Interview with an Etsy Art Buyer: What’s She Searching For?

Ms. Jeannie has this lovely friend Tuny who has lived one of those adventurous sorts of lives here and abroad.  She’s fun to spend time with because she’s always got something interesting to say. Last time they got together they were talking about the royal wedding and trying to determine William’s last name. Tudor?  Windsor?  Wales? They were determined not to look it up online yet try to figure it out by going through the lineage of the royal family. They got about 20 minutes into that and then decided to consult Google.  (In case you are interested it’s a hypenated name, Mount Batten – Windsor!)

Anyway, in trying to guess the right name, their conversation took all sorts of twists and turns. There were references to Tuny being engaged to a Spanish bullfighter, her years spent as a librarian, her travels, her books, her artistic endeavors and her love of cats.

Cats – yes most definitely. Tuny might just be one of the biggest collectors of cat art that Ms. Jeannie knows. Specifically she loves cat folk art, which Ms. Jeannie can understand since she is a big folk art lover herself!

Each August, Ms. Jeannie anticipates the Slotin Folk Art Festival held in Norcross, GA (this year it’s August 17th-19th). If you have never been – it is quite an experience of color and creativity – so much so – by the end of the day, Ms. Jeannie’s brain feels swimmy with pageantry. Tuny would love it here!

A glimpse into the festival. Photo courtesy of

It just so happened that the first piece of folk art Ms. Jeannie ever bought was at the festival in 2008…a small 4×4 painting of a bird. Here’s a photo of it…

The start of Ms. Jeannie’s folk art collection.

Ms. Jeannie loved the flowers and the colors. The fact that it featured a bird made it even more perfect. It is by far the most colorful piece of art that Ms. Jeannie owns.

So thrilled, Ms. Jeannie was, of her new acquisition, the artist wrote a personal little note on the back and signed her name.  Ms. Jeannie’s glad she bought it that day as she hasn’t seen this artist at the festival any years since and she can no longer read the name of the artist’s signature. It’s one of those long scratchy, crawly names that she wrote upside down with a faded marker pen. This makes Ms. Jeannie cherish her folk art bird even more so. A special memento from a special day.  Periodically, Ms. Jeannie will move Bird about  the house  to spaces and places that need a little extra brightening. Bird is good at offering that extra bit of light. Art is good at offering at that extra bit of bright.

So when Ms. Jeannie chats about cats with Tuny she can understand how her love of all things feline plays such an important part in her life.   Read on as Tuny sheds some light on what it means to be a collector …

Ms. Jeannie: What is it about cat art in particular that appeals to you?

Tuny: Well…partly it is that cats themselves appeal to me; I like being around them, interacting with them, learning about their individual personalities, and enjoying their appearance, which brings me to a second, and perhaps more important, part, in this context: It’s a cliche that some people can toss a scarf or throw onto a sofa and have it transform the sofa, as if an experienced interior designer had done it. Cats are so well designed that no matter what they’re doing, it’s art. They can sprawl, curl up, stretch out, etc., and always look as if it were deliberate, because they form a pattern. But even more than the above, I love them and want to celebrate them.

Ms. Jeannie:  How did you discover Etsy?

If you are unfamiliar, it is an online international marketplace devoted to the sale of handmade crafts and vintage finds.

Tuny: MANY years ago, before I knew much about online activity, I must have been searching for “cat art” and came upon a kitty puppet that I wanted in the worst way–but it said to Sign in to Etsy, and I didn’t understand what Etsy was or how to go about that…especially as the only computer I had was my work computer, and I didn’t want to sign into anything on it. It wasn’t until several years later, when Etsy became better known, that I figured all this out.

Screen shot of the Etsy Home Page

MJ: What do you like best about Etsy? What do you like least?

T: Perusing Etsy’s like being let loose in a really cool art festival, in the comfort of my own house, where I have access to art from around the world–that’s the best. Least are two things: when searching for something, odd things that have no relevance often turn up in the results. I understand, in most cases, why this happens, but I wish there were a way to put in limiters, such as “no prints” or “no cat-eye beads.” The other thing isn’t a real dislike, but I wish one could purchase an Etsy gift certificate that would be good for a shop of the recipient’s choice.

MJ:  How did your interest in art develop?

T: Because I come from a very talented family, I always thought that my own efforts in that direction weren’t worth the effort, as it were, but when I was in my late 20’s, living abroad in a country with a long tradition of leather book binding, I started making little illustrated books for a friend, and had them bound. When I discovered how much fun painting was, talent or not, I was hooked.

The bookbinding episode was in Portugal–I didn’t learn bookbinding; I went down to one of the binderies, which were small operations, and told them what I wanted to do, which was to paint some pictures and have them bound into a small book. They gave me the paper of the right size, and when I finished the paintings, I took them back and they bound them into a small leather book. I made several of those. What I did learn, also in Portugal, was to make what are called tapetes, or carpets, of Arraiolos, in a very simplified form…a sort of long-armed cross-stitch done in wool on a burlap-like background.

Antique Arraiolos Portuguese Embroidery Panel from Helena Alexio Glamour

MJ: What type or types of art appeal to you most?

T: Folk art and illustrations in children’s books

Playing House by hottamaleart
Vintage Children’s Book Illustration “Dali’s Russian Dream” from MissQuiteContrary
Siamese Cat Folk Art Painting by 3crows
Vintage Children’s Book Illustration Alphabet from nesstiques
Ghostly Cat Halloween Clay Folk Art Ornament by KilkennyCatArt
Vintage 1950s Child’s Book Illustration from kelleystreetvintage

MJ: If you could sit down and have lunch with any famous artist, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

T: None; I prefer admiring from a distance.

