Wednesday, June 24, 2009

farewell friends

By now I'm on a plane to SF. Promise to share lots and lots next week. Before I jet off I want to share a great project I'll be documenting right here on the art blog.
for the next few weeks I'll be peeking in here and there on designer Jill Bent. You know her , you love her- and so do I. I am so excited that she'll be allowing us to watch her make one of her creations!
For those of you that may not know Jill- you will over the next few weeks- let me introduce you:

Hi Jill! When did you first start making things?
I learned to sew as a little girl from my mom, my grandmother and my aunt. I still have the patchwork pillow I made when I was 8! Both of my parents are craftspeople, so I grew up in an environment where people were always making things. I've always gotten incredible satisfaction out of making a concrete object, and I love fabric: the colors, textures and patterns are irresistible to me, but it wasn't until I was in my 20's and working in the Special Collections Library at Wellesley College that I got a chance to start working with my hands again. My colleagues at work were teaching book making, printing and paper arts to the students there and I got to participate in many of the workshops. I was also working with a lot of book artists whose work we were buying for the college's collection and I got to see so many fabulous creative things everyday. Flash forward a bit: after having my second child, I left Wellesley to be a stay at home mom, but I couldn't resist the urge to make things. I started making bags and pillows from vintage fabrics I had been collecting over the years and took "refresher" sewing classes with a master seamstress, and lo and behold, my little business was born. I started out having bag and pillow "shows" at my home and the homes of some of my friends. Then started selling some products to a local store. Then I got on-line.

Tell us about your website and blog?
About a year and a half ago I decided blogging and etsy would be a great way to reach more customers. I started taking pictures of my day to day life and work for the blog, just to see where it would take me. Soon, I had made some wonderful contacts from all over the globe! I opened my etsy shop, but sales didn't really start happening until I got a space in the Poppytalk Handmade Market last summer. Poppytalk ended up being a great way to get my name and product out there! Having an on-line presence has made a huge difference in my customer base, but the greatest gift is that I have made so many wonderful contacts. I really treasure these!

and your Etsy shop...
Etsy makes it so easy to open a shop. The hardest part is photographing my product. I do it all myself, although sometimes I will set up a shot with me as the model, get all the camera settings just right, and then have my husband snap the photo. Sometimes I think his photos are better than mine! But it is a learning process...I can see that my photos have come a long way since the beginning, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.
I think my favorite product in the shop right now is the Thin Blue Line Tote. I love the minimalism of it. White canvas is one of my favorite materials to work with because of its simplicity and durability. That being said, I'm also a fool for vintage floral patterns with bright colors too. Just can't make up my mind some days!

I'm also in looove with your florals. What inspires you?
Everything! No, seriously, I am very inspired by the past. I love old, vintage things, anything with a history. I grew up in a very old house, with very old furniture so older things just feel comfortable to me. However, I am a big fan of white and minimalism. Somehow I try to merge these two design aesthetics. My dream interior would be all white walls and trim, old hardwood floors, and a few sparse pieces of old comfortable furniture dotted with pillows made from vintage fabrics. Oh, and lots of natural light!
What will we get to see you make on Dillydallas?
I'm going to show you how I'll be making a tote bag from some gorgeous vintage fabric.
First step: choosing the fabric and the design.
Because I work with a lot of vintage fabrics, many of the bags I make are inspired by color and pattern rather than shape. I find that the more colorful or patterned the fabric, the simpler I want the overall design of the bag to be. This is a simple pattern with with simple sewing. All straight lines. I always make my own patterns, so the first step for me is to figure out the measurements. How big to I want the bag to be? What will the shape be like? Is the fabric durable enough to make a stable piece? How will the bag be used and in what season? This could take forever if you overthink it, so usually I go with my first impulse. I design what I personally would like to use. Just to let you know, it's not always what the customer would like. Over the years, some of my most favorite things didn't sell! Good news is, I decided to keep them for myself. Now everyone is happy.
Next step: cutting and sewing...check back in next week!

What is in the future for Jill Bent?
I'd like to have my products in a few more stores, and would like to be doing more shows, and continue to expand my on-line customer base. I'd like to grow a bit more in terms of producing more product, but not too much because I really enjoy making everything myself and at my own pace. I know I'm not going to get rich anytime soon on this business model, but that's what's comfortable to me. Kind of like the slow food movement, I'm the slow production movement. I really enjoy the time it takes to make a well crafted beautiful piece by hand, and I love the fact that there may be only one or two of them out in the world. I also love the fact that I am re-using materials and often giving long forgotten pieces of fabric a new lease on life, to be appreciated it a new way. For me, so much of my product depends on the access to great vintage fabrics, so I'm hoping to find some more sources. Let me know if you have any!
If anyone has any vintage fabric resources leave them below! Be sure to check in next week to see more of Jill's design!!


paddle to shore said...

have a great time in SF!

Aline said...

great interview...I hope that SF was a success!

orange sugar home said...

love the interview. I don't know anything about jill - except that I love her blog - love yours as well!! great idea for a project. looking forward to more.

Christina Entcheva said...

I'm excited to hear about how your show went!

Kosmopolight said...

Great interview! Hope you have fun in SF! I'm so sad I ended up being out of town for your show in NY :( Any more coming up soon?? xo, Kelley

Cristin // Simplified Bee said...

Have a great time in SF! The weather is lovely today.


blue moss said...

thanks for this fun jill's blog and her beautiful fun to read all about her :)
ps hope you had fun in sf