Yup, that's right, today is my third veganniversary. La de da, isn't it glorious to be a vegan? It took a while for me to get good at it, but at this point I consider myself a pro. As I'm sure you've gathered by now I've lately become active on the Vegan Etsy team - so active, in fact, that I was chosen as last week's member of the week. Yes, there's one chosen every week... but still, I was honored. And in case you didn't get to catch the interview there, I thought I'd post it here for your enjoyment. So... here ya go.
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Interview with Melissa Bastian of Bright - BrightDesign.etsy.com
How did you choose the name of your shop and how long have you been a member of Etsy?
I became intrigued with the word "bright" one day when I was shopping for paintbrushes. I'm very particular about my brushes; not only do I have to I have to avoid those made with "natural bristles" (read: from animals!), but I'm also quite picky about shape. Outside of the odd round or filbert, almost all of my brushes are bright - almost square. I saw the word that day and it just struck me - it has so many positive connotations. Plus, it sticks with my B theme.
I've been a member of Etsy since the spring of 2008; I had taken a sabbatical from my day job (as a legal assistant, believe it or not) and was throwing all of my energies into my creative pursuits. It was a short-lived but worthwhile phase.
What kinds of items do you sell in your shop and what inspired you to start creating them?
I make a somewhat wide range of objects in my shop, and each has had a bit of a different evolution. Many of them spring from my desire to make something interesting and useful out of what was previously 'left for dead', as it were. I think people are now calling this upcycling. (I live in a hole - I just heard this word for the first time like last week.)
A good example is my envelopes: I take the pages from magazines that no one wants to read anymore and turn them into an extra-special package for your written correspondence. There are others: I use paper that would be thrown away from my utterly wasteful office (they refuse to institute a recycling program, and my efforts at starting one have been squashed) to make journals. I also like to rehabilitate old t-shirts and other clothing items with new stencil designs.
I have always made things, and at some point in my twenties I realized I'm not truly happy unless I'm actively engaged in some sort of creation.
Do you donate to any charities or do any volunteer work?
My fiance and I donate to Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York. I am also giving 25% of any proceeds from sales of my New Orleans-related items, including one zine and a series of paintings, to a group called the Common Ground Collective. I, along with many friends and family members, lost my home in Hurricane Katrina, and Common Ground is providing incredible support on a grassroots level to people in less affluent neighborhoods that are still trying to rebuild and prevent their homes and land from being claimed by the government.
Lately I've been donating craft items to various events: six envelope sample packs went to a meatout event with which Vegan Etsy team member ShopDeviant is involved, I'm donating a paperweight to the SASHA Farm Sanctuary silent auction, and I'll be sending a raffle prize (or prizes) to an upcoming Bowling for the Animals event - I just have to figure out what yet!
I have a strong desire to start volunteering with one of the groups that does food education work here in the city, such as Sustainable Table or Just Food. It's something I hope to pursue in the near future.
What are some of your favorite things about etsy?
I could talk for days about how great Etsy is, but I'll try to focus on the very best things. I love having a place to shop for goods where I know I'm supporting people rather than corporations. And the variety that can be found is astounding! I know that I can just search the "VeganEtsy Team" tag and find every kind of product under the sun, all vegan, and all made by vegans! It's made birthday shopping a lot easier and a lot more fun. I've also found a great community on Etsy, both within and apart from the Vegan Etsy Team.
Do you sell your items outside of etsy, either online or in retail shops?
Right now physical and electronic copies of my very short book / very long zine "The Plague Project" are for sale on Lulu.com, a self-publishing website; physical copies are available in my Etsy shop as well. The zine addresses challenges I've faced and things I've learned in dealing with a chronic illness since my late teen years. I am working on having a few items sold at shops in and around New York City. And I'm also excited to be a part of Vegan Craft Samples, a project of VeganEtsy's Holistically Heather.
Have you been featured anywhere?
I think that depends on the definition of "featured". :) I had a "one woman show" last summer, kicking off with a zine release event for "Anywhere I Lay My Head", which chronicles my experiences with Katrina, and extending into a two month long show of my paintings and photography of New Orleans in the months and years following the storm. It took place at Think Coffee at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery, a great little shop.
Do you have any future plans for your shop?
So, so, so many things to post... for that matter, so many things to make!
What kinds of hobbies and interests do you have?
Most of them are apparent in my Etsy shop - even the fact that I'm addicted to reading leaks through. I love to take long walks and visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden when my body and schedule will allow it. I'm also a chronic blogger, and write a decent number of short stories and nonfiction articles. Most recently I've taken up cross stitching - it's actually something I did when I was a child but not for long and not well. Now that I'm an adult who (theoretically) has patience, I want to learn for real! And, of course, I started a blog about it...
