Wednesday, July 28, 2010

more photos of Olivia's Ultimate dresses!

we took a vacation recently to our family cottage in Michigan. the time away was amazing...and i never realized before how picturesque a setting the cottage really is.

the girls (and the Moppets) were very patient with me as they modeled all manner of things in all manner of locations. these are my favorite shots of dresses (and Moppet dresses!) by Olivia.

you can learn more about this ultra-fab designer by reading the previous post. (clearly we need to order more of her dresses!)

xoxo ~ anna

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

breathe in, breathe out...

today, i could use a little reminder. i thought maybe you could, too.
inhale, exhale...good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

meet Olivia of Olivia's Ultimate and Olivia Hooper Photography

say "hello" to one of the most incredibly talented artists i have ever had the pleasure to meet: Olivia Hooper.

i met Olivia when she needed a doll model for her clothing line at Olivia'sUltimate on Etsy. little did i know...not only are her doll clothes the cutest, but her children's clothing is amazing! (and all those sweet little characters on the front of her dresses...all drawn by Olivia!) then, she did me the wonderful favor of sending photos of sweet little Ruthie in her clothes, and i discovered this woman is one heck of a photographer, too!!

Olivia is an amazingly patient mother of two, an attentive spouse, an intelligent business person, and a loyal friend. all in all, the total package. i am blessed to call her my friend, and i know you will love knowing more about her...

~When did you begin dressmaking and photography?

Dressmaking: I started making upcycled dresses early this year, and people really encouraged me to sell them because they liked my fabric combinations. Opening my Etsy store was a hard decision because I wasn’t sure if there would even be a demand. I finally decided to try it 3 months ago and was surprised at how fast it took off.

Photography: I picked up my first dSLR when my daughter was about a year old. I had a friend who took fabulous photos of her daughter modeling eBay boutique items and I really wanted to learn to take pictures of my little girl so that I could have tons of them rather than go to Picture People or other mall establishments all the time. Next thing I knew I was buying studio equipment, learning all about portraiture, lighting, etc. and people were calling to ask if I could also do photos of their kids.

~Why did you choose your dressmaking style and your personal take on photography?

Dressmaking: There is no limit to upcycling knits. There are millions of old knits in thrift stores to be found and made into something beautiful and fun to wear. My oldest daughter LOVES dresses but also likes to be comfortable. Upcycled knit dresses just make sense for girls her age. Being part of this upcycling community is great. I have made so many friends and learned how to do so many things.

Photography: I love kids. Being able to capture their innocence on camera is priceless.

~Do you have a favorite photo or a favorite dress that you've made?

I’m attaching my favorite dress and my favorite photo.

~Do you also collect dresses or photographs (or anything else handmade)?

I buy upcycled clothing from other designers including chimi and changa, Lil Blue Boo, Nookie Scooter, Jam Clothing Co, Upcycle me crazy, Soren Lorensen design, and Alli Cat Creations. Everyone has their own twist on upcycling, and it’s all beautiful in their own unique ways. I also love Blu Moon Babies for doll dresses.

I do collect dolls now too because I have been making doll dresses. I have 2 Imogen’s Garden dolls, 1 hippie house, and 1 Lighting Bugz on the way. Call me addicted.

~At what point did you realize your gift was more than a hobby?

Dress Making: When I sold over 50 dresses my first month. Woo hoo!

Photography: When I started getting 10 boxes a week from designers full of clothing for Izzy to model.

~Please tell us about your workspace.

Dress Making: My studio is my husband’s office. Did I kick him out? ;) Well, let’s just say he’s real nice and let me have it. I just redid the studio this weekend in fact. I now have a counter height table where I do all my cutting at. A large shelf behind it to keep bins of knits and knit yardage. I have a rolling rack full of main print/panel t-shirts that are color coded. A small desk to hold my laptop. A longer desk that holds my serger and sewing machine, a large bookshelf of cubby holes to hold other fabrics, boxes of beads, and baskets below for toys and other kid friendly art supplies to keep the kids distracted while I work.

Photography: Any outdoor space is my favorite because I LOVE using natural light. I especially love areas with green grass, trees, and water. Blue skies are a plus!

~What is your favorite part of the process?

Dress making: Thrifting! Going to find the perfect piece to upcycle.

Photography: I love prop shopping but my favorite part is making the families I shoot for really happy.

~What is your least favorite?

Uploading the millions of photos to edit and listing the dresses on Etsy. Can’t computers work faster??

