Friday Interview: Thimblewinder! June 03, 2011 11:44

Happy Friday, everyone, and Happy June!  This week I'd like to introduce you to Marissa Falco, the creative crafter behind Thimblewinder. Marissa lives in the creative hotspot of the Boston area, Somerville, and we carry a lovely mix of her products. Marissa's products all have a sweet whimsy, and I just had to get to know her more. Read on to learn more about Marissa and her Lady Gaga studio dance parties. 

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your handmade business.
Hello, I'm Marissa Falco. I grew up in Willimantic, CT, moved to Massachusetts to attend Boston University in 1997, and have lived in the Boston area since then. During the day, I work as an art director at a publishing company. My handmade business is Thimblewinder, which encompasses all the creative projects I work on after I leave my day job: crafty things like winner medals and fabric crowns, designy things like greeting cards and zines, and a whole bunch of illustration and hand-lettering.

Describe your studio for us.
My studio is in a spare bedroom in my apartment in Somerville, MA. Before I moved here, I made a deal with myself that if I found an apartment with studio space I had to really make the most of it, and that has motivated me to take on all sorts of fun projects in the past couple of years. It's the first time I've had a permanent space in which to make art, and I love it. In my last apartment I had a very tiny bedroom, so during the day I would lay fabric out on my futon to cut it out, and would often find pins and scissors in my bed when I was going to sleep-- yikes! Now that I have a whole room reserved for making projects, I appreciate that I can use some of that space to be ultra-organized and another part of that space to leave projects-in-progress while I go work on something else. It is also great to have the free floor space for times when I can't keep working until I have a Lady Gaga dance party (which happens more often than one might expect).

Tell us a little about the zines you've published. What's the inspiration for your current series?
I started making zines in the mid-1990s, when I was in high school. At that time, making zines was my creative outlet, as I didn't have time to take art classes during my school day. Zines also helped me to find my voice, as I was pretty shy until I went to college, and writing ideas down to share them was less scary than talking to people I didn't know. My zines have always been mostly-autobiographical, and have been my way of sharing my experiences and adventures, as well as a way to make people read comics inspired by my weird dreams. My current series is called Miss Sequential, and the most recent issue is the story of my experiences with mail, pen pals, working in a mail room at college, and other mail-related happenings over the years. My favorite thing about zines, which I have appreciated from the beginning, is that they encourage feedback and interaction between the reader and the writer, much more directly so than most other art forms.

What was the inspiration behind your winner medals?
I like the idea of being able to award yourself or someone else for everyday excellence, and I thought winner medals would be a fun way to do that. Because winner medals are fun and accessible awards, I wanted to make them out of a cozy material like wool felt, and for them to be obviously hand-embroidered. That is kind of a play on the splendor and formality of serious awards, which are nearly always made of cold, hard metal (Stanley Cup, I'm looking at you!). I also like that hand-embroidery forces you to keep the message short and sweet, unlike award acceptance speeches. The OK medal is my favorite, because it operates on a few levels. You may give it to a friend in jest, mocking some mediocrity on their part. You may substitute it for second or third place medals (because, let's face it, after first place there is always a lot of OK). But on the other hand, OK can be quite an achievement if you're emerging from a bad place, and you probably deserve even more than a winner medal in that case. I like that OK is so versatile and that it is an unexpected inclusion in a project about achievement.

What are your favorite tools for getting the word out about your handmade business?
I am admittedly lazy when it comes to telling people about the things I make. It's a habit that I'm trying to break, because if I make cool projects I shouldn't be keeping them to myself. I do keep a blog at for all the important details. The best unintentional tool for getting the word out has definitely been Twitter. It still amazes me that people who I don't know read my tweets about my commuting woes, current celebrity obsessions, and general observations... and then they go to my online shop to buy my zine. While these one-liners about my life do provide a reliable preview of my zine work, I didn't really intend them that way-- and I think that's why they work. I didn't start using Twitter as intentional promotion, but for projects so closely tied to my personality and interests, it works. My tweets are not always that interesting, but I enjoy the challenge of expressing myself in 140 characters, and it seems like people enjoy reading them.

What does handmade mean to you?
A handmade object has a connection with the person who made it, whether it is literally hand written or hand sewn, or shows some evidence of human interaction and imperfection. Slightly crooked edges, fingerprints, irregular stitches: that handmade touch is what makes it special and unique. Someone made this.

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I applied and was accepted for the winter show a few years ago. That year I was making quilted pillows, and I figured it would be easier to bring them to the store in person, rather than ship them. So I took two giant bags of pillows on a trip to Providence via the commuter rail, which was an adventure, although in retrospect definitely not easier than shipping them. 

Guilty Pleasure?
I don't know that I feel guilty about any of my interests, but I do think it is weird that I could watch Sports Center for hours with rapt attention, despite the fact that I do not follow most of the sports they cover. It's something about the pacing of the show, the vocabulary of sports talk, and the graphics they use on-screen-- the revolving checklist of sports headlines is so appealing to me, an obsessive list-maker.