Tell us a bit about yourself.
Shelter is a collective of generalists specializing in all sorts of fun things. My name is Karie, and I make handbags. I was born in late June and like blueberry picking, jumping in clear rivers, and watching sunsets with good buddies. I’m originally from Santa Barbara, CA, but I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Portland, OR, Brooklyn, NY, Big Sur as well as San Francisco, CA, Warren, VT, and just recently my partner Rob and I moved to Asheville, NC. He’s the coolest, and helps so much with Shelter. He does a lot of the leather work and offers major emotional and design support.
I love simple, durable materials like leather and canvas, but always with bright colors. I like to make things that are representative of how I try to live my life — gently, artfully and with a focus on quality, not quantity.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I feel like we’re always creating in one way or another! Shelter is my more-than-full-time job, and Rob is a designer/builder for an awesome architecture firm here in Asheville. Besides that, we spend our time perfecting pizza dough, creating superfluous leather handles for things, traveling near and far, wild foraging, and hanging with good buds.
What would be the title of your memoir?
Traveling With Fabric. I’ve traveled a lot (18 countries!) and I’ve always brought some kind of fabric project with me. Actually getting around to working on it on the road is a totally different story.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Kind people, unique and beautiful places, days gone by (I’m way nostalgic), the collective consciousness, and shapes and colors in nature. Rob has a delightfully bizarre imagination, so he’s a big source of inspiration. I’m also totally amazed by my good friends Valerie Soles and Anna Toth. They are seriously tearing it up so hard!
There are too many other inspiring friends to mention here, but you can see what some of them are doing on my blog.
What does handmade mean to you?
There’s this great Bread & Puppet quote that sums it up: “Resistance of the heart against business as usual.” Handmade is a simple desire to be present and feel more connected to each other. Seeing someone’s hand in a piece makes it human and perfect.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
So many people! My mom Marcie, my sister Melinda, my friends. The person who has been the most influential though is my best friend, Valerie (Lovelier Seas and Dear Birthday). During high school we would nerd out together after school by taking clothes apart and putting them back together. We started a clothing company called Lawnchair, and sold our goods at indie rock shows and flea markets. Her aesthetic and quality control has totally influenced me. She’s helped me to see more beauty and hilarity in everything around me.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I think that everyone is an artist, but it just happened that I have creative parents who really encouraged me to make things from an early age. I remember lying in bed when I was super tiny and not being able to sleep because I was daydreaming about a mystical room filled with paper and pencils and fabric and scissors and glue and legos and any other fun stuff I needed to make a brand new world.
How would you describe your creative process?
It’s hard to say because it changes every day! I’m often inspired by shapes, and I just start sewing, rather than drawing. It’s hard for me to translate 2D to 3D, so I just go for 3D right away. Once I have the first iteration, Rob and I will talk it through and I’ll make some edits.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Neil Young during his Harvest era. And any of the Dadaists, especially Hannah Höch — they were all so cool!
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A Care Bear my mom made for me when I was 4. We didn’t have enough money for the real thing in 1983, so for Christmas that year my mom made everyone in my family a Care Bear, from scratch, by hand. I hated mine; I wanted the real thing. In the moments when just my sister Melinda and I would be hanging out, I would complain about it. It didn’t have the heart on the butt that said “Care Bears,” it just had a generic heart. I colored the eyes red with marker and told Melinda, “It’s not made with love!” She sat me down on the couch and said, “Of course it is, Mom made it.” Oh my god I can’t tell you how that moment changed my life! Not only is that bear so beautiful, it’s a symbol of the importance of handmade. I prefer someone taking the time to make something for me over buying it any day.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Make more coffee (with raw milk and maple syrup! Try it!) or take a walk. Remind myself I’m only making handbags (or drawings, or whatever), and it’ll all be okay.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
Building another little cabin with Rob and the help of good friends. Petting a cat that purrs loudly. Illustrating a book. Drinking white wine on a beater boat. Eating homemade bread and jam in the grass. Picking veggies from the garden. Remembering to slow down and then actually doing it.