Monday, June 29, 2009

Handmade artists: Maid of Clay

I am so very delighted to introduce you to Felicia from Maid of Clay at Etsy and 1000 Markets! I absolutely adore her work and am the proud owner of several of her kitty vases and the most adorable EVER baby bunny sucking on a carrot on top of a tree stump. So sweet! I love how Felicia brings her characters - kitties, bunnies, incredible pendants of women's faces, vases, etc. - to life with her own special touch. I know you will enjoy getting to know her a little via this interview - be sure to check out her sold section as well as her shop - you will be amazed ...

Your name: Felicia Nilson
Your shop name(s)/url(s): Maid of Clay at Etsy
Your flickr ID/url: Maid of Clay
Your non-Etsy website/other websites: Maid of Clay at 1000 Markets

Tell us a bit about you: who you are, who you want to be, what you make, what makes you unique?
I'm one of those so-called rarities, a native Los Angeleno who lives about 25 miles from where I was born. I live with my husband, Paul, and four very spoiled felines in Burbank, a suburb of L.A. and home to NBC, Disney, Warner Bros and Nickleodeon. I worked at NBC for over 20 years before I "retired" (read: quit and vowed never work in an office again). Right now, my creative output is solely ceramic. Even though clay is my sole focus, what I make in clay is another matter - it runs the gamut from functional to decorative, from whimsical to sophisticated, from cute to creepy. I once had a fellow potter tell me that my work was "all over the place." I think they meant it as a put-down, but I took it as a compliment. I like that my clay work is "all over the place," yet is still recognizable as my work and style to my customers.

What makes my work unique? I think it is being able to capture the imagined personality of the animal I'm sculpting - especially the cats. Cats don't have many facial muscles so they don't have the ability to express emotions with anything but their ears and their tail. I like to give them the expressions that I know they must feel but are unable to express. Any cat person would agree that cats have much more personality than people give them credit for.

What do you think it is about you that makes your shop(s) successful?
I try to keep coming up with new pieces and ideas on a regular basis. Most of my pieces are one of a kind so my customers feel that they had better nab a particular piece if they like it because I may not make another one exactly like it. Because a large portion of my customers are repeat customers, if a certain style has proven to be successful, I'll try to create a similar but different version of it so that it may possibly appeal to past customers.

Is Etsy your fulltime day job, or do you do this on top of a day job (and if you have a day job, what is it)?
Someone asked me the other day whether this was a hobby or if I did it full-time. I've always considered this a hobby, albeit a serious hobby, but if I take into consideration the amount of time I spend creating, photographing, listing, packing, shipping and reading the forums, it is actually a full-time job. Actually, more than a full-time job. But I prefer to think of it as a hobby, that sounds much more fun than a job.
Do you have partner(s) , employee(s) or family members who help with your business? If so, what roles do they fill and how do they make your life easier?
It's just me working on Maid of Clay. I do everything, down to punching the holes on the hang tags.
Which do you prefer: artist, artisan, crafter or other?
Potter works for me.

How did you learn your particular art/craft form?
I started working with clay almost 10 years ago when I decided that the decorative tiles I wanted for the kitchen back splash were way too pricey and that I would try to make some myself. Well, that never happened, but it did lead me down the ceramic path. I was lucky that the local Parks & Rec offered ceramic classes lead by some wonderful instructors, one of whom is currently a seller on Etsy, a good friend, and a fellow Mud Team member: MuddyFingers at Etsy.
What was the most difficult thing for you to learn when you initially set up your Etsy shop?
The shipping prices and how they can vary from region to region. With jewelry it's not too much of an issue, but with pottery, which usually has some heft to it, it can get rough. I've worked out a system now and rarely get burned with shipping, although it still happens from time to time.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known back when you set up your Etsy shop?
I actually read the Newbie Guide from end to end before I opened a store so I didn't have too many ugly surprises. I do wish I had set up an Etsy shop earlier. I was actually told about Etsy about a year before I joined but when I checked out the site the pieces on the front page seemed to be skewed to a very young demographic, and I thought that my more traditional ceramic style (at the time) wouldn't be a good fit with the site. I wish I had known to look into the Ceramics and Pottery section but I never looked beyond the front page. That was totally my fault.
What was the smartest thing you did when you were a fledgling Etsy seller?
I immediately looked into joining a team. The Mud Team was already well-established by the time I joined and they offered a safe place to ask questions and to have some clay camaraderie. I later joined the CCCOE (California Crafter's Club of Etsy) and they are an extremely supportive group of California artisans and diligent treasury makers. I owe a lot of my sales to their wonderful treasuries.
If you sold last holiday season, what was your biggest lesson learned?
The one lesson I would have to say I learned was to do the bulk of my work in advance during the summer when sales slow down a bit. Last year I took the summer off (big mistake) and vowed that this year I would work through it so that I had enough product to offer without going crazy in September trying to play catch up.
What stresses you out the most about your business?
Probably the shipping. I always try to have orders packed and ready to ship the next business day. If I've done a mass listing, or a listing blitz as I call it, I can get bogged down with orders and will usually stay up until 4 in the morning trying to get everything packed up and ready to go the next day. Plus, I always worry whether that vase I spent weeks making is going to make through the postal service unscathed. Luckily, I have an unblemished record and all my pieces have made it through the system in one piece *knocks wood*.

