Category: “Meet Your Maker” Vendor Series
Meet Your Maker: NStar Studio

Nicky Ross of Nstarstudio makes pottery that you would think too perfect to be hand made. Which isn’t to say its without a unique and lovable character that you won’t find in your box store ceramics. Bright, crisp colors and intricate detailing make these modern pieces stand out. Her aesthetic effortlessly carries over to her fabric and embroidery work; a beautiful interpretation of modern quilting for every room of the house (check her website to see her quilts). We’re so glad to see her pieces shining on our shelves!

 

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

Fortunately, most people are familiar with ceramics growing up with dishes in the cupboard and plants around the house.  Mostly I emphasize the fact that every piece I make is made by hand, one at a time.  With a lot of mass produced ceramics, people are often surprised that I throw, trim and glaze each piece individually.

 

2| Why do you make things?

I make because I always have.  Because it is a force and motivation within me.  Because I love it.  I have always loved the beautiful nuance of handmade things and gravitated towards crafts as opposed to painting and drawing.  I’m actually terrible at drawing and way more successful with 3-D design.  Once I started to create with clay, it clicked.  Not to say that it was easy in the beginning, it took a long time to be able to make what I was envisioning, but I loved the process and that drove me to practice the craft.  There is a long history of ceramics in culture and craftsmanship.  As I learned more about this connectedness between art and necessity, it made me appreciate how dishware is an elegant balance of design and function.  I strive to add my own happy imprint to simple and needed objects.

3| How do you work, and where?

I work out of a small studio about 1/2 mile from my house.  After working in many studio throughout the years, It’s truly a dream to have my own private workspace.  I generally go into the studio several times a week to make, finish, glaze and fire.  Usually anywhere between 1-8 hours depending on what needs to be done and how it coordinates with my teaching schedule.  Because my schedule is all over the place and varies from week to week, I try and make the most of the time I have at the studio.  It also helps that based my my production background, I’m usually pretty efficient by nature.

4| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

I’m not sure that being an artist was ever my plan.  I’ve just never stopped making or being curious about crafts in general.  I guess you could say that I never grew and in always pursuing my heart, I’ve had a fortunate path so far. I had a ceramics minor in college and decided to move to Madison, WI after I finished.  I started working at a community ceramics studio shortly after I got here and learned the real ins and outs of running a studio.  It’s a lot of work and I wore a lots of hats, but it taught me everything I would need to know to have my own studio now.  The 10 years I spent designing and decorating for a local pottery company gave me the opportunity to hone my production skills and fall in love with the influence of design on everyday things.  I also teach at several studios in town and I love being able to share these skills and inspire others.

5| What do you love about your job?

I designed and decorated for another local pottery for 10 years, so I love that I can now concentrate my creative efforts on my own line of pottery!  I love that I can try out new ideas.  I love that I have flexibility in my schedule.  I love that I get to create things that serve a purpose in other people’s lives.  I love the personal connection I have with my customers.   I’m so fortunate that I get to do what I love and I don’t take that for granted!

6| I love how your work is modern, yet fun and almost whimsical. Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

I would say that my inspiration comes from all kinds of places, the shapes of japanese functional forms, scandinavian simplicity, traditional folk art quilts, Art Nouveau illustrated posters, modern art paintings, wall paper patterns.  And, of course the gorgeous work of so many makers, new and old.  I just wish that I had more time to experience more influences on a regular basis.  It can be a tough balance between being inspired and trying out new ideas!

7| You work with textiles as well, creating bags, quilts and more. What brings the two processes together for you?

I started sewing when I was about 10, basic things to start, then really getting into the concept of making things that I needed.  Simple skirts, tote bags, and eventually quilts.  I guess the same idea of functional design drew me to textiles as it did with clay.  And my love of color and pattern tie the two mediums together even though they are very different to work with.  I have aways been drawn to graphic quality of textiles (probably because I’m terrible at drawing!) and find it fascinating how the scale of a pattern can have a huge impact on the finished item.  I try to incorporate that graphic element in my pottery and make sure all the colors get a little love.

8| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

Tough call!  Either Eva Zeisel  or e.e.cummings.  Eva was an industrial designer who worked in ceramics as well as other mediums.  She brought a sense of sensuality to common dishes and elevated them with stylized beauty while maintaining their everyday function.  e.e. cummings is my favorite poet and would have loved to see the world through his eyes and heart.  He was able to capture the beauty in the overlooked tiny moments of life and not only put them on paper, but make his poems visual artworks as well.

