Friday Feature, Special Organizers Edition! Part Two! November 05, 2010 12:39

Happy Friday, loyal readers! This Friday we have a very special treat, the next installment in the Special Organizers Edition! This week I did an interview with our very own Deb Dormody. Enjoy the interview! (I think this one gets the award for favorite response to my guilty pleasure question.)  

Your title at Craftland is "Boss Lady" and for those who don't know, you're also the voice behind the Craftland newsletters and emails. Describe for us how you first became involved with Craftland and what your role is now.
My initiation ceremony with Johanna Fisher and Margaret Carleton's ingenious invention that is Craftland came in its first incarnation in 2002 when they invited me to participate as an artist. They didn't technically prick my finger, but after working the first fill-in shift for Johanna, well, my veins were coursing with glittery Craftland blood. I immediately saw what an amazing asset this show was to the local community as well as to the then-blossoming national trend of independent crafts. I obeyed its demand for labor-intensive and highly rewarding service. Now, Boss Lady is a catch-all phrase for organizer, negotiator, communicator, quality controller, DJ, and designer. But really, when it all comes down to it, we're all boss ladies at Craftland. (And that definitely includes Art Middleton.)

When did you start your own handmade business, If'n Books & Marks?
I was introduced to bookbinding in my public high school in a studio art class. Angels sang, clouds parted, and rainbows produced pots of gold for me on that day. It just clicked right away. But it took me six years after receiving an undergrad liberal arts degree to figure out that I could give it a go as a full-time business. That was 2000. Now I'm pretty much always walking around with 100 dollar bills falling out my pockets.

Describe your studio for us.
For 8 years, If'n Books occupied a large mill space that I shared with photographer, Scott Lapham, in the heart of the industrial revolution in Pawtucket, RI. The hugeness of the space accommodated hoarding tendencies, and also generated an egregious amount of draftiness in the cold, cold winter which -- I tell you -- really built up a lot of character to say the least. If I weren't a pacifist, I'm pretty sure the Marines would have given me an honorary degree by now. I've since pared down to operate out of my living space, shared with my honey Alec Thibodeau, which allows for multi-tasking extraordinaire so that I can juggle a full-time job, Craftland, and If'n.

Some of our readers may recognize you from your appearance in Faythe Levine's documentary, Handmade Nation. How did you become involved in that project?
I actually met Faythe through Craftland a bunch of years ago. I remember receiving the packages of her wares for the show from Milwaukee and being fascinated with her handwriting on the address labels - striking, but seemingly effortless. Then, in person at all the other shows I'd see her at  around the country, she was just as unique and chill. So when she asked to come film If'n Books, it was almost as if she was being sneaky how she coordinated it so nonchalantly. Like I didn't even think to put on make-up even though I was wearing this bright fuchsia sweater and hadn't slept in a couple days since we had also just launched that season's Craftland Show. The clue might have been the large camera in front of my face, but again, we were just chit-chatting. It wasn't until I was in DC looking at a large film screen that I thought, wow, I could have at least washed my hair.

What is it about Providence that you think helps make a business like Craftland a success?
I encourage our dear readers to look up the history of Providence's founder, Roger Williams. And with that as a prelude, I'll add that this town is singular because of our proximity to Boston and New York, while still being relatively affordable, with a flowing population of Brown and RISD students to keep things spicy (and occasionally annoying), and a New England spirit that really applauds dedicated and original work in an enthusiastic and encouraging way.  We're all a little kookoo and suspicious, but fiercely loyal. Maybe this is starting to sound like a Chinese food placemat, but really, with both an amazing crop of artists as well as supporters who take pride in supporting what we've made, it's pretty thrilling.

What types of things are you looking for when you pick artists whose work you want to sell at Craftland?
The Craftland aesthetic is very particular, but really it comes down to the golden rules: high-quality, exceptionally considered, interestingly executed, well-made, and unpredictably special.

What advice would you offer someone who wants to take their crafting from hobby to business?
Take the time to find your style: it takes longer than you'd think.  Then do your research about how to make your creative process efficient, source materials, and find out what part of owning a business you're good at and what part you need to either learn how to do better, or pay/barter for.

Guilty pleasure?
That means you shouldn't do it or you're embarrassed admitting it, right? I might say Gossip Girls, but that's more of a necessary therapy. I could get a doctors note for that. And I was raised catholic so I mean, what isn't a guilty pleasure really. Cheese and whiskey? REM songs? TMZ? Fancy hotels? Oh I know - buying clothes from Forever 31. I don't buy them often, and they don't even last, and everything is made by tweens with bloody fingers in developing countries, but sometimes there's something that's just great and so affordable. It screws up the economy of the entire world but I do it anyway. Ugh. This is the confessional room, right?