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Featured Seller: Claire La Faye

May 23, 2012

by clairelafaye handmade and vintage goods

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am an artist, designer, mother and wife. Apart from waitressing at a restaurant or two, I have always worked for  myself. I was a good waitress, but I’m a better designer. I love to work with my hands. I’m a bit compulsive when it comes to work. I love it. I’m and overachiever and a bit of a perfectionist.

I graduated from Parsons School of Design with a Fine Arts degree in sculpture. I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I have lived between New York and Los Angeles. I keep finding myself returning to the Pacific Northwest where I now live with two kids, two cats, a husband and a house we lovingly call our little money pit.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I have a three-year-old and an 8-month-old, so the notion of free time makes me laugh. I think I work less now that I have kids, which is good for me. It makes brunch with friends, trips to the coast, and bike rides to the park even more special.  Portland is a great place for us– it’s a city abuzz with creative energy and community. It helps me find the balance I struggle with every day between work, family and personal sanity. That, and reserves of patience, which you can never have enough of with a small business or small children.

What’s the most important question a couple should ask their wedding vendor?
Weddings can be a strange beast of sorts; they tend to take on a life of their own and can spin out of control when there are too many people involved. I think it’s very important to trust your instincts, stay true to your heart and really try to design your wedding for you, not the two hundred people attending.  In regard to finding the dress, the happiest (and easiest) brides I work with are the ones who don’t bring an entourage of a dozen opinions to go dress shopping.  One or two voices will suffice, and the one you should be listening to is your own. Happy the bride who doesn’t bring her groom’s entire womenfolk to a dress fitting.

What’s the most memorable custom item you’ve created for a wedding?
I made my dear friend Line’s wedding dress years ago as a wedding gift for her. Line is Danish and designed her dress in fantastical bold shades of golden yellows and warm oranges. It was a crazy and magical Danish/Jewish hippie wedding out in the woods here in Oregon.  I wasn’t doing bridal at that time, so it was a special piece to make for her.

What would be the title of your memoir?
It’s How You Get There . I tend to get a bit obsessed with getting to the ever-elusive finish line, so this reminder is necessary for me. Upon moving to a new space while living in NYC, I found it written on a Post-It stuck to the mirror in my empty apartment.  At the time, it was rather profound — one of those “you had to be there” moments you have throughout your twenties. I think of it every day, mostly because it resides in permanent ink on the side of my torso, staring back at me every morning as I get dressed.

Where does your inspiration come from?
I honestly have no idea what compels me to do what I do, but I know I would go crazy if I couldn’t do it. It almost doesn’t matter what format it’s in, so long as I can be creative and make things. I love making pretty dresses every day, same as I used to love making giant welded sculptures of found objects. I believe in that moment when an artist finds their voice, their medium, their format, and everything just flows. The medium can change, but the inspiration remains the same. It’s simply a need to express yourself, and finding the best language to do so. Inspiration is the result of working every day, being in the studio, putting in the time.

What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade comes from someplace where creativity and inspiration are able to dance around freely waiting to be expressed in a physical form. It comes from passion and intention and thoughtful execution. It is craftsmanship. It is the result of letting your imagination wander without regard to bottom lines, assembly lines, standardization and status quo. “Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties. ” – Erich Fromm

Who has been most influential in your craft?
My parents supported anything creative we were drawn to as kids. This instilled confidence, love and a belief that I could, in fact, do anything, no matter how uncertain and flighty the path of the artist. They allowed me to be myself, which speaks volumes when raising kids.

I have been with my artist husband for more than 15 years now, and we continue to re-inspire each other all the time. Our shared love of art was a huge force in drawing us to each other, and will no doubt remain so throughout our life together. It’s one of the benefits of marrying an artist, I guess.

My contemporaries fuel my need to keep creating as well. It’s all things creative, inspired and even competitive that keep the fires lit. Ultimately the people who have influenced me the most are not even aware of it– it’s a butterfly effect of sorts.

When did you know you were an artist/maker?
Art has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I think I was nine or so the year I asked for a sewing machine and taught myself how to sew a line of bridesmaids dresses for my Barbie’s wedding. I was much older when I realized I could actually grow up and make art for life. There is nothing in the world that compares to being in your early twenties in New York City – freedom, inspiration and possibility around every corner – surrounded by the best of the best in art, fashion, music, food, beauty, talent and intellect. It’s the city that literally never sleeps, and I spent limitless hours in the studio making art. It was the best thing ever– an artist was born.

How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process has changed slightly since having kids. There used to be more time for everything. Now I find myself working out many ideas in my head in the space between falling asleep and dreaming, or in the shower. These are the quiet times I just let my mind work. I work primarily in 3D. Occasionally ideas go to the drawing board, but it’s not really my forté. I love just getting in there and playing with fabric based on the visions in my head. It leaves a bit more room for interpretation and allows for more happy accidents.

If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I would love to see inside the studios of the crazy genius art makers. Mozart, Basquiat, Picasso, Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs – the crazier the artist, the better the art. It would be inspiring to see what motivated them. There are naturals – the truly gifted – who seem most comfortable hovering in between the here and now and the realm in which they work.  Then there are the rest of us.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My grandmother showered me with handmade quilts, nightgowns, Barbie clothes, special inside-out dresses with hidden pockets and secret words stitched into them. How would I choose from these things? Then there’s the custom made swing set and the tree house with secret trap door that my father built us, long before you could buy something manufactured like that. There’s also the finger paintings and Mother’s Day cards my daughter made for me. It’s cliché, but please! Once you’re a mother, it all makes you cry. It would be impossible to choose any one thing over another; I cherish it all.

How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Fortunately, I experience more overflow than ruts. When it does happen, I stop and change up my environment.  I get out of the studio – play hooky, go shopping, go to the coffee shop and look at magazines, people watch, space out, take long hot showers and think of nothing in particular, drink wine, drink tea, do yoga, or go on a day trip. The reassuring thing is once you can let a little steam out of the pressure cooker and just relax, something good always happens.

Where would you like to be in ten years?
In ten years I hope to be happy, healthy, and one step closer to finding the great balance of life. I hope to be making art, making dresses, raising my kids and selling to hopeful brides around the world – doing what I do.

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