9| What makes a handmade object valuable?

Most simply that it’s made by hand, not mass produced, but made with love and intention by someone.  Sentiment and stories can of course enrich the value of a handmade object, perhaps something made from someone who is no longer with us or something made especially for us.  Choosing to make and using the knowledge and skills you have available at the time plus the intent to share that something with others make a handmade object very special.

 

10| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

Anything that I have that was made by someone I know holds a soft spot in my heart.  And all of the handwritten notes, letters and cards from my love, Rob are priceless.

 

11| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

I was a poet.  I went to school for creative writing.  I spent many years writing poetry, edited several poetry journals and used to perform at poetry slams.  Since focusing on ceramics, it’s fallen by the wayside, but I always think about getting back into it.

12| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

-I’m terribly uncoordinated.  I got kicked off my t-ball team when I was little because I couldn’t hit the ball!

-I don’t like bacon or avocadoes. (I know, crazy!)

-I love to travel.  If I had more money, I’d spend it seeing the world.  I’ve traveled to 12 countries and can’t wait to experience more!

 

13| Any new product lines on the horizon? Plans for 2017?

I had a couple of studio moves between 2015 and 2016, so I’m actually really excited to have a more permanent place to be able to experiment with new ideas.  Business-wise, I’d like to try out a few new shows and grow the business now that I have a stable studio.  Creatively, I would love to play around with some new colors and develop new patterns to keep those timeless functional pieces fresh.

 

For more NStar, check out her website, Etsy shop, Facebook, or see her work in person here at the shop!

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Meet Your Maker: Manayunk Calligraphy

Kimberly Shrack of Manayunk Calligraphy has a magic pen. Or so it would seem after escaping into her world of art prints, calligraphy kits, DIY wall art kits, mugs, totes, and wedding calligraphy. Her story is one of triumph; inspiring not just to artists, but to those struggling through what life has thrown their way. Read on to learn more, and enjoy the playful tranquility of her work.

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

Calligraphy is just a fancy word for fancy handwriting! I use this technique to make word-based illustrations.

 

2| Why do you make/design things?

There’s nothing quite like creating something totally new. Something that’s never existed before now, something totally unique.

3| What do you love about your job?

Literally everything. I get to do new things, I get to play with pens and ink and paint and paper all day. With weddings and custom work, I get to be a little part of people’s lives.

4| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

It was something I always wanted – when I was in grade school, I would come dressed in a smock and beret for career day (realistically, I should have come in leggings and a pullover, since that’s what I wear pretty much every day). But as I got older and realized how much things cost, I pretty much resigned myself to the idea it wouldn’t happen. I painted and drew and scripted in my free time, selling pieces every now and then. But then there was an aha moment. 

A few years ago, I took FMLA from my full-time job in public relations to participate in an intensive treatment program for a mental illness. Sexy, I know. I have lived with obsessive compulsive disorder since I was a kid, and by my mid-twenties it was so severe that I needed to be under constant supervision. I was accepted into a study at Penn and underwent intensive treatment for months. Through a combination of new medication, daily exposure/response prevention therapy and a lot of hard work, I was able to get my shit together (that’s a technical term). For me, every moment without a compulsion is beautiful. And as obsessions quieted and compulsions took up less and less of my time, I began to appreciate minutes and hours and days more than I ever had before. And it was then that I realized I didn’t want to spend those precious minutes and hours and days doing something that didn’t bring me joy. And so I took the leap. Honestly, even during the leanest, scariest times as a working artist – and there have been plenty of lean times! – I have never, ever regretted that decision.

5| Why are you called Manayunk Calligraphy?

Manayunk is the name of the ‘hood I lived in while I was in Philly. It was jam packed with small business owners who all encouraged me to go out on my own – they supported my business before it was an official business. I never ever would have had the guts to quit my job and pursue an art career had I not lived in that place at that time.

 

6| How do you work, and where?

I work out of a studio in my home in Irvington. When I’m not in the studio, I’m usually at the coffee shop 10 Johnson Avenue – in fact, I’m there right now! Best pistachio muffins ever.

7| Tell us about the White Wall Rebellion!

It’s a partnership between myself and HGTV’s Monica Mangin! Here’s a blog post with more info.

 

8| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

Banksy, because how kickass is he?

 

9| It looks like you’re a teacher, too. Tell us about the different ways people can learn calligraphy from you.

There are two ways! The first is an in-person workshop, which I host at Oliver’s Twist in Carmel. Folks can sign up here.

