Monday, April 28, 2008

Class: Starting Your Own Etsy Shop

~ Wednesday, 5/21 from 7:00 to 9:30 PM
Instructor: Sara Selepouchin of the Philadelphia Etsy team and Girls Can Tell
Location: Coral Street Arts House
By now, if you’re a crafts lover, then you’ve heard of Etsy. But what about turning your love into $$ by opening your own Etsy shop? In this class, students will learn the basics of setting up an Etsy shop and a general primer in selling and marketing online. Class topics will include: item naming and descriptions, getting involved in the Etsy community, promoting your Etsy shop, photographing for online selling, pricing your work for internet (retail) sales, creating a consistent brand and visual consistency for your shop, and much, much more!
Cost: 35.00 For more info and registration details, please email Megan.

Sara will be covering a pretty wide range of topics on how to really rock your shop, including: * photo tips * tagging tips * a bit on branding / consistency throughout your shop * how to write effective item descriptions * information on how to set shop policy * best ways to promote on and off of Etsy * using flickr to promote your shop * building a customer base * information on a blog as a promotional tool (if a blog is right for you...) * ideas and links / sites for great promotional items for your shop * any questions or topics you'd like to discuss

There are a few spaces left in the class, which is listed on the PSC site:

In case the email link there doesn't work, the contact through the Philly Sewing Collective is Megan:

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pictures from the 4/18 monthly meeting

Candid pictures from the meeting. Please excuse the blur!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Urbancheek Interview

(Interview with Kara of UrbanCheek by Jen McCleary)

Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
I am a 32 year old work-at-home mom, married with two small boys. We just moved to the Philadelphia area (Belmont Hills) last summer. I'm originally from Akron, Ohio but have spent the past 6 years in Louisiana, following my husband where his schooling and jobs take him. I should add that he (Scott) is the other half of Urban Cheek. Scott is an architect, and he teaches architecture at Temple University. He also runs a not-for-profit called the International Design Clinic which does humanitarian design-build projects around the world. In my former life (pre-Mom), I was a special education teacher for 8 years. I enjoyed teaching, but my favorite part of the job was the creative part (making materials for lessons), and I've always been an avid crafter.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I love to cook, but cooking for two little picky eaters has added an element of difficulty to putting dinner on the table. My cooking over the last few years has morphed from an eclectic mix of adventurous ethnic dishes to hidden vegetables in something that looks like toddler food. I guess that's still creative in nature! I also love to read, and often have about 5 books going at once (which drives me crazy, but somehow it still happens). I do finish them all. Usually. I wish I could write a long list of interesting hobbies here, but the truth is that being a full-time Mommy takes up most of the minutes in my day. I'm fortunate that they still take naps, which is when I get crafty.

What first made you want to become an artist?

I struggle with this question, because I'm not sure I consider myself an artist. I have always been a crafter, and have loved making things since I was small. I was about five when my mom first taught me to cross-stitch and sew, and I've loved giving handmade gifts ever since. Art class was another story. I didn't have outstanding drawing or painting ability, so art teachers didn't spend much time encouraging my skills (I have vivid memories of one art teacher in particular who was very DIScouraging). Perhaps if we had more of a variety of mediums in my school's art program (fabric/sewing especially), I would have experienced more success. Despite that, art was still one of my favorite classes! And I had plenty of confidence in my artistic ventures outside of school, making and selling jewelry to classmates, sewing things for family and friends.

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

It's a two-person process. Scott and I brainstorm ideas together and sketch them out. He polishes them up (it is he who has the natural drawing ability) and puts them into Illustrator. Once we have a final design, I cut the stencils by hand and bleach the shirts. It has been fun to see how each of our strengths are utilized to create something we both love. And it has been a treat to collaborate on something that isn't related directly to our house or kids -- although our kids are our inspiration!

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My husband designed and built a hope chest for me when we got married. He was quite the romantic back then, and its design is chock-full of symbolism and sap. I adore it. Ironically, it's still being stored at my parents' house.

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

Books: The Kite Runner, What is the What, Blue Like Jazz, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bible

Movies: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Amelie, Almost Famous, Love Actually, Oh Brother Where Art Thou (quite an eclectic mix, I guess)

Music: Also an eclectic mix. . .I love Counting Crows, Cowboy Junkies, Billy Bragg, and whatever is on an indie station at any given time.

Websites: is fun, and I spend way too much time on Facebook and MySpace, but I've moved so often that those are the best ways to keep in touch with my friends!

