Friday, April 02, 2010

Twenty Questions with Mo of Mouse Market

Today I'm chatting with Mo of Mouse Market. Her incredibly realistic and delicious looking miniatures make me wish I was a little girl again so I could feed these beautiful concoctions to my Barbies and Calico Critters. Luckily, she makes her pieces into whimsical jewelery so I can enjoy it as a grown up too! Today she tells us how a favorite storybook inspired her love of all things miniature and why making imaginary food is sometimes more satisfying than making the real thing.

The Fab Miss B: First off, tell us a little about you! I see you are a certified pastry chef- so that explains the realism in your miniatures! What is the best thing about life in Columbia MO?

Mo: One of the best things about Columbia, MO, hands down, is the abundance of nature areas and trails. I moved here two years ago from Chicago, and I was a bit nervous about living in a much smaller area, but having access to wooded trails with stunning landscapes has made the adjustment much smoother, and after a long day hunched over my miniatures' work, there's nothing like hitting the trails for a good, long hike.

TFMB: What inspired you to start Mouse Market?

Mo: I have been making miniatures most of my life, and when my parents built a dollhouse for me, modeled after Miss Suzy's--one of my favorite childhood storybook characters--tree house, I was officially hooked on all things tiny and cute. Last fall, I had a slower period with my graphic design/copywriting work, and I started toying with the idea of selling my miniatures on Etsy. With endless encouragement from my fiance, I finally decided to take the plunge and set up a shop.

TFMB: Is Mouse Market a hobby, a profession or a happy marriage of both?

Mo: In combination with participating in craft fairs, my miniatures have become a full-time venture. I still maintain my freelance graphic design/copywriting work on the side, which, admittedly, is hard to do while keeping my shop well stocked and preparing for shows, but I'm not quite ready to give up the security. Maybe one day!

TFMB: When did your interest with miniatures begin? How did you learn your craft?

Mo: As a child, my parents gave me a few of those wonderful craft books put out by Klutz Press with the little compartment filled with goodies and supplies, and one year I received the polymer clay book. I'm not entirely sure why, but even then the section on making miniature foods appealed to me, and that, in hindsight, is where the obsession began.

More recently, I worked through miniaturist Angie Scarr's books in order to refine my technique, and beyond that, it's simply a matter of practice, practice, practice. I pore over cookbooks and food websites looking for inspiration, and I try to regularly attempt new foods

TFMB: Miniatures have a special appeal for me too- I like how everything seems so delicate and wondrous when it's shrunken down. What do you find so special about tiny things?

Mo: For me, there's something so wonderful about miniatures in that you have to stop, step in a bit closer, and really take a good look in order to enjoy them. They really encourage a moment of pure attention, and I can't help but let my imagination run wild when I see a miniature scene, picturing what it would be like if it were "real."

Also, I think there's an appeal in being able to create little worlds that can be controlled down to the last detail. For example, when I'm making a miniature cake, I can create the perfect cake without crumbs in the frosting or a lopsided layer--something that's very difficult to do in real life. Plus, I'm not bound by the constraints of colors, flavors, and other elements that are part of real baking. Whatever I dream up, I can create!

TFMB: What inspires you most?

Mo: I draw the most inspiration from well photographed cookbooks, which often portray food in ways that are nearly impossible to achieve in a real kitchen. I love camping out in the cookbook section at the library and flipping through the pictures with a notebook in hand, ready for jotting down ideas and sketches.

TFMB: I love your photographs- they just look so delicious! How long does it usually take you to style and photograph a piece to your satisfaction?

Mo: It generally takes me ten or fifteen minutes to set up a miniature scene for photographs, although single jewelry pieces can be set up a bit quicker. There's always the challenge of getting the right light, and I have to schedule my photographs during the best part of afternoon.

TFMB: What is a great piece of advice you could share with other Etsy sellers?

Mo: One of the things that I wish someone had told me when I was just beginning is, think really long and hard before giving your work away for free, be it for samples, giveaways, or what have you. All of those experiments have led to either zero or very little sales for me, and I would have been much better off keeping that inventory for sale in my shop. When you're just starting out, it's flattering to have people approach you about these things, but I'm learning to be much more careful about giving away my work. Also, if you have the intention of turning your Etsy shop into a full-time job, be prepared to work very long hours. Unless you have an assistant, the time spent making goods, photographing and listing them, promoting them on various websites and other avenues, responding to customer emails, packaging and shipping orders, etc. amounts to long days, but if you love what you do, it makes everything worth it.

TFMB: Which Etsians do you admire? I'll interview them next!

Mo: There are so many wonderful Etsians out there, but at the moment, I'm really loving the work of Satsumabug, Espalore, Crown Bindery, Stephanie Fizer, and Miss Isa.

TFMB: Links you'd like to share?

TFMB: Thank you so much for taking us behind the scenes of your extraordinary miniatures. It's been so much fun to learn more about you and your work!


satsumabug said...

What a fabulous interview! Thank you, Mo, for the shout out!

I totally second the long hours -- I didn't realize when I started my shop just how long everything would take, and how much of my time the shop would eat up!

ArtSnark said...

wonderful interview & such cute sculptures

Anonymous said...

how fun! love the macarons.

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