I also teach online courses that you can take at your own pace.

10| What makes a handmade object valuable?

The time, the care and the human contact. I know this sounds new age-y, but when someone makes with joy, little pieces of that person and their joy is transferred into the object. It glows.

 

11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

In college, I studied art history. My now-husband, then-boyfriend would help me study for exams with flashcards I’d make with paintings stuck on the front of index cards with notes on the back. Toward the end of my college career, he pulled together a little collection of his own cards featuring works of art that I loved and that he remembered from our study sessions. It’s been a little less than a decade since he made those and they are dogeared and faded – but I still look through them when I need inspiration, a smile or a laugh.

12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

I use a PC. I know, I know.

 

13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

  • I have a cat named Piggy.
  • I love the Muppets (see above).
  • I’m a podcast junkie.

 

If you need some Manayunk if your life, we have a selection of her work right here in the shop. You can also see the full range of what she has to offer on her website. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook for a daily dose of inspiration. Thank you Kimberly!

 

 

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Meet Your Maker: Savage Millinery

Hat-making: I have always felt like this is such a classic art. I think of old movies and their beautifully tailored outfits, which so often include incredible hats. I’m so happy that people like Julie Schworm of Savage Millinery are keeping it beautifully alive. She takes inspiration from these classic looks, but updates them for modern times and adds a lot of her own creativity to each one.


 

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

I first tell people that I sew things and then sort of break it down from there. I sew hats, ties, bow ties and have recently started making pillows and bags. When I tell people I make hats they always want to know what type and the techniques used. I hand block felt and straw using vintage wooden hat blocks and create patterns for my fabric hats (cut and sew). I used to be a graphic designer and I like to use a lot of graphic elements in my work. I also love all things vintage and my work definitely has a nod to other time periods. I create patterns for everything I make and utilize a lot of color blocking, applique and most recently, hand embroidery. I still love to draw -which is what I went to school for -and using applique allows me to use those drawing skills to create designs.

 

2| Why do you make/design things?

It’s something that I can spend hours doing and never get sick of. I think that’s a pretty important factor. If I ever start to hate it I think it would mean I should stop. I don’t foresee that happening though.

3| Describe your style. What kind of person wears Savage Millinery?

My style definitely draws on vintage and graphic elements. I try to make things that will appeal to someone who doesn’t always have a specific style and I try to keep things new and different without losing my aesthetic. My customers have a love for hats and handmade items and they aren’t afraid to express themselves through fashion. I think whats great is that my customers range in age. I like that my customer varies in age and style.

 

4| Where do you look for inspiration?

I love vintage and I’m always looking at vintage fashion for inspiration. I’m really drawn to retro fabrics and materials. I am a huge fan of art deco and old architecture. Buffalo has some really beautiful old buildings with really lovely details. I find a lot of inspiration in that. I like living in a place that has seasons as well. There is a lot of inspiration in the changing colors that come with the changing seasons.

5| What do you love about your job?

I love that something I make can maybe bring a little bit of happiness to someone else. That maybe they are wearing a hat or tie I made and they love the way it makes them feel. I really like creating things for other people. I don’t think I have ever wanted to not “let go” of something I’ve made.

 

6| What’s the most challenging aspect of owning your own business?

Definitely the uncertainty of it all. I do a lot of art festivals/craft shows and it’s always a gamble. The growth is slow but I’m really thankful that there is growth. Even with the sometimes stress that comes with having a business, I can’t think of anything else I would rather be doing. That is the push that drives me to keep on keeping on through the hard times

 

7| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

It was. There were definitely times when I thought about doing something else but I have always had the need to create. I have been sewing since I was 12 and drawing since I could hold a pencil. Making art has always brought so much joy to my life and I feel very lucky to have that ability and be able to share it with others. It can be frustrating at times and not always the most lucrative job but I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I think most artists have those days where they just want to throw in the towel but I know I would be pretty lost if I stopped making things.

8| How do you work, and where?

I have a studio in my house that I work out of. It has a separate entrance to the second floor. I would eventually love to move into a different space just for a change of scenery and to have a place where I could also hold classes. I try to keep to a normal schedule but I tend to be a bit of a night owl. I could sew until all hours of the night but I try to match my husbands schedule as much as I can.

 

9| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

I really admire Natalie Chanin who creates the clothing line Alabma Chanin. She makes really beautiful, detail oriented clothing using a lot of hand sewing techniques. She’s created this amazing artist community and sustainable business. Her dedication to slow design and being a responsible manufacturer is really inspiring.

