Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in Phoenix with my husband Jonce and my boys, Cade and Clive. We have two dogs, five chickens and a fish, so we keep pretty busy, even when we have nothing on the calendar! I started my business by making dresses for fun in my makeshift sewing room in our kitchen. Now it has turned into a full operation with my newly remodeled studio.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I love playing with my kids and working out with my friends. Jonce and I have a nightly ritual of watching whatever show we are into on Netflix after the kids go to bed. We also live near some friends (and fellow Etsy sellers!), and we love to go on bike rides together. Sometimes we all get together to watch outdoor movies in our backyard or have dinner together.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
I Was Born 50 Years Too Late. I literally have these micro-depressions where I mope around and sometimes even cry because I wish I had lived in the early to mid-twentieth century. I know it sounds crazy, but my heart starts to race when I find great vintage stuff or when I watch period films about the early 1900s through the 1960s. Early jazz and blues music is really a core of my life. Just listen to some Bessie Smith and see if you can feel where I am coming from!
Where does your inspiration come from?
I am always drawn to something with a story. So much of my inspiration is from history; I love collecting things that are awesomely vintage, imagining where they have been. Just today I scored the most amazing old metal thread display, with all the thread still in it. I am in love! My mom recently gave me a big bag of vintage patterns from the 1960s and they have been very inspiring for my new designs. I think the simple silhouettes and details show the ’60s influence in some of my newer designs.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
There are two people who have really shaped my craft, and the first is my mom. She taught me everything about sewing by letting me watch her and helping me learn new skills. I think the best thing she ever instilled in me was the attitude that I can make anything — I just have to figure out how to do it. She is really good at using parts of patterns or making her own patterns, so the finished product can be just how she wants it. She learned to sew from her grandma, so I really feel like I have learned an approach that has been passed down for generations.
The second person is my friend, Monique. She was my next-door-neighbor. When I saw her making dresses for her daughters, I thought, “I could do that.” I made my first dress and we created a small kids line for a local shop. It was fun! Then we started making some adult things and posting them on Etsy, where my first sale, a slip dress, is still one of my best-sellers today. We have since split into our own successful shops (she is at ouma.etsy.com) and we have both moved; ironically, we now live just blocks from each other again. Monique really pushes me to become more professional and organized, and I know I would have never come this far without her encouragement and friendship.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I come from a family of artists. My grandma and aunt are painters, my mom can make anything with a sewing machine, my uncle is a world-class photographer, another uncle designs toys and my grandpa was a woodworker. I have been a maker my whole life, but I never felt like an artist or designer until very recently. Once, in the middle of the night I woke up with an idea for a dress and I had to get up and sketch it. The next morning I thought to myself, “Wow, I did that all on my own!” I have always felt like things didn’t come very naturally and I had to try so hard to think of new concepts, but more and more I feel ideas coming to me. I really feel proud when I carry something to completion that was mine from start to finish.
How would you describe your creative process?
I love looking at old patterns or photos just to get my mind thinking about styles. Then I start sketching or even just cutting out fabric. Some of my favorite things have come from cutting and not planning too much (also many mistakes, but some are happy mistakes).
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I would love to meet Bill Cunningham, the fashion photographer for The New York Times. I love how his definition of what is “in” is dependent on what people love to wear, whether the rest of the world thinks they look amazing or ridiculous. He is so real and he documents what is really happening in fashion on the streets.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have a set of doilies that my great-grandma and great-great-grandma made by hand. They are all so amazingly intricate and beautiful. I use them all the time for decorating, and I would definitely cry if anything happened to them.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
My problem is that I have too many ideas; I have trouble editing. I meet with one of my designer friends, Monique or Jenn, and show them what I am stuck on. They can usually help me get past it and focus. We also work on photo shoots with another photographer friend, and that really motivates me to stay on top of creating new stuff.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
In 10 years I will be approaching my fortieth birthday, so I hope to be healthy and having fun with my teenage kids, yikes! I would love to have my business continue to grow and to refine all of my skills. I would love to be selling in shops around the world, or even have my own little shop. I would also love for my husband to not have to work. Then he could just do volunteer work and do all the boring organizational stuff for me!