What gets you the most excited?
Opening the kiln after a glaze firing. Many potters will tell you it's like Christmas - it's true! A potter can never get attached to a piece until it comes out of the glaze firing because there are so many things that can go south in the ceramic process. Also, it's almost a Pavlovian response, but I always get butterflies in my stomach when I hear the double click of two emails in a row, which usually means an Etsy sale.
Tell us a little about how organize your workday and workplace?
There's no conscious organization. I usually work on custom orders before I do anything else. If there are no custom orders and I'm free to work on anything I like. I tend to work in groupings. I'll either do all vases, or all sculpture, or all jewelry. I find it difficult to mix it up. It's funny but I eat my food the same way: all the fries first, then the hamburger (just an example, that's not all I eat). I'm sure a therapist would say I have control issues. :-)

Sometimes, I will sit down at the wheel and say, "I want to make this shape so I can do this with it," but other times I just let the clay say what it wants and then decide what works best visually with a particular shape. With my animal figures I always do the head last so I can see get a feel for the position of the body and what the animal would be saying if it could talk and then try to capture that in clay.

I have two work areas: the garage (or garagio, as some of us Mud Teamers call our garage studio) is the place where I do my throwing - it's where the kilns and the slab roller are. A spare bedroom converted into an office/workroom is where I do all the sculpting, attaching, carving and glazing. The computer is in this room, so I can check Etsy from time to time while I'm working.

How do you come up with your wonderful ideas? What’s your creative process?
I'm always inspired by a trip to a museum, or even a trip to an antique flea market can get the juices flowing. Sometimes I'll look at something and think it's something else entirely. Once there was a photo on Etsy of a piece of furniture, but my eyes saw the negative space and I saw a two headed rabbit which in turn inspired me to make an oval dish with a rabbit head on each end with carved out flowing ears that almost made it look art nouveau-ish.
What is it about working in clay that appeals to you?
There is so much, it's hard to pin down. I like that I can create something that previously only existed in my imagination and make it real. I like that the clay can work magic seemingly on its own and come up with something I never intended in the first place. I like the "do-over" quality of clay - if something went wrong, all you have to do is re-wedge the clay and start again. I like the permanency of it. Who knows, one of my kitties might be part of an archaeological dig a 1000 years from now. :-)
How do you handle creative “slumps?”
There have been times where I don't even want to look at clay anymore, but that usually comes after working weeks and weeks on a group of pieces just to have it all go bad in the final firing - something I have no control over if it's a gas firing. I would equate it to spending months training for a marathon only to have someone trip you 10 feet from the finish line. It can really take the wind out of your sails. I spend the down time from clay catching up on my reading, re-watching my favorite movies, and will eventually start to hear the "Call of the Wheel" again.
Tell us about how you manage to balance work with life?
I think if I actually wanted to balance work with life I could, but I enjoy doing ceramics so much that most of my free time is spent on that without it actually feeling like work. You know how women that are married to men that are football fanatics are called football widows? My husband calls himself an Etsy widower. :-)

Share one of your personal guilty pleasures?

Putting sugar on my tongue and then drinking half and half straight out of the carton.
Do you shop handmade? If so, what was the last thing you purchased?
It wasn't the last thing I bought on Etsy but it is something that I wear every single day. It's by LynnyYvonne and it's a sterling silver pendant with mine and my husband's name separated by hearts. It's completely handsawn and I absolutely love it.
What one piece of advice, tip or trick would you share with both new and more established sellers?
I don't know if I'm qualified to give Etsy advice. What works for one may not work for another. But I know that as a buyer I like to get an email that lets me know that the seller has received my payment and an approximate date when it will be shipped. As a seller, I follow this practice and just don't rely on the automatic message sent in the Etsy order email. Also, if I can I will try to personalize the feedback I leave rather than just leaving a positive with no comment.

