Shop Etsy

Featured Shop: Leah Goren

Jul 23, 2012

by leahgoren handmade and vintage goods

My name is Leah Goren and I’m based in Brooklyn, New York, where I live with my wonderful boyfriend and cat. I make products that are printed with my paintings and patterns and focus primarily on textiles and clothing. From time to time, I also make paper products like cards, zines, or prints.

My mother is an artist, so I’ve been drawing, painting and making things for as long as I can remember. As I got older, I became obsessed with drawing. Part of that is the need to share what I make with people. I fell into illustration because it’s really a combination of those two things, images that are shared or used in some way.

I’m an illustrator and surface pattern designer first, and this makes all of my clothing and products look different from anyone else’s. Every illustrator has their own unique style, and while there are a lot of people out there with similar work to mine, no one will match my hand exactly. The items themselves that I make are actually really basic — a babydoll dress, a tote bag, a square scarf — but adding the element of print and pattern sets it apart.

My patterns are set up in repeating tiles so they can be easily digitally printed — the tile will repeat to infinity. Some things I hand-print, which either involves screen printing or block printing. There are only a few prints I’ve done that are block printed, but since my most popular print (the black cat) is one of them, I still use this technique all the time. My stamps are hand carved out of rubber blocks, and I apply fabric ink to the stamp with either a brush or a brayer before printing it on the fabric. Beyond the creation of fabric, all that’s left for me to do is sew the final product.

In the beginning, I started hand printing fabric and making clothes because it was something I knew how to do and I could do cheaply. As my business grew, I was able to afford digitally printed fabric, which provided more possibilities for color and complexity. I’m not just making images that people hang on their wall; it actually goes on someone’s body and changes the way they feel about themselves.

Opening an Etsy shop almost immediately sparked a dialogue between me and the Internet. Suddenly there were people out there who were interested in me and what I do. Etsy is the reason my work has circulated through so many blogs and publications and has been seen by so many people. Seeing my work reflected through other lenses has allowed me to be more self-aware and grow as an illustrator and how I relate to the world. I now grasp the power of the Internet and its role in art and design. As someone who makes new things and contributes, even in a small way, to the design of the future, I think it’s crucial to understand how the system works.

In the process, I’m so happy to have made so many art-and-design-world friends, on the Internet and in real life. It’s so cool to see other people making amazing things. They see me making (what I hope are) amazing things, and we talk about it, and sometimes work on projects together. It’s a dream to feel like I’m part of this community. Plus, I’m pretty sure most of the freelance work I’ve had so far is also because someone saw my work on Etsy. It feels great to be working professionally right out of school.

It’s so rewarding to interact with the buyers or the bloggers who like my work. It’s such a good feeling to hear that someone really loves their cat dress, or to read a couple of sweet sentences on someone’s personal blog. I definitely wouldn’t keep making so many of the same things over and over again if there weren’t girls out there who are so positively affected by them. If I can do one thing with my life, it is to make the world more beautiful through my work. Serious thanks to Dave Brown for convincing me to open a shop!

My boyfriend and I have a blog, A Future Present, that chronicles our lives in Brooklyn: joining a local CSA, planting a fire escape garden, refurbishing found furniture, hanging up our friends’ artwork, and scouring thrift stores, flea markets, and Etsy for old items that need new homes. If I can’t make something myself, I try to only buy handmade or used things. I love knowing that someone cared for my things before me. It’s exciting to share the stories of what we have on the blog. Items without a story just don’t seem worth having.  I always wonder the stories our 100-year-old rug has heard before we were even born.

All photos by Dylan Ousley.

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