Mysterious Rabbits

I have been equally fascinated by and frightened of giant rabbits since I can remember. Not giant rabbits exactly but what appear to be giant rabbits and are in fact people in rabbit costumes. I am not alone in this: I have a Pinterest board devoted to photos, mainly from the 1950’s and 1960’s of children accompanied by gigantic and often misshapen rabbits. I don’t have a clear memory of actually having had to sit upon the lap of one of these creatures yet this vague fear persists.

I do however remember that as a child my large italian family would spend Easter together at our house in Wildwood NJ . One Easter in particular when I was quite small, my cousin Cindy received a gigantic stuffed rabbit from the Easter Bunny that I remember as being at least as tall as we were. I was jealous of course, having not received one myself, but also reluctant to pass by her room on my way to the stairs for fear I would see its large, lifeless eyes peering out at me from the darkness.

This portrait is my homage to that fear of vague danger lurking in the dark. Even though he is shown emerging from the shadows, his gift of a single egg convinces me that there is nothing to be afraid of after all. Prints are available at

Some terrifying rabbits from my childhood

Some terrifying rabbits from my childhood

Curious Portraits at Curiosa

I am so thrilled that Curiosa in Toronto is now carrying Curious Portraits in their delicious new shop! They had their grand opening this summer and chose some favorite Gothic and Victorian prints and cards from my shop as part of their inventory. Though their website is still being finessed, you can see photos of their wondrous products on their Facebook page, Curiosa Society and Instagram feed @curiosasociety They have a tantalizing selection of cards, jewelry, quill pens, sealing wax, prints, and more, plus all manner of Harry Potter themed items. Everything a Steampunk, Gothic, Victorian loving person such as myself could want. I may just have to schedule a trip up to Canada and see for myself!

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These are some of the eclectic selection of prints they'll be carrying.

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Sherlock Holmes & Victorian Mystery Writers Prints and Posters

I've been an avid fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories since my older brother first introduced me to them many years ago. They were probably the reason I became so fascinated with Victorian mystery writers and Victorian England in general. I devoured books by Wilke Collins, Sheridan Le Fanu, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Charles Dickens and of course Edgar Allan Poe (even though he was not British), to mention just a few. Even now I am eager to discover a particularly well written Victorian mystery by a contemporary author such as The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, Drood by Dan Simmons (a must for any Dickens and Collins fan) or Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield.  So when I decided to do a line of textile prints based on literary figures I chose Sherlock Holmes as the first. I had already done a portrait of Arthur Conan Doyle in which I used the smoke from his pipe as a design element. That was the starting point for this print along with his iconic Meerschaum Calabash and Churchwarden pipes. I then added in elements representing some of my favorite stories along with general items that any Sherlock Holmes fan would recognize such as his deerstalker cap, 7% solution of cocaine and the VR (Victoria Regina) made of bullet holes on his wall.


Unfortunately I had a very difficult time sourcing a digital fabric printer who could print on chiffon that is thin enough for the ink to bleed through so that it could be used as a scarf. Spoonflower, who is my go-to printer didn't carry anything thin enough so I temporarily had to give up the idea of the scarves. I didn't however want to abandon the idea of the literary prints so my next step was to take the elements and use them in an engineered poster design. I kept the central theme of the pipe smoke and the story elements but put them against a black background to make them stand out and also added in some Victorian fretwork across the top to tie it all together and here is the result:


The next step was to create notecards from the print, each displaying a different story and available along with the print at Curious Portraits.

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Summer Project - Making my Etsy shop more searchable

It has been a busy summer and I am afraid I have neglected my readers! Back in early June I discovered a site called Etsy Ranks which connects to Etsy and gives you all sorts of useful information to help you improve your shop and search potential. It pointed out simple things like spelling errors as well as more complex things such as whether you are using enough of the given characters in your title and if you are using your tags efficiently in the first paragraph of your description. It was a real eye opener for me and even though I found for the most part that my shop was ranking high, it made me take a closer look and I was astonished to find that some of my listings which hadn't been edited in years, frankly, had terrible titles, descriptions and tags. So I rolled up my sleeves and went through the Curious Portraits shop listing by listing which took me the better part of the summer.