Anything else you'd love to share or wish I'd asked?
I'd like to share one of my favorite feedback comments, it really made my day (don't worry, the customer had said is s'kay):

"Although I am heterosexual, frequently in foul humor, & far too advanced in years for such tomfoolery...I have become positively SMITTEN with Felicia & her wondrous things. Suddenly, I want nothing more than to be with her in her studio, day & night, festooning myself with each & every new & magical creation!!!! Ah, but her girls are BEAUTIFUL!!!!"
Thank you, Felicia!!! What a delight to read about your, your art and I love your closing quote!

One very very lucky Phydelle reader will win a $35 gift certificate to Felicia's shop (one of my very favorite), Maid of Clay!

To enter, share with us your favorite piece in Felicia's shop (check out her "sold" section, too!), including URL. CRUCIAL CRUCIAL!!! You must include your name (at least first name) and email address OR Etsy shop name!!!

Bonus entries for:
  1. Following this blog (Phydelle)
  2. Subscribe to the Phydelle/Phydeaux mailing list (top left corner of this web page)
  3. Follow Felicia on Twitter
  4. Blog about this interview and giveaway, with a link back to this contest post (and add the link to the comments below)
  5. Tweet about this interview and giveaway, with a link to this contest post (cc me on the twitter for verification - @phydeauxdesigns )
Entries end 9pm PST on Thursday 7/9/09 and the winner will be announced on Sunday 7/12 (a little extra time for the big holiday weekend)!


moosegirlmaria said...

I follow Phydelle's blog and now follow MaidofClay on Twitter. I have a wee bunny vase that I love and it has a place on honor on my coffee table.

I love Felicia's work and would love to get a face pendant sometime soon. These are my favorites:

North Wind:

and The Third Eye:

I love your blog, by the way, Phydelle!

Maria (moosegirlmaria on Etsy)

Judith Frederick said...

I really love your wedding vases like this one
the script writing is so elegant.
But then I love your cats too...
and this bunny
just can not pick one favorite also gmail

debbabcock said...

I love Felicia's new series of vases with names cut out of the rim, like this one:

Great interview; I enjoyed learning more about this wonderful artist.

Mostly Art said...

It will be so easy to follow the rules for this contest, because I am smitten with Felicia's work already, this interview was probably the best blog interview I've ever read, so of course I want to follow this blog!

I would have a hard time picking a favorite from all of MaidOfClay work past and present on Etsy, so I chose one of the gorgeous Arts & Crafts style vases that is currently for sale in her shop, (could very easily disappear as I write this! has happened before ;)

I loved several of the new face pendants too, but Arts & Crafts is my favorite pottery, and what drew me to Felicia's work back when I first saw her on Etsy.

My name is Joyce, my shop is:

I will be linking this interview on my blog later today, and talk about how wonderful and in depth this article was too ♥

Melissa said...

I love Felicia's intricately carved vases. Especially this one.

MissPottery - aka Melissa

Natalie -- NKP Designs said...

I love everything in Maid's shop, but this in my current favorite. She's an incredible artist! Very much enjoyed the interview (and video)


TopHat said...

I love the steampunk necklace, "What gear are you in?"

I follow Phydelle's blog and MaidofClay on Twitter as TopHat8855

knittergirl said...

I love MaidofClay's work. I had her make a vase for my mom's 60's Birthday and she just loves it.

ginny said...

Fabulous interview with Felicia! I'm Ginny (aka ginpins on etsy) and was fortunate enough to be Felicia's very first etsy customer. We completely clicked
on both clay and cat levels and have become great pals :D. I do love my ginger cat rattle bought right after she opened MaidofClay!

I'm pretty much crazy about anything Felicia makes, but am particularly fond of her Petal Corona Vase:

Haydenj.etsy said...

Oh geeze that's a tough one...
I have narrowed it down to two...



♥Aimee (HaydenJ on Etsy)♥

beadifulbaublesSC said...

I love all of her work, beautiful... and love all the mask pendants especially but think this is my favorite of them, though was hard to choose!


fashionfrugality said...

I am head over heels for the Wedding Vase!! (
Absolutely beautiful!!
kkondek at

fashionfrugality said...

Following Felicia on Twitter - @ktkatherine
kkondek at

fashionfrugality said...

kkondek at

fashionfrugality said...

kkondek at

Kristin said...