What do you like most about selling on Etsy?
I have seen friends struggle to succeed with their own website, and that is what kept me from taking the leap and trying to sell items online. Etsy is such an opportunity, because it brings traffic to my shop that wouldn't otherwise be there. It is also a great place to connect with other artists/crafters and feel supported. I also appreciate the heart behind Etsy. There is a real movement away from the Stuff Mart mentality, back to supporting independent artists and craftsmen. I'm proud to be a small part of that.

How do you promote your work? Do you show/sell your work anyplace other than Etsy?

I'm on TrunkT and various social networking sites online. I carry business cards with me and give them to anyone who seems remotely interested in what I do! I sell my tees on consignment at Vix Emporium in West Philly, and also at Mew Gallery in South Philly. I was recently a vendor at Baby Loves Disco (also in Philly, it's a monthly event). In addition, I've had wholesale orders from boutiques in a variety of states. Still, most of my orders come from family and friends!

In ten years I'd like to be...
"out of the red" in this business venture! I hope by then that Urban Cheek will be a second income for our family. I've been so blessed to work from home right now and give my boys the attention they need. I'd like for it to continue!


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Not Your Grandma's Craft Show

The Philly Etsy Team is joining up w/ the Mason Dixon Etsy Team and organizing this event! It's being held at the Church of Divine Energy (48th and Woodland Ave.) on May 10th!

Please be sure to come out to the event to show your support! We are currently signing up vendors, so if you are interested in participating, contact Heather at [Tables are $20 each.] Please be sure to include your name, shop name and dimensions of your table that you will be using at this event. Vendors, please remember that tables will not be provided.

We have a myspace page for this event. Add it as a top friend, forward the page to your other friends! Blog about this event! Post bulletins!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jen McCleary Interview

[Interview by Kara of Urban Cheek]

Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, personal stuff).
I'm 30 years old, and have lived in the Philadelphia area my whole life. I currently live in the Mt. Airy section of town with my boyfriend, two chinchillas and a parakeet. I went to Tyler School of Art for painting and printmaking, then also did a continuing education certificate program in graphic design at University of the Arts. I'm currently in an interdisciplinary Master of Liberal Arts program at UPenn where I'm studying the intersections of art and other aspects of culture. My thesis project will be on the connections between the art of Joseph Cornell and sixteenth-century cabinets of curiosity. I also work fulltime at UPenn as a graphic designer, and do freelance design work as well.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I play violin- not terribly well since I've only been playing for three years. It's very challenging, in a good way. I love music, and it's been rewarding to see my own progress from starting out making terrible screeching sounds to something that sounds like actual music. I also love cooking- I think it is similar to making art in a lot of ways- combining different elements to form a harmonious whole.

What first made you want to become an artist?
I have always loved making things- drawing, painting, whatever. It's just a part of who I am and I can't imagine not doing something creative.
My parents are both very hands-on people. They have a huge garden and so I spent a lot of my childhood helping with that. At the time I resented having to spend so much time doing work in the garden instead of playing, but in retrospect I think it instilled a love of "making things" in me, and an appreciation of how much more you can enjoy something that you worked hard to create.

My dad had a woodworking shop in the basement and made toys and furniture and other things, either for our use or for gifts. My mom used to do a lot of counted cross-stitch projects, and made clothes for my sister and I too. She tried to teach me counted cross-stitch, but I hated having to follow the pattern. I just wanted to sew and see what happened. I think that feeling of experimenting, playing with colors and textures, making my way through a process and hopefully coming out with something beautiful at the end is what I love most about making art.

Please describe your creative process (how, when, materials, etc).
Right now I don't get to spend as much time creating as I'd like since most of my time is spent either at work or school, or doing school-related reading and writing. I squeeze my art time into evenings and weekends. I probably don't get nearly as much sleep as I should.

I usually like working on multiple projects simultaneously, but sometimes I really focus in on one thing, usually when it is nearing completion. I make both digital and traditional collages, as well as jewelry, but the process is really similar for all three even if the media is completely different. I have many boxes of paper scraps for the regular collage, digital folders of photos and scans for the digital collage, and little boxes of beads and watch parts for the jewelry. I basically just dig through the boxes or folders, adding or removing things as I go, seeing how the pieces fit together. The beauty of doing digital work is how easy it is to undo mistakes. But sometimes good things come from having to accept a mistake since it might push a piece into a new direction. I work pretty intuitively, usually not really having a specific plan. I might set out to make a collage that is mostly blue, or contains trees, but I like to remain open to new ideas as I go. It's boring if I know in advance exactly how it will turn out. Making art, for me, works best when I am able to find the middle ground between being in control and letting go.