~What inspires you?

My girls and other creative people.

~What is the best time of day for you to create?

I’d say morning, but I’ve been working really late nights in order to actually get things done!

~Tell me about your biggest fan.

My husband. He has liked pretty much every single dress I’ve made and every single photograph I’ve done.

~What is your strangest request?

Dressmaking: To screen print “Juicy” on the skirt back for a 3 year old. That was the little girl’s nickname.

Photography: To take photos of art work to send to a printer in China for a catalog because the communist government would not allow this artist’s pieces to be transported in and then taken away again. He is a “treasured artist” so his pieces must remain in China.

~What is your favorite request?

To make whatever I want and surprise them!

~Which similar artist do you most admire?

Dressmaking: Ashley of Lil Blue Boo. I use her patterns and I admire that she shares so much of her creative knowledge and work flow. She likes helping the stay-at-home mom in building a business for herself.

Photography: There are SO many I would never be able to pick one.

~Which classic artist do you most admire?

I am a huge fan of Picasso. I don’t always love every piece he’s done, but I admire him for experimenting with so many techniques and mediums.

~What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began?

I think I’m so new at this I’m still learning and have so many questions!

~Tell me an artist you’d like to have subjected to these questions?

Sofia of chimi and changa. She is an architect as well as a designer and she makes dolls now too!

~What is your favorite flower?

Roses. The smell is intoxicating!!! I do like peonies too.

*a giant "thank you" to Olivia for sharing with me! all photographs and interview words in black are owned by Olivia.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Frog Prince

after meeting Emily of Yarn Miracle (see previous post to get to know her better...she rocks!), i promptly fell in love with her *Frog Prince* pattern and HAD TO make one.

lucky me, i had just finished spinning a fantastic green yarn (from a roving by Cloudlover). i had used most of it for doll hair, but i knew the rest was destined to be this little frog guy.

i used to be a rabid knitter...but i have never been one to follow a pattern, so this was a leap of faith for me. plus it calls for tiny needles and all i could find were metal (i have a tremendous loathing for metal knitting needles. yuck.)

this little guy needed to be made, so i took him along on our family vacation. in between berry picking, sailing, and beach lounging, i knit him up...with a smidge of help from my darling mother-in-law (always helps to have a cheerleader when you're trying something new).

the Yarn Miracle pattern is incredibly easy to follow! there was only one time that i said "huh?"...but once i got over myself and trusted that she knew exactly what she was asking me to do...he turned out beautifully.

this could be a fantastic evening project...even less time for someone with experience. for me, it was the perfect end-of-the-day project on vacation. thank you, Emily!!

growing up, i always believed that someday, my prince would come. well, here he is!

dress by Totzhatz

Monday, July 19, 2010

meet Emily of YarnMiracle

welcome to the 1st Artist-Feature Edition of Imogen's Garden.

my first guest is Emily Ivey of Yarn Miracle. Emily is a wife, mother, gardener, baker, knitter, pattern designer...and an amazingly gifted writer. so much so, that i chose to leave her feature as it is in question and answer form. so much so, that i urge (caution?) you to poke around in her blog. you may find you wish to stay awhile.

~When did you begin toy making?

I've always loved making toys. Even before I could knit, I sewed little creatures, made stuff for my doll house, glued and pasted and get the idea. I didn't start making toys to sell until two Easters ago when I opened my Etsy shop with three bunnies.

~Why did you choose knitting?

I am of the opinion that if you are going to bother to do something at all, you should bother to do it well. There are many many things that I don't do well, but knitting isn't among them. I've also never gotten bored with it! It's one of those rare activities that can keep my hands occupied while my brain is busy with something else.

~Do you have a favorite critter of your own creation?

One of the very first rabbits will always have my heart. He had such a sweet expression and photographed so beautifully. I'll never duplicate that.

~Do you also collect knit toys?

No, but I hoard patterns like it's a psychosis.

~At what point did you realize your gift was more than a hobby?

One day my cousin said, "You made that? I thought it came from a store!" And I sort of realized that I had evolved from home made to hand made - at least as far as knitting was concerned. When those first few rabbits sold right away (granted, my timing with the rabbits at Easter was completely calculated) I felt tremendously validated as a creator. They like me! They really like me!

~Tell us about your workspace.

Which part? The yarn is stored back in my crafty room, but I do most of my knitting on the couch in the den these days. Active projects are kept on the mantle (picture included), away from cats and Ellie. Ellie wants to keep everything I make. One baby only needs so many hand knit toys - which is part of why I started selling them in the first place.

