Tell us about yourself.
My name is Sue Eggen and I’m the heart and hands of Giant Dwarf. I’m a Southern belle, born and raised in New Orleans, now living in Philadelphia, where I share my life with my fiancé Nathaniel (the handsome librarian behind Secret Lovers) and our feline companions Turnip and Shawshank. I’m a self-taught artist with a background in veterinary medicine. I have an unconditional love for vintage fashion, café au laits, and my Hermes 3000 typewriter.
Apart from creating, what do you do?
Food is one of the most important parts of my life. I love to eat and am always on the hunt for new tastes. I’m extremely lucky to have an aspiring chef who cooks the most delicious meals to share with me. Sometimes I have to pinch myself with each bite! Traveling is also a great passion of mine, from taking Giant Dwarf on the road for craft fairs to experiencing Europe for the first time last year. Each adventure has changed my life, which keeps me hungry for seeing what the rest of the world has to offer.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Measure Twice, Cut Once — a motto I find myself saying often.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Surrounding myself with a collection of things from my past, gifts from friends and fans, and objects I’ve taken home from travels inspire me the most. I’ve created a world in my studio, which is affectionately called “The Crafty Cocoon.” It’s a comfortable place where I can daydream about ideas and beautiful things are created and set free.
What does handmade mean to you?
It’s an idea that comes straight from the heart, created with care and love, from start to finish.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My customers here on Etsy and at craft fairs, as well as other makers in this community — in particular, Shauna Alterio and Stephen Loidolt, the dynamic duo behind Something’s Hiding In Here. Their dedication to detail and design aesthetic is wondrous, and their friendship and support over the years has been invaluable. Lastly, my friends and family believing in and encouraging me to continue on this handmade path fills me with tremendous joy to keep doing what I love.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I have fond memories of sitting on my grandma Rose’s lap, watching her sew for hours on end. My eyes kept close watch on every stitch! I was mesmerized and couldn’t wait for my little hands to be able to mimic hers. I had no idea that following this instinct to create would evolve itself into much more than just a hobby, but I feel this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. The desire to make things by hand is in my soul.
How would you describe your creative process?
I take an organic approach to designing, letting ideas come and go, capturing the essence of what they were meant to be, then give them life. First and foremost, it starts with discovering how colors respond to one another. This leads the way to finding the perfect texture, giving the design a certain feel and balance. Packaging is last, bringing everything full circle.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Henry Darger. We’re so immersed in people’s lives, because of the digital age in which we live, so I feel there aren’t a lot of secrets left. Everything is so exposed and immediate! Henry Darger, being the outsider artist that he was, only has a handful of known photographs in existence documenting his life. That’s so precious and inspiring, in a way, to know that something so quiet and private was preserved, but his artwork is so well-known.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A custom painting of Turnip and Shawshank made by Vivienne Strauss, a carved wooden ring made by Something’s Hiding In Here, and a tissue paper ghost made by Amy Sedaris.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
All areas of my life are creative and I view everything as a process. A release to find balance, keeping creativity at the forefront, is key. To take pressure off a project for Giant Dwarf, I make something for myself that won’t necessarily be shown to anyone else. Photography and painting are at the top of my list, but I find great pleasure in arranging fresh flowers, roasting coffee beans and cutting my own hair.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
To put things into perspective, it’ll be 2021 and I’ll be 45. I’d love the opportunity to pass along everything I’ve learned, which will be 17 years in the making at that point. I want to share my knowledge of this self-taught journey by writing a book or teaching classes. I also want to keep learning, traveling and following my dreams, wherever they may take me.