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A leather purse my grandfather made for me. My sister has one too. He died last year and this purse really reminds me of him. I remember going to the store with him and my sister, and picking out which kit we wanted. The pieces were pre-cut, but he did all this beautiful stampwork on it and sewed the pieces together. Mine has a cat and flowers, and my sister's has a horse. He gave us little scraps of leather and let us play with the stamping tools which was a lot of fun.

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

I love things that make me go "wow, I wish I could do that!" Books that make me want to write, music I wish I was skilled enough to make. Even though I can't make exactly those things, I think they inspire my art process somehow.

  • Movies- I love the stop-motion animation of the Brothers Quay. Beautiful, bizarre and wonderful. Lots of old and rusty things.
  • Music- I seem to be really into dreamy layered instrumental music lately. Stuff that's good to listen to while making art- interesting but not too distracting. My current favorite band is Destroy All Dreamers, from Montreal. I also like Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mogwai a lot.
  • Books- Hmm, all I've been reading recently is Japanese history and stuff about Buddhist art, for school. I recently re-read the entire Harry Potter series, just for something easy and fun to counteract all the academic reading. I like a lot of Margaret Atwood's writing. She has a wonderful way of describing things. I also like Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.

What do you like most about selling on Etsy?
I love being part of a (virtual) community of people who love to make things, and a (real) community of local sellers too! I think the internet is doing so much to revolutionize the way people make, sell, and view art. I love being able to sell my work directly to people from all over the country. I've even made a few sales to people from other countries. I also love buying things from other Etsy sellers- I think it's important to support my fellow artists.

How do you promote your work? Do you show/sell your work anyplace other than Etsy?
Word of mouth is always good. I always have business cards available at any shows that I sell at. The big thing I want to work on is increasing my online presence- I have a Trunkt portfolio, I'm on a bunch of social networking sites (Indiepublic, Facebook, StumbleUpon), I recently started a blog...It's a lot to keep up with.

I sell my work at Vix Emporium and Curiosity Shoppe here in Philly, and usually sell at a few craft shows during the year. I'll be at Art for the Cash Poor this year on June 14-15. I'll do gallery or coffee shop shows if people contact me and ask me to do it, but I haven't actively been trying to get that kind of show recently, just because of not having enough time. A lot of my mixed media work is currently being shown at Papercuts & Gluesticks gallery in Rocky River, Ohio.

In ten years I'd like to be...
Still making art. Anything else is extra. A lot of people who go to art school give up after few years because they can't figure out how to support themselves at it. I don't know if I'll ever be able to support myself entirely with my art, but I don't ever want to stop making things because of that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cbeauty Interview

[Interview conducted by Sarah Greiner.]

What is your name, and where are you from?

My name is Mary and I live in Philadelphia with my boyfriend and 2 dogs. I grew up right outside of West Philadelphia. I moved into the city about 2 years ago.

What is your day job, i.e. what do you do when you are not creating beautiful work to sell on Etsy?

I am currently looking for a job. I am a psychology student and am currently applying to graduate programs.

Your Etsy Store is called CBeauty, does that have any significance?

I named my shop Cbeauty because I want to remind people to take the time to look around and see the beauty that is all around us.

I noticed in your profile that you say you have never taken classes in jewelry making or design. How did you learn to create your jewelry?

I started off making hemp jewelry. Then I was at an art show with my parents and one of the dealers was selling strands of pearls. I decided to buy a couple of strand to mess around with. I used the internet and written resources to teach myself to make jewelry. It took a lot of practice and trial and error, but now I can make professional quality jewelry.

Your Etsy store has two very different types of products; jewelry and stencil work. Do you prefer creating one of them to the other?

I get into moods. Sometimes for a few weeks I will purely work on paintings and stencil work. Then I will get an idea for a piece of jewelry and I will work mostly on that for a little while. I really enjoy creating both kinds of art, along with many other arts and crafts items.

Do you do any other craft or fine art that we have not yet seen in your store?

I do a little bit of everything, but mostly what you see. I have experimented with fabric, scrap booking, sketching, photography, candle making, mixed media and dream catcher making. I am always looking to learn new art techniques and constantly trying to incorporate different elements to all of my art.

When did you become involved with Etsy and how did you hear about it?