I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the listings of other successful sellers whom I admire and let them guide me in making my own items more marketable.  I began with my titles which are the most important searchable part of a listing and tried to think like a buyer and what terms they would likely use to search for an item. For example I changed the title Spiritualist Fox Brooch to Fox Portrait Brooch, Fox Pin, Victorian Fox, Oval, Spiritualist Fox, Gothic, Steampunk, Halloween. By doing so I was listing all the information in order of importance as well as keeping it clear and descriptive. Next I tackled the item descriptions and tried to clearly describe the item as well as suggesting ways it could be used and who it might appeal to. My original descriptions, albeit charming, were more like stories and were lacking in searchable keywords. I also made sure all my related products were shown in the photos and had proper links. Last but not least I up-dated all the keywords, making them more specific and adding in style tags such as Gothic, Victorian and Steampunk if appropriate. This was indeed a formidable task but one that clearly needed to be done and in plenty of time for the busy Christmas season. I am happy to say not only are hits to my shop steadily increasing but sales as well! Below are some of the new items I've recently added to the shop.

New Victorian Animal Notebooks feature an allover print using my favorite portraits.

New Victorian Animal Notebooks feature an allover print using my favorite portraits.

For the new 2017 calendar I up-dated the look using new animal portraits and put the dates in a grid which many of you requested for the 2016 calendar.

For the new 2017 calendar I up-dated the look using new animal portraits and put the dates in a grid which many of you requested for the 2016 calendar.

New Victorian Writer Portrait Notecards featuring Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne, three of my favorites.

New Victorian Writer Portrait Notecards featuring Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe and Jules Verne, three of my favorites.

New Victorian Animal Necklaces.

New Victorian Animal Necklaces.

New Dog Adventurer Notecards just in time for Halloween.

New Dog Adventurer Notecards just in time for Halloween.

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram @lisa.zador  and Facebook for daily up-dates!

Giving the Etsy Shop a Facelift

I noticed this week that Etsy changed their home page layout a bit by adding a shop image and a photo of the shop owner. That inspired me to take a fresh look at the overall branding of my shop Curious Portraits which I have changed several times over the five years it has been open and I thought it was due once again for a facelift. I thought it would be nice to emphasize the Victorian theme of the portraits themselves and put the images inside black decorative frames. I can still change the images within the frames for the holidays or when I want to promote a particular new portrait. For now I went back to my sepia toned Cat Dandy which I still feel is still representative of the shop as a whole. I added in a black border that reminds me of old fashioned visiting cards and mourning stationary.  I still love the mixture of script and regular type but I thought the title needed to be bolder and the rest of the text sans serif to make it slightly more readable at a small scale.

For the banner I added a soft grey ground to stand out a bit against the white page but for the bio card, which accompanies each sale, the shipping label and the business card I thought a white ground kept it more legible.

Below shows the old branding. I'd love to know if you think it was an improvement!

Curious Portraits by Lisa Zador-old branding

Curious Mood Boards

I have been busy this summer freshening up my Etsy shop Curious Portraits in preparation for the holiday season. I make a habit of reviewing the product shots in the shop from time to time which I find has a similar effect of re-arranging the art on the walls. It makes everything look new! I have been very inspired by the many beautiful Mood Boards I see on Instagram and have discovered how much I love putting together cherished, vintage objects from my collection.  The result of all this is an on-going project of styling some of the items from my shop in with the vintage collectibles. They make a pleasing display and a gentle advertisement all in one!

Animal Portrait Brooches from

Animal Portrait Brooches from

This is the latest in the series featuring some of my favorite vintage jewelry arranged with my Animal Portrait Brooches. I often use my own textile designs printed out as the background, this is one of my original damask stripes.


I thought that some of my vintage buttons and notions made a pleasing display when arranged with some of my Victorian inspired Portrait Miniatures. (You can read more about the inspiration and making of these here)

I used one of my favorite vintage alarm clocks in this one along with a few writing notions. I thought the soft grey of my Daisy the Squirrel Portrait Miniature complimented the color scheme.


My dog Bingo also got his paws into it and created this one featuring his own portrait miniature with one of my original dog themed textile designs in the background!

New Beaded Portrait Miniatures and Mourning Brooches

I have been fascinated by the beauty of antique portrait miniatures since my first visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Uffizi in Florence. I am no expert on the subject but from what I have learned over the years is that they were often given as a keepsake by a loved one and were popular until the development of photography. Also referred to as mourning portraits they were given as a memento mori to mark the passing of a loved one or in the vanitas style of the day meant to remind the recipient of the transience of life.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Portrait Miniatures

Here are 2 beautiful examples from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.  A fascinating variation of the Portrait Miniature is the Eye Portrait.  Given as love tokens, having only the eye painted kept the identity of the subject a secret to everyone but the beloved recipient. I find the idea of this clandestine gift giving so touching .

