Art on the Rivers is coming to Frontier Park in historic Saint Charles on August 27. While we’re really excited to be hosting this event in conjunction with the Greenway Network and Race for the Rivers, it’s out makers, artists, and crafters that make the whole thing possible for us. Shows like this give us the opportunity to talk to the public about our individual makers stories, and also to show that there are artists living and working in the community and making a living from making things by hand. We’re thrilled to be working with each of these exciting artists, and look forward to introducing them all to you!
Today, we caught up with Eleanor of Scarlett & Maria to chat about her work, being a maker, inspiration, and goals. Join us as we meet our makers!
Tell us about your first “Maker Moment” How did you get into making things?
I used to buy tons and tons and tons of clothes from an old gothic auction site (a looooong time ago). Once I’d bought everything there was to buy and still hadn’t successfully outwardly communicated my inside through existing fashion, I realized the only way to do so was to make it myself. I had no art or sewing experience of any kind. With the help of family members and friends, I started the journey from my first shoddily made dress to the quality flower accessories I make today.
Where does your making happen? Tell us about your work space.
I carved my workspace out in a little corner of the basement. It may not make for pretty Instagram photos, but the light is always exactly where I need it 24 hours a day and I have a perfect view of the tv, my husband on the couch for conversation, and my son at play.
What inspires you? Tell us a little about what you make and why.
I’ve always been attracted to the colors and textures of fabric. It’s a medium that I can use without the ability to draw. It’s responsive. Kanzashi making is the tedious exacting art of an uptight person, but with an explosively happy and whimsical outcome. Also a perfectly simple outcome, with no ulterior motives, hidden messages or meanings, each one just is. Each one is its own moment of Zen. And to wear them makes me feel different, but not in the “different like everybody else” way, but truly unique.
Handmade is less to me about the objects themselves and more about the connections to the extraordinary people that make them. Growing up going to the art shows, the people in their tents displaying their works were like celebrities to me. Owning a “so and so” piece was more special to me than owning a “such and such” brand name. I love getting dressed and accessorizing with stories and histories, never “stuff”. Having the only one of something is infinitely valuable to me and makes me feel wealthy.
Are there any materials that you have used in your products that you think may be unexpected?
Everyone guesses that I use ribbon all coiled up. But I actually use a vast array of different fabrics, each petal cut one square at a time. Cutting isn’t prep, it’s a lengthy and vital part of the process.
What personality trait do you possess that you think helps you the most as a professional crafter?
Stubbornness. I think a lot of people would see the slow times and fear of bankruptcy as a sign to move on. I’d rather die to be honest. Even if there’s a 99% chance I will fail, it’s not quitting. Quitting is 100% chance. The rest is compulsion. If I can’t make stuff, I can’t go on living. There’s no explanation for where that comes from, it’s just there for better or worse.
What do you think differentiates crafting from other types of business?
I can’t speak for everyone, but as someone who makes “non-essentials”, I think the challenge is intensified in today’s economy. All the marketing advice says to promote the way your product solves a problem. My product doesn’t solve a problem. It’s just supposed to make you happy.
What do you enjoy most about selling your handmade goods?
What I enjoy most is that every sale is personal and validating. A sale of something I bought to re-sell has no “me” in it. Even if I were to put recognizable characters and logos on my pieces, they would be endorsing their favorite characters created by someone else, not endorsing me and what I do. I want to be seen, to be known, and my work is a visual expression of what’s inside. It’s kind of crazy how many people on my Facebook friends list were customers first.