I opened my Etsy shop in September. I found out about Etsy when I was set up at The Big Art Show in University City. I had been sitting there all day without a sale and someone who was looking at my art said to me, “You should sell your stuff on Etsy.” I looked into what Etsy was as soon as I got home and decided to try it.

How long have you been a Philly Etsy Team member?

I have been involved with the Philly Etsy Team for about 3 months.

Have you ever had the chance to sell your work at a craft fair or table? If so, did you like the experience? If not, would you like to?

I have sold at a few craft fairs. I haven’t sold much at any of the shows I have set up at but I do want to continue to try. Hopefully my luck with sales will turn around soon!

What sorts of things inspire you?

I am inspired by everything, but especially by nature, loved ones, and other art / artists.

What artists do you admire?

I have many artists I admire. It almost seems unfair to just pick a few, but if I had to name some I definitely have to include Warhol, Howard Finster, and Keith Haring. I also greatly admire the unknown yet incredible street artists, who give their art to the world on a regular basis even though it is constantly covered, torn down, and destroyed. The street artists that I admire the most are Stikman, Bob Will Reign, Space Invader, D*face, Banksy, Blek le Rat, and Swoon to name a few. If you want to know more about street art you can check out a couple sites dedicated to the art form – and

Where do you find the supplies that you use in your pieces?

A lot of the supplies I use are things I find, have laying around, or have been given to me. I also buy a lot of supplies at Home Depot, AC Moore, and Pearl Art Supplies. I get my jewelry supplies mostly online, and I get my high quality pearls at buyers' marts and craft fairs.

What do you think about the handmade revolution?

I think buying handmade is a great idea. It can, of course, be difficult and expensive at times, but I think it is very important to support independent artists and crafters as much as possible.

If you could be an animal what would you be?

Hhhhhmmm… That’s a tough one. I guess if I would be any animal I would want to be a phoenix. I know that is a mythical creature and that might be cheating, but that’s what I would want to be. =)

What is your favorite book, movie or music?

Favorite book = I love psychological non-fiction. One of my favorites is When Rabbit Howls by Trudy Chase.

Movie = I like dark comedies and drama mostly. I love movies like Nightmare Before Christmas, Fight Club, and Momento.

Music = I mostly listen to heavy metal and industrial, but I enjoy many different types of music. My favorite would have to be Don McClosky (he is an amazing local singer song writer, you should definitely check him out!), NIN, StainD, Slipknot, and G Love.

If you could tell people one thing about yourself that nobody knew, what would it be?

I am an emotional person. I put a little piece of myself into everything I make. It might sound cliché but I truly make art because I love it. I just wish others loved it enough to buy some of it.

Cbeauty's etsy shop:

Friday, April 4, 2008

miss koco

Imagine, upon meeting a beautiful stranger,
she asks you if you want to play with her nipples...

Fortunately, and perhaps unbelievably, she's serious
and it's okay for you to crack a smile.
After all, it's artist Nicole Dupree aka miss koco
and she's got her hands out-
full of crocheted nipples.
It's this light-hearted ice-breaker that miss koco uses to spread the word about Nipples for Breasts, an ongoing project created to start conversations about our bodies, play with art (and nipples), and raise money for great organizations that investigate environmental causes of breast cancer, educate the public, and fund programs that provide free mammograms for women in under served communities.

miss koco prefers to steer away from providing information that is fear based. Instead, her approach is joyful and slightly erotic, yet still informative. The nipples represent something positive: people laugh and smile. To miss koco, it's about charity and being proactive towards making changes she wants to see.

miss koco offers a variety of nipple designs including
crocheted pins, key chains, cell phone charms, pillows,
and my personal favorite and miss koco must-have
golden nipple clay magnets!
A portion of the proceeds from each nipple sold will benefit
Breast Cancer Fund and National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

miss koco's talent goes beyond just creating nipples and breasts. Self described as creatively fickle, miss koco has her hand in a number of on-going projects from art to film. There is no one medium she wants to work in; she wants to do it all! Although she is overflowing with ideas, there are undeniable commonalities that draw her to a project: the interactive aspect that's about making connections with people through art objects and making something from nothing.

Through her travels miss koco has visited communities where the locals use and re-use anything and everything to produce salable objects. In Northern Thailand, on the "walking street", miss koco noticed vendors using plastic candy bags with added string as gift bags and table cloths made from rice bags. No doubt this impacted and influenced her own work perspective.

miss koco has a habit of always collecting items fueled by her inability to get rid of sentimental clothing and objects. She says, "It feels like I'd be deleting pieces of my life and memory." From stamps to clothing to paper goods, these items always find a way back into her work. This is what gives much of miss koco's art pieces a story.

