Featured Artist – Hilliary Dunford
May 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
Visual and Creative Arts Diploma Graduate Hilliary Dunford has launched her business, HilliaryCustomLiving, on Etsy and recently spoke with HSTA about her starting her business and how her experience at HSTA has helped her.
Custom wedding cake toppers, delightful pet sculptures and remarkable house ornaments are just a few of the whimsical treasures offered by HilliaryCustomLiving. Hilliary has built a unique home and keepsake décor business that has captured the imaginations of her customers. Her artistically designed custom keepsake sculptures and ornaments are available exclusively in her Etsy shop. Each one of her creations is painstakingly handcrafted to perfection and makes a memorable keepsake to celebrate life.
While here at Fleming College’s Haliburton School of the Arts, Hilliary studied a wide array of artistic mediums and explored self-expression. She also learned about various artistic techniques from master artisans like Brian Smith and Adrienne Alison. For Hilliary, there is nothing more rewarding than having the ability to touch another person’s life with her artwork. She enjoys all aspects of the creative process from sketching the design, to sculpting it and then finishing it off to perfection.
You completed your Visual and Creative Arts Diploma with the generalist option (completing 14 varied credit courses in the semester immediately after the foundation year), how was that experience?
For sure! I did do the generalist option for VCAD, I personally loved it! It was just enough time for each course to get a small experience of that medium or style of art. I liked how many options you had and all the different types of art I could explore, not to mention how beautiful Haliburton is during the summer months, it’s almost like Mother Nature is giving you inspiration on a silver platter! While doing the summer option I loved meeting all the artistic people from around the world and being taught by amazing self-made artists. It makes your working environment much more relaxed and open, everyone’s ideas just kept feeding off one another till we all we’re proud of our different works.
What are some things that you learned from the VCA diploma program that have stayed with you while you have started your business?
Something that has stayed with me since I started my business was something Dar [Darleen Bolahood, faculty and VCAD coordinator] once said in the beginning of our course “Know whether you’re working for someone or yourself”, now my works are mainly craft, I am creating pieces for others, but I believe I’m doing it for myself more than them. I still work on other art mediums while creating custom pieces for my customers but I get artist block and have a break in between large paintings or sculptures that seem to last months sometimes, so working on my customers pieces keeps me fresh and ready for when inspiration strikes again. Don’t get me wrong, making custom pieces also brings me great joy, I love hearing my customers tell me how much they love their keepsakes because I know it’s something they can treasure for a lifetime with proper care.
How did you happen upon the idea for your shop and your main keepsakes?
My idea for my shop started with being tight on money, we were getting closer to Christmas and I had just gotten engaged, so we were also saving for a wedding at the time. My in-laws were also doing an extension to their home that they had been dreaming of, and my parents had just bought their second home in 15 years! So I wanted to make something for them that would mark these special occasions and started sketching. The idea sort of just came to me and next thing I know I was experimenting with some old clay from VCAD and made my first house ornament. It wasn’t much, but I still have it. Since then I just started making them for houses on the internet that I didn’t even know and was encouraged by my fiancé and family to try and touch others with these keepsakes. I opened my shop on November 12th and made my first sale on November 14th, the satisfaction of knowing someone I never met before wanted something made by my hands has been the inspiration that keeps me working in my studio from sunrise to sundown and I really wouldn’t want it any other way.
My process in creating my keepsakes starts with a sketch of each home so I can catch any angles or small detailing in the image before I start carving. Once I’m done sketching, I start sketching on a rolled out piece of clay the same image then cut it out. From there I carve till I feel I’ve created a slightly 3 dimensional feeling with depth. Once carved I bake them then paint each one by hand, once painted I add their ribbon and they’re ready to ship! In the VCAD program I did explore clay and one of my exhibitions was of 3 dimensional women inside large boxes with only one view point. I did not however explore polymer clay while at VCAD, which is my main material and a little harder to manipulate then the clay I used in the VCAD program.
Is there any advice that you’d like to give other artists/artisans about starting an online business and using Etsy?
If I was to give anyone advice it would be take your time. Don’t rush you artistic process in trying to find an idea to sell. And don’t get discouraged to fast; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Etsy is a wonderful place to even just get your name out there for cheap advertising on your artworks. Even if you don’t want to sell on Etsy, go there to shop for gifts! Support fellow artists over large box companies. You will find unique handmade items that you won’t find anywhere else.
Inspired by the handmade movement, Hilliary enjoys offering her clients the opportunity to preserve their most precious memories with a custom keepsake. Whether it is celebrating a new marriage or the signing of the mortgage on a new home, HilliaryCustomLiving has something for everyone.
Hilliary has found a very comfortable selling niche online. Commitment to customer service and around the clock accessibility are two traits that Hilliary prides herself upon the most. As she continues to build a steady customer base, Hilliary seeks to expand the availability of her line to stores and designer boutiques. For interested buyers and store managers, please use the below contact details to discuss availability with Hilliary personally.
Hilliary Iaiana Elizabeth Dunford
Tel: 705 957 6785