RADCOW: I got Interested in Leather craft about a decade ago, when I was a teenager hitch hiking across Canada. On my travels I met a wonderful old hippy man named Longevity John. He was nearly 7 foot tall, with hair down his back, and eyes all full of kindness. He lived in a shotgun shack with no running water, or electricity, but made incredible and inspiring leather crafts and sold them on saturdays at the farmers market in town. John showed me a few things, and got the seeds of inspiration planted in me. The thought of someone making their living with their own 2 hands from thier crafts made my heart swell. Later, I got a job at a leather craft store, and began spending most of my pay cheques on tools, and most of my time playing with leather. Since then, the seed has grown, and I too make my living this way, selling here, and at festivals and craft fairs. I feel like I am on my true path, and I am eternally grateful to etsy, and to all of you who support hand crafters. You allow the creative instinct to grow and flourish. Thank you!
Erin of SockZombie.com has lived in and around Tempe, Arizona since 1990. After years of moving around town for college and jobs, she somehow settled directly across the street from her old high school, doomed to listen to the Aztec Marching Band play every morning for all eternity. Erin and her husband of two weeks, Randy, have a five-year-old Australian Shepherd named Jake. When he was a puppy he jumped out of a four-story window and walked away with nothing but a badass attitude and a secret fear of windows. Erin describes herself as “Perpetually jumping from one patch of levity to the next.” Don’t miss the Zombie Interviews on her Etsy pages!
How long have you been making zombies?
I started making (or trying to make) monsters out of socks for birthday gifts. I’m not a natural craft talent, mind– I’ve been crocheting for literally twenty-five years and to this day I can’t make a blanket that isn’t shaped like a trapezoid– so the monsters took quite a bit of trial and error. My first efforts were decidedly less “monster” and more “bunny”. Early on I started using standard white men’s crew socks for the monsters’ bodies, and their little pale bodies paired with their gray heel “mouths” just screamed ZOMBIE to me. So I spent some time figuring out the best way to attach the arms to stick straight out from the body in a classic zombie stance and after a few dead ends it clicked and I got it.
Can you explain your process for us?
The zombie creating process involves a lot of Diet Coke and a lot of daytime television. I spend two or three mornings a week in front of my sewing machine, stitching together the zombie “skin” out of sock parts, and I spend almost every evening stuffing, closing and detailing those zombies. Both steps incorporate television.
Do you do it for fun or for fulltime work or both?
I’m making sock zombies full time now because my “day job” as a history writer seems to have dried up with the economy, so I’m being much more proactive these days in terms of promotion, seeking out wholesale/consignment opportunities and craft shows. The sock zombies differ from all of my other crafting forays in that I actually seem to be better at making them now than when I started. Surprisingly, I haven’t gotten bored with the process yet, either; I’ve made and sold upwards of 1,200 sock zombies both on and offline since September of 2007, and I still genuinely enjoy watching each zombie become his or her own little entity. I’ve added different variations on the theme, though, like Throwing Zombies (smaller zombies made out of child-sized socks), sock zombie puppets, etc, and I’m sure that helps combat craft monotony. I think my favorite zombie is the “toehawk” zombie– a zombie with a mohawk made out of toesocks.
Where do your ideas come from?
I get a lot of ideas for zombies themselves from custom orders on Etsy– the Pirate Zombie is a great example.
Someone asked if I could make a sock zombie that was also a pirate which led to lots of awesome brainstorming about what a zombie who also happens to be a pirate would look like. The Pirate Zombie wears a little felt vest and an eyepatch and he carries a messenger bag full of gold and treasure, a tiny sword, a glass bottle of Captain Morgan and a real rolled up treasure map. I think that’s hilarious.
I also get great ideas from people who read my blog; I complained that my metal gearshift knob was too hot to touch in the summer, and an awesome reader commented that I should make a sock zombie gearshift protector. So I did: the Sock Zombie Cozy. It’s fantastic, I feel like I’ve got my own all-star Research and Development team. I’m a writer by trade so I really enjoy the promotional end of my business, writing the individual descriptions and zombie interviews and whatnot.
This entire fluky foray has been and continues to be so incredibly fulfilling. Every time someone looks at a sock zombie and laughs I feel that much more validated. It’s also completely changed the way I look at handmade items; not only do I have a greater appreciation for an individual artist’s ability, but I also appreciate what it means for the artist to hear that.
Leigh Anne Hilbert lived in the Bay Area, CA, US until last year when she moved to Asheville, NC, which is closer to Virginia where she is originally from. Leigh Anne is married to “a total geek who I am madly in love with” and they have a son, Elias Grayson, who is 18 months old.
Leigh Anne describes herself as joyful, energetic, compassionate, creative, nightowlish, resourceful, and a work horse. In her spare time she cooks and eats outside, watches Sesame Street on Youtube, reads, lives and thinks of what she is going to make next. Also? She is scared of stuffed animals. Be sure to check out all her stuff at Overlap Sewing. Leigh Anne uses organic and bamboo fabrics and her appliques are made from recycled vintage lace. Her bags are made from old coats. You can Fan her on Facebook.
How long have you been creating?
I have been making stuff since I was little. My mom taught me to sew, and my grandmothers were amazing quilters, so I grew up loving the old timey fabrics and patchwork. When I started drawing and painting in high school, a whole new world opened up for me and I continued to study art from then on.
Do you have a favorite type of craft you do?
Not really. I love working with different media, and letting the material speak for itself.
Why did you start?
My hands seem to want to have something in them.
