This week’s Shop Local features the beautiful countryside of Suffolk, England. While a geographical search on Etsy didn’t reveal a lot of crafters, it did reveal some real eye candy! I loved the three shops below and think you will too. And if you can’t get enough of Suffolk, check out the Suffolk Craft Society for more fine crafters creating modern art with traditional techniques.
Susan Sanders has always been an artist. Ever since she was old enough to think about such things, she knew that one day her job would be to make things, with her own hands, and sell them. She was right. Susan Sanders is now the experienced and accomplished designer of three distinctive jewelry lines: one in gold and precious stones, one in stone inlay, and one in fabric. Being a sewer and a hoarder of fabric, I couldn’t help but be drawn to her fiber work.
I visited with Susan in her Torpedo Factory studio while she was in the middle of creating one of her “silkworm” necklaces. She starts out with narrow strips of hand-painted silk that she sews into tubes, and fills with a certain kind of cording. Then, depending on the look of the final necklace, she gathers the silken cords together unadorned, or first embellishes them with ribbon, yarn, or anything pretty and colorful from her stash of notions.
Her collection includes all kinds of fabric trims from fiber artist friends of hers, shiny and textured bits she finds at local fabric stores, and a treasury of unique velvet and satin trims she found during a trip to Korea.
The result is a soft, lightweight, textured piece that can be worn a number of ways. The cords can be twisted or worn flat. The necklace can be left long, wrapped double around the neck like a choker, or tied into a knot. Susan also makes the unique magnetic clasps out of cast resin, and paints them to match each necklace individually. Every single necklace is one-of-a-kind; it would be impossible to replicate any of them exactly.
Susan’s fiber jewelry is an evolving line among her jewelry collections. The latest incarnation utilizes hand-cut ultrasuede in rich, saturated color. The unusual texture and three demensional quality of these necklaces speak for themselves! When I asked if she planned on adding embellishment to the ultrasuede necklaces as well, Susan merely shrugged and said: “Who knows?” Considering the idea for her fiber necklaces came to her in a dream, who can say what she will dream up next?
As the daughter of an accomplished seamstress and a graphic designer, Susan has been making things her whole life. Her mother passed on her sewing skills to her at a young age, and her father gave her an appreciation and an eye for architectural lines. She ended up studying architectural design in college, knowing she wanted to end up making something three demensional with her hands, but not knowing exactly what that would be. Upon graduation, she was offered a job designing refrigeration components in a remote town in Kentucky. At the same time, the Torpedo Factory was just opening in Alexandria, Virginia as a newly renovated haven for artists, complete with studio and gallery space. Susan was faced with an interesting (if not difficult…) choice: move to the middle of nowhere and make refrigerator parts, or move to Washington, DC and make jewelry?
Her fellow graduates had found jobs that utilized their design skills very well, but hardly engaged their imaginations: diagramming linoleum floors; constructing the weave of plastic chairs; designing tire tread. Nobody was terribly excited about entering the professional world, except for Susan. She knew she was lucky to have found the Torpedo Factory, and jumped at the chance! She has maintained her studio there since the Art Center opened in September 1974.
You can find all of Susan’s jewelry (not just her fiber work) at her Torpedo Factory studio, at local galleries, and at juried craft shows in the DC area.
Keep an eye on this one. Her shop is small right now, but I have a feeling she could turn it into something really good…
White Carnation: I know making clothes out of old clothes and recycled fabric might not save the world- But having a resourceful attitude is one step in the right direction, right?
I love using reclaimed or recycled fabric, and natural/organic blends. Functionality, efficiency, and beauty are awesome.
Birgitte of SewDanish: Since early childhood, I have been crafting and however busy life has been, I’ve always found time to do just that. Making things energizes me and makes me happy.
I love creating something from “nothing”. I often combine and incorporate recycled items and vintage fabric in my products, giving them a new lease on life.
Some years ago I was very lucky to do City and Guilds part 1 and 2 (now diploma) in Patchwork and Quilting as well as several courses in contemporary machine and hand embroidery. Pure Bliss!
I love dying my own fabrics, threads and anything else that can be coloured. I’m very excited about building up textured surfaces from lots of layers of fabric, paper, paint…. almost anything goes.
I often work a series of small numbers within a theme, exploring the possibilities. Since each item is handmade, the individual item will always be unique. Besides making contemporary wall hangings, I like making small things that can be used in daily life, like book covers, key rings, make up purses, drawstring bags, cards…
The number one question people ask me about the things I make is: where do you get your fabric? I’m happy to say that my primary source is a local chain of fabric stores with deep roots in Washington DC: G Street Fabrics.
With three sprawling stores in the DC area, G Street easily rivals the best stores in any major city with a garment district.
Founded in 1942 by the Greenzaid family, my favorite fabric emporium started out as a humble side business. Family patriarch David Greenzaid moved to Washington, DC from New York City during the Depression and sold bolt ends and various notions to the city’s tailors as a way to make ends meet. The business slowly grew, until a tiny storefront sprung up on 11th and G Streets, called simply enough: G Street Remnant Shop.
The original store closed briefly in the 1950s, but was reopened by David’s son Judah at 805 G Street. Many of the stores’ current customers still remember that storefront fondly. The original store was only 100 square feet, a far cry from the current 20,000 square foot flagship store in Rockville, Maryland. The Rockville store opened in 1983 when the DC location could no longer contain its massive collection. As the business continued to expand, second and third stores opened in Centerville, Virginia in 1994 and Falls Church, Virginia in 1999, easily matching the Rockville store’s size, as well as variety and quality of fabric and notions.
All three stores in the area now sell much more than just remnants and notions. Each store has several huge departments covering all the major fabric categories: quilting cotton, upholstery and home decorating, evening wear, denim, knits and other fashion fabrics, men’s suiting, and of course, bridal fabric.
And the abundance doesn’t stop there. G Street also has extensive collections of sewing patterns from both major and obscure pattern companies, a very well stocked sewing machine department featuring Bernina brand machines, and an absolutely huge notions department. Next time you need a button shaped like a bumble bee or tangerine ball fringe, there’s only one place to go!
The best part about G Street, aside from the incredible variety of fabric and sewing goodies, is their extremely knowledgeable and friendly staff. I shop regularly at all three stores, and employees never fail to ask me what I plan on making with the fabric, ribbon, or whatever I happen to be buying. Additionally, G Street maintains a very long and varied curriculum of sewing, quilting, and home decorating classes at all levels. Not only can you hire their experts to recover your couch for you, you can also take a class there to figure out how to do it yourself!
Judah Greenzaid and his sons still own all three stores, and “Mr. G,” as he is called, still works on sourcing fabric for the stores, and even staffs the cutting tables at the Rockville flagship. All three stores are open seven days a week, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm Mondays through Saturdays, and 11:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sundays. Visit the web site to view the class schedule and other events.