I love that teapot- it is the sweetest!!

wzgirl said...

I laughed out loud when I read about Felicia's guilty pleasure! Haha! Love it. And, I do love her work. I can't believe that I hadn't begun following her on Twitter - now I am. Of course, I already follow Phydelle (should I start unfollowing then re-following Phydelle to keep my extra point? Cus' I will. haha).

On the mailing list...

Ok, seriously...only one of my fave Maidoclay items?? I love this: (And, my 10 year anniversary is next month....hmm, now I'm really thinking about it now)!

And, look! I just tweeted:
buttercupbloomFantastic opportunity to win a $35 GCert from MaidOfClay on etsy: Go visit @PhydeauxDesigns blog!! Goodluck!

Love you guys!


Patti Guth Designs said...

Maid of Clay is such a talented artist! One of my favorites is

I have other items of MOC's in my favorites folder!

oceanavesilks said...

I love all of Maid of Clays work! Cats, Frieda, Arts and Crafts! This vase, that is sold :( really speaks to me:

I follow this blog and MOC on twitter.

VisionQuest said...

Felicia is so wonderful. her sense of humor is reflected so eloquently in her work.. LOVE it ALL!!

my fav item that is still for sale in her shop is this arts & crafts vase:

but also really like these sold pieces

(i also follow her on twitter.)
kim at

Madmud said...

This was a delightful interview. Felicia's work is fantastic, imaginative and beautifully executed. Hard to pick one item, I love the "concept" figures such as city girl and cumulus, but also the great vases and kitties. Guess I'll choose Brainwave:

Madmud said...

Whoops, forgot to leave my shop name,

maidofclay said...

Thanks, Brenda for this wonderful opportunity, and thank you all for your lovely comments! My husband wanted me to be sure to add that he drives me to the Post Office to help me carry in packages so I actually don't run MaidofClay completely by myself ;-)

Amber said...

Nice blog! Of course, I love the face pendants. The cut floral vases are stunning also.

Amber said...

Whoops, I forgot to post the listing URL:
My etsy shop is clayhaven.

hannajaleijona said...

Hi! Wonderful interview of an astonishing potter, thank you so much for making this! The task is veeeery difficult and I made it easier for me by taking into account just the present pendants and here's my pick:

The vases are just gorgeous too and practically everything I saw.

lomaprietapottery said...

Love this interview with one of my favorite friends and fellow cat lover from the Mud Team. So naturally, this is one of my favorite items:

Though it is hard to choose a favorite from Felicia's wonderful work.

My Etsy shop is

Already following Maid on twitter and am now a follower of this blog.


ceruleanbluebird said...

I remember Felicia's shop when she had ZERO sales. She was selling her cat rattles at the time. I really liked the orange striped cat, but my husband talked me out of it. I was also new to etsy and I was unsure about buying from someone how hadn't sold anything. Now, I don't hesitate to snap what I love.

The one that got away:

I especially love what I call the art pottery. I have collected five vases of hers. I love the cutwork. I also love the lady vases...they are so detailed and beautiful.

I always look forward to what Felicia creates. I check her site daily.

I am also a big fan of her face pendants or Maids. I wear them almost daily and they are my signature look. I get many compliments and I hope they generate sales for Felicia (because I always tell them how to get one).

Megan M, ceruleanbluebird said...

Well, I just learned to Twitter!

I am looking forward to what Felicia will create after she goes to her workshop in Chicago. I am hoping for more lady vases!

I loved this one:

Evelien D said...

I've been a fan of this webshop for ages (especially the women's faces on necklaces are stunning!) I absolutely adore "The Seer - Porcelain pendant with vintage moonglow buttons" So delicate and pretty! Thanks for entering me in this giveaway!

koekoeksdozeke AT hotmail DOT com

Catherine said...

I love her face pendants. This one really stood out...

I also love the Sandstorm, Swirl, and Third Eye.

I am CatherineMarissa on Etsy.

Meninheira said...

I love her Frida pendants!! my favorite is, sooo beautiful!!

Hugs from Spain :)

meninheira at gmail dot com

Aik said...

Follow on Twitter @aikychien

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Aik said...


aikychien at yahoo dot com

Aik said...

Following Phydelle.

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Aik said...

I love the Wedding Vase - Personalized with Bride and Groom Names and Date.

aikychien at yahoo dot com

Cabootique said...

I really like the Smirking Devil Girl.


Danielle a.k.a Yellie said...

Danielle Gerstenberger

I love the Cat Vase and Sculpture - Hand sculpted Porcelain. I think it is just so dang cute and whimsical!

