Tiffini Elektra X wears one of her Anne Boleyn scarves
by Lynn S. Schwebach
Several years ago, I was strolling around an outdoor art fair in Fort Collins, Colorado when a booth of unusual jewelry caught my eye. I instantly fell in love with some domino necklaces – painted dominoes with images of fairy tale characters, famous artists, and magical creatures.
I bought a necklace portraying the face of Frida Kahlo, and also talked briefly with the vendor, a young woman with large, dancing green eyes. At times, synchronicity brings you in contact with someone who has an artistic spirit that you immediately sense, and Tiffini Elektra X had that spirit. But her original products combined with what I sensed of her individuality gave me another hint about this intriguing individual – that she also had an entrepreneurial spirit.
My intuition proved accurate. Soon after, Tiffini had a website and an Ebay store, where I purchased more of her products for friends and family. I also signed up for a class she taught on how to run an Ebay store, and just as I expected, I learned that Tiffini definitely lives life on her own terms – one of the clear indicators of an artistic and entrepreneurial personality. (For more about her name change and why she married, divorced, and still lives with her boyfriend, see her blog post at http://www.tartx.com/blog/?p=16.)
In addition to jewelry, her product line – called Tartx – now includes apparel, home décor, original printed artworks, and many other treasures.
Through an e-mail interview, Tiffini Elektra X shared with me some of her secrets for artistic success.
Bravelycreative: Tell us about yourself. How and when did you get interested in art? What made you decide to become an artist?
It actually was not until I was around 20 or so that I became interested in art.
I am a late blooming, self-taught artist who loves to make pretty things. I had no idea that following this instinct to create and surround myself with pretty things would evolve itself into a full-fledged job.
I was just making/painting/assembling things to decorate our walls, and making gifts, when a friend of ours suggested that I do an art show.
While preparing the show I thought I would like for people to be able to buy something even if they did not have money to buy art off the wall.
So I bought a vending machine in order to put art inside the machine. The capsules are quite small so I had to brainstorm on what small things I could make. I made some bottle cap necklaces and magnets, domino necklaces, matchbox shrines and buttons. The show went fabulous! I had a few little items left and put them on eBay and those turned out to be so popular I just kept making them. As time went by I put together my own site as well, and over time have slowly expanded my line.
Bravelycreative: How would you describe your art?
I can’t say that I always have any grand ideas to express, or had any major artistic ambitions. I simply love to make things. I enjoy the process of learning about different media. I tend to go in phases – painting, mixed media, sewing, digital art.
I find that inspiration can spring up anywhere and anytime. I also enjoy being very specific and detailed about a topic, and I especially like taking on themes of historically fascinating people, creatures, and time periods.
Bravelycreative: Are you a full-time artist? If so, how are you able to support yourself as an artist? Is it tough?
I do my art full time, and I have to say it is possible to make a successful living from your creativity. Of course sometimes I have to bite the bullet and take care of the ‘non-fun’ side of running a business.
I have realized that you have got to love, like, or at least tolerate all aspects of what you do, or it is really hard to motivate yourself to work. I do enjoy the more tedious sweatshop parts of what I do – packaging, sewing in labels on the clothes and bags, casting, shipping, and answering e-mails.
I love running my own business and it has given me a sense of individuality, independence and challenge. However, I realized this year that it is time for me to make some small changes. The more I have delved into my business, the more the creative aspects of my art have slipped away. My days revolve around filling orders and restocking, answering e-mails, and forwarding shipping information.
My boyfriend who helps me with the shipping and restocking of inventory works on his music when we are done working. Watching him move seamlessly to his own interests, I realized that I had mostly stopped doing art. So I decided that this year will be simply devoted to getting back into art making. I admit it has been awkward and foreign. I have been working on my willpower to let myself have downtime and give myself a moment to not have to answer every e-mail immediately.
It has also been nice working on art that I am not sure anyone but my friends and family will see. It has been good for my mind because I have no direction, no goals, no pressure… just doing new work.
Bravelycreative: How important is creativity to you? How would you describe or define your creativity or how it aids in the creation of your projects.
I always listen to books when I work. They help me zone out everything around me, allowing me to really focus on what I’m doing. Whatever I am working on I try to listen to books that revolve around that subject to get in the mood and time period. This helps lead me to find a way to express that story, history or aesthetic, and to include subtle details into my art that really makes the piece more personal.
Bravelycreative: As an entrepreneur as well as an artist, how do you think creativity helps in running a business?
I try not to think about selling while I am making art. Once I decide to add something to my line, I think attention to detail and being creative in design and packaging pays off.
If the product is sold online, having quality photographs is very important. I am still learning how to compose photographs well. I invested in a nice camera and studio set up this year, so I have been going back through each product and updating the pictures and descriptions.
I am also my own research and development department. I have figured out all sorts of ways to improve something by wearing and using my stuff. This helps me discern any subtle shortfalls in the item and make changes.
For instance, when I decided to add tote bags, I went through dozens of them before I found the ones I liked. Some shrunk, some wrinkled or they did not have the right handle length to comfortably carry it on your shoulder. Even though I was excited to add screen-printed bags to my Tartx line, I did not want to add anything that someone would not be happy to have even years later. I never want to ship out something that I did not put 100% into researching and developing.
Packaging is last, bringing everything full circle. Packaging things well and thoughtfully, I also include an unexpected goodie in the package as it makes opening mail even more fun.
Bravelycreative: When not creating, what are your interests? passions?
I spend time making food, reading about food, learning Italian, watching comedy with my boyfriend Eric, and spend a ridiculous amount of time hanging out with my cats. I also play video games.
Truthfully, as I mentioned before I often have to remind myself that there’s more to life than constantly working on Tartx — indeed, I’m often reminded of that by concerned friends. I really do think knowing when to take a break and giving yourself time to not obsess over the details is one of the hardest parts of being in business for yourself.
Bravelycreative: If you had the opportunity to live again, another life, would you do exactly what you’re doing, and live how you’re living, or would you decide to do something different?
Exactly the same life would be absolutely fantastic with me.
Bravelycreative: Do you have any advice for those seeking a career as an artist?
Don’t be afraid to say no. I decided a long time ago to not take commissions because it just creates too much anxiety for me. Be who you are. I am not shy, but I am a bit of an introvert. Also, I have had times when I really enjoyed working with other artists/swaps and other times where I did not. When I know I will not be able to give 100%, I say no.
Do not be afraid to let your business grow at your own pace.
Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Tiffini’s products can be found on her website at http://www.tartx.com