Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Michelle Morin. I live and work on the beautiful North Shore in Salem, Massachusetts with my fiancé (who is also a painter), lovable dog, and sometimes lovable cat. I grew up in southern New Hampshire and graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston with a BFA in painting and art history. After college I moved to Portland, Oregon where I worked at a plant farm and greenhouse.
I attribute Portland as the place where I really fell in love with plants. The growing zone is mild enough to allow for perennial and vegetable gardening year-round, which is almost unheard of when you’re coming from New England. At the greenhouse I was responsible for learning the common and Latin names, habits, and growth requirements of all plants on the four acre property.
After Portland we moved back to the East Coast, where I took on a job as a private gardener for a wonderful couple on Cape Cod. I was able to apply my greenhouse knowledge to a tight, two-acre garden that became my sanctuary for two years. I came to realize that this garden, while full of hundreds of plant species, was also home to countless animals, including owls, hawks, hummingbirds, box turtles and numerous insects. Witnessing their daily routine gave me the inspiration to make paintings that referenced the colors, patterns, habits and curiosities in this world. I took it all in during the day and painted it by night.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I am easily influenced by the seasons; they truly dictate how I spend my free time. Come spring I am taken over with gardening plans. My desk becomes a heap of seed catalogs and garden schematics. In the summer all I can think about is hiking, kayaking, camping, and swimming with my dog. Then fall happens and I become a nut. It’s my favorite season (color, temperature, and food-wise), but since it seems to happen so fast I feel a need to rush. I slow down and cook, sew and think over cold crops while watching old movies. When winter hits, all I think about are snow activities, hot beverages, good books, and the ritual of unwrapping all of my vintage ornaments.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I come from a family of makers. Like a lot of artists, it was the environment I grew up in that inspired me to be creative. On weekends everyone in my family was joyfully busy with their own projects. My parents and brother each had different ways of expressing this creativity, and it generated a nice balance in the house. My dad could be found tinkering with anything from a new shed to a backyard ice skating rink, my mom and grandmother would be busy with one of their numerous projects, from building spool dolls, to sewing quilts, to canning pickles. All the while my brother studiously practiced his piano in the background. I fit into this picture anywhere and was happy to hop from one activity to the next. Over time, with the help of great teachers and talented friends, I learned how to focus this creative instinct into a more artistic career.
Please describe your creative process.
My working day happens in three main phases:
1. Setting up: This involves coffee, emails, packaging, choosing podcasts for the day and making multiple to-do lists!
2. Roughing in/framework: This is when I do all my sketching, checking references for inspiration (which can be anything from fashion magazines to wallpaper snippets), lining up color schemes, and sometimes word mapping what I am after. For my process this is one of the most important and time-consuming steps. If I can get everything aligned, the rest of the work day will flow with ease.
3. Work: I’m not a morning person, so in order to get to a place where I’m able to come up with new ideas and get into some sort of zone, I need to work longer hours into the night. I will usually have a few different pieces sketched out and work on them all at once. This is a good way for me to keep the work from becoming repetitive or stagnant. By having multiple ideas on the table, they inevitably influence the choices I make, which are often unexpected.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I’m lucky to have so many talented people in my life, so it’s hard to choose among my many handmade treasures. One of my favorite paintings was given to me by Jeremy Miranda (my fiancé and also an Etsy artist). The painting is an image of a dim room lit by the warm glow of a small Christmas tree set in a corner. The room is overlooking a snowy field at night. There is something about it that gives me so much comfort. I also cherish all of my handmade quilts made by my mother.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
My advice is similar to a lot of sellers on Etsy, and it seems to have become a mantra: Be patient, become obsessed, find your own voice, stay organized, and treat your customers like gold. It’s also very important to have a support system, whether its someone in your family, a friend, or the community on Etsy.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I’m really grateful for these feature interviews. When I was first starting out, I found it very helpful and encouraging to hear about the stories and the lives of the artists on Etsy. The advice from each seller seemed to be consistent in their suggestion to be patient and persistent. This is exactly what I needed to hear.
I’m also a fan of the Rearrange Your Shop and the Sales Stats features. It’s wonderful to have so many tools to keep my business running smoothly!
How do you promote your work?
I’ve been slowly working on a blog and website, but otherwise have been lucky to be busy with orders just through Etsy and word of mouth. I also recently started selling my work in a few shops around the United States!
In ten years, where would you like to be?
I would like to be painting, hopefully in a studio detached from my home. I’d like to write a children’s book, hike the Patagonia, own a greenhouse filled with lemon and olive trees and visit Switzerland.