Photo by Sandy Fry
I had the good fortune of meeting the ultra-talented Robyn Hood Black (what would you give to have that name as a writer?) at the Highlights Foundation Poetry workshop I attended. We found we were kindred spirits not just with respect to writing but as mutual lovers of wolves. When Robyn mentioned that she recently opened up an Etsy shop, artsyletters, focusing on art with a literary bent, I couldn’t wait to share it with you. The work is beautiful, affordable, and perfect for the book-lovers on your holiday list.
But there’s more: Robyn has generously offered a discount to my blog readers. If you place an order in her shop, type in the code JULIE2012 when prompted, and you’ll get 10% off any purchase.
But there’s still more: To support the cause of wolf preservation and education, I’ll be making a donation to the International Wolf Center (Robyn’s chosen organization), and you can help! Leave a comment on this post between now and noon Mountain time on November 15. For each comment received during that time, I will donate $1 to the Center.
Now, let’s get going on the interview.
Robyn, in addition to having one of the world’s coolest names, you are also a published author, illustrator and poet. What inspired you to start artsyletters as a side business?
Julie, thanks so much for having me on your terrific blog!I’ve always loved both writing and art. I needed to supplement my writing income this year and was just too stubborn after years of self-employment to go work for someone else. In my life B. C. (Before Children – 20 years ago!), I had a small art business. I decided to try that again, but this time with a literary bent. It’s been a blast!
How do you find the time to balance creating the products for artsyletters with writing and illustrating?
Oh, that’s a work-in-progress!:0! I’m hoping to settle into a more balanced schedule after a frenzied fall of launching the art business and trying to keep up with writing, submitting, and the occasional speaking. I’ve burned a lot of midnight oil in the last couple of months. (Jeff, my husband, has reminded me: You’re not in college anymore…!)He and my kids (Morgan, 20, and Seth, 17) have been supportive – and understanding about not being able to see the top of the dining room table for days (okay, weeks) at a time. My daughter has helped at art shows and with Facebook. Every new business needs a connection to a social media-savvy college student. When Morgan is home for Thanksgiving, we’ll tackle Twitter. And I’ll get serious about Pinterest.
Do you find that creating products for artsyletters inspires your writing and/or vice versa?
I think it does – both ways. Some of that has to do with simply the practice of needing to be creative on a daily basis to get everything done. No time to worry if my Muse will show up – there’s work to do! And I’m spending as much time with other artists now as I always have with writers. I love the inspiration and support creative folks get from each other. I was fortunate to join an illustrators critique group made up of SCBWI friends that formed this past spring – the same time artsyletters was forming in my mind. Their encouragement and spot-on feedback has been invaluable.
From Robyn's Etsy shop
Right now you have lovely note cards, bookmarks, mixed-media collages and illuminated letters in the shop. Any other items you plan to introduce?
Thank you, Julie. I’ve only just begun! I have ideas brimming and lots of fun vintage finds and new art supplies just waiting for expression. I’m adding new items to my Etsy shop each week. I’ll be offering more calligraphy, more altered page collages, and art made with vintage printing supplies soon. All continuing to celebrate reading and writing!
What advice would you give other artist/writers considering starting their own Etsy or other online business featuring their work?
Great question. There are two components, I think. 1) Prepare as much as you can – decide on the look, theme, and product line for your business. Talk to folks who are selling online. (I’ve leaned on my author friend Kim Siegelson, who has co-owned a terrific Etsy vintage shop, perfectpatina, for a year.) Read – the Etsy online forums and blogs are helpful, and I read a couple of books on starting an Etsy business. (I’m such a nerd.) But that brings us to 2) Jump in! At some point, you have to take the plunge and know that you’ll learn something new each day as you go. You’ll make mistakes, fix them, tweak and improve along the way. I decided to launch artsyletters in the fall, in time for fall festivals/art shows and in time for holiday shopping.On my artsyletters blogI feature “Art Break Wednesday” – I love sharing things as I learn them and also learning from the comments of others. I hope it will continue to grow into a place where artists share ideas. So, come on by!
As a fellow lover of wolves, can you say a bit about the work you do with these magnificent animals and how they inspire your writing and art?
While researching WOLVES, I had the privilege of meeting and then working with wolf pups at a local zoo not far from where I
Reading with wolves
live – the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega, Georgia. As a volunteer, I helped socialize them as they grew into mature animals. Schedules this year – mine and theirs – have meant I haven’t been regularly working with them, and I do miss it. But I treasure the experience I had there as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which only reinforced my immense respect for and love of these animals. I still enjoy incorporating “wolf education” into school visits when discussing nonfiction. The series that the book was a part of is now sadly out of print, but I provide a copy to media centers where I do author visits.
Robyn, you should see if you can get the rights back and turn it into an ebook!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, for each comment left, I will donate $1 to the wolf preservation organization of your choice. Which one did you choose and why?
What a thoughtful thing to do! There are some great organizations out there. One of my favorites is the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota. Founded by renowned wolf expert L. David Mech, the center has been “teaching the world about wolves” since opening its doors two decades ago. There are so many scientifically based resources on the website, and they do a great deal of educational outreach. There are even web cams offering a real-time glimpse into the daily antics of their pack of ambassador wolves. In fact, Nov. 15 is “Give to the Max” day, where donations are matched!
What great timing! I’ll accept comments through noon on Nov. 15th so the donation will be matched.
Thank you for your generosity, and for inviting me over today!
You are very welcome Robyn. I hope my readers will take advantage of your generous offer to get 10% off any of your gorgeous products. Just in time for the holidays too!
Robyn Hood Black is a children’s author and poet living in Northeast Georgia. Her books include Sir Mike (Scholastic Library, 2005) and Wolves (Intervisual Books, 2008). Her poetry appears in The Poetry Friday Anthology (compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, Pomelo Books, 2012), in Georgia Heard’s anthology of found poems, The Arrow Finds Its Mark (Roaring Brook, 2012), and in leading haiku journals. Her fiction has appeared in Highlights and her poetry has been featured in Ladybug and Hopscotch. She enjoys encouraging young readers, writers, and artists through school visits and speaks to audiences of all ages.