At the time of our meeting, miss koco was working on a red nipple in mid production comprised of different fabrics/textures from garments she acquired in other countries. A look of happiness came across her face when talking about the piece as if she was ready to pass on these pieces of her life to be loved and experienced by someone else.
miss koco also showed me cd jackets she handmade. Some years ago, a friend was intending to getting rid of wall posters that once hung in his room. miss koco saved the posters not knowing at the time exactly what she would do with the paper, but knowing that in some way, someday these paper goods could be re-used and not go to waste. Unknowingly, this friend is about to receive his once loved, yet no longer useful posters, as upcylcled cd jackets! In the simplest terms, upcycling is the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value, combined with the thoughtfulness of these little gifts, this is a win-win sitaution for miss koco's friend and the environment!

Similarly, in an attempt to "keep the spirit running" miss koco prefers to incorporate goods that originated from someone else's passion, love, and care. For example, she uses yarn from small family run companies like Koigu, where no two dye lots are the same having been impacted by the personality, mood, feelings, and thoughts of the Koigu artist/creator. When I asked what she liked to shop on etsy for she revealed that she liked to purchase handmade items from other sellers that she could in turn use herself (her latest purchases were hand embroidered note cards).

For now, miss koco is working on coming into her own and accepting herself as an artist. Her goals are to make polished and well constructed art pieces of high quality.
Clearly, this is just a taste of what miss koco has in store for the future. She already has a diagrammed plan for a nipple tent and nipple rug! To find out more and keep abreast on her latest projects please visit and her etsy shop!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

RedRedOrange Interview (Sarah Greiner)

[Interview conducted by Mary Volk.]

Tell me a little about yourself.
I am from Minnesota, and have lived in Washington, D.C., Barcelona, San Francisco and now Philadelphia. I am a packaging designer for a firm in San Francisco, and work with clients like Ocean Spray, Dentyne, Lipton and Pepsi. I am engaged to a fabulously supportive man, Jon, who is in medical school. We have two cats, Papi Chulo and Hamachi, who provide me with endless comedy and distraction. I am really into cooking, seeing puppies on walks, and dreaming of the beach.

When did you become interested in art?
Growing up, my dad was really into doing projects with me, he sewed my halloween costumes and we built things together. I think he really exposed me to using my hands to create. Before college, I hadn’t really ever taken a fine art class before except for the required credits in middle school (I can’t draw to save my life), but I was always into crafts; making necklaces, mosaics, latch hook rugs, making candles. Then during college, I spent my junior year in Barcelona, Spain and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed art in my life!

How did you discover your talent for art, design, and screen printing?
I think design for me is 20% talent and 80% really hard work. There are some people who just pick up a pencil and draw something fabulous, but for me, it is more of a challenge but that is what makes it fun. I am not an artsy-type who just goes with the flow and whatever happens, happens. I plan and measure and plan more and calculate and measure again. That is what I like about graphic design, it is a blend of science and art, cerebral and creative. Screen printing plays off of that same idea for me, I use the computer to scale designs and predetermine which colors I want to use, but then I get to get dirty and use my hands to create the finished product.

What things, people, and places have influenced your art?
Spain has been the biggest influence on me thus far. The food, the wine, the art, the people, the practicality of everything is really inspirational to me. Travel in general is always good, even if it is just for a morning walk around the neighborhood to see, smell and hear something new. As far as artists go, Rex Ray is amazing, his use of color and texture makes me melt. I love Nate Williams, he does the most quirky, fun typography and illustration. Antoni Gaudí, a catalán architect famous for his modernist buildings in Barcelona, took some serious risks, and I love him for that. Also Frank Lloyd Wright, the way that he built around the land and the path of the sun, he really began the green movement!

How did you find out about etsy?
I was at a farmers' market in Boston last year and met a woman who sold wooden bowls that she carved from downed trees on her property. I got her business card, and a link to her Etsy website!

What do you think about etsy and the handmade movement?
I think it is great for both creators and consumers. People like me who could never afford to start their own store now have an outlet for their crafts.

Why did you decide to start selling your art?
I just like seeing it up there next to such amazing products. It feels good to have this sort of record of what I do, and if it sells or if someone else likes it, even better!

