Sunday, September 09, 2012

Buy Handmade vol 21

This week we head to Portland, OR. One city I have never visited but always dreamed of living in..

Name: Stephanie Leiderman
Age: 27
Occupation: Nonprofit researcher; fiber and metals artist 
Etsy Shop:

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi! I’m Stephanie. I very recently moved to Portland, Oregon, after spending 15 months in Beijing, China, working as an English Teacher. China is also where I met my charming boyfriend, Peter. I’m originally from Philadelphia, PA, and I’ve also lived (for five years) in beautiful and mountainous Asheville, NC. My absolute biggest passions are making stuff, and travelling. My goal, therefore, is to carve out a life that incorporates copious amounts of both.

I’ve been fortunate enough to combine these loves quite a lot so far, having apprenticed with a family of goldsmiths in Gujurat, India, studied in Salamanca, Spain, and travelled about, in South America and Morocco.

You caught me in an interesting and really exciting moment of transition—I just signed a lease on a great little studio space, which I’m still in the process of setting up, just right. I expect my output to increase dramatically very soon, as a result.

When did you start creating and how long have you been on Etsy?

I’ve been crafty since forever, and I have an Associates of Applied Science in metalsmithing/jewelry, so that’s my main artistic training. But I have also done work/study programs at Arrowmont School in Tennessee and the John C. Campbell Folkschool, in North Carolina. The latter is where I first learned how to spin yarn, about five years ago: I was unable to get into a full-up class on spinning, but one evening I was hanging out in the dining hall, and I saw the instructor using a drop spindle. We got to talking, and she showed me the basics (just one reason that residential craft schools are happy, exciting places). I brought wool and spindle to Beijing, and when I returned to the states, I bought my first spinning wheel, a Kromski Minstrel. I’ve been spinning like crazy ever since. I joined Etsy and set up shop only a few months ago, and I’m very excited about all the possibilities the community allows! 

In addition to spinning, I also love to recycle yarn from thrifted sweaters, and then hand-dye it. I’m also working on getting a line of fiber and silver/copper/found object jewelry ready to debut on the site soon. 

How did you come up with your business name, is there any special meaning behind it?

The name “Milo Knows” comes from my absolute favorite kid’s book, The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster—I also have a corresponding tattoo of an illustration from it on my upper arm. 

Milo, the book’s main character, is an apathetic and sad little boy who is soon whisked away to a magical and pun-filled land where, in turn, he’s shown the fun and excitement in all the aspects of life he’s been ignoring. He meets characters and visits places that show him the magic of music, color, words, numbers—all the good stuff, really! “Milo Knows” is a reference and a reminder to reject apathy and embrace beauty and excitement, in everyday life and especially in the ostensibly mundane. In everything I create, I strive to find that joy and wonder, and I always hope that comes through in the final products. 

How would you describe your creative process?

I’m very inspired by color and texture, and I will often assemble collages to work out combinations that speak to me. But when I actually spin or dye, I’m very spontaneous, mixing and blending as I go until I’m satisfied. I dye all of my own fibers, which may be my favorite part of the process.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

My biggest inspiration often comes from travel; I absolutely love looking at the work done by artisans around the world, both traditional and modern. 

What is your most cherished handmade item?

My Aunt Janet, who first taught me to knit when I was thirteen years old, made my cousin and I purple and blue matching crocheted coats when we were in fourth grade or so. We both still have them, and they remind me of what a crafty and caring family I come from!

Apart from creating things, what do you like to do?

I’m a big fan of cooking and baking, and the various other domestic arts. I also just assisted my boyfriend Peter with his first batch of home brewed beer (raspberry vanilla stout!). I’m also a magpie/collector by nature, so I spend a good deal of time trawling thrift stores for anything and everything to decorate daily life. I also keep a blog, at, that has been a really fun diversion, lately.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be and why?

I love to write, so I could see myself as a journalist. It would also be a good excuse to indulge my inherent nosiness.

Five years from now you will be…

Making stuff and goin’ places. And maybe by then, I’ll own a sheep. Or at least an angora bunny!

Describe yourself in five words:

Impatient, excitable, introverted, kind, (slightly) awkward 

Carrying on with the five theme, if I were to turn on your <insert whatever type of music player you use here>, what five artists/songs would I see on your recently played list?

The Violent Femmes, Good Feelings; The Tallest Man on Earth, The Drying of the Lawns; Built to Spill, Car; Local Natives, Airplanes; Frightened Rabbit, Swim Until You Can’t See Land. 

Lastly, do you have any advice for anyone thinking about opening their own shop or participating in craft shows?

I’m still very new to the business side of creating, but I certainly can give some advice that’s awfully fresh in my own mind. Don’t be scared to put yourself out there. The positive feedback you’ll get is deeply inspiring and enriching, and, besides, you can’t let self-doubt hold you back. Take your passions seriously, and you can’t lose.