Le Chat Noir Photo Cafe by Jessica and Holly

MJ:  As a world traveler, exposed to many different cultures, how has travel affected your viewpoint on art?

T:  Travel has enhanced my appreciation for indigenous/folk art of various countries.

The Traveling Cat Art Print by TheSmokingCat

MJ: What is your most favorite museum?

A. Honolulu Academy of Arts

Honolulu Academy of Arts (Honolulu, Hawaii) Exhibition Hall

and the Folk Art Museum in Lisbon.

Museu de Arte Popular in Lisbon, Portugal

MJ: As a painter yourself, what do you hope to express with your work?

T: As all I paint is cats, then, an appreciation for them.

Love Song: Every Heart Has Its Song for Those Who Would Listen by Tuny

MJ: Explain your ideal art buying experience. Would you like to meet the artist face to face, get to know them, understand their motivations and their inspirations, their back story, or do you like to buy art and imagine your own stories surrounding a piece?

T: I enjoy meeting artists, particularly if I encounter them repeatedly at art shows, etc., but I like their work to speak for itself.

Irving Ponders the Nature of Consciousness by Matte Stephens

MJ: If money was no object, name 10 pieces of art that would be in your collection.

T: I enjoy looking at, experiencing, if you will, fine art, but my affinity is with folk art, most particularly cat folk art–so an unlimited collection of that would be lovely.

Original Folk Art Cat Woman Painting by LindaKellyArt

MJ:  Who is the most interesting artist you have met so far?

T:  Hard to answer, because they all have something interesting to contribute.

(Ms. Jeannie’s side note: Incidently, Tuny’s niece, Diana, has an Etsy shop dVineArt which combines two of Tuny’s favorite mediums: cats and illustration! This must run in the family!)

Santa Paws Christmas Pendant by dVineArt

MJ:  As you transition through different stages in your life, do you find that your taste in art transitions with you or do you find yourself returning to the same artists, the same types of art, the same themes over and over again?

T: Basically I continue to like the same kind of art, see above, that I always have, but it’s exciting to see and learn about the many, many kinds of art that are out there. As I transition, I continue to meet different kinds of art, and it’s like stumbling on gold.

Nice Kitty Found Object Assemblage Sculpture by CastofCharacters23

14. What book are you currently reading? What is your most favorite book?

Currently re-reading Kipling’s Puck of Pook’s Hill;

Rudyard Kipling’s fabled tales about the hidden history of Old England

all-time favorite: Pride and Prejudice.

Jane Auston’s most popular novel and her most favorite. It has been adapted for both television and screen many times. One of the most cinematic versions is the 2005 Focus Features film version starring Keira Knightly.

MJ:  As an avid reader, what art books would you most recommend? 

T: Right now, my main interest in art reading is to learn how-to’s; I tend to review the myriad of books one can find by searching under “collage,” ” paper making,” or whatever, in Amazon, and then reading the reviews to see what’s worth pursuing, purchasing those that seem appropriate.

MJ: What is your favorite way to view art? Online? In a gallery? On the street? At a craft show? At a museum?

The Observing Cat by liatib

T: All of the above.

MJ:  Explain a situation where art has directly affected your life.

T: When I retired, I joined one of our local art groups and have been busy ever since, volunteering, teaching, occasionally entering the art challenges–in effect, acquiring a whole new life.

MJ: What is one of the most interesting displays of creativity that you have seen in the last five years?

A. In our art group was a young man, an excellent artist, who had been in the group for some years before I came, and had, evidently, grown considerably in his talent during that time. By the time I came along, he was still developing, constantly experimenting and pushing himself, in all sorts of exciting directions. And then it was discovered, too late to do anything about it, that he had cancer. Yet he kept on with his art, pushing and experimenting, in the few months he had left.

Cat Proverb Art Print by GoingPlaces2

MJ: If you could travel to any city on the globe, solely to view a piece of art what city and what piece of art would you choose?

T: The Terra Cotta Warriers!

The Terracotta Warriors

The Terracotta Warriors are indeed fascinating! Ms. Jeannie would like to see them for herself as well. To read more about how they were discovered by a Chinese farmer who was digging a well and to see more photos of the thousands of them in them unearthed and reassembled for display, click here. Ms. Jeannie wonders iof there are any warrior cats in there?! If so, I bet Tuny would find them!

This interview is part of an ongoing interview series, that Ms. Jeannie is orchestrating about artists, writers and musicians and their inspirations. To read other interviews in this series, simply click on the following links:

A Trip to Paris Yann Pendaries

Sunday at the Diner with Luncheonette Vintage

Discussing Rustic Home Decor, Beer & Movies with Designer Frick & Frack Scraps

BLOG UPDATE: So it seems my dears, in one of these fabulous conversations with Tuny something went awry. There was no love of a Spanish bullfighter in her life – how could Ms. Jeannie have b4en so confused?!  Although Tuny did have an experience with a bullfighter, as she tells here

“The closest I ever came to one, except at a bullfight, was on a train that did a night run between Madrid and Lisbon. Whilst in Lisbon, I went to Madrid to visit some friends, and on the return journey, established myself in one of the little compartments with facing seats. Shortly thereafter I was joined by two lower-echelon members of a torero’s entourage, and we dozed from Madrid to Lisbon.” 

Okay so it’s not a Romeo and Juliet love affair but it’s interesting just the same:)