am a North Valley girl, always was, always will be) I took my first art class in tile painting. I have 3 lines of tiles which are not on the market at the moment, unless the market is friends who stop by my garage. But when they were in a store they were very successful, especially my favorite, the retro-40s Mexican tourist tiles which always sold out within a couple of days. I hope to re-open Nuevomexcelente in the new year and put the tiles up there and see what happens. But tiles don’t sell all that well on Etsy and mine are particularly labor intensive. But still awesome anyway! So that is the shortest version I have of my long and winding journey into craft, sometimes out of it, and back in again. Hey, all I can say is, life happens, it is often unexpected, it often presents obstacles, and I quite often make the wrong choices. It is what it is.”
“Question 2: I’m not sure what drives me to create. But it seems that I expose myself to everything I can get my hands and eyes on that intrigues me and at some point my now old brain cells fire up and it is off to the races and I have to catch up with that racing brain by getting that stuff down on paper and ready to move to final media.
I was not raised in a creative environment. My mother didn’t have a creative bone in her body and her whole goal for me was to grow up, be perfect (Ha!), go to college and marry appropriately from a social and economic standpoint. Yeah, the ’60s and early ’70s kind of screwed that for her. Plus, just like my cousins before me, my uncle put me on his horse at age 6 months, and it turned out to be me, the adopted baby of the family, who took to it. So my whole goal growing up was to ride as much as possible and hope for my own horse. Mission complete by age 12. So it was horses, horses, horses and some sewing for me until I left for college. The fact that I became creative was what I’d call a miracle fluke of the universe which is why I was so late to that party in terms of age.
But here is the funny story about my uncreative Mom. When I was 7 she came up with her one and only creative idea, and boy was she proud of it. She decided that Halloween I’d go as a die, you know, one of a pair of dice. She got a box and cut holes for my head and arms, had my dad spray it black with metallic silver circles, dressed me in black leotard and tights and off I went. (Clearly, child safety was a bit scaled back then and frankly I’m still trying to figure out how the hordes of us baby boomers even survived to become the child safety obsessive parents those of us with kids became. I don’t have kids. I have cats. There’s a shocker!) But she made me wear it for 3 years. Finally, at 10, I’d had it. So I lied and told her I was too big and getting paper cuts in my arm pits. She was very sad and saved that stupid box for years. I’m surprised I didn’t find it in the attic when she died. ”
3) What are your plans for your etsy business-and what do you hope it will do for you in 2011?
“Question 3: I’ve stepped away from the business aspect of craft on and off over the last 20 years. Usually it was to experiment with other media. But about 6 years ago I hit a major creative dry spell until about 2 years ago. Some of that had to do with what I had to deal with to get my money for my tiles after the store went under. But some of it had to do with permanent side effects from the chemo that I’m still trying to learn how to work with and around. No one gets out of chemo clean and I do have the form of chemo brain which is a lot like ADD. So concentration and focus is often difficult for me if the design isn’t clear in my head and I have to work with it to get it there. Not to mention it does impact creativity in general. In the meantime the web got big and Etsy was born, which I wasn’t aware of as quickly as I should have been. But clearly, I need some help based on my stunning sales successes in the last 2 years. Yes, I’m very sarcastic. And right now I’ve managed to box myself into a position that in order to keep my town house that I own outright, I may have to rent it out in a couple of months and go live with my husband in L.A. until he retires in just over 4 years. He was supposed to do that this year and move here but waited until recently to tell me that was being extended for another 5 years. So, I got boxed in. But I still have hope and faith. I love that we now have New Mexy Etsy and I hope it will help me start making sales and I know it will be a great thing for all of us. I think that collectively there is all a lot we can learn from each other. I’m in love with the concept of Craft Lounges and I’d love to teach again. It is a great way to make money, but doing it through CNM & UNM extension can take 6 months to a year to process and it doesn’t pay that well. I’d love to see if at least those of us in the ABQ area could find a venue, maybe one of the city community centers, that would allow us to teach classes in our various media. A sort of New Mexy Etsy craft lounge if you will. So another crafty revenue stream + fun, what’s not to love. Or maybe have New Mexy Etsy booths at some of the local Farmers Market. The one in Los Ranchos is relatively inexpensive and has a separate juried craft section. I think Downtown does too. I need to improve my marketing and most of all my photography skills and I do keep trying. But I’m finding that I’m no longer so young, and the chemo also left me with permanent low energy, so it’s a lot harder for me to do it with just me. Nevertheless, I’m known for never walking away from a “fight” if you will. So I am hopeful about Etsy, even for me. I think it is a wonderful thing for all of us in the opportunities it presents for so many.”
“And for my fellow New Mexy Etsy team members, I am looking forward to a January meeting that I hope we can have. I love a lively exchange of ideas among us creatives. But beyond that, I’d like to let you all know for the last 30 years I have amassed a huge collection of design, craft and sewing books, magazines and other resources across a pretty broad spectrum. So if any of you are searching for some other ideas and inspirations, or want to try some new media, give me a convo or a call and you can come on down and go through the “archives” and I’ll loan you what you need.
This has been long, but it covers about 30 years. So I thank you all for your interest. This has been a blast to do. And maybe there was a little something to learn. And thank you, Janelle, for the opportunity.”
No, Thank you my friend-your life is inspiring and I am sure you have many many many more stories, inspirations and wiseness to share with the world-I can not wait to meet up with you and the rest of team!