Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Makers Part 19

Creativity is about using ideas drawn from around you and from your imagination to generate ideas, and inventiveness is using that process to bring those ideas to life. My next maker, Deb is Australian and she combines the two to create her signature pieces of clothing and accessories that take the best of vintage for contemporary use. She sells her work on etsy in her store Flotsam and Jetsum and on Madeit.

Can you tell me a little about your background?

I currently live in Charters Towers, an historic mining town, in North Queensland Australia. I’ve been married happily for 18yrs now and we have one child who is now in upper primary school. We are about 1 1/2hrs drive from the stunning tropical coastline in this part of the world. We a bit of an outdoorsy family and holidays for us (when not seeing our elderly parents) tend to be bush or beach focussed.

Although reading came very naturally to me, as a child I’d much rather spend my free time outside in the garden, playing with our cats, drawing, doing something crafty or cooking. I grew up in fairly ordinary circumstances, the youngest of four children, with a Mum (and a Dad (although Dad was not inventive) who was the master of invention. She was from a family that immigrated to Australia to escape the Russian revolution in 1918. They eventually arrived in Australia in 1928 and had to survive with what they had, which was very little. I really admire that ingenuity, and those circumstances gave Mum the DIY attitude to life. She didn’t have much free time for craft but would have a go at tackling just about any job, and her patience when it came to teaching me sewing seemed endless.

My education background is ordinary. It may be of note that I selected Art in school for a bludge subject! (Shocking, I know!) It seemed easy and natural to me...perhaps a hint of what I would do later on. Despite feeling that education is very important and being a high achiever, I left school at Grade 10, entirely of my own volition. I had other things to do with my life. It’s all rather ironic, because a large number of my clients are teachers! I remember walking past a jeweller’s window on my way to my first job, thinking to myself ‘I’d much rather be working in there designing’ here I am! 

What do you make?

I don’t specialise in any particular item but apply my philosophy of story, heritage and the gentle handmade finish to a spectrum of creative pieces for women and children, including women’s clothing, vintage clutch purses, scarves, baby clothing, girl’s clothing, woven and retro necklaces, vintage earrings as well as vintage cushions for the home (although they’ve recently sold out). I order broken china pieces from a talented local lady who cuts them to my specs, and I’m having fun putting them in rings, earrings and remodelled retro necklaces.

What attracted you to this particular medium? 

It’s what I’m comfortable with. I love the unstudied lived-in feeling! It has grace and ease. I’ve always grown up with vintage (although I didn’t appreciate it at the time) and lived in old gracious homes. Now our family live in a mostly restored 120yr old 'Queenslander' home with verandahs to provide shade and respite from heat, a traditional bullnosed roof, picket fence and tropical garden. Pretty much everything we’ve owned in our married life is old, has a story or a history of its own. Our home’s ‘ornaments’ are rocks and shells, seed pods, boat oars and with the odd antique or bird’s nest thrown in for good measure. I guess it was only time before this philosophy progressed to my wardrobe and accessories.

How did you get started? 

I’ve long dabbled in making my own clothing and jewellery and often received compliments when I wore my pieces. The vintage and repurposed movement clicked immediately with me. Tired of making everything from new, I was bursting with excitement to try the challenge of making with these overlooked treasures. So, primarily as a creative outlet, I thought I’d try my hand at online selling as a way to reach customers I could never reach otherwise.

How long have you been making? 

I’ve been sewing for well over 20 years now. I’ve had my Etsy and Madeit shops since 2011, but it took almost a year for anyone to find me! It’s been a lesson in perseverance and it was until I’d refined my online strategies things started ticking over.

How does your practice fit in with your everyday life? 

I’ve chosen to be a stay at home Mum and fit my online shop work in around the priorities of our family life and our faith. This means I can’t chase every idea or run with every ambition, but I don’t mind being ‘cottage’ and staying small. It means I am being faithful to my ideals. I see it so often, that when volume is churned out, little things suffer (and bigger things like family life), and those ideals matter to me.

Do you have your own studio space and when do you work and where? 

I’m now set up in a small studio which was originally our bathroom and then a temporary kitchen. My husband is a clever chook and installed totally recycled benches and repurposed our old kitchen cupboards for shelf space on the walls. We’ve put in another window (recycled – what else?) for extra light. I have a wall space with a collection of old recycled hooks where I store an unfinished objects neatly in bags (repurposed ta da!). I have an antique wooden cupboard that stores much of my linens. I’m usually in and out of there during the day when my son is at school. I aim to limit my ‘shop’ time on the weekend and nights, only doing what is ‘essential’, so I have more time for my family and my faith.

What are the best and worst aspects about working with this medium? 

Best – Happy customers, who really appreciate each piece not just for itself, but for the love and care taken with it. I love the way you can make something you don’t want to put down out of something discarded and overlooked. I love the soul and character of clothing that uses repurposed fabrics and embroidery that someone spent many pleasant hours musing over. It just FEELS, and in my opinion, IS more wholesome! I love seeing stylising my photographs and writing descriptions that give a window into my thoughts when designing each piece – you don’t get that with off-the-rack items!
Worst- My chief bane, is online ordering my supplies for my jewellery and often fabrics. We live in a town of about 9,000 which really limits what I can get locally. Ordering is detailed, time-consuming and at times I’ve made costly mistakes. But I learn from them... most of the time. My retro jewellery can be very fiddly to construct, and seeing I’m a tweaker and fine-tuner, it’s not unknown for me to pull something apart altogether and reconstruct it, until I’m happy with it. Because my time is spread across a diversity of pieces, I usually have limited stock in store of any one piece. I’m conscious of the fact that this makes it harder to be found by customers and search engines. It’s a little frustrating at times.


Who or what inspires you? 

The natural created world for me, has this simplicity and beauty that refreshes. It also has this surface randomness, with clever, subtle underlying harmony and order. (Think the golden angle and fractal patterns) I try to include these things in my designs. Just grouping together beads in a bowl or fabrics in a stack will often give me colour or composition ideas. I also find it inspiring to browse through decorating books or home magazines, like Australian Country Style, Peppermint and Real Living . My ideas are like shells pummelled in the ebb and flow of the tide. Eventually, they settle on the shores of the shop, but not before being made, pulled apart and refined in my mind many times over. 

Do you get creative blocks? If so, how do you deal with it? 

I haven’t had this problem yet! More ideas than I will ever use in a lifetime.

What other mediums would you love to explore? 

None at present. I’m working on increasing my range of repurposed vintage clutch purses and scarves. I think they are such natty statement pieces and even someone who doesn’t want to wear a doily can enjoy the nostalgia that comes with them.

What do you hope to do next with your practice? 

My motto for this year is ‘be organised; work smarter, not harder’. I can but aspire anyway!

Thank you Deb! Follow Deb's work on instagram and Facebook too!

1 comment:

  1. Hi
    I found your blog via Etsy, it is really lovely
    You can check out my blog here