In truth I spend all of my "free time" doing one of five things: crafting, doing research on nutrition and the food industry, blogging or otherwise internetting, reading, and hanging out with my man. These frequently overlap!
Do you have any animal companions?
Not any longer, though I do maintain "Mom" status and full visitation rights with my cat Monkey who still lives with two good friends in New Orleans. Long story short, he's happier where he is than he would be with me, and it would be cruel to take him away from the people he's with now who love him. But I miss him terribly!
Do you have any websites besides your shop that you would like to tell us about?
There's my "combined" blog, called Ok, all together now! I have many blogs that I update, but I copy most posts to this one so that people don't have to work too hard to keep up. I also have a blog that revolves around the experiences of living my vegan life in New York City, called I like New York in green, how about you? Not all of the posts from this one make it to the combined blog. And, of course, there's the new one for my cross stitching! I'm calling it crosseyed.
How long have you been vegan and what made you go vegan?
Becoming vegan was really the inevitable culmination of a long and multifaceted discovery process. I, like so many others, had become interested in vegetarianism and animal rights in my early teen years. Unfortunately, I (also like so many others) at that time lacked the dedication and follow-through to stick with a vegetarian diet or to properly educate myself. But a seed had been planted in my head, and thankfully it never ceased to grow.
In my twenties, due to failing health and a medical system with a poor understanding of what I was going through, I began to research nutrition. It didn't take long for that to become a study of our current food industry. And after a few years of research, I sort of reached a point of no return. I could no longer be part of a system that would create and profit (greatly) from such tainted foods, and do so by torturing animals, abusing workers, destroying ecosystems... I've done a fair amount of writing on this subject.
I'm excited to say that March 17th will mark my third veganiversary. I'm planning to celebrate it by releasing a new vegan zine!
Do you have any favorite vegan things, like books, websites, stores, etc.?
My favorite writers on the food industry in general are Marion Nestle and Michael Pollan, although Pollan does get on my nerves a bit. I also think that "Diet for a Dead Planet" by Christopher Cook is an amazing piece of work; highly recommended for anyone who's interested in learning about the current state of our food supply. I could actually suggest books all day long. (I'll refrain, but if anyone's interested please feel free to contact me!)
As far as other things, outside of the Vegan Etsy team items I love Pangea Vegan Products. The website is a really great resource for people who don't live in big and/or vegan friendly cities but still want access to awesome vegan stuff - I imagine that if and when I leave New York I will rely on it heavily. And for those of us in New York, we have SuperVegan - the most awesomest website ever.
What are your favorite foods?
I love love love smoked tofu - hot or cold, in entrees, salads, sandwiches, whatever. Try this: sliced smoked tofu (bbq flavor is best) with slices of a good sweet crisp apple, on any good bread with any good mustard: best sandwich ever.
I'm a big fan of various "ethnic" cuisines: Japanese, Indian, Vietnamese, and Thai mainly. Oh, and Ethiopian is awesome! There are also a couple of restaurants here in NYC that have various pate-like substances made of things like nuts and sunflower seeds - amazing. (New York City is sort of a candyland for vegans - if you're ever coming through town and want to know what's the best lunch spot, drop a line!)
And of course I can't fail to mention that I'm a complete ice cream whore. Among my favorites are Rice Dream's ice cream bar covered with chocolate and peanuts and their chocolate mint pie, and any of the Purely Decadent ice creams made with coconut milk. The truth is that I'm really quite the sweets addict. I love good dark chocolate, which is why I'm thrilled that we have several team members making chocolate and chocolate covered treats! I also get a real kick out of Japanese treats like mochi and daifuku.
Who am I kidding? I just love food!
Is there anything else you would like to add or share?
For any non-vegan readers who are interested in vegetarianism or veganism, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have - whether it's about how to achieve a proper balance with nutrition while eating a vegan diet, what daily life as a vegan is like, or what the best brands of ice cream are! Becoming vegan can seem like a huge step, but it's really not as difficult as some people (your mom?) can make it out to be.
And to my fellow vegan readers, I'm always up for a good chat about vegan nutrition, the food industry, sustainable agriculture - whatever! I'd love to hear from any of you. I'd also be interested in working with others who make zines - anyone want to start a new vegan zine project? Not just a cook zine - there are so many topics to be covered!
To sum up, I'm always happy to provide whatever support I can in helping anyone and everyone in moving toward a more healthy, ethical, and environmentally conscious diet.