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Featured Seller: piperewan

Jan 30, 2008

by piperewan

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Tell us a bit about yourself.

i am kirsten a. moore, and i have lived in portland, oregon since i was six months old. i graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in music from portland state university in 1995. my mom and my great grandmother taught me how to sew when i was three. i have been making all kinds of things as long as i can remember. i settled on fashion design, because i really like the idea of functional art. i started my piper ewan line in 1998 after i was laid off from my bank job. currently i work out of an art collective called the egg. it is an open warehouse space that houses a dozen artists, a gallery and a marching band.

piper ewan is named after my pet cat.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

i sleep sometimes.

piper ewan is my full time job.

What first made you want to become an artist?

it wasn’t something that i decided. when an idea pops into my head, i have to make it. if i am busy doing something else, it will dance around my mind, and i will obsess over the idea until i make it.

Please describe your creative process (how, when, materials, etc).

every morning i have tea with my cat before walking the mile between my house and my studio at the egg. i like to wander to work by different routes and look at things; like birds, graffiti, free piles, buildings, mud puddles, trees, leaves, random fodder, cats and neighborhood chickens. all of the stuff that is outside. being outside helps clear my head. i am inspired by all sorts of random things.

some designs come quickly, and others take a good long time. i am totally ocd; which seems to be the case of all of my artist friends. i have a particular aesthetic, which is the beginning. i especially like the styles from the 1920’s to the early 1960’s. i go for a somewhat old timey look that is also timeless. i like lingerie as outerwear. i believe in dressing up to go to the grocery store. i generally like clean simple designs which are the hardest to pull off. clean lines are like the slow movement in a piece of music; there is nothing to hide behind. i am really picky about fit. i can’t stand puckers or lumps or buckles. i also like insane surface decoration. i am most known for my flowers, but i like other sorts of decoration as well. i use old school couture sewing techniques; i don’t own a serger. i meticulously hand finish everything.

sometimes i wonder if i am procrastinating when i just can’t bring myself to work on something, then after a little time passes, the crucial design aspect will pop into my head, the part that makes the whole thing work. i am really good at solving problems. i need to be doing something all the time or i become self-destructive. i never managed to become addicted to coffee and cigarettes, but i have to keep making things. when i am not at the studio, i have to be knitting or quilting, or working on various projects like someone who needs to chain-smoke. in the last two weeks of december i knitted 9 pairs of mittens. i have also been in the process of fixing my bed quilt. it so full of holes, and i have been patching them with hearts; it has about 70 hearts on it. i have more than a few things with hearts sewn over the holes. it’s a problem.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

i have a book full of fashion drawings from the 1940’s that my mom’s mother did when she was in fashion school. they are all in india ink on tracing paper glued into a scrap book. she died right after i was born, i never met her. the figures are perfect, and it is one of the things i look at for inspiration. i can’t draw figures to save my life.

Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and websites (besides Etsy).

books: the windup bird chronicle by haruki murakami, 1000 dessous: a history of lingerie by gilles neret, one hundred demons by lynda barry, the american heritage college english dictionary, the secret art of dr. seuss

i don’t watch too many movies: the science of sleep, the royal tenenbaums, my neighbor totaro, house of flying daggers, say anything

music is so ever changing! today: andrew bird, maurice ravel, the shins, charles mingus and a veritable plethora of npr podcasts

websites:

a couple of my favourite artists: www.corporatepig.com and www.brentwear.com 

i am obsessed with this blog: http://cgi.www5a.biglobe.ne.jp/~mite/topics/topics.cgi 

and i spend an inordinate amount of time on tribe.net

What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?

really just straight business advice.

make what inspires you; do your own thing. if you are in it only for the money, you are in for a rude awakening. i am all for making money, but if that is what is driving you, then you are destined to fail. small business isn’t for the faint of heart.

hone your craft. craft is the skill set that allows you to execute your art well.

do your research. read everything, including the fine print. talk to people. find out what your business entails, and charge accordingly. “what the market will bear” is arbitrary, and has nothing to do with anything.

own your work. don’t apologize for your prices, or belittle what you do. a little enthusiasm goes a long way. if you don’t value your work, why should anyone else?

do what works best for you. know that you will get all sorts of unsolicited advice. some of it will be useful. a good lot of it will irritate the crap out of you. ultimately, it is up to you to decide what works and what doesn’t. and most of all, you don’t have to take it personally.

flexibility and perseverance. be open to new ideas, and don’t be afraid to change course. if something isn’t working let it go and move on.

What are your favorite features on Etsy?  What new features would you like to see?

i love that the aesthetic of the site does not interfere with the presentation of the products. the playing field is evened out by letting the photos and the descriptions sell the products. i joined etsy so that i could sell online without having to sell off of my website.

How do you promote your work?

mostly by word of mouth. i think in the end, what has allowed me to make it this far is the quality of my work, and sheer perseverance (or is that insanity?). not everyone gets what i do, but the people who do end up being very loyal, and tell their friends about me. and i dress up every day; that way people approach me. i talk about my creative process to anyone who will listen.

In ten years I’d like to be…

i’m not sure! when i started my company, i committed to ten years, and here i am, standing at the edge of my tenth anniversary. i had no idea that this is where i would be. most of my goals are more immediate. that said, i have been reluctantly been tending towards activism; mostly because i think that things could be more friendly towards self-employed artists who are doing their best to be self-sustaining, contributing members of the community. i have some ideas for that, and people are finally starting to listen to me. oh, and i wouldn’t mind being rich either.

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