Interview – Amy of Bakenekoya

Sculpted Steam and Japanese Cats

The perk of being an avid Etsian is that you frequently stumble across some amazing creations. I would like to introduce you to my newest discovery. The Japanese shop title peaked my curiousity, as did this gorgeous mask, found for the first time in an Etsy Treasury:

Click here to find an array of Masks
1. How did your shop get its name and what was the main inspiration behind opening your shop?

I started sculpting a few years ago just as a hobby.  I was making sculptures for myself or as gifts for friends and family at first, everyone seemed to really like my work and I was really enjoying sculpting so one day I thought why not start trying to sell some pieces.  I taught myself how to make moulds and cast in resin from videos on YouTube and articles online, bought a load of materials and just took it from there.

The name Bakenekoya is a Japanese word, it roughly translates as the monster cat store.  Bakeneko – monster cat, the Ya added to the end  makes it a store.
A Bakeneko is a spiritual being from Japanese folklore, it has similar powers to the kitsune or tanuki. 
An ordinary cat can transform into a Bakeneko by either living over ten years of age, reaching one kan (3.75 kg or 8.25 lbs) in weight, or growing its tail too long.

I am a massive cat lover, I have two very big cats that may be on the verge of transforming into Bakeneko 😉 and have a love of Japanese art and culture, also the first items I wanted to sell were cat figurines, so when I decided to open my shop I was searching for a name that could somehow incorporate these things.  I couldn’t find anything that felt right until I stumbled upon a site of Japanese folklore and read the tale of the Bakeneko.  The name Bakenekoya was just a perfect fit for the name of my shop.

The reason I was drawn in to explore your creations was the gorgeous Steampunk mask, the Japanese name (I’m very slowly learning Japanese) and the cats. Being a cat person runs in my family!

Find this lucky tabby here!
2. What do you create and do you have a signature product? If so how did it come to be?

I create a range of sculptures and masks in a number of styles, cute, fantasy, horror, steampunk, and I’m always looking to try something new. 

I think my signature product would have to be my Super lucky fat cats.  They were one of the first sculptures I made, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop making them.  They came about as I love Maneki Neko and thought a great big fat one would be adorable, who doesn’t love a big fat fluffy cat? And of course they combine two of my favourite things, cats and Japan.

A Fine Gentlecat, Bartleby Von Fishersnoot
3. Where do you find your inspiration and what makes you different from the other people that make what you make?
A lot of my inspiration comes from anime, cartoons and illustration.  The work of Studio Ghibli in particular.  But really anything that I’m currently mad about, geckos, cats, Dragon skulls….  I’ve always got about 20 things I’m itching to make.

Also other artists are a massive inspiration, I have some good friends who have helped me in the past with design, and there are a lot of amazing people out there that I look up to, they really help drive me to keep improving my skills.

I think that I have a good range of products, I like to experiment and play around with different styles, materials and types of items, and I intend to continually expand my range.  Hopefully it makes an interesting shop and will grow more so over time.

4.What do you enjoy most about your craft?
Most of all I just find the whole process of making stuff incredibly enjoyable, and so satisfying, I love seeing it all come together, especially when I don’t really know what I’m doing at the beginning and just jump in at the deep end.
Also selling your work is fantastic, not just because of earning money (of course it’s really nice to buy food and pay the rent and everything) but to know that someone out there really loves something you have made in an amazing feeling, it makes all the horrible hard parts so worthwhile.

I can’t agree more. When your creative passion is reflected in a buyer’s face or message, it’s a real motivator!

A Steampunk Maneki Neko!
5. What is your best advice to newbie Etsians just opening their shops?

I’ve been selling my work for a few years now but I still feel like a newbie, I don’t think I’ve really figured it out yet.  But I think the best way to start is to get your work out there any way you can, social networking, art sites… It’s great if you can afford to pay for advertising but most of us can’t, so any free way to get your work in front of people is invaluable.  There are a lot of sellers on Etsy and I think it’s easy to get a bit lost amongst them.

Also I think having more than just a couple of items in your store and a bigger variety of products will always attract more customers.  I only had a few cat sculptures in my shop at first and didn’t get very many views at all, but as soon as I started adding more products I could really see the difference in traffic.

The Leopard Gecko Totem, Special Edition
6.What are your top 3 favourite shops on Etsy and what do you like about them?

It’s so very difficult to only choose 3!

These people are amazing artists so I’m going to plug their Deviantart pages too so you can look at much more of their art work.
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This artist is incredible, her sculpture work is so very beautiful.  I’d gladly have every single piece of hers in my house if I could.  I am super jealous  of her skills…. but in a good, she inspires me kind of way of course 😉
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A fellow cat lover and such a talented sculptor.  He makes amazing cat sculptures and prints, he has a great style and sense of humour.
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I am a big fan of her series Mephistos and have a lot of her art prints up on my walls, her work is fantastic.  She (and her pet Geckos) also provided the inspiration for my Gecko totem sculpt.
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7. Where can you be found online?
8. Do you have any coupon codes / special sales / upcoming or current promotional events going on in your shop?

Not at the moment but I will have a Christmas sale coming up at the start of December, I’ll post details on Facebook, Tumblr etc.

A gentleman Slug, fighting for equality among the Snail upper classes
9. What is it about Steampunk that you love and how did you become involved in it?

I love the whole fantasy of Steampunk and how anything goes, I think it brings out the best of artists’ imaginations.  I have a lot of respect for steampunk cosplayers, there’s so much love, hard work and skill that goes into making those amazing costumes and modding everyday items into marvellous steampunk contraptions.

My steampunk work began with the idea for the first sculpture I put up for sale, Bartleby von Fishersnoot the gentleman cat.  I just love a gentleman creature with a ridiculous name!  After making him I really wanted to make a range of gentleman creatures with their own little world.  They live in the charming coastal town of Flappington-on-sea and all have their own stories.  So far I have him and Reginald T Pompigton the gentleman slug (and I suppose my super snooty gentleman Maneki Neko could live there too), but there will be more to come in this range.

After I started selling these I got invited to exhibit at the Leeds Steampunk market.  I really wanted to make a steampunk mask for the event which is what led to the creation of my Steampunk respirator mask, this was a very difficult project, but also very fun, and was a great experience as  I had to learn a few new techniques like metal etching and cold casting.

Thankyou so much, Amy. Your work is fascinating and as a trained modelmaker myself, I can really appreciate your self-taught skill! Here’s hoping that we might see you trading at next year’s Asylum in Lincoln, perhaps?

If you love Amy’s work, do Favourite her shop, Bakenekoya on Etsy.com.

Thankyou kindly,
                   ~The Navigatrix