When did you open your Etsy shop, and how did you choose its name?
I opened SilentLotus Creations on Etsy over three years ago. The name was inspired by my connection to the lotus as a spiritual symbol and the bliss of finding a moment of complete silence in nature.
What kinds of items do you sell in your shop, and what inspired you to start creating them?
I create original Chinese brush paintings and prints, as well as jewelry I craft from sterling silver and brass mixed with gemstones. My connection to and love of nature and Earth and life is my biggest inspiration, especially when I am brush painting. I paint mostly flowers, trees, and birds using different Chinese and Japanese painting techniques fused with my own. This past fall I started making prints of my original works and also started shrinking my paintings down to mini size to make them into glass magnets and jewelry. It really filled a big empty space I was noticing in my art and creating when I focused more on painting. It comes from a much deeper place than does jewelry making.
Last fall I also upped my efforts to be “greener” in my craft and now recycle and reuse as much as possible. I started incorporating the many vintage jewelry parts I’d been collecting into new jewelry designs, mixing some of my favorite materials like sterling silver and gemstones with materials like vintage glass, brass, and more. Many of my new pieces are made 100% from vintage parts, from the beads and stampings to the chain and clasps. Not only has being more eco-friendly been inspiring, but so has working with older pieces with a unique history and style.
Now to get all of these things listed in my shop! Urgh. :P
What are some of your favorite things about Etsy?
The community, especially the teams! :) Along with being a VET member (yay!), I belong to Cruelty Free Etsy, Steel Town Etsy, and Handmade in PA, and I am team leader of EtsyVeg. I have learned so much from teammates and met so many wonderful people, many of whom I connect with every day. And then there is the shopping! There are so many wonderful, unique items available there, and every purchase supports an indie artisan/business. It's really hard to say no to spending on Etsy. I am a sucker for handmade bags, clothing, and accessories, as well as art
Do you sell your items outside of Etsy, either online or in retail shops?
Most of my selling happens at local indie craft shows in PA and OH like I Made It! Market, through consignment or home parties once in a while, and through custom work via word of mouth. My family is always talking me up and bringing me sales- they're the best! Etsy is only a small fraction of my business in terms of income. Maybe that would change if I spent more time listing what I make. Most of what I create never makes it to Etsy - I want to change that.
How long have you been vegan, and what made you go vegan?
I just passed the 12-year mark! For me being vegan is about honoring and respecting all beings as seeing them as equally deserving of compassion, love, and freedom. Animals, human beings, and the planet - all are one, and in essence, of the same energy and spirit. I am also vegan as a way of giving back to Earth by living as impact-free as possible, and about maintaining a healthy mind, body, spirit, and soul. I think vegan living is an example of how to walk tenderly, harm minimally, love fully, and lead with a compassionate heart. It's about countering all of the fear, hatred, and cruelty in the world with peace, kindness, and openness. And about countering and making up for my own negative crap that I sometimes send into the world.
What are your favorite foods?
Chocolate! I have a huge sweet tooth, especially for vegan cupcakes. :) I love avocados, Indian and Thai food, and dishes made with fresh, whole foods and herbs. I also go through periods of time where I am craving particular foods- lately it's blueberry pancakes and vegan sausages, grilled cheese sandwiches with Daiya mozzarella and sliced tomatoes (the Daiya melts into this creamy, hot goodness), and these yummy raw chocolate food bars called Pure. :)
Do you have any favorite vegan things, like books, websites, stores, etc.
I love Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s books! My faves are the cupcake and cookie editions, of course. VegWeb is my favorite source for vegan recipes, as are various vegan foodie blogs and Vegetarian Times. We don’t have any exclusively vegan stores here in Pittsburgh, but Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and the local food co-op offer lots of choices. Etsy is my favorite place to shop vegan.
I am a yoga teacher and practitioner, so yoga is a big part of my life and spirituality. I collect gemstones and minerals and found objects from nature- they are all over my house. I also collect bowls- especially small ones in bright colors or unique shapes. I really enjoy gardening, and my partner and I have been preparing the soil of our garden patch for the past few weeks. We just sent a soil sample off to be tested to see if it is missing anything nutrient-wise. I love hiking and biking and spending time close to nature. I adore birds, and have recently become something of a birdwatcher. I have been learning how to identify them by appearance and call, and can spend hours sitting in my yard or in the woods watching them.
Do you have any animal companions?
Sophie! My sweet kitty Sophie is my heart! She is going on ten years old, and is a long-haired Siamese Lynx-point that seems to have a bit of Ragdoll as well. She is very floppy. She has the softest fur and biggest blue eyes ever, and loves to snuggle, be chased, play in the yard, be a lap cat, and find new spots for a comfortable nap. She is also a good protector and has been known to push through window screens to scare off a kitty in her territory (yard or porch).
Do you do any work to promote veganism, animal rights, nutrition education, and/or other such causes? Do you donate through your shop to any charities or do any volunteer work?
Veganism has an enormous influence in the way I live, craft, and practice business, as do concerns about the planet and reducing our impact on the environment, peace and justice issues, and supporting the local economy and indie businesses. My shop is cruelty-free, meaning that I don’t sell or make products from animal-derived materials. It's been a natural progression to move toward eliminating everything possible from my life that isn't compassionate, including materials used in creating my art and jewelry. Anything else feels 'unnatural' and incongruent with who I am, what I care about, and the impact (or lack of one) I want to make in the world. I put so much of my true self into creating things that to me (and hopefully to others) are pure and convey beautiful things. Cruelty isn't beautiful. Materials that are derived with cruel methods or that dishonor other beings aren't beautiful.
Personally, I find that living with free expression of truth, beliefs and ethics is the best way to demonstrate that there is a different, more compassionate way to live. Being an activist and an advocate for those who can’t speak or have great difficulty speaking for themselves is hugely important to me, even if it's with more subtle action. From veganism, animal rights, gay rights, women's rights, fighting violence against women, lack of access to medical care - being involved, spreading awareness, and DOING something is so important to me. Mostly this takes the form of online activism and information sharing, making the veg lifestyle more visible and accessible, fundraising, and, in real life, being very vocal about the everyday injustices that hide or justify exploitation, violation, and cruelty.
Ten percent of my Etsy shop sales every month are donated to a cause that is important to me - a different (usually local) organization every month. These are mostly animal rights, human rights, women’s issues, or peace & justice oriented causes like Animal Friends, Global Links, Vegan Outreach, The Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center, & Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, and Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice.
Buying and selling handmade provides the opportunity for a personal, connected, important interaction which counters the clinical, detached, distant interactions we all experience throughout our daily lives. Handmade goods are unique, made with love and quality materials, and help independent artisans make a living. Buying handmade and supporting local indie artisans and other businesses is hugely important, as is maintaining a connection to the source of what we consume. I recently learned that of every $1 spent in the local economy, 68 cents of that is cycled back into the community! Not only that, local businesses generate three and a half times the local economic activity as chains do and 70% more local economic impact per square foot than chain stores!
Choosing to spend your dollars with indie businesses like handmade artisans rather than in chain stores is one of the most important ways of boosting an area’s economic health. I make a conscious effort to buy local or handmade or indie or all three, whether I am buying art supplies, hiring a printer, or shopping for a gift. It may seem like a small, incidental thing to purchase a handmade wallet/chocolate bar/tee-shirt/piece of jewelry over a mass-produced one, but the impact is far-reaching.
"All beings tremble before violence. All fear death, all love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?" ~Buddha