My name is Danielle Pedersen. I make intricately hand-painted animal jewelry and decor out of polymer clay in my little studio in San Diego, California.
My process generally begins by looking at a lot of photographs of the animal I wish to make. I ponder the expression of a smug seal or the daily schedule of a lemur; I learn their general structure, their coloring, and maybe guess at a few of their hobbies. Then I begin making small temporary mock-ups, to flesh out a basic shape that communicates the animal most effectively. When I complete one of these, I begin the painting process. Beforehand, I work out most lines and color on paper, so painting the mock-up is mainly refining a previous vision.
There is something satisfying about holding a piece of clay or stone or cloth that has been crafted into something beautiful by a pair of human hands. To hold that kind of object and examine the craft and care that went into it is to experience a connection to another person through their work. I like the notion that my work is being picked up, worn, and examined closely. Whether the person examining it knows that it came from my shop or not, hopefully they will recognize that the item was made by someone who took great care in its creation.
I started my Etsy shop a couple of years ago, and for the past year, I have made an earnest effort to turn it into my full-time job. In that time, I have become a lot more social, and I’ve discovered certain traits in myself that seem to be beneficial when it comes to running an Etsy shop. In the beginning, I found it helpful to get involved in teams, and now I find myself leading one along with a handful of extremely talented, fun people. I also found a streak of perseverance in myself that’s been crucial to running my handmade business. Through the inevitable ups and downs (even some that could have sent me off to hide under the bed), I stuck with it, and that’s been both surprising and extremely rewarding.
To me, Etsy means financial freedom, autonomy in creation and production, and a direct connection between crafter and customer. Etsy has enabled me as an artist/designer/craftsperson to make a living from my own product while retaining control over my process and ownership of my design. Further, Etsy has revolutionized the way we exchange goods and allows us contact with makers. In today’s world, we almost never know who created the products we use, but I know that Amanda makes my perfume, Heather made my necklace, Celia made my husband’s wedding ring, and Devin made the embroidery that hangs on my studio wall. You just don’t get that type of connection at a big box store buying factory-made goods.
I think my style is what sets me apart; my pieces are recognizable. Most successful Etsy sellers can say the same thing. The time and energy I put in to creating and refining my style and brand is significant, and this look I’ve created brings people back to my shop.
I believe everyone possesses the capacity to create something refreshingly unique and original, even if some people don’t realize it. As artists/designers/craftspeople, it is our responsibility to produce work with originality, and to constantly innovate and refine our products. I will always value innovation over industry. That’s the point. And the fun part.
All photographs by Handy Maiden.