Monday, November 23, 2009

Better Know an Austin Artist: Jennifer Ramos, Textile Fetish

Welcome to another installment of my Ask an Austin Artist Some Random Questions™. At first glance it might seem like an interview, but upon closer inspection, you'll find it's really just some stuff I wanted to know. I especially wanted to know about the reuse part. You know I dig that. A big thanks to all the artists who made the time to participate in this series. I've loved getting to better know each of you.
Jennifer Ramos, Textile Fetish

Could you provide a brief description of your work?
I make useful things, fun things, for children and grown ups. I strive to use up every last bit of fabric, and I'm big into repurposing. That's why patchwork has a strong presence in what I offer.

You make a range of pieces. Is there one type that you find most satisfying?
No. I tend to focus on one thing until it maxes out my attention span and then I move on to the next thing. If I've done a show, and I've gotten feedback concerning a need for larger sizes, for example, then I'll make that my focus. But I love to work with a sense of purpose, even if it means patchwork for the sake of using up scraps.

Do you have a crazy-big stash of fabric?
Hmmm...I do, but it's not attractive by any means. It's not photogenic. It's sorted by type in boxes to make me feel organized. It's remnants, cast-offs, and yardage that someone else didn't want.

What do you respond to first about a fabric? Color? Pattern? Hand?
I work with cotton, mostly, so if I'm looking to integrate something into an item for the shop, yes weight and content would play a role. Then probably print (along with color). I'm mindful of my aesthetic.

How do you reuse materials in your business?
How do I *not* reuse materials? You know that White Stripes song, Rag and Bone? That's me! I have sewing notions that were left by loved ones who've passed on and I feel like, to not use those things is to not honor their intentions. People who sew buy a lot of stuff with good intentions, you know. Never bad intentions. I thrift, of course, and look for vintage sheets. I have a source for discontinued upholstery samples. And when my littlest outgrows her clothes, I sometimes cut and reuse the garments when the item is too worn to be passed along intact.

What material would you like to work with/or what skill would you like to learn that you haven't yet?
I keep saying this is the year I'm going to become proficient at sewing knits. Why's it so daunting? I could be upcycling t-shirts!

You are stuck on a desert island for a year and can only take 3 things to make with--what would you take?
My camera, my laptop and my ipod. I'll fashion sewing implements with my teeth or something. Is that bad? Can I bring along the necessary cables and cords? OK, wait, maybe this is a trick question. . . paper, a pen, and a big book I'd never finish under normal circumstances.

If there were no restraints, what would you choose to do with the bulk of your time?
Travel! Is money a factor? I would travel to big cities, taking public transportation and loads of photos!

Have you discovered any new talents while running this business?
Yes. Well, I mean, I've developed skills and picked up a few new ones. I'm much better at interacting with people and coordinating gear for shows. I can pack a Prius like nobody's business. But in terms of sewing, I've taught myself techniques that I've been able to improve upon through repetition.

Any other info you would like to showcase? Run another business? Teach classes? Run marathons? Teach classes while running marathons?
I'm very active in my daughter's school currently chairing three committees. All these skills integrate into one another. While I'm coordinating a big event for the Diversity Committee, I'm considering ways that these skills will transfer to future endeavors. Maybe one day I'll want to coordinate a charity craft show! Plus, the my ability to sew, and to organize supplies for craft shows (for the business) easily work their way into what I do for the school. This will all culminate into something much bigger, I can feel it.

As a rule, my philosophy is to be passionate about what you do, and find something in it to take away for yourself, no matter how grueling and meaningless you might initially find a task to be.

The holidays are upon us. Which of your items do you think make the best gifts?
I've noticed that holiday shoppers tend to opt for practical items. The people who buy my patchwork pants and skirts, this time of year, are the beloved aunts. Aprons are hot sellers, simply because everybody can use one (or two!)

See more of Jennifer's work on her website and in her Etsy shop.

Textile Fetish is also carried in select shops:

Baby Bugaloo 5700 W. Slaughter Ln, #200 Austin, TX

Edith & Edna
51 Exchange St., Portland, ME Phone: 761-2800

Make Shop and Studio 313 N. Bishop Ave., Dallas (Oak Cliff), TX

Upcoming Shows
Shops and online venues are great in lots of way, but sometimes the best way to see the full breadth of an artist's work is to catch one of their shows. Jennifer will be at one of Austin's signature art events:

Cherrywood Art Fair
Saturday, December 12 10am - 6pm
Sunday, December 13, noon - 6pm
Maplewood Elementary
3808 Maplewood Ave, Austin, Texas
For more info:

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