Thursday, October 07, 2010

Interview with Constance Kaiser

I spend a lot of time on flickr. I love looking at the stuff that other people make and their inspiration. One day I somehow came across these super cute robot dolls and superheroes. After some clicking, I discovered that the artist, Constance Kaiser, uses Spoonflower to print panels so that people can make their own. It's a wonderful project for people who are new to sewing or who want to make something quick; you don't even need a sewing machine. I was so taken by these little guys that I asked Connie, of Connie Lou Fabrics, if she would do an interview so we could learn more about her process. She has some really amazing items. I love the Little Red Riding Hood tote panel that has everything to make a little bag and all the characters from the story. She also has some holiday designs (like the Gingerbread Man below and a matching hand puppet panel) that can work throughout the year.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I’m a stay-at-home-grandmother, with a husband, two grown sons and an 8 year old grandson. Most of my work experience was in the public sector: Director of a Head Start program, Legislative Aide at the Virginia General Assembly, etc. I have no formal art training or graphic art experience. But I am one of those obsessive artists, who sees everything as a blank canvas needing some decoration.

My mother loved to sew and I was the artist, so we combined to become sort of a craft-conspiracy. She would sew darling dresses for my nieces, then I would hand paint or applique on them. Though I consider myself a non-sewer, I learned to love fabric from my mother. I also have a beautiful collection of antique quilts done by family members (one of which won a first prize at the Ohio State Fair in 1932).

I like that you offer a basic print to coordinate with your more whimsical images. That’s not something that I see a lot on Spoonflower. Why did you decide to do that?

So I had been doodling, painting and crafting for sometime when I tripped across Spoonflower last year. I thought the idea of short-run, original design fabrics would be an extraordinary tool for crafters and seamstresses. What fun it would be to make a clutch from an original design and line it with a coordinating print, make a unique fabric baby bib and back it with a matching plaid, or add coordinating original design fabrics to a quilt. The possibilities are endless! I rarely work on a print that in my imagination when I’m not designing the matching plaid or stripe or print.

Your doll panels are such a great idea. My mom made lots of dolls from these panels for me when I was a kid, even a tote bag that I still have. Is this a nod to vintage?

In my first shop on Etsy I made and sold original design dolls and puppets. So I began thinking that those would be perfect to print up on fabric and then sew. Better yet, I print them and sell the panels to people who sew to make up. I’ve really had fun with the concept of panels or kits. I think that the difference between “Look what I bought for the baby” and “Look what I MADE for the baby,” is incredible. I never thought of it being vintage, but in a way I guess it is. Like when my mother and I worked together. I’ll be the artist and you do the sewing and together we’ll make something unique and original.

I’ve never seen images printed on fleece before. What is that process like?

I believe that fleece is God’s gift to non-sewers. You don’t have to worry about hemming or finishing seams or fraying. And fleece can be cut into all kinds of shapes and patterns; plus fleece is sooo soft for baby and toddler toys. Though I work primarily through Spoonflower for my fabric printing, and I love the Spoonflower community and all the technical bells and whistles that Spoonflower has, I go to another site to have my fleece printed. Spoonflower made it clear early on that they would not be printing fleece; they would only print organic fabric. I go to Fabric on Demand to have my fleece printed and the process is very much the same. I’m amazed at how crisp and bright the colors are, though I do lose some of the fine detail (that’s just due to the fuzziness of fleece). I think that soon all my pocket dolls will be done in fleece. The smaller the object being sewn and turned, the less fabric you want wadded up inside the little nooks and crannies. And with fleece you can work with a much smaller seam allowance and not worry about fraying.

So, what's on the drawing board?

I just can’t stop thinking about all the wonderful possibilities of printing your own fabric. I’m already designing the Christmas presents for my family this year. I’m going to take some traditional family holiday recipes, write them out on recipe cards, then scan them and make a print out of them. I plan to print up the fabric and make tea towels or hot pads for all my brothers and sisters, cousins, and nieces and nephews. How adorable will that be…“Aunt Jean’s Pumpkin Pie” and “Aunt Dorothy’s Creamed Onions” and “Grandpa’s Christmas Fudge”! I’ll also be adding some baby shower gifts panels and children’s apron kits to my shop as soon as the printed fabric arrives.

Thanks so much to Connie for the interview! Come back tomorrow because Connie has offered to give away one of her panels to a reader. Make sure you check out her other shop, Mini Monster, where she sells her finished creations like hand puppets and cool little monsters.


ConnieLou said...

Thanks, Beth, you really made me look good!


Kim said...

I love the coordinating prints and the one of a kind dolls. So nice for little ones!

Unknown said...



Nice idea about all the wonderful possibilities of printing your own fabric...