Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Tawny Holt and Armour sans Anguish is my full time job and the ongoing, unending project in my life. I love projects and start them constantly. Sometimes I finish them, too. Phil is my long suffering husband of 7 years (yesterday was our anniversary!) and he has made room for the piles and stacks of tulle, lace, velvet, and silk. We live in a 1918 Craftsman home in lovely Modesto, CA and suffer from an excess of civic pride. We adore our hometown and pretty much want to live and die here.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I’m in a vintage-inspired go-go dancing troupe called The Radiowaves and we perform around town at special events, concerts, and many a spontaneous backyard party. I also co-organize a yearly modern craft bazaar called Hand Born which also serves to raise money for local charities. When I’m not shaking my bootie or handing out flyers for events I spend ample amounts of time scouring the thrift landscape for items to sell on my other Etsy shop, The Aviary. I can also be found painting, fiddling around on my guitar, and encouraging Modestoans to ride bikes.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I think it was less a decision and more a fulfillment of ingrained obligation. My grandmother and mother are both artsy types and I have a paintbrush in my hand in all of my earliest childhood memories. I’ve never seen the arts as extraneous to the necessities of life, but as the centrifugal force behind everything else.
My one divergence occurred when I attended The University of California Santa Cruz and received degrees in Anthropology and Feminist Studies. People often ask me when I’m going to start “using” my degrees and I look at them sideways because I thought I already was. Thinking critically about labor, sustainability, and how we live in the world has irrevocably shaped the way I approach business practices and the creative process.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
Sadly for my husband, my best creative moments are usually accompanied by melancholic streaks driven by sad songs, dramatic films, and lots of wistful late-night swooning. I think I ultimately want to create clothing that is painfully romantic in the best possible way. Unfortunately, I think it has made me hold on to teenage angst a bit tighter than most.
On a more technical level, I am 100% materials-driven in my production process, by which I mean I wait for the things I salvage to dictate the possibilities of the design. I only use recycled materials with very few exceptions, which means I am at the mercy of what I am able to come across in my hunting expeditions. I love finding things that would otherwise be thrown away— things with stains or rips that can be cut around, sewn over, or put to good use. I consider myself to be an “Eco” designer, but I really just want to make beautiful clothes that happen to also contribute to the sustainability of our world. I’ve always been of the buy-it-used-or-make-it-if-you-can ilk, so using vintage materials was less a bold statement and more an extension of the way I think everyday life should be.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
This speaks to my clothing obsession, but I am forever in love with my Mociun handmade striped tie-front dress. Mociun clothing is so well-fitting—and made with sustainable fabrics! It is the perfect everyday dress. www.mociun.com
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
The Gold Cell by Sharon Olds
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Undoing Gender by Judith Butler
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
Little Miss Sunshine
Sex and Lucia (less racy than it sounds)
24 Hour Party People
Everything is Illuminated
Annie (it never gets old)
Bat for Lashes
Fleetwood Mac (don’t laugh…most of my life I’ve only ever wanted to be Stevie Nicks)
TheMoldyDoily (inspiration overload)
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
I think that spending extra time and money on really lovely pictures of your work is absolutely worth it. Buy the nice camera or borrow your friend’s because as beautiful as your work might be, if it is photographed poorly it loses its luster.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I’m giddy over most of Etsy’s features, but I especially love being able to curate my own little gallery of favorites. I think it’s so special to see what folks admire and how they pair together the items they covet. Having some sort of marker or alert for return customers’ orders would be great. I can usually remember, but I’m always afraid I won’t be able to send along an extra gift or special thanks to someone who has returned for more.
How do you promote your work?
This is absolutely my weak spot. I have trouble gabbing on about how great Armour sans Anguish is and I’ve been lucky enough to have friends and family who do it for me. I do sell at craft shows now and then and I have put on and/or participated in quite a few fashion shows, which is always the most rewarding if not lucrative aspect of my job. I’ve been blessed to never have to pound the pavement and knock on boutiques’ doors (which is just about the scariest thing I can think of) as my website—and now my Etsy shop—has enabled me to get the word out and rack up a list of about 20 independent boutiques nationwide that carry Armour sans Anguish garments. I. Love. the. Internet.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Balancing a job in academia with late night sewing parties… possibly with a well-dressed toddler in tow.