Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Feature - Sonja Caldwell

Today's interviewee's wares blew me away as soon as I saw the the first picture. And, as i've been on a one-track minded focus lately, my first question after viewing the photographs in her shop: "Is Sonja available for weddings?"

Her composition, color, and saturation is absolutely breathtaking. Her settings are charming and romantic and lead the viewer to create a story and a feeling unique to their individual wandering mind. For me, this photo in particular, has a quietly strong feeling of sadness and wonder, or anxiousness of breaking sunlight.

Her prints vary in size and shape making it very easy for any budget to afford. I am certain once you finish this interview, you'll be heading over to her shop to see which photos speak to you. Enjoy!

1. What is your shop name and URL?

2. To which Etsy Teams do you belong?

I belong to Etsybloggers, Etsymom, CCCOE

3. Please tell us about the items in your Etsy shop. What do you make? How
did you learn your craft? What is involved in your creative process?

For now, my Etsy shop items are all photographs. They are mainly photographs
that I have taken in Paris, but there are a few other categories as well.
I am mainly self-taught. I've enjoyed taking pictures since I was about 9.
As I got older and started traveling more, I was constantly taking travel
photography of mainly buildings and landscapes. I would put together my
photo albums of my vacations, and really focus on trying to find the best
pictures that would not totally bore my friends!

Later on, when I was studying Art at UC Davis, I took several photography
classes and finally learned how to use an SLR and a bit about the principles
of photo developing. Once I started using Photoshop for post-processing, the
things I learned in photography class about image processing really came in
handy. That's not to say that there is not still endless room for
improvement. I believe that it is a life-long process, though, so whatever.

As for my creative process.... I ordinarily don't do much photography unless
I am alone. I have been on a lot of trips with friends to some really
beautiful places, but hardly taken any photos at all. I guess it has to do
with either being an observer or being in the moment. It is hard for me to
do both, and I really enjoy company when I have it. I am a bit of a loner by
nature, and I really enjoy traveling by myself, and just doing my own thing,
so I still find opportunities to take thousands of photos. One of the
hardest parts of the process for me, still, is going through my photos and
deciphering what might be interesting to other people, versus what is more
or less only meaningful to me.

4. Tell us two (or more) other interesting things about you.

• I lived in a small fishing village in Japan for 18 months when I was 7 and
8, with my parents and my two older brothers. We were the first foreign
family to ever live in that town, so we were sort of local celebrities. I
learned to speak Japanese fluently within a few months, and then forgot most
of it once we returned to the United States. I was really independent at
that young age, and would do things like call myself a taxi if I didn't feel
like walking home, and go to sit-down restaurants by myself. One day I was
going to take the train to the city by myself to go to the department store,
but got stopped by my friend's mother.

• I tried to move to Paris for a year or more to learn French, but bailed
after 4 months. I guess I prefer to be a tourist! This was a far more
different experience than when we moved to Japan.

• In college, I became really good at traditional stone lithography and was
a print lab assistant. I loved all of the chemistry of it and the long
processing time, and, well, everything about it. I often feel nostalgic for
those print lab days...

• I work at NASA making websites and posters and stuff.

5. What inspires your creations?

I'm very visual. I suppose my inspiration for photography has a lot to do
with wanting to remember what I am seeing forever, as well as appreciating
the details in things.

6. How did you get involved with Etsy?

I had heard of it over the years, in passing. After I moved back from Paris,
I realized that a huge void in my life was that I wasn't doing any arts and
crafts on my own time like I used to. I started getting back into it, made
some stuff for myself and for a couple of local shows, and said to myself
that maybe I should try to sell those things on Etsy.

I very slowly started researching Etsy and taking baby steps towards opening
a shop. Then I thought that maybe I would rather keep the crafts I had made,
and sell my photos. I think I have always wanted to try to sell photos, but
never had the guts to put myself out there. That's what's cool about selling
stuff online, though. It's not as scary to me, and it has helped me to get
my feet wet, and has encouraged me to try to get my work out there in my
local community more, as well.

7. What has been your biggest success and/or proudest moment since opening
your Etsy shop?

Selling a 24"x36" canvas print of my Macaron Rainbow photo has been my
proudest moment since opening my Etsy shop. The woman actually wanted a 48"
canvas, but the price was too high for her. Getting that canvas in the mail
was really exciting for me! I hung it on my bedroom wall until I shipped it
the next day, and wished that I could afford a print like that.

8. If you had to live out the rest of your life as a famous fictional
character, who would you be?

Scarlet O'Hara/Butler

9. What is the craziest gift you have ever received?

A box of portable johns, for peeing on the go. My boyfriend gave them to me
for Christmas. I found out years later that it was actually because he was
mad at me for having to pee so much on roadtrips.

10. Tell us about your first sale ever?

I guess it was a commission to do a pencil-rendered portrait of this guy's
two daughters. He tried to put the moves on me to try to get it for free,
but I told him, that if he didn't want to pay for it, that was fine, I could
save it for my personal portfolio. Then he tried to talk me down on the
price, but I wouldn't budge, and he finally paid me. I think I even put it
in a frame for him and everything. Delightful, really.

A happier story would be the time at UC Davis when we had a student art show
at a local gallery. I put a linocut, a lithograph, and a woodcut reduction
in the show and they all sold within the first couple of hours. That was
really gratifying! But then a couple of other people wanted a print of the
linocut and were asking for my contact information and the gallery owner
intervened, saying no, no, no, he would handle it. So I dropped off a couple
of prints at the gallery one day to his assistant. I tried to contact him
several times after that about the status of my prints and never got a
response back. I was living in San Jose again at the time, but I tried to go
by the gallery eventually and he wasn't there and the assistant had no idea
what may have happened to my prints. Shady character that gallery owner is.

Hooray for Etsy, is all I have to say about all that!

11. Where else can we find out more about you and/or your creations?

I have a blog at:
I also have a portfolio website of my graphic design stuff, and some of my
older drawings and lithographs and stuff at:

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Jen from Mama's Magic Studio about joining SFEtsy!


Sonja said...

Wow! Thank you for all of the nice stuff you said about my work. Encouragement is so inspiring. :)

Jen @ Boutique Vintage 72 said...

Great interview, I love to hear the stories that surround the work and the business of creativity :) Most of all, LOVELY photographs, looking forward to checking out Sonja's shop!

Christine Murray (K├ęzi Handmade Jewelry) said...

I love, love, LOVE Sonja's pictures! Featured her talents on my blog not too long ago as well :)

Jen (Mama's Magic Studio) said...

such lovely, lovely images! great interview -- thank you for sharing!

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