Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
My name is Tara Bethune-Leamen. I live in Vancouver, Canada. SwanDiamondRose.com is my blog. SWANclothing is my company. I make and sell handmade and hand-stenciled totes and clothing. In the summer I also make sundresses. I use thrifted, deadstock, overstock and low-impact materials. Also- one person calls me Swan-dawg which makes me pretty happy.
What is the first thing you can remember making by hand? How and why did you make it?
My favourite 1st things were quilted satin disco purses for my mom, in electric pink and turquoise. She used to dance around to Blondie. I probably thought she needed the right accessory for that. I also sewed dresses from kleenex for my teddy. And then there were the rose covered-flanellette-knickerbocker-babydoll-pajamas for my sister. Which she now claims she loved, yet never wore.
I don’t know how I made these things, but I did go to to lots of art classes growing up. Crazy great ones. Like where they would give us massive industrial cardboard tubes, 3 parachutes and industrial fans and say “build a city”! So I was always encouraged, and I have my mother to thank for that.
What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
I love a darn fine tote to compliment my thrifted outfits, that motivates me a lot. Just like I love health-food versions of junk-food I really hope to “beat the system” and create beautiful things that don’t feed into our environmental problems as much as possible. I like items that imply an “hauteness” but aren’t a throwaway item at all. More like a high quality, labour of love that you might want to hang onto.
I pretty much love all styles. My likes evolve. And I meld them together. Right now I am making the “STRAIGHT” totes. I explain them as “haute craft bling”. They are my take on the classic canvas tote, with sporty striped deadstock ribbon, stenciled animals and drawstring chain handles.
A huge part of what keeps me doing this are the people in my life and my online friends. There is so much generosity, feedback, enthusiasm and kindness out there I am really blown away and very grateful. I don’t only mean what is directed at me, I mean it’s just going around. I live part-time on Flickr.
What are your favorite materials?
I am very fascinated by the unbleached cotton canvas I am using now. It is such a classic and begging to be messed with more. I always love thrifted corduroy, it’s beautiful when worked in from wear. Then I have these fat, fat zippers I’ll be using next. They are gorgeous. And I’m just very open to serendipitous thrift finds of all kinds.
What have been the most valuable lessons learned from other artists on Etsy?
It’s that infectious generosity, feedback, enthusiasm and kindness thing again. It’s a great community. I guess online in general I have learnt to “assume good faith”. It can get you through most misunderstandings that come from online communication or language barriers.
Why should people buy handmade?
Because almost everything else is boring, badly made, saturating the market, and part of an economic system that is a downward spiral.
What features/services would you most like to see on Etsy?
I am very happy with Etsy. But I guess I get frustrated that I can never get a treasury list. I’ll have to keep watching!
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Walk around in bustling crowds. People watch. Scheme. Plan future adventures and tomorrow’s outfits. Get sucked into the internet. And right now, really enjoy the fall and the new people I am meeting.
Read any good books lately?
I am reading The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. I feel obliged, as it is about business on the internet now. And I just got William Gibson’s Spook Country as a gift.
In ten years I’d like to be…
Doing more of the same.