Sunday, 30 December 2012

12 Days Of Etsy: When Guinea Pigs Fly

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi there! My name is Lesley DeSantis and I'm the artist and everything-else behind the scenes at When Guinea Pigs Fly. I'm a bit of a Renaissance woman...not the kind that dresses up at Renaissance fairs (though that does sound kinda fun!), but meaning I do a whole bunch of different creative things and have a never-ending supply of curiosity for learning and mastering new things, which is great for being a creative entrepreneur! One day I can plan out marketing and sales, another I'm painting, and another I might be doing something totally non-When Guinea Pigs Fly-related. I live outside of Boston with my husband and pets and love the ocean, delicious gluten free cupcakes and...if you couldn't guess...guinea pigs!

2. How did you choose your shop name?

I knew I wanted my shop to have a whimsical flair, and when I first began creating artwork with the hope of opening an Etsy shop, I gravitated to guinea pigs immediately. One of the first paintings I made, before I opened shop, was a guinea pig superhero (seen here: it's so funny to see how my style has evolved over time!). The thought of a flying guinea pig tickled me so much. I agonized over picking a name, but when I was talking it over with my mom one night, "when guinea pigs fly" stuck. It was exactly what I wanted -- suggesting a cute mental image with a clever play on words. Moms are good at helping with things like that. :)

3. What do you enjoy drawing the most?

I suppose you could call guinea pigs my muse. I sometimes feel really inspired to paint other creatures, and when that happens, I go for it and don't restrict myself, but more often than not I come right back to these sweet little rodents!

4. What is the best seller in your shop?

Even though the shop is called When Guinea Pigs Fly and primarily features guinea pigs, the #1 seller is actually the 'Otterly Romantic' print of the otters holding hands ( I was so inspired to paint that after seeing an adorable YouTube video of otters holding hands at the Vancouver Aquarium (if you haven't seen it, you must!, and I think a lot of people find it to be a really appropriate gift for their sweetheart or...brace yourself... "otter half" (har har!), which makes me so happy.

5. Your work sells all over the world, in which parts of the world is your work most popular?

It is amazing to me to think that my artwork is in people's homes all over the globe! The top three places it's most popular are the U.S., the UK, and Australia. Guinea pigs seem to be held in a lot higher regard/are more popular in the UK and Australia, which I never knew until I opened shop! One of my very first orders went to Australia and I thought it was a fluke, but several orders a month usually make the journey 'Down Undah'.

6. What inspires you?

Cuteness, in all its shapes and forms, but of course if I see something with a guinea pig I'm immediately smitten. I'm inspired by all sorts of animals and can often be found visiting a local wildlife sanctuary and farm to recharge. I'm inspired by classic, sweet stories like Winnie the Pooh for my watercolor scenes and there is never a shortage of guinea pig photos to paw through! Sometimes I'll see a particular photo of a guinea pig and think "omg that guinea pig totally looks like a [whatever the next painting ends up being]". They all have their own little quirks and personalities and that can sometimes dictate in what direction my artwork goes.

7. How long have you been an artist?

I began drawing when I was very young and would doodle every day after school with my big basket of markers at the kitchen table. I began learning how to paint and draw more photo-realistic works in middle and high school, and began developing my own style as When Guinea Pigs Fly got established. So as cliche as it sounds, I suppose I've been an artist pretty much my whole life, but only a 'working artist' for the past three years or so.

8. What are your other hobbies?

I write musicals with a writing partner, one of which is currently in production and being marketed to children's theatres across the country (it's a modern twist on the Tortoise and the Hare. If you're near CT in February, come see it!, and another which is in the planning stages to be produced by Marymount Manhattan College in the spring. I love learning new arts and crafts, graphic and web design, baking, and have been known to grace a few runways as a fashion model (ooh la la!). My interests are eclectic but when I'm interested in something, I really go for it.

9. Do you collect anything?

I'm developing a growing collection of adorable mice from the talented artists at the Etsy shop The House of Mouse (! I also have a rather enormous stuffed animal collection. Not the expensive 'collectible' kind, but just ones that have spoken to me over the years. I don't have the heart to get rid of the ones from my childhood and I am so easily smitten when I see new ones in stores that have that little 'special something'. I can't help myself! :)

10. What is your favourite Christmas tradition?

I absolutely love going back to my home town of Rockport, Massachusetts to enjoy the festivities there. I don't get to all of it every year, but Rockport has a wonderful Christmas pageant, a tree lighting ceremony, and all of the gift shops are open. It feels very magical and timeless. Spending Christmas Eve into Christmas Day at my parents' house is also very special to me. 

11. Do you have a favourite Christmas song or carol?

Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" has always been and will always be my absolute favorite. All of his Christmas music is wonderful, but that one piece really tugs at my heartstrings.

12. What is the funniest Christmas present you have ever been given?

Oh what a fun question! Hmm... I'd have to say a handmade card my best friend made me a few years ago. We had racked up an enormous list of inside jokes between us involving various colorful characters (both real and imaginary) in our lives. She tied them all in with a rhyming poem and I laughed myself silly.

Many thanks to Lesley from When Guinea Pigs Fly for taking part in this feature. Click here to visit her Etsy shop.

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