Danielle a.k.a Yellie said...

I follow your blog!


Carapace said...

My favorite item is..well, sold! But perhaps she'll someday again make an Art Nouveau Woman vase in verdigree.

I do so love those pendants...but that vase is wonderful!


Danielle L said...

I Subscribe to the Phydelle/Phydeaux mailing list!

Danielle L said...

My favorite item is the
Swirl - Porcelain Pendant!

Marcelle said...

This was a wonderful interview! I've admired Felicia's work ever since I joined the Mud Team. I love all of her Art Nouveau vases with the cut out flowers. But my all time favorite of hers is the Bunny Teapot!


Aimee said...

Follow your blog

Aimee said...

Dandelion Family - Apple Green and White is gorg!

Aimee said...


Aimee said...

Follow Felecia on Twitter

crystal said...

That was a great interview and post!! I learned a lot about Felicia and etsy too!! Must..Buy..Clay..That is so awesome!!
I love all of Felicia's face pendants. They are all so unique and you can "feel"their personalities. She is so talented;)
My favorites include Smirking Devil Girl(well, All of the Devil Girls- even the sold ones) and Aflame.

Have a great weekend Phydelle!

crystal said...

I am a blog follower

janil said...

cal_rubies at yahoo dot es

janil said...


cal_rubies at yahoo dot es

janil said...

I added the shop to my favourites!!!! I love all the items but I choose Time Scattered - Steampunk necklace with Antique beads... fantastic!

cal_rubies at yahoo dot es

daer0n said...

I follow your blog.

daer0n_ at hotmail dot com

daer0n said...

I like the Time is Delicate Matter necklace!

daer0n_ at hotmail dot com

daer0n said...

I blogged:

daer0n_ at hotmail dot com

daer0n said...

I follow Felicia on twitter.
daer0n_ at hotmail dot com

daer0n said...

i subscribe to phydelle's mailing list.

daer0n_ at hotmail dot com

Carolsue said...

I follow your blog

Carolsue said...

Being a cat lover, I love ALL of the cat items, especially the Cat Vase with Victorian Image!
I also love the Ginger Tabby Teapot!
My name: Carolsue

Carolsue said...

I subscribe to your newsletter

Carolsue said...

I follow Felicia on Twitter as cezovski

Carolsue said...

I blogged about this giveaway and linked back to you and her.

daer0n said...


daer0n_ at hotmail dot com

Elena said...

Fun to learn about a new to me shop! I like this Dandelion vase -


Cheryl F. (The Lucky Ladybug) said...


Cheryl F. (The Lucky Ladybug) said...


Cheryl F. (The Lucky Ladybug) said...

Following Felicia on Twitter

Cheryl F. (The Lucky Ladybug) said...

Subscribed by email :)

Cheryl F. (The Lucky Ladybug) said...

Following with Google Friend Connect :)

Cheryl F. (The Lucky Ladybug) said...

My favorite piece is the Pink Pearl and Enamel Lilac Flower Earrings :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!

superpaige said...

Wow. I like the Pink Pearl and Enamel Lilac Flower Earrings. Thank you for the contest.

TZel said...

I think that the Peekaboo Kitty Bowl with muddy pawprints is so cute! Thanks!

Noble Beeyotch said...

i follow

Noble Beeyotch said...
my fav!


Suz said...

Eee! What a great shop. My favorite thing in the shop is a face pendant:

I love anything "cat".

Suz said...

I follow MaidofClay on Twitter as well. I'm Chanmeleon.

suzasana [at] gmail |dot| com

Suz said...

I follow your blog.

suzasana [at] gmail |dot| com

Suz said...

I tweeted.

suzasana [at] gmail |dot| com

desertnana said...

Kismet ! the first blogger blog that did not take 5 minutes to load on my dial up connection-must be team energy =)
As good or better an artist interview then i have have read anywhere.
of course your subject is one magical, prolific artist
and you want me to pick a favorite?
Just give me five hours and I'll be back......
ok, im back and it is impossible to pick one ,but since you are twisting my arm
Ceramic hedgehog Basket
I have a minor obsession with these critters


Donna said...

I like the Arts and Crafts Landscape Vase - Twig Frame.

Donna said...

follow on twitter. (donnak4)

Donna said...


Donna said...


sweetbunnabunny(at)yahoo(dot)com said...

My favorite is the Floating Lace hand carved ceramic vace - so beautiful!

sweetbunnabunny at yahoo dot com