Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Interview with Mouse in The Dollhouse

Fairy with the Red Hair Giclee Art Print

I've had the honour of interviewing the lovely and talented woman behind Mouse in The Dollhouse. Read on to find out more about her, her business, business tips and her plans for the future!

1. Name: Maria Ernest Fragopoulou (Mouse In The Dollhouse)
Age: 36
Where are you from? 
I am from Greece

Banner with lace and art prints for a children's room

2. Tell us a bit about yourself and your shop/ business.
My background and my formal studies have been in the field of art history. I have a B.A. in Art History and Archaeology from the University of Crete in Greece and a M.A. in the History of the Decorative Arts, specializing in Italian Renaissance, from Bard Graduate Center in New York. I am a self taught – you may say – artist, painting and drawing mainly, although lately I am also fascinated with collage work. In my atelier-shop one can find, currently, original works on canvas, watercolors, drawings, prints, both open and limited editions, art photography, and cards. Part of my work is devoted to art for children and to kids’ room décor. 

3. When did you open your shop?
I opened my Etsy shop in late May 2011 and added my first items in mid June

Eva's Twin Girls Giclee Art Print

4. Why did you decide to start your shop?
I decided to open my shop when I realized that the canvases I was painting and offering as gifts for my friends’ kids were very much appreciated and cherished. That gave me some sort of comfort that my artwork might have an audience out there. I have been a rather shy artist, not very open about my creations, basically painting for my pleasure and not showing my work. Deciding to open my atelier-shop was a big step for me. 

5. How do you promote/ market your business? What works best?
I am afraid I am not very good about promoting my work. I do not have a facebook, twitter, or a blog page, although I am thinking about starting an online journal, documenting my work process and thoughts about art and design. Word of mouth, business cards, and brochures have been my promoting package so far. My friends from the etsy teams, especially the Etsy Greek Street Team, and the Finest Ladies of Painting Team support me a lot, by including my work in numerous treasuries.

Girl with Blue Eyes Giclee Art Print

6. What’s your favourite item from your shop and why?
My favourite item is my Blue Lady print.
The original adorns a corner in my home, while an open edition print is for sale at my shop. This piece represents me in various ways. Blue has been an addiction for me. I love this color. 

Mother and Daughter Watching the Sea Watercolor and Pencil Drawing

I love seeing the blue, painting the blue, wearing the blue. The figure also has a melancholy that is characteristic of me and my work.

Fine Art Photograph - Lake Geneva

Although not a self-portrait many have mentioned that Blue Lady resembles me.

Melancholy Giclee Art Print

7. Do you also do business offline? If yes, what do you prefer and what works best?
I take commissions for children room décor, and have approached some local shops, and some boutiques and ateliers abroad. But it is all very new and do not know yet if I will be represented by any of them. I do take commissions for invitations’ cards for special events such as baptisms. One of the images I sell (Andrianna) was created for a baptism invitation card.

8. Where do you get inspiration?
I am always inspired by the work of other artists, painters, designers, illustrators, photographers. Since I gave birth to my children I am extremely influenced by illustrated books for children and always have my eyes open for unique editions.

9. Who is your target audience? Who would typically buy an item from you? 

One target group would be parents. My work, however, even the items that are clearly meant for children bear something appealing to adults. I think this is because I avoid over-simplification, the typical style of artwork created for children, with the frozen broad smile of happy girls and boys. I like minimalism, I use few colors on each painting, and I like painting faces. Several of my paintings commissioned for kids are fitting for big boys and girls. 

The Fairy with the Blue Hair Giclee Art Print

10. Do you ship internationally?
Yes, I do ship worldwide, and at the moment I offer free shipping for my originals.

11. What has been the most challenging part of starting and running your own business?
Building a network of people that would be happy to return to your atelier to view your newly created and listed works is the big challenge. It will always be the big challenge. Building a clientele that is happy with your custom service and will return to buy from you again, and will introduce you to others. 

12. What has been the best part of starting and running your own business?
The freedom.

13. Do you have any business tips you’d like to share with us?
The first would be to be polite and to respect your customer. Remember that he/she is a person, who honoured you by purchasing from your shop and who wants the best possible packaging and fast shipping. Second, be true to who you are. Put your soul in what you are creating and to everything that accompanies it, the business card, your brochure, your wrapping paper, the shipping box…
(images of my certificate of authenticity and packaging can be found here)

14. If there were anything you could change about your business, right now, what would it be?
Managing my time more effectively. I work from home, often with my kids all over me, and there are no strict boundaries, to either work time schedules or work area. 

15. What are your goals and dreams for your business for the future?
I would be happy to be able to live from selling my artwork

16. Where do you hope your shop will take you?
To the moon!

17. What’s next now? Could we get a sneak peak of what you’ll be doing and sharing next? 
I have started working on Christmas items such as cards, and Christmas décor. I will also introduce a new line of hand-painted invitations and hand painted favours’ boxes. Lately I am very fascinated with the idea of the ephemeral art: pieces created from fragile materials, such as paper, that are meant to last for just a while, to decorate for just one night. 

Merry Vintage Christmas Card

18. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am working on a children’s book. Both writing and illustrating. But you will have to interview me in the future for that…

Snow White Giclee Art Print

Isn't Maria talented!!? I'd love to have her skills!
Thanks so much to Maria for taking the time to do this interview!
It's been a pleasure getting to know you, and I can't wait to see your children's book! :D (Please let me know when it gets published, so that we can be the first to interview you ;))

I wish you the best of luck with your wonderful business - travel safely to the moon ;)

Please check out Maria's shop and show her some love by hearting her shop and your favorite items!

Be sure to leave Maria a lovely comment below with feedback, tips, your thoughts, questions, etc.


Maria Ernest Fragopoulou said...

Thank you so much for this interview Katrine. It was a pleasure to participate and answer your questions. Thank you for all your kind words. Keep up with the good work...

Tatiana Kontouli said...

So lovely interview!
Maria is a great artist!
Thank you for sharing more of you Maria :)

Anonymous said...

Surely a perfect piece of writing! We've book marked it and sent it out to all of my friends since I know they'll be intrigued, thank you very much!
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Maria Ernest Fragopoulou said...

Thank you Tatiana! Tatiana's etsy shop "la boom" is amazing and so is her blog laboomeria.blogspot.com. Check it out. It is a source of inspiration. I recently discovered it.

FishesMakeWishes said...

lovely interview! it's great to learn more about Maria and her art :-)

The Kautts said...


Here's a music piece I wanted to share with you. It's Finnish. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AIois3Gaegk


my soul is the sky said...

hey! my button stopped working so please grab a new one when you get a change :) thanks!

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