Dec 06 2010

Artisan Profile: Bailey Doesn’t Bark

My first time exploring Etsy was also the first time I noticed Bailey Doesn’t Bark.  Several years ago, when Etsy was brand new, I could disappear into the site for hours.  Without realizing it, I’d have spent two hours clicking and bookmarking and saving and ordering.  In the beginning, I didn’t know any artists or artisans, so I spent a lot of time searching, finding artists I liked, and then searching through those artists' favorites.

Today the Etsy site is exploding with artists from across the world.  While a large number hail from the New York area (Etsy was founded in Brooklyn and is still based here), I’ve ordered items from Thailand, Spain, Nebraska, and Oregon.  Etsy remains a bit muddled if you’re looking for something incredibly specific.  But, if you’re in the mood to browse—and have a few hours to spare—it’s a fun site to get lost in.

Bailey Doesn’t Bark was one of the first artists I tagged as a ‘favorite’.   I remember being immediately drawn to the simple, yet quirky designs of the pottery.  Since that first discovery, my favorite BDB items have been The Four Seasons series.  The seasonal items include plates, towels, and spoons, all etched with a simple drawing of a tree signifying Fall, Winter, Spring, or Summer.

Re Jin Lee is the artist behind Bailey Doesn’t Bark.  Fittingly, her dog Bailey is the studio’s namesake!  Besides the business' name, each charming piece feels as if it has a inspiring or interesting story behind it.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Justin, Arlene, and I found ourselves in the middle of the Union Square Holiday Market.  Even though I frequently shop at the Union Square Greenmarket, I’ve steadfastly avoided the holiday market both last year and until now, this year.  I’m aware that the market has some truly spectacular artists (and food), but the density of people, moving at all different speeds, combined with the tight aisles and overflow from the ongoing farmers market leaves me with immediate people claustrophobia.  So that Friday, we walked through the market on our way to the subway, with no intention of getting swallowed up by the intense holiday shoppers.

I led us by Bailey Doesn’t Bark’s booth entirely by accident. After I did a double take and turned around, I alternated between gushing and explaining how much I loved BDB’s products.  Unbeknownst to me, Re Jin was sitting back in the booth.  After listening to a few minutes of my chatter, she poked her head out from the booth and said ‘Thank you’.

Last week, I struck up an email correspondence with Re Jin and this past Thursday, I went back down to the holiday market (light crowds, thankfully!) to chat with Re Jin and photograph her lovely items.  She also answered a few of my questions about BDB’s origins and future plans.

Q: Tell me about your background.  Have you always made pottery/been interested in pottery?

RJL: I received a BA in fashion design in Brazil, Sao Paulo, where I was born and raised. Soon after graduating I moved to the US to pursue my career in design. I worked as a fashion designer and stylist for a few years and in 2008 finally decided make a career out of my drawings.  I wanted my drawings to be useful so I started with porcelain blanks such as mugs and plates to paint on. My current porcelain pieces were designed by me and are handmade in the US.

Q: What was your first piece (or pieces) for BDB?  What made you decide to bring in additional items (pillows, towels, jewelry, etc)?

RJL: My first pieces were all hand painted and most of them were one of a kinds.  I had a series called the sleeping birds; I loved drawing the birds sleeping like humans sleep. It was fun!  My plan was always to expand and have my drawings in a variety of accessories.  Porcelain was only the beginning!

Q: What inspired you to open BDB?

RJL: I wanted to share my drawings in a useful way!

Q:Tell me the story behind the name!

RJL: Bailey is my dog! Every time someone asked me if she was well behaved I'd say: Bailey doesn't bark!

Q: How did you grow your fan/customer base on Etsy?  Initially, how did potential customers know how to find you?

RJL: I was very lucky to have my first pieces included in treasuries on Etsy. A lot of them made it to front page and that's how I believe many Etsy customers found my work! I'm very grateful for that and also to the bloggers who posted about BDB and have continuously helped spread the word about my work.

Q: What inspires both your style and subject matter?

RJL: Dreams, memories and nature inspire me!

Q: What connection do you personally have to seasonal eating and/or food in general?

RJL: I was born and raised in Brazil where having a meal (going out to eat w/ family, friends) IS the event. Not something you do before going to a movie or party. I love that. For me, having a meal is enjoying the food, of course, and the company of those sitting at the table with you. I could spend hours having dinner with my friends.

Q: What is your most popular item?

RJL:  The Postcup! It’s a useful and permanent postcard. The mug with a postcard design comes with a porcelain pen. You write your message, bake the mug in a conventional oven and the message sets permanently! It’s a great gift to send for someone far away.

Q: How long will you be at the Union Square Holiday Market?

RJL: Mon-Friday:  11-8; Saturday:  10-8; Sunday: 11-7 through December 24th.

Q: What is your favorite restaurant in New York?

RJL: Casa in the West Village (Brazilian). By far my favorite restaurant!

Q: What's your favorite Etsy store?

RJL: Many, many stores.  I can browse through the food section for hours.  If I have to pick one, Whimsy & Spice!!

Q: Do you have any sneak peeks/can you share information about new items you're planning for the New Year?

RJL: All my new designs were just launched on my newly redesigned website.  The blue bugs & bugs doily mugs, plates and spoons are my newest porcelain designs.

Holiday Special! Re Jin has put together eight amazing gift sets that feature her items combined with Whimsy and Spice cookies, Harney and Sons tea, MarieBelle hot chocolate, and/or spices from The Spice House.  These are available in person or online under 'Holiday'. My favorite sets are the ‘Chef for All Seasons’: two kitchen towels, four notebooks, four recipe cards, and a cooking spoon; and the ‘The Savory Plate’: 4 plates with Whimsy and Spice cookies!