It's time for another warm and fuzzy instalment of Crafty Critters, my interview series in which I chat to some of my fave instagrammers who share not only photos of their fab work, but photos of their super cute pets too!
This month I chatted to Shannon of Clorty Cat Crafts all about her business and her fluffy kitties Mozzarella and Basil. Shannon's shop is full of pins and patches that are inspired by animals, and she works on lots of pet portraits too! Originally trained as a fine artist, she's super talented and is constantly creating. Find out more about Shannon and her furbabies below...
Where does your name Clorty Cat Crafts come from?
When I was setting up my business and deciding on a name, my dad was complaining that my cat Midas kept running over his freshly cleaned car with his 'clorty feet'. (I'm sure he used more swear words at the time though!!) 'Clorty' is a Scots word, which means dirty/muddy. It was just one of those 'lightbulb' moments - finding a name that combines my love of cats with my Scottish heritage, and is also a little silly, but memorable!
Many of your pin designs are inspired by animals such as the Mystical Sphynx Cat and the Teddy Bear Cat Paws – can you talk us through these designs and what specifically inspired them?
With enamel pins, there's only a certain level of detail you can achieve, so you often have to simplify ideas so they 'work' as small pieces. I have 'Inspiration' folders FULL of images on my computer - animals, ideas, imagery, random pictures that I've saved up over time. When I'm in the mood to draw or design something, I have a look through these images and ideas just pop out at me - that's how they all start! I had a picture of my cat's paw, and thought it would make a cute pin - white fur, with the little pink toe beans! Then I realised that upside down, it looked like a little teddy bear, so I added a little face to the design! And with the Mystical Sphynx, I had a big folder full of lots of different cat breeds pics. I had previously illustrated a Sphynx cat in pen, so I revisited this drawing, simplified it, and added some extra details including tiny stars & a crescent moon & it just came together fairly effortlessly! Sometimes ideas just 'work' instantly, others need a little more time to be refined.
You did a Fine Art degree at University right? What elements of that do you still draw from in your work today, if any?
Yes - I specialised in drawing & painting at uni, and was particularly interested in portraiture. For my Degree Show, I did a series of 18 graphite portraits - painstaking, super detailed, photorealistic works that took a lot of time to complete. It's funny actually, because now I really enjoy designing small products because it's the polar opposite of that! The designs have to be simple and I can do them pretty quickly in comparison to spending hours and hours on a drawing! Its been a breath of fresh air to work on things a bit less serious, which are more 'fun'! But I do look forward to getting back into painting etc again. Sometimes you just need a break & to do something different to refresh your creativity!
You work on a lot of pet portrait commissions, something I'm just starting to do more of myself – it's so satisfying once the owner sees the portrait of their pet isn't it? Do you have a favourite portrait or any particularly memorable requests?
Totally - I love drawing pets! It tends to be mainly cats & dogs, but sometimes I'm taken by surprise by a request! I was commissioned to illustrate a polar bear once! (It was for a zookeeper, who has worked with this particular bear for years & she had an amazing bond with him) That was quite a memorable one!
You've launched some of your pins through kickstarter campaigns – can you talk us through that process and why you decided to work in this way? Any top tips for people who might be considering doing the same?
I honestly can't recommend Kickstarter enough! I have SO many ideas and designs for products, but being a tiny one-person business, I can't afford to get them all made, so expanding my product line has been quite a slow process. With Kickstarter, I can fund new designs so quickly and introduce new products to my shop regularly, which in turn, has introduced more people to my brand, and resulted in more sales / repeat customers too! One thing that took me by surprise was that Kickstarter really is a 'community'. Most of my projects were funded within a day or two, before I even told anyone I had launched it! There are so many people who scour the platform to back lots of projects and help support the making of new things and that was just amazing to discover! Before I launched my first project, I had been worried that I would constantly have to share the project everywhere and almost 'pester' people to back it, which turned out to not be the case at all - it practically ran itself! To someone thinking about using Kickstarter, I would say start small! A strong, simple campaign that doesn't have an overly ambitious target is ideal. Good images are a must - definitely look through past successful (and unsuccessful) projects in your field, to get a feel for what has worked and why. Don't be afraid to try it - there's nothing to lose!
