Artist: Michelle C. Moode
Business: michellemoode on Etsy
Web sites: michellemoode.etsy.com and millionsofpeoplehappy.blogspot.com
Location: Los Angeles, California
What do you create?
Primarily small mixed media works on paper. My work usually combines two or more of the following: paper, ephemera, drawing, etching, silkscreen, Xerox transfer, tea, ink, typing, watercolor, acrylic medium, sewing, beeswax. I also make books, shrinky-dinks, little woolly things and sculptural things.
Where and when do you do your creative work?
I recently moved into a wonderful teeny-tiny studio apartment, which is also (rather appropriately) my art-making studio. I tend to have pieces in various states of being: works-in-progress arranged on the wall so I may consider them as a group, used tea bags drying on heavy paper in the kitchen, and little bits being stitched together over near my Ikea sofa-bed. Sometimes I work on the floor, sometimes at my table. It sounds pretty chaotic, but I have a master's degree in arranging little things in little spaces.
Do you have another "day job"?
I currently teach part-time: non-major drawing and printmaking at Loyola Marymount University. I finished grad school less than a year ago, so needless to say I am still figuring out what I'm doing, and what I want to do. And how I will pay for things.
Where and what did you study?
I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts from Murray State University in Murray, a wonderful little town in Western Kentucky. At MSU my focus was Drawing and Printmaking. I fell in love with Printmaking because of my instinctual attraction to repetition and process, but also because of the sense of community I found working in the MSU printshop. It was a crazy-fun time.
I received my Master of Fine Arts from West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia (an hour south of Pittsburgh, PA). Technically my MFA is in Printmaking. However, my time at WVU was hardly limited to printing editions. My artistic research and obsessive tendencies led me into sewing, bookbinding, sculpture, installation, collecting teabags and thread, and taking watches apart.
I’ve also spent time studying at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and Frogman’s Print Workshops in Vermillion, South Dakota. I whole-heartedly recommend both experiences. I also recommend the long cross-country drives that will get you there.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration on the ground, and also in the sky. I find inspiration in a good cup of tea, a thoughtful walk, or a wander through an antique store. My older brother’s robot drawings, good science fiction, distant ferriswheels, familiar songs, Muppets, flowers, and rainy days are all sources of inspiration. Signs I drive by in LA inspire me. Businesses including “Coffee & coffee”, “Hollywood Star Muffler” or “Celebrity Quality Cleaners”...maybe these don’t inspire my art directly, but they make me laugh.
What motivates you?
I find Etsy to be very motivating. Like most twenty-something artists, I am motivated by deadlines and a need of money. I am prolific by nature. My obsessive tendencies are mostly a blessing, as I only feel productive if I have a pile of things in progress. I am not a one-at-a-time artist; I make art in “crops.”
When did you start doing this?
I've been making work that looks or feels like this since I was an undergrad at Murray State University. My work has progressed, and become more refined (more "crazy" some might say...) but the imagery and marks I draw have been popping up since before college. As for Etsy, I opened shop in September of 2007, so close to six months ago.
Do you remember getting into art as a kid?
Yes, I have been drawing my entire life. My mom saved and dated all my early work. One of my favorites is a whimsical outer-space crayon drawing with transparent garden “capsules” as part of a space station. “Michelle in Space!!!!!!” is the title at the top of the piece. In retrospect, I see this drawing as a logical combination of what I knew from my youth: I spent most of my time playing in our amazing garden and orchard, and I was also exposed to my big brother’s “boy” interests, like Star Wars and Star Trek. My interest in gardening and space continue to inform my work.
When and why did you decide to start your own business?
In school I sold art when the opportunity presented itself. At conferences, workshops, open portfolio events, and gallery shows, I discovered that people were actually interested in owning my work. Last summer a friend at the Penland School of Crafts suggested that I check out Etsy. Since moving to LA I have also tiptoed into doing craft shows, which has been a fun, friendly, positive experience.
How did you choose the name for your business?
Well, when I selected my Etsy username I went for simplicity. I want my art to be associated with my name: Michelle Moode. Maybe I’d be more popular if I had a cute “brand,” like “sunshine crumpet” or “princess polkadot surprise,” but that’s not really me. However, my Etsy shop and blog are named “Millions of People Happy.” This is a quote from the original Muppet Movie. The possibility of making millions of people happy is suggested to Kermit-the-Frog by Bernie-the-Agent, prompting Kermit to leave his swamp and move to Hollywood, where he and his friends sign a “standard rich-and-famous contract.” It’s a simple, sincere, wholesome goal.
What do you love most about creating your work?
The meditative mind-wandering that comes with repetition. Arranging piles of paper. Drinking cups of tea. Filling a space with things I create. The satisfaction of sharing my work with those who love it.
What's the most fascinating place you've been?
Hazel, a small town on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. On afternoons when I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of slightly-larger Murray, I would drive eight minutes south to Hazel with Paul Simon blazing and the windows down. Hazel is full of antique stores housed in antique buildings. Hours would slip away as I explored the musty spaces. I’ve made so many discoveries there: beautiful broken time-pieces, blue typewriters, the dress I wore to the opening of my thesis show. But more than these purchases, it’s the time spent exploring that makes it a fascinating place.
A book you love:
Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll.
What is the most interesting thing about you?
Probably exactly what’s coming across in this interview: the things I make, the things I think, the things I collect, the things I know-by-heart. I’m really not much of a conversationalist, but I have a lot of cool stuff in my apartment and in my brain.
What achievement are you most proud of?
My Master's Thesis, “Pieces of the Universe.” The written thesis with images of the installation can be found here. I had a sinus infection the week before installing my show, the Southern Graphics Council conference a couple of days after the opening, and I took down the installation a couple of days after that. Besides the silly time-line of events, it was a huge space, and I filled it with innumerable little tiny things. Writing has never been my strong point (although I’d take writing over talking anyday!) so I will always be proud of the written portion of my Thesis.
What advice would you give women starting their own business?
Honestly, I think I am still in a position of needing some advice. How about: “Remember who you are and where you were born.” My aunt has been telling me that my entire life.
What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
I just hope I can make my work....work! You know? I hope that my success continues, and that I can continue to be an almost-full-time artist. I am good at staying motivated, and making things. My challenges are all business-related. I need to become cleverer with my computer, and I need to get up earlier in the morning. Like everyone.
What do you love to do in your free time?
I like to hula-hoop when I need a break. But honestly, these days I am working on trying to have less free time!
What are you working on right now?
I have pieces to post in my Etsy store. I am working on submissions to juried shows and galleries. I have stacks of works-in-progress. I would really like to make more books.
What do you hope to achieve next?
I’ve been saying this for a while, but I hope to list some things for sale on Etsy besides my small scanner-friendly mixed media works-on-paper. I’m also itching to have a show. I love selling things on Etsy, but scattering my art one-at-a-time across the world is not the same as filling a gallery with my work. Both are good, though. I want to do both.