(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
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: Craftster.org 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!
VISIT URBANCHEEK ON ETSY!