Friday, 24 September 2010

The Friday Interview: Jennifer from From The Fig Tree

Today’s interview is with Jennifer (Fig) from From The Fig Tree.
Fig from From The Fig Tree
One of the things that really sold me on Etsy when I discovered it a few years ago were the clothes. It was just at the point where there was loads of publicity about the conditions clothes from chain stores were produced in (and just as a side note, I’m not sure the big firms have gone much beyond lip service even now: check out Clean Up Fashion for up to date info on how they’re dealing with their suppliers; Asda seem to come out particularly badly. Also Labour Behind The Label), and to find somewhere where I could buy direct from people making their own clothes, with creativity, craftsmanship and love, was fantastic. I particularly loved how clothes were made to be worn and worn, and to fit and look good on different sizes: it was such a different philosophy from high street fashion. Needless to say, From The Fig Tree has been one of my favourites since I first found etsy, and I’ve got a few pieces from her which I’ve worn and loved for ages. Indeed she made me a custom magic skirt which I wore right through quite a dark time in my life, and which was, shall we say, a cheerful companion on the way ;-). So I was thrilled when she agreed to be interviewed! Here are her responses below.

1/ How would you describe your clothes and what you do?
I love the idea of community, it's something I aspire to create in the modern world. When I make clothing I often look to tribal cultures, Native, Gypsy and Vagabond people.

2/ Do you feel you’re part of the ‘Fashion Industry’? (In quotes?).
Most of what the big names of fashion do is search out trends and scout to see what other people are wearing. Then they make the designs their own and market them to their audience. So I suppose I am unwillingly part of the fashion industry. I really try to stick with things that I want to wear, clothing I need to fit into my life. I don't worry so much about what trends are, I think of things I would like to wear and make that for others. It does not always fit in with the status quo. I think there is a big push to move away from mass produced big label companies and either make it yourself, or to support independent artists. Not only are you rewarding makers, but rewarding yourself with a item made by a craftsperson.

3/ How did you start sewing, and what advice would you give to someone who was interested in making clothes? 
I would tell anyone who is just starting out to try it all. Even if you think it cant be done, you learn so much from trying. Often your experiments will take on a life of their own and you never know where it will take you. I started sewing by hand because I did not have access to a sewing machine, my first project was a leopard print tube top from the car seat of a Karmaan Gia that we had sitting in our front yard. Eventually, a friend of mine saw that I was truly interested in sewing and offered me her Old Riccar Sewing machine that had very little use on it. That machine was a lifesaver. It is a relief to go from taking an hour to sew a seam to ten seconds! Soon after I began taking Dance classes and was making outfits for the women in my class all the while selling at concerts and making extra cash there. I wasnt perfect, but I did have a good grasp of what I wanted to see myself wearing and was able to put colors together and mix up the style a bit.

4/ I really love your patchwork style of clothing. How did you develop this, and was it influenced by recycling/ using up fabric?
At the time I started sewing, I was a new mom and had very little money or resources. So I learned to use what I had and nothing was off limits! From Car seats to bedsheets I was using whatever I had on hand to create and eventually sell. I would take clothes that no longer fit and chop them up into patchwork items. I found the local thrift store and began using vintage fabrics, I got word out that I would love to take fabric off of anyones hands who is not using it. Soon I was accepting donations from friends and family for fabric (and sewing lessons!). I learned to use every scrap out of necessity and soon learned it was good for the environment as well. My son was a huge blessing in my life and really shaped me into the artist I am now.
Mum and son!
5/ You say in your etsy shop that you’ve been ordained Priestess of the Sacred Dance by Caya Coven: this sounds fantastic. Do you find that your spiritual beliefs inform/ enrich your work?
Certainly! I feel that everything carries energy with it. I sing songs of blessing when I sew, I bless my thread, my machine and all the tools I work with so that we can work together to create a garment designed specifically for someone.  When the piece is complete I have it sit on the altar at our full moon rituals. Then it is continually carrying the energy of Goddess and the Magic of community in it. This helps me have a better appreciaton for the materials I work with and connects me to the people I create for.  Sewing really changed my life, its not just something I do to make money or get famous. I really needed an outlet and a talent that I could own.

6/ Which of your designs are you most excited about/ enjoying making at the moment?
I really enjoy my SugarBritches at the moment. If I could wear them everyday I would and they offer so much variation that they are constantly fresh to me. They are great for when I like the look of a skirt, but really want to wear pants. They are both! [Note from me, I can vouch for this – I’ve got some Sugar Britches, and they are fabulous].

7/ Are there any other clothing/ other designers you admire that you’d like to tell us about?
Hazel at is a major inspiration to me. She creates some of the most beautiful unique pieces that I have ever laid eyes on! Truly someone I admire and respect.

Thank you Fig, that was great, your answers are really interesting! You can see From the Fig Tree clothing in her Etsy shop (and I am particularly liking the Duster Jacket at the moment, I think that looks lovely).

Have a good weekend everyone – I shall be popping in with more blog hub swap goodness and hopefully doing a bit of patchwork as well, because I’ve splashed out on a rotary board and cutter (it’s bloody huge. I must learn to measure things before I buy them. I really, really must).