Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Liza Rietz and I am a self-taught clothing designer. I make women’s clothing and cloche hats out of my studio/storefront in Portland, Oregon. Determined to sculpt designs that are both artistic and wearable, I have dedicated the last 9 years to honing my craft. I have been part of a wonderful and supportive design community in Portland, enabling me to showcase my work in fashion shows, events, in boutiques and in my own storefront.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Creating is my full-time job. Aside from designing, sewing and running a storefront, I am in a dedicated rock band called Tu Fawning. Music is my other passion — I have been playing in bands for the last 10 years and tour both nationally and internationally. Designing fulfills my more introverted, meticulous imagination and music quenches my extroverted artistic side. I’m your classic Gemini!
A great example of my two worlds colliding happened last September. I was on a national tour and a woman contacted me from Etsy about making her wedding dress. We talked by phone about measurements and fabric samples between sound check and showtime. She was pregnant and concerned about taking her own measurements, so later in my tour she and her fiancé drove an hour to get a fitting. Taking a bride’s measurements in the middle of a rock club seemed to encompass the duality of my two passions perfectly.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I believe being an artist was with me from the beginning. Whether it was making my Barbie’s clothes out of old socks, or playing my violin and piano, I was always creatively buzzing from a very young age. My parents said I never sat still and referred to me as “Busy Lizzie.” My mother’s passing from cancer nine years ago propelled me into an even deeper and more passionate yearning to create, to make interesting and compelling things in this world and to live with intention.
Please describe your creative process.
New landscapes stimulate my creativity which is why I am lucky to travel extensively with my band. I am inspired by architecture, cityscapes and people in their environments. I first sketch my design ideas, then translate the basic concepts into flat patterns. I make muslin mock-ups from these patterns that I can manipulate on my dress form. I do a lot of tweaking of the design: add embellishments, alter the fit and shape of the garment through draping on the dress form. Depending on the design, sometimes this process is reversed. I am perpetually intrigued with the sculptural elements of clothing, so a lot of my structural components coalesce through draping.
I love the evolution of a design from sketch to garment on the body. Fabric has a way of speaking for itself. If you let it hang or ruche it in a certain style, it sincerely takes on a life of its own, with both structure and movement. The harmony of the body with the garment essentially creates an entirely new design.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I cherish anything made for me by a friend or loved one. There are days at my studio when I find myself running a quick inventory of my immediate surroundings and realize I am wearing earrings from my friend Caitlin, a dress from my friend Emily, listening to my friend Dustin’s music on my iPod and eating my friend Tracy’s amazing lasagna for lunch. Handmade craziness, if you ask me.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
After four years on Etsy, the tricky balance for me is being both creative and business minded! Wouldn’t I love to spend my days making couture dresses that take weeks to make? It’s important to experiment and work on one project for a long time, but you must also find your bread and butter pieces — something that is intriguing and easier for you to produce and offer at a lower price point.
It can be overwhelming to do everything — marketing, photo shoots, blogging, let alone designing and making everything. The best thing I ever did was hire an assistant who is endlessly helpful. And interns! I love them! Lastly, love your customers. All small businesses exist from a dedicated customer base. That loyalty is up to you to curate and nourish.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
I love the Featured Seller series on the blog because I’m always fascinated and intrigued by the artist behind the art. It is great to hear what inspires and motivates individuals to produce handmade goods. Being a clothing designer, I think it would be interesting if Etsy had a sort of separate, flagship site just for high-end and couture clothing.
Image by Annie Beedy
How do you promote your work?
I design two collections annually and strive to curate a fashion show for each. I’ve had a lot of fun in the past creating runway shows and fashion installations with other incredibly talented clothing designers (which Portland is blessed with).
I also do larger handmade bazaars and this year, I opened a temporary pop-up shop in downtown Portland in conjunction with my permanent storefront. These efforts help with my local exposure, but I am definitely eager to promote my collections in other cities. I hope to hire someone to do PR for me in the future. In the meantime, I am endlessly thankful for all of the dedicated bloggers who have promoted my work over the years! And Etsy treasuries — thank you!
In ten years, where would you like to be?
I still want to be designing and playing music. But, so I don’t wear myself out, I want to keep my focus and intentions on what is meaningful to me and expand in terms of having more help. I am dedicated to my craft — the art of designing and sewing is the core value I keep ever close to my heart!