Saturday, August 2, 2014

Meet Laura Dufresne, Artist and Craftsperson

Laura Dufresne is an artist in Montreal, Canada who creates unique handmade items. She currently specializes in fabric bow ties and coin purses / cell phone cases. If you like work with a geeky-cool aesthetic, be sure to check out Laura's creations. Learn more about Laura and her work on her website called Retroactive Legacy and in her Etsy shop.

1. What inspired you to start making handmade bow ties?

That's kind of a strange story. My boyfriend and I both have an affinity for geeky items and are both aficionados of the creative process. As my sewing skills grew, I found that smaller accessories with bold or interesting themes or characters became more important than the overall look. As a result, I tested a bow tie. I made a simple, Spiderman-themed bow tie for an event we attended. I received a number of responses--and to my surprise, excitement, and horror, people wanted to order them from me.

The experience blindsided me; I had no clue what to charge, how to proceed, and whether selling handmade bow ties made any sense at all. It turns out it does make complete sense because current mass-produced bow ties are poorly made, kind of boring, and mostly are pre-ties, which detracts from the allure of self-tied knot.

So in essence, what inspired me the most was the ideal of a great tradition, brought into modern times, made into something more interesting than the novelty ties our dads would wear once a year.

2. I see you are expanding into coin purses and cell phone cases. How do you get ideas for your products?

The coin purses was first inspired by this awesome fabric I found on Spoonflower featuring cameo skulls. I wanted to really showcase the skulls because the entire look was so well done. I thought it appropriate to create something heart-shaped and it just so happened that I had a batch of purse frames in my crafts stash. I tested patterns until I found one that suited the fabric perfectly and voila.

I think fabrics often inspire my work: I don't want to do what might be obvious with them; I want to do the unthinkable, the out-of-the-box, without over-reaching and not being relatable. There should be some sort of connection, but it won't necessarily be immediately obvious.

3. How do you choose the fabrics to use in your creations?

For one, most of the fabrics I choose are not commercially available. I do sometimes use commercially available fabrics, typically when it involves creating something using a copyrighted character. I think copyright is extremely important and believe that as customers become more and more aware of the issues of copyright, this will become of significant importance in the future.

It is also important to me to support independent artists. I love finding independent designers and creating something that really highlights their work. Bow ties are great for this; all bow-ties have a "window" of sorts, and I look for designs that meet the size requirements for this 1" by 2" space.

My fishing tie is a perfect example. The fish on this fabric are quite large and take up a significant portion of the window. I chose it because it fit the personality of bow ties as the modern replacement to the ubiquitous novelty fishing tie of our fathers, and also because the dimensions that would allow me to showcase the fabric in a way that might otherwise have been overlooked.

4. As an indie artist/craftsperson, what do you feel are the pros and cons when it comes to selling on Etsy?

I'm really not sure about Etsy anymore. I have found that the philosophy that made me jump into the mix has been lost with the refusal to address resellers in the marketplace. It really has torn me apart. I could continue to sell there, and with a little more involvement, I know I would/could be highly successful, but I am still not very sure I want to continue with this medium. This is a discussion for another day and another interview.

In favor of Etsy, there are still numerous independent artists and producers on the website. It is essential we support that as much as possible. In doing so, we solidify the economic sense of maintaining a handmade marketplace. For myself, even if you don't buy my products, I hope you buy things through Etsy that aren't produced in factories.

Cons: often times it is hard to tell what is handmade. :(

5. What do you think that people creating handmade objects can do to make their work stand out online, where buyers are inundated with cheap, pseudo-handmade imports?

I think it is important not to jump on bandwagons. I know it can be hard to resist, but making a bow tie of blue boxes would be stupid-boring, because it's just too common. I don't want to be mean, but if there are a gad-zillion of something, there is just no way to stand out. If you want or need to be on trend, try to get ahead of the curve. Also, you really do need to KNOW your subject.

Research is the key to connecting with your potential customers. One of my most successful bow ties is a Godzilla bow tie, but customers are not directed to my product through the keyword GODZILLA, but through the keyword GOJIRA, the Japanese word for this awesome monster! Know the fans, know the lingo, and that is how you'll reach your key audience.

Thanks, Laura!

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