Some examples of Georgian Lover's Eye Brooches

Some examples of Georgian Lover's Eye Brooches

My fascination with this art form led me to design a contemporary version using my own animal portraits which already have a Victorian theme. I was first introduced to the art of bead work by costume designer Ramona Ponce. I remember watching her doing her intricate bead work and just itching to get my hands into a big jar of glistening glass beads! It wasn't until I saw the embroidered bird brooches of Conieco and the whimsical wall hangings of Rebecca Purcell that I began to imagine how beautiful the combination of Victorian animal portraits and bead work could be. All the following ornaments are available in a round or oval format in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.

Here is a sample of my first set of portrait miniatures. I used the eye from my Deer Portrait as I thought it was the most alluring of all the animals!

Here is a sample of my first set of portrait miniatures. I used the eye from my Deer Portrait as I thought it was the most alluring of all the animals!

I began with a printed image of the animal and sealed it behind a resin cabochon (as I do in my brooches). I then glue that onto a double sided felt setting with a cardboard insert and a grosgrain hanging ribbon and hand sew the rows of black glass beads, which I import from the Czech Republic. A final layer of felt backing is applied to make it neat and ready to hang! The round ornaments measure approximately 2 3/4" in diameter and the oval ornaments measure 2 3/8" x 2 3/4".

 Uncle Omelette may be my favorite portrait miniature, his unusual countenance seems perfect for this presentation.

 Uncle Omelette may be my favorite portrait miniature, his unusual countenance seems perfect for this presentation.

The White Rabbit looks especially good in a round format.

The White Rabbit looks especially good in a round format.

My Headless Skeleton Ornament should appeal to all you Victoriana and Gothic aficionados out there!

My Headless Skeleton Ornament should appeal to all you Victoriana and Gothic aficionados out there!

Etsy Shop Facelift

As an Etsy seller I always find January and February to be a good time to review the items in my shop, Curious Portraits. I have learned to keep track of things that I notice need improvement during the holiday frenzy when there is no time to address them. Then when things slow down I can tackle them one by one. Two weeks ago a spike in Halloween themed sales had me up-dating item descriptions for all of my goblins, pumpkin men and skeletons. This week I've been looking at my Christmas ornament listings. I have been feeling the need to re-photograph them for awhile and realized while doing so that if I photographed the non-Christmas themed ornaments in a non-Christmas setting that I could re-list them as wall decor instead of Christmas ornaments. This was very timely as Etsy recently re-vamped their categories and I had to re-evaluate my old ones anyway. I also re-titled them as Portrait Miniatures instead of Christmas Ornaments. Since I am in the process of designing a new, higher end line of Victorian inspired Portrait Miniatures for the shop these can now act as ambassadors for the new product! As soon as I get my hands on some holly or red berries I will re-photograph the Christmas themed ornaments as well since I do like a little Christmas cheer in my holiday listings! Here are the before and after shots, let me know what you think!

New Portrait Miniatures Listings

New Portrait Miniatures Listings

I used a damask stripe that I had designed for another project and printed it out in soft, neutral tones for the background.

New Portrait Miniatures Listings

New Portrait Miniatures Listings

Former Christmas Ornaments Listings

Former Christmas Ornaments Listings

For the new Christmas Listings I will keep the red ribbon and add in some greenery and red berries (if I can find any in February) but put them on a cleaner background, perhaps the same damask stripe that l used in the Portrait Miniatures of which I am so fond.

Halloween In February?

I have noticed a surprising increase in Halloween themed sales in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits over the past few weeks and simply cannot account for it. I am happy to believe however, that the world is simply filled with fellow Halloween enthusiasts like myself who just never get enough!

Curiously Portable Portraits

I have been very pleased over the years that my portrait brooches have been so popular in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits.  I have however been asked many times if they were available larger. The original size was 1" in diameter and I have happily found that the bronze settings I use are now available in an oval format of 1 1/4" x 1 5/8" which is absolutely perfect. I really enjoyed setting up a photo template that would be consistent for the series and chose my treasured vintage edition of The Tales of Babar for the background. Since Babar was perhaps the first anthropomorphic animal to win my heart  I thought it would be a fitting tribute. Now you can take your Curious Portraits with you wherever you go! I will be adding more portraits in the shop including all your Halloween and Christmas favorites.

