Friday, October 16, 2009

This Weeks Featured Artist: katwise of

While browsing the Etsy site for handmade clothing, I happened upon Wow! She not only creates fantastic clothing, but she upcycles old clothing to create her one of a kind creations. I was in awe! I also noticed that virtually every time she listed new products, she sells out within minutes! People are on a list of buyers that get notified of when and where her 'parade,' new listings, will take place. What doesn't sell, is generally reserved for buyers. Who wouldn't love to have a shop like that?

After conversing with Kat on several occasions, I asked her if she would consent to an interview, which she graciously accepted. I hope that you find Kat and her creations as interesting as I do.

Describe yourself.

I am just a free spirit who managed to build a very cartoonish life for herself. From a young age I knew that I wouldn't fit the conventional mold, so I always reached toward the absurd, and luckily life has been incredibly generous and accommodating to me.

What do you create, and possibly a few words to describe your art?

At the moment I live in a sweater forest, and I just make all sorts of cut up and cobbled together sweater creations - coats, hoodies, gloves and so forth. I see this just as my current chapter, because my attention is always being drawn to new things. But so far the sweaters have been exceedingly kind to me. They are very forgiving of my slapdash nature, and continually surprise me with the inspirations they give me.

What inspires you, or turns on that creative light inside of you?

I hope this doesn't sound pretentious, but I think my creative "off" switch never worked properly. I pretty much never stop doodling or fidgeting or scheming up new things. My problem has never been a dry spell, but rather a traffic jam because there are so many things I want to do, but I only have 2 hands and I need to sleep sometimes. I wish I could find someone to manage all the "real world" aspects of my business, and I could just waltz and skip through my prairie of colors and keep making new things. At the moment, I am really drawn to textures, and I love to patch together things that don't necessarily belong with one another. Creatively, I am motivated often by humor, wrongness and irreverence.

Tell us about your style.

Eclectic and gluttonous. I used to have this thing where I couldn't walk out of the house if I did not have literally every single color on. It physically pained me to leave one out. I got past that, but still retain a sick little penchant for overdoing things. When I create things for my shop, I feel like I just need to slice off a little sliver of that spectrum, since most people don't really want to dress like clowns and Christmas trees.

How did you get started? Is everyone in your family artistic?

My dad was a super conservative Federal prosecutor, and my mom was a cook. But they knew they had something unusual in me, so they were both pretty marvelous at nurturing me. I decided to follow the Grateful Dead when I was 15. So, I graduated early, hitchhiked to California, and learned how to make patchwork dresses to support myself. I went to about 200 shows. But even before that all occurred, I was still a freak in training.
What is unique about your products?

One of my favorite things, and also the most challenging, is that no two things are ever alike. It is the nature of using recycled products - you can't duplicate even if you want. so, I really like the element of surprise and delight when an item is finished. I often don't know where it is going when I start making it.

How did you come up with your shop name?

Katwise was a nickname that a loser ex boyfriend gave me. He is long gone, but I held on to the name because I like how it sounds, half-superhero/half creepy clown.

What is your educational background, as it relates to your work?

I went to college, but I only got through it because at UC Santa Cruz they let me design all my own independent study classes. So, I took myself to school all over the world - Thailand, India, the Philippines, Guatemala, Ecuador....a bunch of other places. I was hardly ever on campus. So, definitely seeing all the vibrant colors and can-do attitudes of the world has made me feel in good company.

What is your real world job?

Funny enough, selling wonky sweaters IS my real world job. I used to be a NYC street vendor, but the police shut me down, so, I set up shop on Etsy, and it is treating me well.

What are a few of your favorite pieces?

I am a bit of scattered to answer this well, but I recently made a collage of my recent favorites on my website -

What has been your biggest challenge in developing your business?

There have been a lot of moments when I have just had to take a deep breath and trust. When you are your own business, you can never rely on anything just happening, you can't just go on autopilot. Life is not just going to tap you on the shoulder politely and say, "Oh, here is that success you have been wishing for." You have to WORK. Another very challenging thing is learning to put up boundaries between work and life. But, I still haven't done that. I work all day, 7 days a week. Everything becomes work, but it as so rewarding that it is usually energizing instead of exhausting. (*usually*) Now I have the challenge of the demand exceeding my supply, and it breaks my heart that I can't just say yes to everyone. I hate saying No!

Where do you see your work going in the next year?

This week I am buying a big, crazy, messy farm up in the Catskills. I have no idea what is happening there, nor how I am going to manage to keep the hectic pace of my business when I have this new distraction. But, since I can't afford it unless I keep selling the sweaters, I predict masses of chaos and hopefully some wondrous creations springing forth from the storm. I am already working at full capacity - I can't realistically make anymore than I already do. So, I might sweet talk my boyfriend into doing the boring stuff so I can spend more time on the fun stuff.

The next 5 years?

I hope it resembles something so silly and unpredictable that nothing I say here could ever come close to approximating it.

What is your one marketing tip for Etsy?

Your Etsy shop is a garden you have to tend constantly - you can't just post a few things and expect business to roll in. You have to tend to it all the time, primp and preen it. Also, be nice to everyone who wanders in, because you never know who is going to suddenly turn into an amazing customer and friend.

What are some other sites to find out more about you and your art?

What other interests do you have?

I am a big hitchhiker - I love to travel to random places in the world...I haven't counted recently, but I reckon I am getting close to 100 countries. I just love languages and randomness. I love waking up and having no freaking clue where I will be falling asleep at the end of the day.

Who are some of your favorite artists? 
This week I am SEVERELY dorking out about Alice Cooper. He was my childhood idol, and a few days ago I got to dress like a zombie and dance on stage with him. And the 13 year-old in me is still just over the moon.
What was you worst crafting disaster? 

I don't recall specifically, but I bet in the end it became better than what I originally wanted. Disasters are the mother of invention.

What was an embarrassing moment in your life? 

I walked across a mine field in western Sahara once. That was pretty stupid. I am embarrassed, but sort of proud in a weird way too (thankfully I didn't lose any limbs)

Pick a movie title to sum up your life’s story.

Revenge of the Nerds III

Well, Kat may think that she is a nerd, but many of us think she is fantastic! Go to her website and take a look around. She makes much more than sweaters. She also makes dresses, cuffs, pants, costumes, jewelry, bags, and shoes.

I hope you enjoyed this weeks featured artist.