Andrea, Head of Crafts for Silly Kitten, took time out of her busy schedule to tell us about Portland’s craft scene, where she started doing craft fairs, and how she built her business. Read more about her journey below.
GCX: What or who first peaked your interest in arts and crafts?
ASK: My mom was into doing crafting and did craft fairs several times when I was young. I remember setting up the booth and sitting behind the table with her. She was always making things and encouraged me to be creative and use my imagination.
GCX: Why did you decide that you would make a particular type of craft?
ASK: I went college for art, but hadn't been doing any for a few years. I needed an artistic outlet other than knitting hats, etc. I was given an old Bernina sewing machine, and it got me excited about creating things again. Dolls seemed like the perfect thing. I could make them any way I wanted, using lots of colors and patterned fabric.
GCX: How do you feel about the artisan crafting community and their ability to benefit from GeekCraft Expo?
ASK: I feel like Portland has a thriving arts and crafts community. What I like about crafting is how open it is to freely express yourself in a medium.
GCX: Are you from the Portland area? If not originally, what brought you here?
ASK: I'm originally from Montana and moved to Portland 15 years ago after graduating from college. I wanted to move to a bigger city, and Portland seemed like a good place, right between the mountains and the ocean.
GCX: What is your favorite thing about creating your product and being able to sell it to people personally vs. through sites like Etsy?
ASK: I like talking to people and giving them an opportunity to touch and look at my dolls. I think that people feel a connection sometimes to an object (like a doll) after they hold it. I have an Etsy site, but I'm not very good at self-promotion. When I'm at a craft fair, I can let my dolls promote themselves.
GCX: What is the story of how you got to this point (beginning to now)?
ASK: I started doing crafts and art as a child. I would make greeting cards for friends and family. In high school, I was in the art club and spent all my free time in the art room. I went to college in Missoula, MT and graduated with a BFA. I enjoyed the process of creating art and gravitated to printmaking, black-and-white photography, and fiber art; my senior art project was a mix of all of these processes. I moved to Portland, OR in 2001 and struggled to find a place for myself somewhere in between craft and fine art. I taught myself to knit and crochet 15 years ago, and two years ago I was given a 1960 Bernina sewing machine. I hadn't had a sewing machine for over ten years, and this gift opened up my imagination and dolls were a natural way to play with lots of concepts and ideas without using a lot of materials. Now I have more ideas than time to create them.
GCX: Is it important for people to understand that your product is not “mass produced’? Why?
ASK: Yes, because all of the hand work (knitting, crocheting, sewing, embroidering, painting, dying, etc.) takes a lot of time. I want people to understand that I love to do this, but it is laborious, and every doll is very detailed and special to me.
GCX: What is the most special thing to you about your business?
ASK: The choices I make about every detail that goes into every aspect of the dolls.
GCX: What do you want to do with your crafts long term?
ASK: I would love to sell in stores and quit my day job ;).
GCX: What do you like about the overall arts and craft experience?
ASK: I am so inspired by all the creative people I meet at crafts fairs. There are so many unique and wonderful artists that chose to create on a craft level, but could be in a gallery.
There is nothing silly about Andrea’s experiences or her works, but there sure is a lot of fun involved with all of it. We can’t wait to add to the fun with her at GeekCraft Expo PDX!