Earlier this month, the Stitches and Craft show landed in Melbourne, Australia. The show brings together retailers and designers, as well as craft labs for attendees to learn new craft techniques.
My favourite part of the show though would have to be the ‘Incubator’ section, which features independent crafters and designers from all over the country.
We are spoilt for choice in Australia when it comes to independent fabric desginers and I managed to steal one away for a quick chat – the very funny (& honest), Shannon from Aunty Cookie.
FQ: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your artistic background?
Shannon: ‘I remember it was pretty early on in primary school when I knew I was pretty OK at drawing! I used to make these quite elaborate headings for projects and even in high school it was the only thing I felt I was any good at.
I went on to study painting for two years and then completed a Bachelor of Fine Art at Victorian College of the Arts – where I majored in drawing.
But of course for those three years did very little drawing in my major works, lots of photography, wanky installations and text based stuff. Most of my stuff now has elements of text in it, similar to my artwork from years ago.
After uni I worked at a few dodgy jobs, not drawing or creating anything at all for atleast 6-8 year, mainly doing graphic design work. It was only when I had my daughter Lola (who is now 6) that I started working for myself and making again.
I never planned to be doing what I’m doing now – combining freelance work with running my own small business. I’ve kind of just kept plodding along – it suits my life at the moment so I guess I won’t be doing much else for a while yet!‘
FQ: Where do you draw inspiration from?
Shannon: ‘Everything and anything. Magazines, blogs, movies, music, mates who craft – mates who can’t craft, my dodgy attempts at making something, conversations I have in my head whilst schlepping the kids about.
I’ve got a little notebook I carry where I write down random stuff I like, stupid things I’ve heard. I’m not a sit in the park and stare at nature kinda girl, ideas will eventually come to me, I don’t need to look for them.’
FQ: Can you describe to us your design process?
Shannon: ‘Yep, it’s simple. If it takes more that 20 minutes. I ditch it. I may have a basic idea or theme or shape I like, if it takes me too long and laborious to make, or draw or design I ditch it.
I’m a fast and simple drawer. I don’t labour over things, I don’t have time. I have small windows of time that are child free so if things are dragging out I get bored and they are binned.’
FQ: Which of your designs is your favourite and why?
Shannon: ‘Most probably the LETTERHEAD design. It came together really quickly and I have been able to milk it and stretch it into so many products!!’
FQ: When you are not designing or creating for your label, what sort of things do you like to make for yourself?
Shannon: ‘Badly made kids clothes. I am trying to be more patient and read things more closely, but I just always rush ahead when I’m making something for the kids, I just cut and hack and sew and hope for the best.
Following instructions or reading things properly hasnt never been a strong point, I just look at stuff and think ‘ oh yeah I can make that’ and get started. Hence all my badly made, ill fitting kids outfits.’
FQ: Where do you see Aunty Cookie in five years?
Shannon: ‘Still likely to be plugging along, whining about my lack of time and annoying kids, maybe making more – maybe stocking more ranges – maybe sleeping more. Hopefully in five years I will be a better sewer, a more patient mother and someone with a better haircut.’
You can see more of Shannon’s designs here.
Other designers included, Kristen Doran, Ink & Spindle, Yardage Design and Pipi Joe. We are looking forward to featuring a few of these designers over the coming months.
The incubator also showcases some of Australia’s independent crafters. It was great to put faces to names and meet some of the crafters whose work we have admired.
I was thrilled to finally ‘meet’ Jodie from Ric-Rac, her softie creations are awe inspiring and the selvedge dress is even better in the flesh.
FQ: When did you first start crafting and why?
Jodie: ‘I can remember crafting when I was about 12 – I had a crazy idea that I could make some clothes. By the time I was at Uni (about 18 ) I did make clothes as well as loads of other things. I was the typical starving uni student so used to buy clothes from the op-shop and chop them up to make new clothes. I would like to say they were stylish and well-made but that would be a huge lie!
Of course once I had kids I went mad and made all sorts of hideous things for them to wear, with the odd tutu and super-hero cape thrown in for good measure. So I guess I started as a way of saving money and now…oh dear…it seems to have become the way I spend money!’
FQ: Your softies have real personalities, can you tell us how these little guys (and girls) come to life?
Jodie: ‘Thats a hard question. Sometimes it’s a complete experiment, like I might want to try paws and a whole animal develops from that and sometimes , like Ernst, a little doodle in the sketch book just becomes a complete little turtle-person with a story and a past.
Without sounding too much like a weirdo, those toys can sometimes haunt me a bit until they are made….I can’t stop thinking about them and I doodle them everywhere and wake up at night with ideas that I am so sure I will forget I have to run to the kitchen to write them down.’
I find heads the hardest with softies and often make a dozen or more before I am happy – I am always amazed at just how much emotion can change with a change of shape or a bit of embroidery. Usually, once I have made a head that fits the personality I have thought up, the rest kind of follows and the story just unfolds.
I can remember making dolls for my nieces while I was at Uni and I wrote stories to go along with them , so I think the story-telling bit has always been around – Crazy isn’t it?
FQ: The selvedge frock is in one word ‘inspirational’, how did it come about?
Jodie: ‘I have a serious obsession with text – particularly text on fabric and just half-heartedly began to collect my own selvedges because I liked the look of them. The frock came about after a series of smaller projects.
I started with a mini-quilt and got that real “heart palpitations” thing as I was making it. I then made a bag, followed by what should have been a journal cover, but I just loved how the selvedges came together that I could not stop sewing and the journal cover got longer and longer until I decided it would be a scarf. I wasn’t sure that the scarf would work, but once it was finished and I put it on and saw that the “fabric” still had that drape for clothing – I was a goner ! I knew I had to make a dress and I knew it had to be 50′s style full skirted shirt -dress…..
Of course I have to say the dress would never ever have happened if it weren’t for the generosity of blogland – I had contributors from all the world send me their scraps to get it finished. (Even The Ginger Monkey herself.) I was really surprised by the reaction to the dress and the poor old dear now resides in a plastic bag in the cupboard, occassionally popping out to strut her stuff as requested.’
FQ: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Jodie: ‘Can I whisper? *In five years I would like to have more time to make stuff* I’m not sure if that means I will no longer have a day job, or maybe my day job will be different…I just know that there is never enough time to make all the stuff I want to make.
Obviously I am going to be taller, thinnner and more beautiful by then, so yeh a bit more making time would make me very happy.
Oh I’d also like a crazy rich patron to give me lots of money so I can travel the world doing fabric research (and meeting bloggers).’
The show was a hub of inspiration and creativity and it was great to see so many different styles and crafts under the one roof.
Claire from Craft Schmaft with her stunning sock creations.
Lisa from the Red Thread with her unique softie kits and panels.
Shannon has very generously given Fat Quarterly ten of her apron patterns for us to giveaway. If you would like to get your hands on one leave a comment here.
We will draw the winners on Sunday 23rd May.