Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Interview with Garage Couture

Lovely Erin Stevens of Garage Couture shared the nuts and bolts of her clothing design with me, and so it is with pleasure that I share this interview with you!

Tell me a little bit about your shop. Where are you located?And how did you come up with the name for your shop?

My shop is located in Vilnius, Lithuania (I am American, but currently live in Vilnius). Recently, I changed my shop name to “Garage Couture”. I like how it sounds. I can’t make “Haute Couture”, but I can make awesome “Garage Couture”: one-of-a-kind, detailed, fashionable and affordable upcycled clothing.

How long have you been making reconstructed, recycled clothing?

For about ten years. At first, I made clothes out of vintage and retro fabrics I found on ebay and sold them at various boutiques in Seattle. Lately, I have been focusing on using recycled clothing. I love it. I like starting with a piece whether it is a button, shirt, necktie or whatever and creating something around it, from it, with it, etc. It is my canvas.

What was the first item that you sold for your business and how did you feel when you sold it?
On Etsy, it was a necktie camisole. Happy and honored that someone liked my creation and wanted to buy and wear it. The customer was from Seattle, and since I lived there for many years, I thought for sure it was a friend of a friend of a friend who bought it. But it turned out that she just found my clothes on Etsy and liked them.

What makes you excited about reconstruction or upcycling instead of using new materials? What inspires you to create? What is your creative process if you have one?
I like to fantasize that I am Andy (Molly Ringwald) in “Pretty in Pink” (teen movie from the 1980’s) and I am making the coolest prom dress ever and going with the hottest guy in school. No really, I am excited to know that the pieces I use have a past as well as a future. Plus it feels good knowing that my customers and I are playing our little part in helping preserve the environment.

Garbage [inspires me to create]…when I see so much waste, I try to think of ways to reuse things or make something from something. Just to clarify, I do not use any garbage in my creations, it is just my inspiration. As for my creative process, rarely do I have the end result mapped out in my head before I start my project. I usually just start with something and see where it takes me.

How do you balance you business with other things in your life, including other jobs, family, friends, or other interests? Do you find it difficult or have you found that you are able to balance everything?

I can’t do it, had to quite my day job first.

What has most surprised you about creating and running your own business?
I am surprised at how much I enjoy interacting with customers, helping them choose the correct size, color and even doing custom work. I love the fact that I have control over merchandising, product shots, copy etc. Everything is my vision.

Favorite kind of summery dessert?
Favorite summery dessert would have to be a margarita although I can’t get good tequila in Lithuania. Next best thing is dark chocolate, good anytime of the year and luckily widely available in Lithuania.

Where can we find your work?

I have my work in a Boutique in Vilnius, Gedimino 9.

What is your favorite way to connect with others?

Word of mouth. It is nice when someone tells me they saw my top on someone and want one too.

Last thing, what is one tidbit of advice you would give to anyone starting their own business?

I need advice. Anyone want to offer some?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sweaters for Penguins- Crafters and Oil Spills

Sometimes as an artist I wonder what I would have done had I become a marine biologist or environmental scientist. Could I be of better assistance in times like today, when oil spills threaten and ice bergs are melting?

So, instead of bemoaning my lack of a science degree, I decided to do some research on practical ways that crafter and artisans can and are helping the environment, particularly related to the BP Oil Spill.

Of course there are the obvious ways.
Money is helpful.

Spreading awareness and writing to your local and federal representatives helps too.

Protests also are effective in getting out a message.

But there are other surprisingly useful ways that crafters can lend a hand to the cause.

Penguin sweaters, for instance.

After listening to an eye-opening report done by Nell Greenfieldboyce of NPR questioning whether oiled birds should be cleaned in the aftermath of an oil spill, I began to wonder the same myself. You can read the report yourself here. Some scientists argue that it does more harm than good, while others say it is better than letting them suffer.

However, these sweaters were created after a 2000 New Year's Day oil spill off of the southern tip of Australia. The sweaters helped the birds to stop preening their feathers, which causes them to ingest the oil, one of the most difficult parts of rehabilitation as it causes illness. The sweaters also kept them warm until they were well enough to be cleaned, and also helped to build up the natural oils in their feathers. Not too bad for a little sweater.

You can read more about these penguin sweaters at this website. You can also find a pattern for penguin sweaters at this website.

But, how can crafters and artisans who are now experiencing the BP Oil Spill help out the loons and pelicans affected? Not only this, what about other sea life below the surface? I am not sure of the answer yet... a new crochet pattern for pelicans may not work like it does for the penguins. However, I can continue to do the other things listed above to do something to contribute. Or, like Elizabeth of SerendipiT, I can donate proceeds from my sales towards the effort (Props to you, Elizabeth! I shall soon follow your example!)

So, do what you can, in whatever way you can, whether it is creative or mainstream. Every bit helps!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

June: Save Our Seas Sale at SerendipiT

Inspired by the recent Gulf oil disaster and in recognition of the official United Nations' World Oceans Day I have committed to donating 50% of sales proceeds in June from my Etsy Shop to Thank you for supporting the Save Our Seas sale! Want to learn more about What Mission Blue Does? Keep reading...

About Mission Blue
Mission Blue's purpose is to explore and care for the ocean. We are committed to inspiring a sea change in public awareness, access and support for marine protected areas worldwide, ranging from the deepest ocean to sunlit reefs, and from the seamounts of the high seas to coastal seagrass meadows.

We draw inspiration from the vision evoked by our founder, Dr. Sylvia Earle: to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas--hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.

Under Dr. Earle's leadership, the Mission Blue team has embarked on a series of expeditions to further this vision and shed light on these ocean Hope Spots. We also bring the discoveries and stories of a network of ocean experts to the public through documentaries, social and traditional media, and innovative tools like Google Earth's "Explore the Ocean" layer. Additionally, we support the work of many conservation NGO’s with whom we share the basic mission of ocean protection and public awareness, most notably our global partner IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

Act Now

There is time, though not a lot, to take action to stabilize and reverse the global decline of the natural ocean systems that keep us alive. Although humans pose grave danger to the health of the ocean, we also represent hope.

Experts agree the major threats facing the ocean are overfishing and destructive fishing practices; trash pollution, especially plastics; habitat loss due to development; acidification; dead zones; and insufficient protection of sensitive areas. Mission Blue focuses on increased protection because it offers hope for alleviating many of these issues. While approximately 12% of land is protected through national parks and reserves, less than one percent of the ocean is under any kind of protection. More than 99 percent is under threat.

The ocean is our planet’s blue heart, yet we are protecting only a fraction of it. We can do better. Help establish a network of protected areas by creating a strong community of people who care.