Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your shop?
I'm a planetary scientist (which means I'm a geologist that specializes in other planets — in my case, mostly Mars) partially turned photographer from Seattle, but currently living in Toronto. I've always loved photography, and when I was 18 I went to the mall one day to buy my first "nice" camera after having saved up for months. It just so happened that there was a game show casting at the mall when I arrived, and long story short I ended up winning some money on the show, which allowed me to purchase an even better camera than I'd planned. After that I began inundating Flickr with my photos, and over time I started getting requests from people to purchase photos. So, in 2010 I finally got around to actively trying to sell my photos, and ended up opening shop on Etsy in 2011.
You've been interested in photography since you were young. What do you think led you in that direction?
My mother and grandfather (who lived with us when I was young) were both into photography. Even though I was born in the 1980s, a lot of my early childhood photos are in black and white from film that my mother shot with her Minolta SLR. I remember always being really excited to see photos when they came back from the lab, so I think the love of photography was just ingrained in me from a very young age.
You have a very interesting day job. How do you balance that with your Etsy shop?
It's very difficult! My days are filled with analyzing data, writing papers and grant applications, and I have to (or should I say "get to?") travel a lot. On the one hand, this cuts into the time I would like to be able to devote to photography. However, as a geologist I get to travel to a lot of beautiful locations to study them from a scientific standpoint, and I can photograph them while I'm there. For example, most of the desert landscapes in my shop were taken during a 2-week geology field expedition in Arizona and Utah. Photography is my way of de-stressing from the science stuff.
You state you are based in 4 different cities. Why is that and how are you able to manage your shop then?
Right now I am a Ph.D. student at the University of Western Ontario in London, but I commute between there and Toronto. I moved here from San Diego, where I worked for a NASA subcontractor for a few years. My partner still lives in our house down there, and so San Diego is still "home" at certain times of the year. My family still lives in Seattle and so that is my other home at times, although I (regretfully) rarely make it back there anymore. All of this travelling can definitely make managing a shop tricky. I have access to printing equipment in both Toronto and San Diego, which allows me to fulfill orders quickly, but if I am out in the field or in Seattle then I have to put my shop in vacation mode or post a note in the listings saying shipping will be delayed until a certain date.
What does Etsy add to your life?
Etsy is a way for me to use the non-science side of my brain, which I find fun. It's also incredibly gratifying when someone purchases a piece of your art to hang on their walls—to know that someone was moved enough by a photo to want to display it in their home. I often get messages from my buyers saying they chose a specific photo because it was from their hometown, or held an emotional significance. In one case, a woman bought a photo that happened to be of the location at which her now-husband proposed. Another customer purchased a photo as a birthday gift for her boyfriend of a place they'd vacationed together earlier that year.
I've found Etsy to also be a great way to interact with other artisans with a wide variety of styles and backgrounds, from the local to the international level. There are so many amazingly talented people on Etsy!
|Photo of Tanya Harrison by Jean Fillion|
Interviewed by Judy of SewItWasByJudy in November 2013 in Toronto.