Carolyn Kassnoff loves dogs, puns, Harry Potter, and drawing, and she’s managed to combine many of her interests in her illustration career. She runs an Etsy shop and actively participates in Chicago’s craft fair scene under the name It’ll Glow On You, a reference to her work with neon signs. And she’s today’s interviewee in my interview series, focusing on creative professionals in Chicago and beyond.
Originally from Upstate New York, Carolyn moved to Chicago in 2009 and began creating mugs, prints, jewelry, and gifts with local appeal, and lots of puns. Her Chicago Dog mugs display neighborhood pride with illustrated dog versions of Chicago neighborhoods and landmarks like “Albany Bark”, “Rover North”, and “Barkingham Fountain.” Her work is available in many local businesses like Paperish Mess and Local Goods Chicago.
Kelly Peloza: What type of illustrative work do you do, and how did you get started with Etsy and craft fairs?
Carolyn Kassnoff: I draw pet portraits, and funny map-themed drawings, and sell prints, mugs, earrings, and other gifts with these illustrations printed on them. I’ve always been drawing, and finally started selling things seriously about two years ago through craft shows and Etsy. I realized that this was something I wanted to pursue further while at the Corn Hill Arts Festival in Rochester, NY, about 1.5 years ago. Lots of people told me they liked my drawings, and they made people laugh, and they were selling pretty well. It seems like an awesome way to make a living, doing what I love and was already doing, drawing all the time.
KP: What were some of the most helpful local resources when you started your Etsy shop and applying to local markets?
CK: The Chicago Public Library. Their Maker Lab. Other vendors at craft shows. How-to craft fair and sell online books. Other Etsy shop owners. I asked a lot of people how they do things for their shop. Chicago has a ton of craft fairs and galleries, and a lot of my work is neighborhood-specific. I also sell in a lot of shops around the city.
KP: What is a typical day like for you when working on new designs and managing your Etsy shop?
CK: Fulfilling orders, applying to craft shows, designing a new product, drawing a new dog.
KP: What are some highlights of your illustration career over the past few years?
KP: What advice would you give your younger self, and other young people looking to turn their passion into a career?
CK: Just try it. Draw what you love. Be more confident in selling your work! Stay positive. Be nice to people. Try new things, but don’t be sad if they don’t work out. Keep doing what you love. People will see how passionate you are!
KP: What are your favorite things about living in Chicago? And where are your go-to spots for food, shopping, and hanging out?
CK: The food! The things to do! The public transit system. I like spending time at restaurants, Holstein Park [Ed. note: home of Bucktown Arts Fest], coffee shops, the library, and museums. Some favorite spots for food are Irazu, Toast 2, Spoon Thai, Arturo’s, and Costello’s. For shopping, local craft fairs. I have a soft spot for grocery stores, due to growing up with Wegmans. The places my stuff is sold have a lot of other fantastic local artists as well, and I like to see their work.
KP: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
CK: Trust yourself. Try new things!
You can follow Carolyn/It’ll Glow On You Illustrations on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and of course, her Etsy shop (time to start thinking about holiday gifts for the dog lovers in your life, yeah?).