Annette Tait is the creator of Dragon House of Yuen, where you can find her soft sculptures, watercolors and delightful stories about the creatures she creates. Annette has lived in Zambia and Australia and now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her works primarily take the form of carefully crafted hares, and she is very active in supporting house rabbits and rabbit rescues. I am very excited to introduce you to Annette’s creative work and unique poetic voice, which really capture the individual spirit of Etsy.
Hi Annette, tell us a little bit about how you got started as an artist. When did you make your first soft sculpture?
Hi Anne, any thanks for your questions!
I made a pony for my dad when I was about 7 I think, but when I was 14 I made a few very life-like felt rats with moveable arms and tails and sold them at a local market in Australia. They were really popular and I loved them.
Why did you decide to start selling your artwork on Etsy?
It was Christmas 2007, I was out of work, as I had to leave my managers position (with Royal Doulton) due to migraines from working in a stuffy unventilated place lit with fluorescent lights, so etsy was the start of an online income for me and a future that would not have been possible a few years earlier – so many thanks Rob Kalin for your vision! It was slight desperation. Plus I liked the look of etsy and the emphasis on hand made, it felt very approachable and the place to be.
What was the first piece you posted on Etsy?
I think it may have been one of my cards. The beginning was a bit rough, my photos were forgettable and my memory is vague!
The stories you create about your pieces in your item listings and on your blog are equally as wonderful as your artwork. Tell us a little bit about how you create the histories and narratives behind your pieces.
Thank you! When I make a hare, I hold them in my hand and slowly look in their eyes and I’ll get a feel for names with the right sound to match their expression.
So for example, the creation of Bradamante, the little warrior hare, was because she has a very serious appearance but is also a very beautiful hare. So she needed a name that reflected these striking qualities. One of my favourite movies is ‘Hearts and Armour’ with Tanya Roberts and Ron Moss, about the Moors and Saracens. It’s a love story and Bradamante is one of the female warriors. In fact Bradamante was one of the greatest female knights in literature! Now that is saying something. So my hare had to reflect this fighting spirit in the 21st century, as all my hares live in the present, in today’s world with all that it entails. As an ex soldier I’m well versed to write about the military so I made her a soldier. Of course she is the best and has the respect of the other soldiers. They are in awe of her! Not only is she a fearless soldier, she happens to be a hare! Now how many hares do you know serving in the Army? and if you went into a barracks today just imagine how surprised you would be to see a tiny hare there attending the various courses. Anyway, after I get the right name with a little bit of background to the name if it has particular historical / factual qualities, I then see the hare spring to life in my mind and start to do things. Their voice is very strong and they just start to talk. Usually it just takes an image or a word or a feeling and the journey begins. And I always try to make it a little humorous and usually with some advice or small lesson squeezed in. All my animals are fallible and with small quirks and foibles. It’s the small, everyday, unsaid things that make your heart fall in love I believe and my animals all have this. Because I wouldn’t be doing my job very well if I was only entertaining and not enlightening. It’s very important for me to always be getting messages across. That’s how I’ve learnt about life – the hard way was thru my lessons, and the easy way is thru reading about others. So my hares carry these little gifts with them and I’m hoping that the readers see that, with open eyes, minds and hearts.
Do you have a favorite character you’ve created over the years? Tell us a little bit about him/her?
I have no favourite characters, only voices. Priceless is witty but innocent, his wife Evdokia is passionate and strong willed. Hare, from my 2nd shop The Hares Nest, is cynical and wry and has no time for nonsense, and all my baby hares and squirrels are caring and optimistic. They carry hope for a better future where all humans will treat animals with great respect and care for the world because that is not the case now. My mother hares are more experienced and have nearly seen it all, they carry the wisdom and love that will shape the babies into decent hares. My mother hares are based on my own mum who is a perfect mum to me, always has been, now that I am old enough and wise enough to see and appreciate this! (and thank her for that!) I hope that everyone who reads my stories, no matter what their age, will take something away with them that will make them a better person to the animals and the world. My stories are actually written for adults, to read to themselves, to read to their youngsters, their dogs and house rabbits, and to the birds coming for dinner on their veranda. So my characters, I suppose, all have this voice of universal love in them.
Annette’s baby hare illustrations are now available as lovely wall decals through Wilson Graphics.
If only I knew?! I can only follow my own path and be true to myself. I have been inspired by others but I walk alone in this journey because I think I am rather crap at marketing, detest market research, absolutely loathe trends and the ‘in thing’, am never swayed by public opinion and answer to no-one except myself. Plus I am completely loyal to my customers and guard their privacy vehemently and I will not boast about anything nor flaunt anything (knowlingly) unless I can put a bit of self-effacing humour in it. I believe that if people wish to stop by for a read or a smile then they can do so without interruption from me, unless of course they would like a virtual cup of tea! My kettle is always on and treats atop the cake stand.