A perfect interview for fantastic winter Sunday because whenever I see one of Astulabee's new softies they always make me feel cosy, warm and safe. I know that the world will be okay as long as there continues to be thoughtful artists like Nicole creating her magical menagerie. I think the first time I caught a glimpse of one of her characters it reminded me of one of my families favorite movies, The Labyrinth with all of its fantastical characters. I think Nicole could be the next Jim Henson.
Not only is she super talented and imaginative but she is one of the sweetest, down to earth people and so very supportive of other crafters. She is a great advocate for the DIY movement. I really enjoyed pouring through her flickr sets today to pick some of my favorites to go along with her interview.
What inspires you in your creativity?
I love searching out particular fabrics and trying out new sculpted forms. I do love very old toys, the likes you’d find lurking in Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander and cotton patterns from the 60s and 70s. I like the challenge of perfecting an exasperated and sweet expression and I’m drawn to things that are funny and sad, beautiful but maybe a bit broken. I love making special personal gifts, clothing for my daughter, friends and, family. I look at a good deal of art on and off etsy and artists that tie their art and craft together beautifully, blur the lines between gallery work and obtainable objects, blow me away. I’d like to build my own bridge. I find it super challenging, engaging and compelling to try.
If you tried to trace back the series of events that lead
to you making things and opening an etsy shop where would
I was visiting my sister in Boston in August 2007 when I saw a cute magnet on her refrigerator with a photo of adorable handmade dolls and an etsy web address (Mimi Kirchner). I work for an arts non profit as a teaching artist during the school year. In the summer, I head an arts program for children. There is always a gap in between. Every fall I am worried and need to find ways to make ends meet before my residencies begin. I came home from Boston to Brooklyn and spent hours pouring over etsy shops. I was excited and inspired by the really wonderful stuff people were whipping up. I realized it was so easy to set a shop up and started on it right away. I threw up a couple silly mouse cat toys in my now pretty much empty nlicht shop and quickly grew more ambitious. A month later, I set up my plush shop, astulabee. My flickr account and blog soon followed after.
How did you learn your crafting skills?
I grew up in a pretty bare bones home. First out of necessity then desire I started making the things I wanted, clothing, jewelry, using whatever discarded or materials I could find. I grew into a pretty rebellious punk rock teen and thrived in the DIY ethos I found there, never mind the handmade costuming opportunities, which I loved. I did go to art school, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City, which provided a rigorous fine art skill foundation with a strong conceptual and theory based bent. When there, I continued sewing/customizing my own clothes, cutting my hair and others, making stuff I wanted but couldn’t afford to buy. I have no formal sewing training. I still would love to take some classes.
Can you describe an environment : time, place and company (
people or pets) where you feel most creative?
I live in a super small apartment in Brooklyn, New York. I work at a hollow wooden door desk in my bedroom or more often upon my bed. The bed habit has become a running joke because it’s so full of threads and sometimes pins it can be ridiculous. It’s been assumed that I’d set up a ‘work bed’ in any studio I might get but that’s not really true. I’d be happy for a bed free workspace.
I’m a morning person and I like to get started on things right away but I‘ve been known to continue stitching into the wee hours. I love having my daughter around making something along side me but honestly that’s a rare experience. Truly, I always have handwork on me, I sew on the subway. I kind of work everywhere alone or around friends, all the time.
What do you have planned 2009?
I’m feverishly preparing for my spot in the AltCraft section at the Baltimore American Craft Council show at the end of February.
I’ll be part of an embroidery show at Gallery Hanahou also in February here in NYC.
And after that, I’m not really sure.
I’ve been so lucky to participate in the handmade/handcrafted re re surgence and I am really committed to the idea of people making and doing for themselves. There are serious restrictions being placed upon handcrafted toymakers in the United States right now and I’d love to run workshops teaching parents how to make their own educational crafts and toys.
As for creative endeavors, I’m full of ideas but short on time. The root of my made up word, astulabee is astula, a Latin word. It means, roughly, atelier, an artist’s workshop. That’s why I chose the name. I’d love to spend more time in a future ‘workshop’ creating all sorts of things. I'd gladly take on illustration projects. I’d love to design more outside of/ in addition to plush.
As with federal and local educational budget cuts, my teaching residencies have significantly dwindled. I have been trying to eek by on crafting but I’ve found the pressure to produce enough to pay the bills extremely stressful. I haven’t taken the time to really focus on the business side of this all. It’s something I must address in 2009.
What advice or encouragement would you offer another
creative person contemplating taking a big step to open a
shop or blog in 2009?
I’d say make exactly what you want to make the very best you can. I’d honestly suggest not stopping at ‘this will do’ but to push your own inventive side. The handmade marketplace is really about human interaction. Share as much of yourself as you feel comfortable doing so in your craft and blog posts. It’s wonderfully easy to communicate with those you admire. I have found the handmade community so extremely kind and generous. The water is warm, jump in!
Okay , wasn't that another amazing interview. I am having so much fun and learning so much about these awesome friends this week that I just don't want it to end. Tomorrow , day 5, the interview will be with someone who has the best inspiration monday mosaics on flickr and who is also an artist, a poet, a doll maker and writes with a sewing machine.