The Tales of Babar

Uncle Omelette makes a splash

My portrait of Uncle Omelette was recently featured in the Manhattan User's Guide in their Food and Drink section and I couldn't be more pleased! He was included in a group of wonderful selections from Etsy, all with a vintage kitchen theme.  Manhattan User's Guide is a fantastic site that emails you daily with just about everything you need to know about what is going on in New York City, all five boroughs! In my opinion they have great taste and a terrific sense of humor.

Click here to see the whole post.

Uncle Omelette by Lisa Zador

Uncle Omelette by Lisa Zador

You can read more about the creation of Uncle Omelette in my blog post "Uncle Omelette: Creepy Food Icon or Ideal Husband?". Prints are available in my Etsy shop Curious Portraits!

Acorns, anyone?

I  have just finished my latest portrait of a Gentleman Squirrel. Since I love food and entertaining so much I thought I'd picture him serving up a tray of his finest roasted acorns to his guests. It is done along the lines of my other victorian inspired animal portraits but I amped up the color a bit as I thought the grey suit complimented his grey fur. As with my other squirrel portraits I've used my "pet" squirrels from my courtyard that feed daily on my fire escape as my models. Prints and also portrait brooches of the Gentleman Squirrel are available in my Etsy shop, Curious Portraits! 

Lisa Zador -
Lisa Zador -

New Curious Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Mouse-Curious Portraits I am so excited to finally have my new Christmas ornaments for sale in my Etsy  shop, Curious Portraits! I've been having so may requests for ornaments featuring my curious portraits and I have been busy researching the items I needed to make them. I finally found the perfect little bronze frames  2" in diameter and the glass cabochons that fit inside. I am so pleased with how sweet they look. They come with a red satin ribbon for hanging and arrive in their own red felt pouch tied with a mint green satin bow ready for gift giving. You can now hang Victorian Mouse, Cat Dandy, Santa and Elf Squirrels, Polar Bears, Snowmen, Foxes and more right on your Christmas tree! Happy Holidays to everyone!

Santa Squirrel-Curious Portraits

Snowman Ornament-Curious Portraits

Victorian Mouse Ornament-Curious Portraits

Two Wonderful Blog Posts about Yours Truly

I want to mention today how honored I am to have been featured on two wonderful blogs this week!

The first is by Evelyn Pelati, a talented jewelry designer who has a knack for finding interesting artists, craftsmen and designers to write about on her blog.  Just click the image to read more of her post about yours truly! You can see her beautiful jewelry on her website:


The other one is called Papoose Clothing by Ashley Duggan Smith who makes the most adorable and charming children’s clothes. Just click the image to read more of this wonderful post. You can find her unique clothing line in her Etsy shop Papoose Clothing.

papoose clothing-curious portraits

Thank you Evelyn and Ashley for your very kind words about my work!


Cleaning House, Etsy Style I am always reading articles on Etsy's blog about having great photos for your listings. Since my items are all prints of my artwork I didn't think there was much I could do to improve them. A few weeks ago I had some extra time and decided to look over my shop with a critical eye.  I realized  that my jewelry listings were abominable! When I first began to carry jewelry I was so overwhelmed with all the details of finding the proper supplies, deciding how to package them in an appealing way, and how to photograph them properly. I found that it was very difficult to get a good clear photo (with the camera I had at the time).  I did however want to get them up and running to see how they would do, intending to polish the listings up later so I just photographed them all against a soft blue suede background. Two years later I realize that they continue to sell well despite the terrible photos so I thought it was about time to do some polishing! I decided to put cheery backgrounds behind them in polka dots, stripes and damasks that I thought helped to convey the feeling of the image. With a little help from Photoshop (and my new camera which I love, a simple point and shoot Nikon Coolpix S8200 ). It has a terrific wide angle that allows super close up shots and in just about every setting allows you to adjust the color balance and light exposure which is important especially when you don't use a flash. It was so much fun putting in the backgrounds and seeing them come to life. The good news is that with these new flashy listings sales have definitely  gone up so I am grateful to Etsy for all those inspiring and motivational articles ! I have included a sample of the before and after of my Christmas Elf Squirrel so you can see the difference.