10| What makes a handmade object valuable?

The time and energy an artist puts into their work and the attention to detail that goes into crafting something handmade. The tools and materials the artist uses to perfect their craft. The love that goes into making something handmade is invaluable, I think. It’s not something that is super mass produced but something that was really thought out and made by someone who really enjoys making it.

 

11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

I would have to say my sewing machine is pretty valuable. I wouldn’t be doing what I do without it. I recently upgraded machines and it was a long time coming. Investing in good equipment is pretty essential to making a really good, quality product.

12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

I play roller derby. Most people don’t believe me because of my size and my demeanor. I’m fairly reserved and quiet but    I’m also a super competitive person. Joining was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

 

13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

I have a pet rabbit and a cat. Even though I grew up with dogs I am a rabbit and cat person for life.

I lived in Brooklyn for 11 years and Los Angeles for 4. I had so many amazing experiences living in those places and it really helped shape who I am as an artist.

I teach sewing in the fashion department at a local college.

If you want to know more, check out Savage Millinery on Instagram @savagemillinery, Twitter, or Facebook, or see her work in person here at the shop!

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Meet Your Maker: Moko & Co.

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For this edition we’re meeting maker Megan Granger from Charlotte, North Carolina business Moko & Company. Moko & Co. makes vibrant, colorful, graphic and beautifully patterned bags and towels of all sorts. They even specialize in custom welcome gift bags for special events. Find out how she got the courage to start her business, and take a peek at her delightful screen printed products.

 

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

I explain that I design patterns and screen print them onto fabric then I sew them up into different pouches, clutches, and carry-its. Another facet of my business is wedding welcome bags that I design and screen print. I sell these through etsy and my website to brides/grooms to use as hotel gift bags. I also design and sell my totes through local retail shops as they are customizable based on location. I print state silhouettes with the heart over any city onto totes and tea towels. I also can add text and custom color combinations, which is fun for stores and their customers.

 

2| I see you make pillows as well. Any new product ideas in store?

I’ve been playing around with hand painted fabric and a combination of screen printed fabric with hand painted elements.  I’ve also been brainstorming and sketching out new tote bag designs.

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3| Why do you make/design things?

I’ve been making/designing since I was in high school when my sister and I started Moko & Company. Our mom was always very crafty and always making and sewing so we followed her lead. Our process and products have definitely evolved since high school, but I guess you could say it’s always been a part of who we are to create.

 

4| What do you love about your job?

I love working with customers and retail stores to design custom products. Every time I screen print an image or a pattern I still get so excited to see it printed on the fabric or tote bags. I love making customer’s visions come alive and creating one-of-a-kind products that are unique to them and their concept.

 

5| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

I always worked creatively on the side, it wasn’t until we moved to Charlotte, NC and I attended the Maker’s Summit in Greensville, SC that I realized this interest and passion could be a full time career. The Maker’s Summit gathered like-minded makers and made me feel less alone in my creative journey. I wasn’t the only one with a creative passion that wanted it to be a full time career and that was very comforting to me. I would say that was my “aha”/”I can do this” moment.

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6| How do you work, and where?

I work in my home studio where I have my screens, printing table, and slop sink. As orders come in I design proofs and send them to customers. Once proofs are approved, I set my screen and begin printing their orders. All of our totes and fabrics are screen printed. Some of our products have hand printed elements as well

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7| What are your inspirations when creating patterns and choosing color pallets?

Whenever I am out and about I always have my eyes open for inspiring imagery and patterns I may stumble upon.  I’ll take a photo with my camera and bring it back to my studio to sketch out some ideas and concepts that I turn into patterns.  Some of my patterns I design by hand and transfer directly to my screen for screen printing.  Sometimes I will scan them and manipulate them on the computer first.  I love the limitations of screen printing fabrics because it forces me to choose colors wisely since I am limited to one or two inks.  I’ll test out different color combinations of ink and fabric and then print the patterns using my favorite ones.  Once I see the patterns printed in the color ways, I’ll choose which ones I want to proceed with and use for my products.

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8| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

I greatly admire Lotta Jansdotter. I was lucky enough to attend a workshop in her Brooklyn studio and I loved her space, her attitude, and her design style.

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9| What makes a handmade object valuable?

