My name is Julie. I went to Parsons School of Design and have a BFA in Illustration. I was originally planning to be a children’s book illustrator, working in 3D and mixed media. I changed my mind after senior year and am now working in costume creation and craft. I work at a costume studio where we make costumes and props for theatre, film, tv, fashion, etc. I’ve been working there for about 6 years. I started CatAtelier last year. Winter is slower at the studio, so I had time to experiment. Being broke was also an incentive- heehee. It’s funny what people think about dressing up cats. A lot of people think it’s mean. But it’s not like I force Toki to wear clothes all the time. He is happily naked 99% of the time. And I think it really depends on the cat. Toki is an amazing model. He poses! I am fully aware that I am a crazy cat lady, but I think I fit into a new category: crazy cat ladies with style. At the studio this Halloween, we made the Halloween costumes for The View. I made Joy Behar’s hoarder costume. I was giggling the whole time, making all these cats to put in it. I even made 2 “dead” mummified cats, which is totally sick, but there have actually been cases of that being found in hoarder’s homes. Being a girl that loves cats, you always run the risk of being thought of as “that” kind of girl. Especially if you start making cat clothes. But I think that I might as well go all out, and do whatever I want. I like to laugh, and it makes me laugh to see cute pictures of cats in my things. And I only have 1 cat, not a house full. but I plan to get another cat when I can. heehee. I want a girl. Toki is fine with cross-dressing, but it would be great to have a girl.
Etsy Shop: CatAtelier
1. How did you get interested in cats? How old were you when you had your first kitty?
I have always been a cat lover. I was one of those little girls with kittens and glitter on my sweatshirts, and cat posters all over my room. I grew up with Hello Kitty, Heathcliff and the Cadillac Cats, Azrael from the Smurfs, Strawberry Shortcake’s Custard, all that. My first cat was named Kitcat; I was about 7yrs old. My parents gave him away It was hard when I was growing up because my mom and I didn’t get along and she wouldn’t let me keep a cat. When I moved into my apt for college, I got a kitten right away. Now I think a place doesn’t feel like home without a cat.
2. Please describe your creative process.
I get inspired by my cat Toki Nantucket. He is my muse. Most of the items I make are things that I just want so that I can dress him up. The ideas for the different looks come from everywhere: movies, current fashion, music, anything. I did a couple fresh fruit inspired items (strawberry beret, cherries tie) because I love strawberries and cherries and yummy things on clothes. It kind of reminds me of Strawberry Shortcake.
Then I really wanted to do a kind of French kittycat look. I love that glamour of perfume and powder rooms and curlicues and French berets… You know? Like 1950s Paris. I have this strange memory of Jerry mouse’s cousin or something on Tom and Jerry. He was French and would say “… … Monsieur Pussycat!” That’s what I was thinking of when I put together the looks with the black beret and scarves and satin ribbon ties. Anyway, I don’t know if I can really describe my creative process because the ideas just come and the real question is whether or not I actually follow through with them. I have a lot of weird ideas depending on my mood. I haven’t had time to do anything!
3. How did you discover Etsy? Did you consider other ways to sell your products?
I discovered etsy through a friend of mine who was selling home furnishings she was making. I like the fact that it supports handcrafted work as opposed to mass produced items. Also, I am terrible at business and keeping records, etc., so etsy makes all that a lot easier for me. I think it’s the best way to reach people that otherwise might never have noticed my work.
4. Do you sell your products in a local store in your area?
No, because I don’t make large quantities of my items in advance, I make them to order. I would like to sell to stores eventually, but I don’t have time right now.
5. Have you been successful at selling your products on Etsy? Have you always been successful, or did you end up getting a lot more traffic after being featured on a specific blog?
I started out slowly but pretty well. The very first few orders I got last year I was SO EXCITED. I was like literally doing the running man, but you can keep that out of the interview so I don’t come off like the fool I am.
I was written about in Catsparella, which is a very cool cat blog.
It was really exciting for me, but I don’t know if anyone ordered because of it. I was doing pretty ok, but then I was written about on the Moderncat blog, and suddenly I was flooded with a whole bunch of orders. It was actually overwhelming because I was really busy with my job too. I love the Moderncat blog, and I was surprised to be featured. Anyway, after the initial rush it slowed down, but I am happily getting orders pretty regularly.
6. Do your customers ever give you new ideas for products?
I have gotten a few custom orders that I will describe in the last question. I would be happy to get some really challenging custom orders.
7. Have you thought of featuring a Ragdoll cat is some way? (Had to ask.)
Actually I worry about how items will look on longhaired cats because I don’t have a longhaired “fit model” at home to try things before they are finalized. With Toki, it is easy to design for his short fur, but I know that certain things would be hidden in long fur. I have gotten some customer feedback pics of longhaired cats though. I think the hats look really cute with the cheek fur coming out underneath. The point collars can get lost in the fur, but if you fasten the Velcro a little looser, it will lay better. I do think Ragdolls are really cute and I would love to design something special for their look. I love Luna the Fashion Kitty. She wears amazing things! In comparison, Toki is kind of half naked in CatAtelier items. I hope to make more actual clothes rather than just accessories, but I want to make myself a cat dress form (manniquin) to use so I don’t have to bother Toki as much while I make patterns.
8. Are you a one wo/man show?
9. Do you have a blog?
No. I do have a Catster page for Toki, and a Facebook page for him, but I almost never go on Facebook. I love Catster though.
10. Do you do custom ordering? Can someone return it if they don’t care for it?
Yes I take custom orders. I have never had anyone ask to return something. I would say yes, but I would prefer to redo it until it is what they want.
11. Can you share a story with us behind any of your products that you especially enjoyed working on? Maybe because of the story behind the kitty?
I got a custom order for a Pirate eye patch for a one-eyed kitty. The cat was black, so I made the eye patch red with a white skull and bones on it. It came out really cute. I took the picture of Toki wearing it while he was sleeping so I wouldn’t harm his eye. I listed the item as custom, but after people saw it, two more people wanted pirate eye patches for their one eyed cats! I thought it was so funny. Who knew there were so many one eyed cat pirates? I was joking to my friends that I found an untapped market. I decided not to keep the item listed, just in the “sold orders” section, because I am paranoid that people might be tempted to put an eye patch on a cat with 2 healthy eyes. I even put a disclaimer on the original listing saying that the eye patches are not for cats with 2 healthy eyes. If someone requests the eye patch I will make it.
Thanks to Moderncat for finding these!