Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Sara Carter. I’m a Midwestern girl, but right now I make my home in Texas with my husband, Kenny, and our baby girl, Mimi. Most of the year you’ll find vintage fabrics and supplies in my shop, but every August, Not The Kitchen Sink is transformed into a costume shop. The three months leading up to Halloween become madness at my house. I feel like Pig-Pen from Peanuts, with little bits of felt continuously swirling around me. My life kind of stops: my family eats a lot more frozen food, phone calls go unanswered, cobwebs begin to form all around us. But, at the end of it all, I get the satisfaction of knowing that a few hundred smiling kids (and kids at heart!) will be trotting around their neighborhoods wearing one of my creations. It’s a great feeling, even if i have to spend the first week of November recovering in bed.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I read to my baby. All day. Before bed. And then again before breakfast. I have at least one hundred children’s books memorized word-for-word. My kid has been obsessed with books since she was five months old.
When I’m not reading, I love watching social documentaries and PBS. I also love to travel. Before I travel to a new city, I always Google secondhand stores in the area and drag my family all over town looking for them. Thrift stores are like museums to me — museums where you don’t have to stand behind the ropes. You can touch anything you want and can even take it home with you. I love that.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Me and My Ergonomic Seam Ripper: An Old Fashioned Love Story. She completes me.
Where does your inspiration come from?
In college, I was chosen by one of my professors to be interviewed for the school paper about my art. The interviewer asked me this question and, unprepared for it, I said, “Oh, art is everywhere!” I cringed as I heard the words coming out of my mouth.
When I got my hands on that edition of the paper, there was a large picture of me with the quote, “Art is Everywhere for Student Artist” in bold print above my head. I wanted to die. I knew my family and friends were going to have a lot of fun with that for a long time.
But, the truth is, art is everywhere, and I’m old enough now to embrace the cheesiness of that statement. My inspiration comes from common things like a good meal, a conversation with a friend, my baby’s books and thrift stores. Many of my costumes inspire companion costumes, which can be really fun to work on.
My customers are great for inspiration, too. It’s shocking how much creative freedom I’m given. They will tell me, “Oh, just do whatever you think is best. I trust you.” Those words always strike an exhilarating fear within me. Some people skydive for a rush, but I create little works of wearable art for blind and trusting souls and send them out into the universe via an unpredictable lifeline called the United States Postal Service.
What does handmade mean to you?
The value of handmade items is measured in the energy, creativity and, most of all, the time it takes to make them. Time is our most precious and non-renewable resource. Taking the time to create something by hand is the highest honor you can give any one thing.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
I spent a lot of summers with my Grandma S. when I was a child. I would watch in amazement as she cut and hand-sewed pants and shirts for my dolls and stuffed animals without using a patern. Just knowing that could be done had a huge impact on me. To this day, I rarely use patterns — I have developed my own pattern for the base of my costumes, but the components are all hand-cut, making no two costumes exactly the same.
My mom is also very crafty, and she supported my creativity a lot as a child. She has always been open to guiding me with a new technique or helping me find the supplies I needed. I can tell she’s proud of my skills as a seamstress because she often pretends she doesn’t know about sewing tools and techniques to let me “teach” her something new. It’s very sweet. (She doesn’t know that I’m on to her.)
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I was about 7 or 8 years old. I strung beads on elastic and sold them at a garage sale. Shortly after that I would steal fabric from my mom’s stash and use it to decoupage boxes. Still, it wasn’t until high school that I realized I was an artist. My high school art teacher was the first to discover my eye for color. In college my drawing and painting professors were also quite impressed with my knowledge of color theory and quite unimpressed by my complete lack of talent for drawing and painting.
How would you describe your creative process?
When I get a new costume idea, I usually get a vision pretty quickly of how it will look as a finished piece. But, before I start to work, I study up to make sure that vision is going to be the best interpretation of an exaggerated reality. Then I just get to work. I’m a perfectionist, so it’s easy for me to get lost in the details. I’m in the process of training myself to work around that natural tendency and it’s helping me get more work done.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Well, Frida Kahlo, of course. When I think of her struggles as an artist (and simply as a person), it makes me feel silly for letting anything get in the way of my craft. It’s amazing what she did while lying flat on her back. But what I most admire about Frida is the courage she showed through self-portraits. As a 30-something woman in 2011, with the media shoving an impossibly idealized woman down my throat at every turn, I’m sometimes afraid of my own shadow. Frida’s self-portraits remind me that there is beauty in the ugly truth.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I think I was about 10 when my Grandma O. gave me a wooden easel made by my grandpa. It was nice to have something which his hands had so thoughtfully created, since I never had the chance to meet him. It made me proud that my grandma saw the artist in me before I did. It was a small but important gesture towards nurturing my creativity.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I lived in Austin, TX for six years before we moved to Houston for my husband’s job, and I would really love to move back to Austin. I’m dreaming of a (little bit) less humid climate, spring-fed pools, more progressive schools for my daughter, amazing local restaurants, multiple independent record shops and the friendly faces of a “small” town.
Creatively, I’m working on developing patterns so that more people can enjoy my designs. And at some point, I would love to be published.