Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tracy Selmer Gordon, Etsy Artist from Virginia

Before she answered these questions for me, here's what I knew about Tracy Selmer Grodon: She made cool stuff out of stone; She was a member of Design Style Guide; She had a cool name for her business. Now I know a lot more, and so will you, after reading this...

1. What is your shop name and what do you sell?

My shop is called New Dominion Blues. I sell nature-inspired home décor with a pinch of vintage home décor items as well. I currently have a large selection of stone coasters and trivets, some with designs painted on the surface. I am working on some larger scale stone pieces that can be installed as kitchen backsplashes, focal mosaics, or countertops. I also have a variety of beaded garlands and curtain tie-backs, and other small accent pieces. I started taking pottery classes in August of 2008, and I am thrilled to report that my skills have started to catch up to my aspirations, and I am able to offer some wheel-thrown pottery. I just recently added a vintage element to my shop, giving Etsy shoppers a more complete opportunity to browse through my interior décor aesthetic.

The origin of my shop name: My husband and I love blues music. We try to visit Chicago as often as possible, especially for the annual blues festival. We even got engaged there. While our hearts may often be in the Windy City, we live in the Old Dominion. Over the years, we have accumulated a large volume of blues music and memorabilia in our Virginia home; enough that we have created our own personal blues bar that merges the blues in our souls with our geographic location - New Dominion Blues.

2. What long series of events led to you doing this?

I grew up running through the woods, building forts, and collecting anything and everything that I might possibly be able to use for a future “project.” That meant rocks, wood, bits of trash abandoned in the woods, you name it. Once a utility worker made the mistake of leaving a specific tool under a bush next to the large green box it was created to open. My friends and I gathered all the loose wire out of the box, and kept the tool so we could go back when more would be left behind. The wires we took weren’t connected to anything – they must have been left as extra for future work. My neighbor and I made a lot of jewelry from these colorful plastic coated wires, and set up shop on her porch. I’m not sure we ever sold anything, but we certainly were ready.

I have always had an interest in art, and a certain level of natural skill that I haven’t spent much time nourishing until recently. I have always been very driven to succeed – in academia and my career. That left little room for “fun,” and I haven’t really had the necessary space to spread out and create, either. I am fortunate to now have plenty of space – having recently finished building an in-home studio – and the experience of a number of home improvement projects that have honed my practical skills and inspired new ideas.

Another insight into my creative process: I have one pretty bad dog and one pretty good dog. I believe in decorating for real life, meaning that you work with and around your circumstances. Having dogs means worrying about dog hair, mud and drool. And that’s just for starters. It also means accidents, unexpected regurgitation, and, in the case of my bad dog, mischievous stealing. A table is right at eye (and mouth) level for my mastiff. His favorite game is stealing objects and hoping I will chase him. I have lost many, many items over the years, and coasters were out of the question due to their typically light construction. One day it occurred to me that he would be less likely to steal a stone coaster. I now use slate coasters identical to those I sell in my shop, and he has not once stolen one. Good design, practical use, problem solved.

3. Who taught you the particular skills you use in your work?

I have to say that my mom is the biggest influence I have in terms of creating. She and I work in different media, and her abilities range from quilting and sewing to basket-weaving and mosaic work. But I have certainly inherited my can-do attitude from her, and nothing is more fun than when we find opportunities to combine our crafts. She also has an Etsy shop at

My second biggest influence is probably trial and error. I will dream up some crazy idea, and give it a whirl on a prototype or two.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Fran at Manassas Clay. Everything I know about pottery I have learned from her in her classes there, and I cannot even begin to thank her enough for opening up the world of clay to me.

4. How long have you been selling online?

I joined Etsy on March 13 of 2008, and began listing items within a week or so of that date.

5. What is your favorite thing about Etsy?

I love the atmosphere, the palpable creativity, and the opportunity to find that perfect one-of-a-kind item.

6. What is your favorite thing about what you sell?

What I love about my shop is that I only sell things that I would use to decorate my own home. It is very much a reflection of my own style and aesthetic. More often than not, I made an original to solve a design problem in my own home, and decided to create more to sell in the shop.

7. What is your favorite item in your own shop and why?

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I am really excited about the new vintage items in my shop, and I will have a hard time parting with several of them. One of them is the vintage House & Garden magazine cover from June of 1937. It depicts a tree stump covered in blooming blue morning glories, and beautiful in its natural simplicity.

8. How does your work differ from the work of other artists in your field?

There are several shops on Etsy that offer stone coasters, but I have yet to see another shop that takes as much care to photograph the stones with as much detail as I show. Most of my competitors will list a set of coasters and indicate that the coasters they send to you will be similar to the ones shown. I find that choosing stones is a very personal thing, and I want my customers to be able to select the stones that speak to them. I try to select stones that go well together, but I want to leave it to the customer to choose the exact pieces that they want. I haven’t seen other stone coasters that have metallic leaf designs painted on them, nor stained images. I have also noticed that many shops cover the entire bottom of their coasters – which seems unnecessary to me, and unfortunate, since the beauty of the stone is a 360 degree experience.

9. What teams do you belong to and what do you like most about them?

I only belong to the Design Style Guide, and I love that it is such a broad base of creativity and artisanship. I also love that the team is focused on interior design, a subject I find interesting and dovetails well with my shop.

10. What is the most fun thing you do to promote your shop?

The most fun, and most labor-intensive, thing I do to promote my shop is my blog, New Dominion Blues. I try to give insight into my shop, my studio, and my creative process, but I also spend a lot of time featuring other artists, things that inspire me, and related subjects.

11. What are some of your favorite finds by other sellers on Etsy?

I have many, many favorites, but I will share a few that I have bought, and a few that I will someday buy…

I swoon for alinahayes’ robins egg pieces.

I bought one of these salt shakers from StudioElan, and I still keep coming back to gaze at it online.

everyeskimo is one of my newest favorite shops.

I have several of these vintage skeleton keys with borosilicate glass beads, made by Venbead.

12. What do you do in your spare time?

I’m not sure I have much in the way of what I would call “spare time,” but I do tend to fill my time working on my Etsy shop, my blog, working in my studio, throwing pottery, home improvement projects, training and wrangling my dogs, and preparing to write a number of books that have been rolling around in my brain.

See also: Our Exclusive Interviews

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If you like this blog entry you'll love my blog, jn3 Hand Crafted Woodworks. Check it out. I'll be glad you did.


Mystic Silks said...

Talented artisian! Great interview. It's always nice to know more about the person behind the work--:)

Unknown said...

Great interview, thanks for helping us get to know this wonderful artist better. Captivating reading.

Audrey said...

Wonderful shop and a great feature!!
Off to see what else she has.

Unknown said...

It shouldn't be surprising that in etsy, there are a lot of talented artists with amazing stories to showcase their works.


BPR Designs said...

Nice feature -- it's always nice to get more background on a talented artist!

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Unknown said...

Great interview! I love the stuff about her dogs. Thanks, Jay.

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