This installment of Interview with the Artist features the wonderfully talented Autumn Sousanis.
She calls herself “Mamazakka” – but I’ve nicknamed her “Wonder Woman” 🙂
She is mother to four little ones (ages 5, 4, 2, and an 8-month-old!), and yet she somehow finds the energy to design and create art that is unique, whimsical, beautiful, and useful – all at the same time!
Much of her work resonates with the themes of motherhood. From her families of nesting dolls inspired by Russian Matryoshkas, to her Baubles for Baby Necklaces that Moms wear and babies adore, Autumn captures the true essence of what it is to be Mama.
Enjoy the following interview 🙂
It’s warm, witty, and full of generous advice – just like the lady, herself!
Were you interested in art as a child?
Yes, I remember in Kindergarten I started saying “Artist” when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, maybe because both my parents were artists, (they met at Pratt Art Institute) or maybe because no one offered it as an option and I wanted to say something different than “Nurse or Teacher or Stewardess”? I still like the feeling of being a bit outside of the mainstream, but now that I’m grown up I do realize those jobs pay better 🙂
What were some of the earliest projects that you created?
I made a ‘soft sculpture’ doll out of pantyhose and scraps of cloth when I was 5 (do you remember those ‘pickled’ doll faces in jars?! Boy, were they ugly). Mine was not much prettier but I figured out how to do it by myself and I was very proud of it. Mom also signed me up lots of Arts and Crafts classes, so I was able to ‘get my hands on’ clay, and weave on a loom and do papier mache and paint…I always thought my Mom signed me up for all those classes because I was ‘good at art’ and to expose me to lots of ‘techniques’ but now, as a parent, I suspect it was so she wouldn’t have to clean up after me all the time! 🙂
When did you first become interested in working with beads?
Well, during college I worked for a wonderful artist named Marcia Hovland who makes ceramic jewelry, and then I worked for Carla Hankins of Bag Lady Beads, also in creating ceramic jewelry, but Bag Lady Beads was also a wonderful bead store (in Hamtramck, MI) and I quickly fell in love with making beaded jewelry.
You are a true renaissance woman – you work in several different media. Do you have a favorite?
Oh you’re sweet, I’m afraid I’m more of a “jack of all trades…” . I’m always compelled to work on what I’m terrible at, so I find myself sewing a lot. Right now I’m very interested in color and pattern and printing my own fabric. Just bought a GOCO printer. Also a serger! Ack!
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
The shower. Haha, but that’s about the only place where I find I can think, these days! I love to make the things I need, and sometimes the ‘inspiration’ is a conscious shift from ‘consumerism’ to ‘craft’. I mean, I’ll want something, I’ll look for it in the store or online, and then realize I need to make that thing myself. Like my ‘Love Me Don’t Lose Me Teether Leash’.
I also get great ideas while shopping for other projects, don’t you? 😉 My Baubles for Baby Nursing Necklaces were inspired by need too, but also because I found some really nice, though gigantic(!) lucite plastic beads in JoAnn fabrics one day, while looking for fabric. Now I hunt for lucite beads just about everywhere I go. I’m very particular (the beads must be seamless and solid) and I get inspired by the beads themselves. If I sit down and start sorting beads, I have to pull myself away or I’ll keep going all night, making Baubles! I never thought I’d love plastic so much! I used to love semi-precious stone beads, but now I’m just crazy for plastic! Weird.
Do you keep any examples of your best work – just for yourself? 🙂
That’s a great question. I probably don’t. I kept one Baubles for Baby Nursing Necklace that was one of the first I ever made but I list my best pieces in my Etsy shop right away, because I get so excited to ‘show’ them off, and then they often sell immediately! Which can be so fun but also kind of sad. I listed and sold every single one of my Matryoshka Nesting Dolls and I kind of miss every single one. But I priced them high enough to feel compensated if they sold, so it’s OK.
What advice would you give to a person who would like to begin selling her art but could use a few pointers?
Well, I’d say only make what you are excited about making. If it doesn’t sell, you won’t mind being ‘stuck’ with it, but also, the excitement and energy will come through and make your items more appealing to purchase. Don’t make massive amounts of anything! (Carpal tunnel = Bad. Landfills full of Friendship Bracelets and Potholders = Bad) Price your work so it’s ‘worth it’ to you to keep going. Keep on making exciting, cool, fun, wacky things. Live as a ‘creative spirit’ and not just as a ‘consumer’.
Don’t think in terms of what will appeal to everybody. You are unique, and if you make what you would like to wear, or have, you will attract others like you, to you.
And I love Etsy.com. You don’t need your own website! They provide you with one! (sort of!) You don’t need a lot of (or any) backstock to set up your own shop or online presence, just whatever items you can manage to create, and you don’t need to pay a boutique or gallery any big commission, (etsy charges something small…3%? while galleries can charge up to 75%!!!).
You just need great photos, (or at least good photos) to do the ‘talking’, and to know that the ‘Be true to yourself’ thing and the ‘Write what you know’ stuff is all true.
And, finally, haunt the Forums on Etsy. There is great advice there and loads of people who are really friendly and who will answer your questions directly. It’s kind of amazing.
To view more of mamazakka’s art, please click here