Where do you get your materials?
Thrift stores, my favorite being the Goodwill clearance center!, art supply stores, junk shops, eBay, old ladies who have lace to give away.
Can you tell us a little of your process?
I usually like to try to work with found materials, then I let them give me some inspiration. Each thing I do is unique. For a while, I tried mass producing runs of certain shirts, etc…but I got bored. I really enjoy standing with a pile of fabric or lace and just playing with them.
How long does it take?
Anywhere from an hour to a month, depending on how much time I have!
Do you have a dedicated work area/room?
Yes, which is awesome. But when people sleep over I have to relinquish it.
Is this your full-time job? Hobby? Fun?
I do this part-time right now. I also teach art to adults with developmental disabilities.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. They are nonstop.
Do you have a best seller?
The Baby Bomber hat from recycled wool, and my women’s appliqued t-shirts do well.
What is your favorite?
I love those bomber hats, too. It was the first hat I made for my son. I love the design and the reuse of material. They look damn cute on! And I am not one of those to use the word cute all over the place.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
1. Running a gallery/craft cooperative/studio
2. Making stuff
Have any advice for people trying to start their own handcrafted business?
Stick with what you like and do it well. Someone else will probably like it too.
May 17 to 23 is American Craft Beer week. At events across the nation, the art of the Craft beer will be celebrated by beer lovers, independent breweries, retailers and homebrewers alike. The annual festival has been the largest of its kind since 2006 and shows no signs of going flat (pun intended). To mark the occasion, I have assembled a small sampling of clever, handmade items that make use of everything that remains when the beer is gone, such as the bracelet by Michelle at Art Again (above). Cheers!
San Diego’s Stone Brewing Co was founded in 1996 and is considered one of the fastest growing breweries over the past 10 years. In addition to the seven beers that they brew year-round, they offer five “Stone Special Releases” annually and have seen an impressive increase in production over their 14 years in business; from 400 barrels in their opening year, to 98,500 in 2009. With numbers like that, it would seem that the gang at BottleHood have their work cut out for them. Created out of a desire to do something positive for the environment and the local economy, BottleHood opened up shop with their recycled glass creations. This set of tumblers, pictured above, was made from four Stone Brewing Co bottles, collected from restaurants and pubs in the San Diego area.
The story behind the Flying Dog Brewing Company involves a couple of adventurous ranchers, Sherpas, a runaway donkey, Hunter S Thompson and, perhaps least surprisingly, a flying dog. Since its auspicious (or suspicious) beginnings in 1990, the company has grown to a relative giant in the craft beer world; shipping over 500,000 cases per year world-wide. Success hasn’t tempered their gonzo spirit, though, and that is evident by their slogan “Good beer, no shit” and the unmistakable label artwork. Tracy of Squigglechick Designs, previously featured here, has taken one of my favourite labels from the Flying Dog pack and fashioned it into this one of a kind luggage tag. No one would dare try to snag your suitcase with this on the handle!
While researching the craft breweries of the West Coast, two words kept coming up – “Gold Rush”. Prospecting must’ve been thirsty work because from California to Alaska, there was a lot of beer consumed between 1864 and 1867. Lucky for us, the tradition of excellent, locally-brewed beer in that region has continued to this day. The Alaskan Brewing Company, founded in 1986, is keeping that rich history alive with their Alaskan Amber. Brewed from a Gold Rush-era recipe, the beer is just one of the reasons why the independently owned and operated company has the distinction of being the most award-winning craft brewery in the Great American Beer Festival’s history. The notebook pictured above was created by Fairbanks’ Princess Paige from an Alaskan Amber 6 pack bottle carrier. It would make an ideal beer-taster’s journal or prospector’s notebook.
While handcrafted beers can be enjoyed year-round, this is a great time to get out and learn more about the fine, independent breweries in your area. Many have special events, including tastings and tours; to find out what is happening in your area, visit the American Craft Beer Week events page.
Here in eastern Pennsylvania, many of the top indie crafters are busy preparing for the epic Art Star Craft Bazaar on May 30 & 31 in Philadelphia. Art Star is both a juried craft market featuring over 100 amazing vendors and a fab indie boutique in the Northern Liberties neighborhood. Although vendors come in from all across the country, many of my favorite Philly crafters will be there.
Linda Johnson, from Little Flower Designs, holds a BFA in sculpture from Tyler School of Art and a certificate in interior design from Philadelphia University. She has also pursued her ceramics education in various art centers in the Philadelphia area. Linda’s style combines clean lines, bold color, and folk art images to create functional home decor and kitchenware.
Leah Mackin is a book artist, punctuation enthusiast, and serious scrapple lover! The journal above is one of her new designs – writing paper, maps, printed paper, colored copy paper, and lined paper are bound together to inspire the journalist to create in the space between the covers.
I’ve mentioned before that I have a thing for ceramic jewelry – organic, bold, beautiful. Yasha Butler Ceramics takes ceramic jewelry to a new level: fine art. Her pieces are unglazed porcelain, elegant shapes that are delicately etched with simple designs. These earrings are as surprising as they are versatile.
Finally, the ever-fabulous Sara Selepouchin, from girlscantell, is a screen-printer extraordinaire, craft evangelist, and Etsy specialist. Fitting for her background in architecture, Sara designs diagrams of everyday objects – and body parts! – and prints them onto hand towels, placemats, coasters, and notebooks.
I’ll be attending Art Star early on Sunday. If you’ll be around, please let me know! I’d love to meet up with you!