Susan Hoerth Interview
If you haven’t seen a pop-up book since kindergarten, don’t discount the 3D dynamic. Texas-based altered book artist, Susan Hoerth, is an Etsy exclusive whose work brings antiquated storybooks to life with the snip of a pair scissors. She shares with us some tips and advice for making the most of the online craft fair and working with copyrighted material.
Your shop name, the Abandoned Attic, and your body of work carry a theme of vintage art. What interests you about working with antiques and antiquated styles?
I am compelled and enjoy the experience of working with objects that have a rich history. Just the fact that somehow these books that I cut have survived over the years holds a very metaphorical symbol of my own aging process. How Items like books changed over the years, they are powerful tools that remind me that the once desired so easily can be discarded, trashed, and sold as second-hand items.
Why do you make the stipulations that altered books must be dated before 1923 and not first editions?
The Victorian era is one of the most interesting times for book illustrations, particularly for children’s books. During this time and into the early 1920s, most books were illustrated with woodcuts or black and white prints, later with hints of color and brilliant collections of illustrated texts. This combination with the yellow aging of thick paper made for the perfect cuts, and assemblage. When I search for a book to reconstruct, I need it to be a challenge. If the binding is falling apart I enjoy fixing it. If pages are ripped or tattered, I enjoy the process of finding a way to include them in the images or the creative process of working around all the imperfections that age has caused. The more the better; it is the problem-solving that makes it all worth it.
Of course there is the issue of copyright, which I like to follow in detail, and the fact that there are collectors to take care of these books and preserve their history, so there is little reason for me to reclaim them and preserve them as art, they already are.
I became aware of the copyright laws when I began collage years ago. I have researched and set guidelines for myself and my art within them. It is restrictive and difficult, but, for me, adds to the problem-solving and investigation work within my art. There is a lot of information on the Internet about copyright laws. It is wise to know the rules, but the unfortunate thing is that they, like all rules, are always subject to change.
What do you see as the biggest advantage of selling your work on Etsy?
Etsy is a wonderful Venue. I have tried other markets, and Etsy seems to be the best fit for my art. It is easy to use and designed well for first-time shop owners. It offers help and teams to belong to that help promote your work. Another advantage is the market is worldwide. It allows you to hook up with other online endeavors, which helps you reach a broad market. I started showing my art on Etsy just one year ago, and watched it climb to a point where I can hardly keep up. I have not had to use much of the extra marketing on Etsy. The art just took off by itself.
What techniques help artists stand out on a website with so may vendors?
A unique and quality item. The buyers on Etsy want to see unique quality items. Etsy is a bit expensive, but it is worth it.
Yes, I show my work in a few local galleries and restaurants. I have done shows in the past as well as art walks and fairs, but online is the best market place to sell my works at this time. It is such a large audience, and I don’t have to travel and set up.
Some artists relocate for a more receptive art market. Do you find that selling your work online makes your location (Texas) less a factor in your marketability?
Yes, the Internet is the place to get noticed. If your product is good, it will get noticed. People online are looking for art and unique ideas to share. The best advice I was given as an artist using the online market was to get a good smart camera and take lots of pictures of my art. I think visual presence is the key to success online, on Etsy, and for getting your art out there.
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