Christmas Elf Squirrel before and after

New ACEO Prints at Curious Portraits For awhile now I have been hearing about and running across the acronym ACEO regarding artwork and prints. After some investigation I discovered that it stands for Art Cards, Editions and Originals and has become a hugely popular way for people to collect and trade miniature artwork and prints. The only criterion seems to be that they must adhere to a standard size of 2.5" x 3.5" ; the original size of baseball trading cards. Being extremely fond of anything miniature myself, I thought it would be the perfect way for me to offer less expensive editions of my artwork in my Curious Portraits shop on Etsy!  I spent last weekend experimenting with different ways of photographing the prints in a way that would show their unique, petite size. In the end I propped them up in my bookcase with some vintage books and a vintage camera which I thought would also convey the old fashioned, vintage feel of the prints and photographed them in natural light. So far I have only listed the most popular prints in this format but I'll be adding more every day. Meanwhile I have added a listing to the shop through which you can order just about any image in the shop as an ACEO.

The sudden cooler weather here in NY inspired me to begin listing some of my Christmas Portraits too!

I also decided to finally list some MINI prints in the shop that are slightly larger than the ACEO prints . They are 3.5" x 4.5"  and printed on 5" x 7" paper ready to pop right into a standard frame. I always get requests for framed prints so I will soon be offering this size print already framed and ready for gift giving. I got to use some of my favorite mini dog statues and my mantle clock for these photos.  I have also added a general listing for this size print to use until I get all the separate listings up.

Great evening over at the Etsy Headquarters

Etsy photo booth photo Last evening I attended the "Get Found in Search"  lecture over in the Brooklyn headquarters of Etsy as part of their Success Series. It was super informative and and everyone was so welcoming. I came away with lots of notes and ideas about how to improve my tagging, titles and item descriptions in order to make my shops, Curious Portraits and The Curious Kitchen more searchable. A lot of the information I had already absorbed and implemented over the years from Etsy's fantastic blog and newsletter but it inspired me to go over my shops with a checklist and fill in some gaps. One of the new tips I acquired last night was from Erin at Knot and Bow; she recommended putting something with your brand name in every photo. I know a lot of people use watermarks on their images but I have opted not to do that so as not to spoil the look of the photo in case some enthusiastic blogger wanted to post it. Erin has one of her labels with her brand in every photo of her products and that gave me the idea of putting my shop name discreetly in the bottom corner of all my images so that it isn't distracting yet would always lead a viewer back to my shop in case the trail got cold through Pinterest or Tumblr.

the curious kitchen

She suggested we name our photos with keywords (instead of numbers as many of us do) so that they will come up in Google Image Search. This was new to a lot of people there so I think everyone found it really helpful. Erin also reminded us to keep an eye on the traffic sources and top keywords in our shop stats page to stay on top of where we are being found and how.

The most important thing I learned though was from Dixie Laite's talk about targeting your customers. She writes  15 minutes of Dame  column at the DYI Business Association blog(among other things) and was an overflowing fountain of useful information. For some reason I have always shied away from pin pointing my target audience. I don't know if it seemed too overwhelming a task or if I simply didn't understand how but now, thanks to Dixie, I feel fully armed to sit down and overcome my resistance! She broke it all down into identifying who is most likely to buy from you, seeing who your competitors (or like minded sellers) target, interviewing past customers for recommendations and identifying what makes your product different, just to name a few. She urged us to be prepared to change as we collect new information and to think about what we are really selling. Not in terms of product only but in a deeper way such as comfort, protection or nostalgia. I had never before thought of it in that way. This process requires some real work but I believe it will be well worth the effort in the end. I highly recommend reading her column at DYI which goes over all of this in more detail. Don't forget to check out her blog The Lost Art of Being a Dame as well which is a must for classic movie buffs and lovers of vintage everything from the golden age of cinema.

Last but not least Julie Snyder of the Etsy team went over the importance of choosing simple and searchable keywords in your tags and clear and descriptive titles to your listings. Oh and they had a photo booth complete with chalkboard props for us to commemorate the evening which was great fun! I'd love to hear comments from anyone else who attended or any other Etsy seller with their tips for being found.

The Curious Kitchen on Scoutmob

I am so pleased to announce that Scoutmob is featuring my Etsy shop,  The Curious Kitchen on their wonderful site! Scoutmob is a great place to find new and interesting artwork and crafty products at a discount and they really promote buying local by sorting their shops by location. They were so easy to work with and I think they did a great job of describing myself and the individual prints. Visit the page here and let me know what you think! The-Curious-Kitchen-Scoutmob 1

Studio Shot

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The-Curious-Kitchen-Scoutmob 9

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