Monday, November 10, 2008
Mountain Ash Design
1. What is the name of your business, what do you create and sell and how did you get started?
My business is called Mountain Ash Design. I sustainably create housewares and wearable accessories from a combination of new designer fabrics and locally procured vintage and recycled fabrics. I’ve been sewing since I was a kid. I started making my own clothes when I was in junior high. When I was an art major in college I wanted to make quilts but my professors couldn't take the medium seriously. (This was in the late 80s). I didn't have role models or a craft community that inspired me so I worked a variety of interesting job, including five years as a sex educator. All the while I continued to personally identify as an artist and work on quilting projects.
During this time I was working out the construction details for a unique potholder design, which became HotHolders™, my signature potholders, but I rarely sought out markets for my work. A few years ago I was in transition job-wise and decided if I was ever going to have any kind of career as an artist I had better get on it. So I decided to commit myself to designing and sewing full time and have the added benefit of being my own boss.
2.What/who inspires you?
The materials themselves inspire me and the fact that most of them have a mysterious history involving the lives of other real human beings. I get inspired thinking about how American households accomplished their domestic tasks before we were set up to consume a lot of fossil fuels doing so. Other random inspirations include Jonathan Richmond; Preloved, a company in Canada that restructures cast off clothing into awesome fashions; BUST magazine - for its entrepreneur-encouraging tone; the VT local foods movement; and all the youthful VT art, craft and food entrepreneurs I meet at shows and read about in the local press. Also, I get pretty inspired when I've had some caffeine.
3.Give us a peek into you work space. Where do you create? Describe your work space or studio.
It’s not always this messy. You caught me at a moment when I’m working on my son’s Halloween costume, sewing a custom baby quilt, producing items for the holiday fairs, and developing a few new products. I don’t know why, but sometimes there’s a flurry of multiple projects going on at once there. This seems to happen in my most productive times. It’s weird but I’ve learned to accept it.
I’m also in transition right now in terms of my work space. For the past couple of years I've operated a literal cottage industry (well, not the entire industry, just my little part of it), working in various parts of my house until I moved all the dressers and stuff out of my bedroom. That's been my creative space for a while and has been working well as such except that I've been needing more space. My partner is downsizing the craft business he's run for 19 years so I recently took over part of his showroom in our barn. I still don't know if it will be just for storage of products and a display area or if it will become a creative work space, too. It's pretty far from where my sewing machine is right now, and I like to be able to get an hour of sewing in here and there without having to get the wood stove going out in the barn hours ahead of time.
4. Where do you sell and promote your work?
Craft fairs, consignment galleries around VT, on Etsy and I have a few wholesale accounts in different parts of the country.
5. What are three things you can't live without?
Hard for me to think beyond the cliché-but-very-true ones: my family, creative projects, and the great outdoors.
6. What are your three favorite things about Vermont?
My friends, the visual treats of the landscape (though not the temperatures), the tradition of independent thinking.
7. What does the term indie craft mean to you?
It's a community, an aesthetic, a market. People have always been making things and reinterpreting traditional crafts. I think indie craft is the current highly energized wave, with its own philosophies, inspirations, and culture, akin to (and parallel to) third wave feminism. It’s a really positive movement.
8. Any new products, projects or news you want to share?
I saved all my production scraps from the past year and just brought them to the Drop’n’Swap at Norwich University. Now they are going to a rags processing facility in Canada to be recycled into plastic. I’m not sure how cotton can become plastic, but I’m happy about the zero waste.
Also I'm starting to work with leather. I feel like such a bad ass, because I’m usually working with things like gingham and old calicos. I’m using leather repurposed from horribly unfashionable jackets, etc. - stuff people wouldn’t even want as a vintage find. My first leather product is a fabric trimmed wrist strap with a metal loop at the end. People can attach one to their keychain, dog leash or anything they want to hold by their wrist. The leather feels really luxurious against your skin. I wanted to make something special, but also small and simple so I can offer my customers an item for under ten dollars as the country goes through this economic shift.