~What is your favorite part of the process?

The beginning and the end. I love to decide which animal is next and pick the colors - I've got "What Next" lists that are a dozen projects deep! And I love to sit the finished critter up on the mantle where he can grin at me until it's picture time.

~What is your least favorite?

Rabbit tails. Those pompoms make a crazy mess.

~What inspires you?

It's hard to pin down exactly where inspiration lives. Sometimes it starts with a little "I wonder if I..." and then I chase that down a lot of paths before announcing with confidence that I HAVE AN IDEA.

~What is the best time of day for you to create?

I'm my very best in the early morning before anyone else is awake. But I have to say: I have come to think of Ellie's Naptime as a Special Blessing.

~Please,tell us about your biggest fan!

That has to be Great Gran! She's my regular grandmother - it's a longish story about how I messed that up when I was little, so you should just think of the "Great" as a superlative. She taught me to knit (twice in fact) and has taken a personal interest and pride in everything that I've done since. I have to show her everything I finish and give her copies of all the patterns.

~What has been your strangest request?

I haven't really had one. I mean, someone wanted a GIANT bear, and I made him...but it wasn't really "strange."

~What has been your favorite request?

I recently made a Zodiac Family Portrait (tiger, monkey, sheep) in cashmere for a woman who's first baby is due next month. That was probably my favorite project so far - cashmere is just a dream, but it's expensive, so it's not a fiber that I get to work with for my own self.

~Which similar artist do you most admire?

Oh gosh my knitting idols. Barbara Prime of Fuzzy Mitten leaps to mind. Simply put, her patterns are wonderful. She is generous with permission to sell toys made from them. My main Companion line is derived from her originals. I also admire toy maker Julie Williams from Little Cotton Rabbits. Each animal she creates is fresh, full of personality and wearing the cutest outfit ever. Her work never gets stale; she may make a dozen pigs but it never seems repetitive. In addition to all that: her knitting is exquisite. She's also got chickens! I really want chickens. Susan B. Anderson is another pattern writer that amazes me. When I visit her blog, I always want to ask her where she finds the TIME! I've got a dozen sketches for new toys and might manage to publish three more this year - Susan has a pod cast, three books, a family, a blog and still manages to knit for herself.

~Which classic artist do you most admire?

By "classic," I'll assume you mean "doesn't work in a crafty medium" and not "Dutch Master." :D I've got a BFA (ceramics, if you can believe it - actually, hand built pottery and knitting have a lot in common as far as meditative work that builds on itself goes, but that's another essay for another time. Now you see why I employ footnotes on my blog.) so I've had a fair amount of art history (ancient is my hands down favorite) and feel reasonably qualified to answer this question.

I like artists who paint the same subject over and over again. Artists who recognize that when the light or the season or the surroundings change, the subject has changed. The little differences that make something new each day. Frida Kahlo, van Gogh, Monet with all those haystacks. Artists who don't just want to capture the moment, but who want to capture *every* moment.

~What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began?

A better understanding of Etsy tagging system would have been helpful. it was also tough to put a price on my work. On the one hand, each toy should be nine billion dollars and on the other, it's a good idea to stay competitive with the rest of Etsy's plush.

~What piece of advice would you give to someone first starting out in the knit toy community?

Take the time to be unique. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's very annoying. Even if you are working from someone else's pattern (which I hope you have permission to do), you can still make it yours - through presentation, fiber, colors, attitude, whatever. Figure out how to make your work special and run with it.

~and finally, what is your favorite flower?

Camellias! We live in my great grandparents' home and the yard is packed with them. Gran-dad was a collector. It's like he left me a treat.

*a giant "Thank you!" to Emily for sharing her words and her photographs!

all photos and interview words in black are owned by Emily.

inspiration and awesomeness

last post i told you i'd be offering links to and admirations of some of my favorite dollmakers. but then, inspiration struck...what if i let them tell you about themselves? ah, yes, my genius is showing!

i've made a list of 16 artists...some who make dolls, some who help me with mine (don't you want to know what makes Olivia of Olivia's Ultimate so incredibly wonderful? how does she do it??), some who are just plain fabulous!

first up will be Emily of YarnMiracle...she's such a good writer, i already know you'll want to tune in. her interview will be up tomorrow!!

and now, for Memory Monday...
this is me and my dear sweet uncle...
and what a Polaroid photo looks like after 30-ish years!