What are your favorite materials and why?
Paper and fabric are what I really like to use. I must admit that I am still trying to narrow down what my shop will sell. Every day I see something else that I want to try, so it is really difficult to sort of hone in on what I really like to make. Stay tuned!

When did your first get involved in screen printing?
I took a class in college and loved it, but I really hadn’t planned for how quickly I had to move, and some of my creations ended up less than perfect. When I moved to Philadelphia this past summer, I took a continuing education class at the University of the Arts to try to meet new people and to create my "Two Fish" Card that I had designed. It was awesome, and my teacher, Marisha Simmons, was so supportive. She taught us how to create our own at-home studio which I am in the process of finishing right now.

How do you feel your day job as a package designer influences or affects your art?
It is interesting, I love the process of creating something and then going to the grocery store and seeing it on the shelf! I always feel like during the day I design things that are eye catching, and scream out to the consumer, and then at night I like to make quiet things that speak softly.

Where do your ideas come from? Can you describe your creative process (how, when, materials, etc.)?
Just being out in nature and building off of other things I see. I like to sketch and also use resource material from books and the web to create. Tracing paper is a must, and a big fat eraser.

What are your favorite hobbies and activities besides crafting?
Rock climbing with my boyfriend, hiking, going to the gym, cooking, playing with my cats and refurbishing old furniture.

What challenges have you found in your work?
Remembering to create what I like instead of making things that I think other people will like. I have to trust in the fact that some people will like it, and others won’t and that is okay! Practicing drawing, I try to sketch everyday, but it is hard for me, especially people and animals.
What are your goals in having an Etsy shop?
Just to try to connect with people who will enjoy my products. I think there are so many amazing artists, to have even one person buy something you made is something to be proud of.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on Etsy, or thinking about trying to sell their art?
Go for it! It is so easy, and it is a great way to learn the basics of running a business.

Sarah's Website:

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

phea jean

I had the chance to interview Amber Zaraza, the designer and creator of phea jean (pronounced fee-ah jean, jean as in blue jeans that you wear). Amber's sassy/funky style and light-hearted easy going vibe spills over into her designs and gives them a truly unique edge.

addy 1504Though she proclaims, "Fashion is so not serious," it is clear that her creative process and the materials she chooses to work with make her hats and bags more than just accessories. Most of her 22 designs were created as a result of a person close to her requesting a certain type of bag. She then names the style after them. The Addy, for example, was made for her brother Adam. This bag, like many others, is reversible, so you get two bags out of one. I love the handle, the pockets all over and the boxy shape.

One of the most interesting elements of her pieces is the wild combination of fabrics, colors and textures she mixes together. This is the show-stopping characteristic that makes people ask, "Where did you get that bag?" When asked where she buys her fabric, she replied that she hasn't really bought fabric in years as a result of the many donations she receives and the fact that she likes to work with deconstructed vintage garments. Bag patterns don't require a lot of fabric, so it's easy for Amber to turn just about anything--from an old frock with a hole to fabric shower curtains--into fabulous funky accessories. Phea jean bags take upcycling to a whole new out-of-control level; you might find grandma's vintage tablecloth with a leopard trim!
another fab bag
The reuse of materials is what draws in most of Amber's custom orders. Clients give Amber clothing they love but can't wear anymore for whatever reason and she creates something new for them. For me, someone who gets unnaturally attached to objects for the memory and history they hold, this was the most brilliant part about what Amber does. The energy, memories, and stories woven into the fabrics could be kept in tact, sewn together to create a new life that could be useful and go out and collect more adventures.

sugar and creamMemory, experiences, and their relationship with objects come up a lot in my own work, so Amber and I had a lot to discuss when we met up at a cafe this past week. She was willing to give me great sewing tips, and shared a lot about her crafty history with me. As she dumped her 5th pack of sugar, followed by yet another half & half, into her coffee, we talked about the great craft community of Philly. My attention trailed off for a moment as I thought about how fortunate we are to have a designer who is willing to share stories and teach tidbits of what she knows. I giggled about how she likes it light and really sweet. I had no concept of time but wanted to talk about everything and ask a million questions. Our conversation went on for hours, but ended too soon.

If you see her at a craft fair or trunk show definitely go chat her up and ask about her bags. Every one seems to have a fascinating story and she's pretty fabulous, too.

For more phea jean, check out, and a selection of Amber's designs at her etsy shop. If you're interested in having a custom bag or hat made, contact Amber at