My name is Sophie Grace Barnett-Dyer, and I make children’s clothing and accessories from recycled cashmere and wool for my shop rompshop. I live in Seattle, Washington with my partner and daughter.
Both of my parents are artists, and I was raised in a community that saw the creative process as a form of play – one that was collaborative, spontaneous, and often reliant on the materials at hand. I learned from my mom and her friends that there can be great beauty, charm, and value in the forgotten, dormant, second-hand, and worn. From a young age I had a strong desire to design and create on my own. In elementary school I noticed that I felt really inspired when I was in the process of creating something I believed was truly beautiful, but it wasn’t until I became a mother that I started to envision a career for myself as a designer and craftsperson.
Having a child gave form and urgency to my creative spark. After spending all day caring for my daughter, I needed that quiet focused creative time like never before. I noticed how much simple pleasure I took from dressing my daughter in clothes that felt good on her skin, so I tried my hand at sewing a few sweaters and hats from old cashmere sweaters and vintage buttons. I quickly fell in love with the process of recycling beautiful, luxurious but forgotten materials into modern one-of-a-kind garments.
I find that the texture and shape of a sweater speak more clearly to me about what it wants to be than a flat piece of cloth on a bolt. I make my own patterns for my vests, hats, booties and bags. For my ponchos, skirts and dresses I just cut carefully and slowly, shaping the garment as I go along. I pay a lot of attention to the use of color in my garments, and am always looking for that spark that happens when colors begin to glow together. Even if the colors are dark or subtle, I think it is clear when they are in harmony because they surprise me in a delightful, unexpected way. Sometimes finding the right color relationship is the most challenging part of my creative process, and it can take me days to hit the right combination.
I do a lot of applique on my pieces as well, which allows me to create patterns that reflect the natural world. My studio is in the backyard of my parents’ house, and is surrounded by trees and a beautiful garden. I see patterns in the leaves from my sewing table, and find that I can endlessly riff on this simple leaf pattern. The leaves have really become a signature of rompshop, and I love that.
I am so proud to be a craftsperson. I see myself as a small part of the great human legacy of makers and artisans stretching back through all cultures and times. For me, being a craftsperson is about connecting to my humanity and to the eternal human desire to have functional, inspired objects in our lives — objects that not only fulfill a practical need, but also convey the voice of the maker. No matter what is going on in the world around me, I feel exalted by the process of creating a lovely garment that tells a little story about what inspires me personally.
Etsy has been an invaluable companion on this road to building a business and connecting directly with people around the world who appreciate my work. I am so grateful that there is an incredible community of artists and craftspeople on Etsy, people who truly understand the great value of spending one’s time making beautiful and inspired goods. I think Etsy has done a brilliant job creating ways for us to discover, support, and promote one another’s work, as well as connect to customers who want to support handmade. I always feel that there is a tremendous sense of goodwill and inclusiveness built into the Etsy mission, values that resonate with me and most of the artists I know.
Rompshop has taught me so much about my own creative process, but it has also forced me to learn about the practical side of running a business. For a long time I was pretty resistant to this practical side, I just wanted to create! However, I’m learning to love the fact that I am in complete control of all aspects of my business; that my shop is a true reflection of me, and my ability to wear many different hats. My business has grown slowly and organically, and since rompshop is almost six years old, I have grown up right along with it.