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Made in Chicago: Forgotten Toy Box

By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 21, 2007 6:15PM

2007_12_metalheart_etsy.jpgIf you haven't finished shopping yet (like us), you're probably going to have to find some creative solutions for giving gifts late (like us). Our plan is to buy extraordinary presents to make up for the fact that they may not be there on the 25th.

Debb Galcik, 34 this week (happy birthday!), is a converted Chicagoan by way of Philadelphia. She's a bookbinder and metal artist, and sells through her Moon23 Etsy shop and her website, Forgotten Toybox. Debb's media of choice are glass and metal to create etched handmade, coptic journals, from simple Victorian style, to a corseted design, to an anatomical cover (shown right). They're fully functional, but can be displayed, so you can look crafty and artsy without having to be either.

In between shipping her last Christmas orders, Debb filled us in on making art from "junk," her favorite craft fairs, and her early gift from Santa.

Chicagoist: How do you make your art stand out from everything else on Etsy?

Debb: I naturally tend to stand out a bit just because of the unusual materials I use. There are loads of talented bookbinders on Etsy, but not many of them, if any, work with glass or metal covers. My covers tend to be little artworks unto themselves, and people really seem to respond positively to that. It's also important to add new work to your shop fairly frequently and do a lot of self promotion.

C: Where do you want to go with your art? Where do you see yourself in five years?

D: I'm a perpetual dabbler and information absorber, so I'm always trying out new art forms. The great thing about my bookbinding is I can stick just about anything I make into my unique journal assemblages. Therefore, I can continue to indulge in play, and absorb new crafts while gathering that all into my current work. I plan to expand my line of metal books beyond copper etching. Santa brought me a new torch so now I can dust off my metalsmith skills and get a bit more creative with metal construction and surface patinas. I also hope to bring my work into more galleries, art shows, and expand my online store a bit. Maybe one of these days I'll teach.... who knows.

C: How did you first get into DIY?

D: I've always loved to make things. I didn't really seek out the DIY culture, but somehow fell neatly into it. When I first moved here to Chicago I began working at an art store so my interest really started to gain steam in "the learn everything you can" spirit of DIY. For awhile I was working a successful corporate job after that but something was really missing in my life, so I left that to go work for myself.

C: What's your artistic process look like?

D: I start with piles of what some people might call junk. I collect crazy and odd things. Skeleton keys, gears, door plates, Xrays.... I have little drawers full of things that one might not think of as art supplies. I often sit with all these things laying out on my desk until something strikes me. I like to work dynamically so I don't always have a finished design in mind as I begin to work. Sometimes things just click into place, and there are other times where a design sits on my desk for weeks until I find the right "art bit" I just keep working until it feels done. With my metal work it's all about collageing images together which in a way mirrors my traditional books as I build up layers of images.

C: What's the Chicago DIY scene look like?

D: Diverse! Very diverse. The pool of talent here in the city is amazing. Try looking under "Shop Local" on Etsy and you'll be floored with the diversity there. This is an amazing city for the DIY culture. There are classes, craft shows, clubs, etc. It's a great place to be.

C: Where do you see DIY culture going?

D: It's been gaining steam. There used to be only a few indie type craft shows and now they are in nearly every other major city. People are really embracing doing things themselves. I'm not sure if that's because of exposure, or if people are more budget conscious these days. You're already seeing it happening now, but I see much more trading of goods among the DIY artists as people crave to surround themselves with less cookie cutter environments.

C: Lastly, do you have any advice for other crafty people wanting to start selling their goods?

D: You have to just jump into it. It's about the scariest thing I think I ever did, but I'm ever so glad I did. Selling your work is great because it's a way to encourage yourself to keep producing and challenging yourself. These days its very easy to do with places like Etsy, but I'd also highly suggest people look into the local indie craft shows. Here in Chicago we have the DIY trunk show, Renegade Craft fair, and Art vs. Craft in Milwaukee, and new ones are popping up all the time. The feedback you get from talking about your work to people one on one can be very encouraging and energizing.

Know somebody who should be interviewed for Made in Chicago? Tell us: MadeinChicago[at]chicagoist[dot]com