Handmade is extremely valuable because you not only receive a quality product, you receive a product with a story behind it. When products are made by hand they have a certain aesthetic to them that you can’t recreate through digital printing or machine made products. They have little quirks here and there that add charm. I love the handmade look of our tote bags. The ink we use is different than that of a commercial printer and you can really tell the difference. The ink is more absorbed by our totes and they become married together creating a really neat look.

 

10| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

The most valuable object I own is a quilt I got up in Vermont at a little quilting shop. It is made with such love and care, the stitching is impeccable, and you can tell a lot of thought when behind the design and fabric choices.

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11| What is the hardest part about owning your own business?

The hardest part about owning my own business is making sure I’m not spreading myself too thin.  It’s definitely important to prioritize and be organized to ensure everything I need to get done is getting done.  Since I run a home-based business, it’s also a challenge to stop working because there is always “one more thing I could do.”  I try very hard to take time for myself especially on the weekends and reboot.

 

12| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

I’ve lived in Charlotte, NC for three years. We moved from up north and absolutely love it. We love the city of Charlotte and how much it is growing and thriving. We also love exploring the new area and driving to different cities and states to explore. We’ve been to Hilton Head, SC; Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA; West Palm Beach, FL; Asheville, NC; those are a few of our favorites! We love that we can drive all of these places from Charlotte. Next on the list is Nashville!

If you’d like to see more of Megan’s work, check her out on her website, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter. Or, of course, you can come on down to the East end of Mass Ave. and visit us here at Homespun Modern Handmade! We’d love to see ya.

 

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Meet Your Maker: Tree Hopper Toys

For this edition, we spoke with Eric Siegel of Tree Hopper Toys. Based outside of Chicago, Eric and his crew are creating some of the coolest, hippest, funnest, most well designed and ethically made toys for kids on the market. Read on to learn more about their process and products and we’ll bet there’s a child in your life who will dig these colorful toys and games.

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1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

I usually say we make traditional wood toys, combining old fashioned quality with a contemporary design aesthetic.

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2| Why do you make/design things?

It’s fun to see ideas come to life.

3| What do you love about your job?

Without a doubt, my favorite part of my job is designing new products.  It’s super exciting to have an idea, sketch it out, refine it, make it, package it, etc. It’s a great feeling to turn a concept into a physical object.  I’m fortunate to have the space and equipment to go from concept to final product pretty quickly, which makes the process even more exciting.

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4| What inspires you? How do you come up with new ideas?  A lot of inspiration comes from my kids.

Sometimes they’ll literally tell me an idea, sometimes I think of something they would enjoy, and sometimes I just observe how they interact with other toys/games/activities, and draw inspiration from that.

5| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

For as long as I can remember, my goal was to be self employed, but it took a while to figure out how to make that work creatively.  It was honestly just a ton of work, persistence, and trial and error (lots of errors!) to figure out how to be a working artist.  I’m still working on it.

6| How do you work, and where?

I work mainly at our studio.  Sometimes I’m sitting at a computer all day in my office, and when I’m designing new stuff I pretty much hunker down in our print studio and/or woodshop so that I can quickly turn out prototypes and flesh out ideas.

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7| I see you have one puzzle that is a collaboration with The Bungaloo (another Homespun vendor). Do you collaborate often/ have any future projects in the works?

We do occasionally work with other designers when I see something that looks like a good fit, but don’t have anything in the works at the moment.

8| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

There’s an artist I follow on instagram named Jay Nelson (@jay).  He makes amazing campers and all sorts of wooden structures/displays/sculptures.  Seems like a sweet gig and his work is incredible.

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9| What makes a handmade object valuable?

That’s a tough one.  It varies so much from one thing to another.  Some objects are valuable because of the time and expertise that went into making them.  Other things are valuable because of their uniqueness or rarity.  Others simply for their personal sentimental value.

10| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

I have a couple things come to mind.  One is an old hand-carved whirligig wooden toy to by an old Appalacian artist.  Most people would probably think it’s a piece of junk, but I love the thing.  The other thing is a series of hand drawn sketches of an invention that my great grandfather was working on for years.  The invention never worked out, but I love the drawings.

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11| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

I have three kids.  Not that crazy, but that usually surprises people for some reason, and my life if pretty boring otherwise!

12| Where do you see Tree Hopper Toys in 5 years?

Great question.  I don’t know  🙂   I love what we’re doing and just hope to continue to add new products to the line and expand beyond children’s products.

 

Come on in to Homespun to shop a variety of Tree Hopper Toys, or hop on over to their website and see more behind the scenes fun on Facebook and IG, @treehoppertoys.

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