You've had Mozzarella for over a year – tell us all about him! How did you find each other and did you always want a Persian?
I've grown up around cats - my family has re-homed various cats over the years from Cats Protection League. I couldn't imagine not having one when my partner Craig and I bought our own house together, but I thought it wasn't going to happen! He's always avoided cats as he's allergic, so he didn't really 'get' the love I have for them! He did however, come round to the idea of the squishy-faced Persian, after seeing my friend Sara's cat 'Tasha' (an Exotic Longhair who has the cutest white moustache!)!
We live on a busy main road, so we can only realistically have a house-cat. After researching the breed more, the Persian seemed like the perfect fit - super lazy and chilled, ideal for indoor life and keeping me company as I work from home. By sheer luck, someone in our area was a breeder and had kittens, so we went to visit them and just fell in love with the little ginger and white boy - who we named Mozzarella! We visited a couple of times & thankfully, Craig didn't have a bad reaction to Mozzarella. After a few months, he developed an almost complete tolerance to him and stopped taking his allergy meds. He's also COMPLETELY converted & is now 100% a 'cat person' - Mozzarella is always wedged beside him on the sofa and is totally a 'Daddy's boy'! He follows Craig around the house & falls at his feet demanding belly rubs! I must admit, I get a tad jealous of their bro-mance!!
What made you want to get another cat - Basil – and how do him and Mozzarella get on?
Well, I've never had an indoor-only cat before, and I felt a bit guilty leaving Mozzarella in the house on his own if we were going on holiday, or away for a weekend etc. Motz is a young cat so he's very playful and I thought it'd be good to have another cat in the house for him to get up to mischief with and keep him company! The breeder we got Mozzarella from had another kitten this year (which was her last litter) and I couldn’t resist the little grey and white boy! They're also real brothers, which is cute. When we introduced them, Motz was SUPER curious and just wanted to play/wrestle with Basil 24/7, so we had to get a pet gate and keep them separate (unless supervised), to let Basil get used to different areas of the house etc! I didn't want to rush the introductions. We had to do this for about 6 weeks until they had gotten totally used to each other, then we removed the gate and they've been fine since then! They keep each other entertained!
Both of them run around the house and play, chase each other and snuggle up together to snooze! Their favourite past-time is to hunt bugs together, (even though they're rubbish at catching them!).
I hear you're a wee bit obsessed with sharks – where does that obsession come from and what kind of shark is your fave?
I sure am! It all started when I was taken to Deep Sea World, near Edinburgh when I was about 4 or 5 years old... I LOVED it! Especially the walk-through shark tunnel. I would ask to go there on every single holiday and inservice day at school, without fail! This in turn resulted in me collecting lots of shark-related books, videos, toys etc. When I was 15 my dad and I made a life-size great white shark head sculpture for my bedroom wall! We created it by using a wire frame, fibreglass, builders foam, lightweight filler & paint. We even hand-carved the teeth from balsa wood and used a tiny file to make serrations in them to make them as realistic as possible! It took around 3 months in total to complete. (My dad is a graphic designer and is also super arty and good at making things, so that's definitely where my creativity comes from!)
Who are some of your favourite instagrammers who share photos of their work and their super cute pets?
Ahh there are SO many! I love seeing @onrshop's little Momo popping up on my feed, as well @clairabellemakes & Tammy! And for more cat-related goodness, @nikkimcwilliams, @_helloharriet & @lynsayloves are other faves too!
Thanks to Shannon for such a fun interview. You can keep up with what she's up to (and stalk Mozzarella and Basil) on her instagram and pop over to her Shop to get your hands on her pins, patches and stickers. She's recently released som pin pennants that I'm obsessed with!
If you enjoyed this post you might like to read the other interviews in the series. I've previously intereviwed Claire, Rachel and Nikki who Shannon mentions above. Got a recommendation for a future Crafty Critters interview? Let me know on instagram, I'm @zabbyallen!
This interview series will always be dedicated to my best pal George the Pig Dog.