gideon & brisby is a magical, fantastical shop that will let you step out of this world. created by brooke griffin, gideon & brisby is full of lovely beings and animals who will let your imagination run wild. brooke is here to give us a behind-the-scenes look at her process and share some more about herself.
what is your background?
i'm a third generation self-taught artist. my mother was a stay at home artist/crafter, as was her mother. i grew up spending my weekends in my grandma's art room, looking like a ragamuffin in my bed shirt, sewing, sculpting, and painting all day with my cousin. we'd just roll out of bed, and lose hours in there. i spend my days very similarly when i'm getting ready for an art show. my mother did at least four shows a year in southern CA and i loved following her around and helping.
how did you get started making & selling?
in my early 20s i started sculpting because i could easily create in the clay what was in my head, but i'd always wanted to draw. finally few years ago, my hands finally started doing what i wanted them to with ink and paper and now i mostly illustrate. but it all started with a fantastical idea about a naked peacock. i have heard that peacock feathers are bad luck in some cultures, so i joked to my mother one day at lunch, "if peacock feathers are bad luck, then a naked peacock must be good luck." i went to the art store that day, bought some clay and made my first naked peacock brooch. then i made naked turkeys and called my shop the naked bird. it changed just over a year ago when i realized that my work had evolved so much since 2010 and i changed the name to gideon & brisby after my two lady rabbits who are the most fantastical creatures i know.
what inspires your products? they are so magical!
when i'm drawn to art, it's rarely because it is technically well executed, but because the idea or story behind the piece is so ingenious and clever. i love Beatrix Potter. i feel like she was the ultimate, fantastical storyteller and i like all of my products to tell a story. fantastical is different from whimsical. whimsical things, anyone can think up and they are magical sometimes, but fantastical things are extraordinary. a princess, or unicorn, or a fairy tea party, are all whimsical but a mouse with an umbrella or a hedgehog who does laundry, those are fantastical. they are magical and weird. so i'm inspired by storytellers, like Jim Henson, Shel Silverstein, Miss Potter...also by watching animals because they always surprise me, and sometimes weird ideas just pop into my own head and i love those the most because they are usually the strangest of all.
you’re also busy acting (so cool!), how do you make time to manage it all?
yes! i just got back from teaching a children's theater camp in san luis obispo for two weeks! i balance it all because i love it all. i am mainly an actor. i moved to la in 2007 to attend AADA (the american academy of dramatic arts) and was a company member in 2010. i've studied under greats like Hank Azaria and at Leslie Khan and co, groundlings, and UCB. so that is my main art form and takes most of my energy but if i want to do an art show or spend more time in my shop, i just go on less auditions and there are a lot of sleepless nights...especially for the art shows.
what is your favorite product in your shop?
i really love making my faux taxidermy deer girls. they always come out with such unique personalities and then i love writing stories for them based on their dispositions. they take several days to complete, because they are made from air-drying paper clay, so i hand sculpt each detail one at a time and it has to dry before i can add the next. then they are sanded a bit, painted and mounted onto a stained wood backing to hang on the wall.
what advice would you give to makers who are just getting started?
make sure your shop is cohesive! i went through so many phases and there are still things that i'd love to make and sell but i restrain myself and i think it serves my shop better. just because you can make everything doesn't mean you should. would you buy soap from a shop that specializes in soap, or from a shop that has soap, mixed in with other things? it's a little different for original art, but i think you still have to make sure that all of your pieces look like they came from you.
photography is huge. there are a lot of articles on etsy you will find that reiterate this point and tutorials on it.
and social media. in this age, i think having a social media following is such a big key to success. there are a lot of artists and companies that i keep up on only by following their instagram account and when they post relevant things daily, they stay fresh in my mind.
brooke is kindly giving readers a 10% off her etsy shop with the code 'EVERGLOW'.
also, look at her cute namesake bunnies, gideon + brisby and their cute flower crowns she made for them. they make me want a bunny sooo bad, they are so sweet!
thanks so much for sharing with us, brooke! be sure to check out more of brooke's work on her etsy. good luck with crafting and acting this year, brooke - best to you!