Wednesday Indie Artist Fixx with the Charm City Craft Mafia

I’m doing something new today for this week’s Indie Artist Fixx interview, I’m sharing an interview I did not with one person, but a whole bunch of people. Not just any random bunch of people either, but the members of the Charm City (Baltimore) Craft Mafia. Since the Charm City Craft Mafia’s Pile of Craft is going to be next Saturday in Baltimore and since I just love everyone in the group, I thought it would be timely and fun.

Read more about the Charm City Craft Mafia in my interview with them below.

Plus, if you live in the Baltimore/DC area or close enough, then make sure to attend the 2nd annual Pile of Craft indie craft show to be held next Saturday, June 21st, 2008. The event, featuring 40+ crafty vendors, will be held indoors at St. John’s Church located at 2640 St. Paul St, Baltimore, MD 21218, from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. Click here for directions. I’m going to be there selling my wares from the Indie Fixx Shop.

Here’s a link to pictures from last year’s Pile of Craft on flickr.

The Charm City Craft Mafia members

MIKEY of Spaghetti Kiss

1. How do you explain to people what you do? Do your family, friends and coworkers know what you do or are you a “closet indie crafter”?

I find myself constantly trying to find new ways to explain what I do because simply saying that I print on T-shirts doesn’t seem to cut it. Ask any crafter what they do and expect more than a three-word answer. We all do this for the love of the art/craft of it (god knows it’s not about the money) and it’s a huge part of our everyday thought process, so all of that goes into how we ‘refer’ to our work.

I can’t imagine keeping what I do hidden; making art is who I am, as cheesy as that may sound. I rely on my friends, family and coworkers for their feedback (both positive and critical) and support. Getting into crafting is time consuming and risky and the people you love are a crucial element. Besides, who else would have bought my stuff when I was just starting out?!?!?

Skullopus tee from Spaghetti Kiss

RACHEL from Red Prairie Press

2. Tell us how you got started with your indie business. What made you decide to take the plunge?

I started printing tshirts and posters for rock bands in college, and continued as a part time thing in the years after graduating while working a series of inspirationless jobs during the day. I woke up one morning two years ago and realized that I loathed everything about my day job and I couldn’t wait to get home every night to do what I liked doing. It was a relatively easy transition to say “That’s IT. This is what I like doing (designing, printing, working with my hands, being creative, working in my own time…), and this is what I DON’T like doing (being under appreciated & underpaid, dressing in “business casual”, having a cranky boss, saying the phrase “lunch n learn”).” Turns out, if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. I think the desperation to never work for anyone else ever again helped…but loving what you do really is what keeps you motivated. Also, Mikey is right to mention the importance of family & friends in the beginning. I remember celebrating my “first web sale” and then celebrating even MORE—my “first web sale to a complete stranger!” Without encouragement, I’d have gone nowhere…and taken no risks.

Cat Cloud Tote from Red Prairie Press

ANNIE of Imogene

3. What are your inspirations in your art and in life?

My inspirations come from my surroundings—maybe a clipping from a magazine, a pattern seen outside, a person, or a conversation, a piece of music or a film. In life, I often look to the women in history who have worked so hard so that I may enjoy the liberties that I have today—I never want to forget that I too have a responsibility to the next generation of women.

4. Are there any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with newbie indie business owners?

My advice is always this: you must KNOW that your biggest dream can become your reality. Work hard and surround yourself with like-minded people.

Necklaces from Imogene

SHAWNA of Pink Kiss

5. What three things can’t you live without?

1. My kiln. I just bought a new electronic kiln and I love love love it. I can program it to go on when I am at work. It’s also really important to what I do, obviously:)

2. My computer. I’m addicted to the Internet and checking out other artists work. I also love to read blogs and am constantly checking Etsy. Luckily, I now have the iphone which just makes it more obnoxious!

3. My kitchen. I know I’m cheating but I love to cook and am always a little sad when we travel and have to eat out the whole time! Cooking relaxes me so much. I would be a happy girl to stay at home, cook and make pots all day.

6. What’s the best thing about what you do?

Opening the kiln after a glaze fire. It’s like Christmas every time. There is such a feeling of satisfaction opening a kiln full of finished work.

And the worst?

Waiting. There are so many stages in my work where I have to wait for something to set, then wait for it to dry all the way. Then wait for the underglaze to dry, then wait for the kiln, then wait for the glaze to dry and wait for the kiln again. It takes about 2 weeks for anything to go through the entire process.

Ceramic mug from Pink Kiss

REBECCA of Bake Sale Designs

7. What blogs and mags do you read and what shops do you shop at?

This probably isn’t the best one for me to answer since I’m not online nearly as much as I used to be and feel kind of out of it where blogs and magazines are concerned. Right now, since I now own my very first house, it’s all about the house–decorating, gardening and furniture blogs and mags. I’ve been looking at Apartment Therapy a lot and This Old House actually has some useful tips for beginners.

8. Were you an artsy craftsy kid? If so, what kinds of things did you do?

I was definitely an arts craftsy kid. I took lots of classes outside of school art classes like pottery, photography and sewing. Really anything that didn’t rely on my fairly non-existent drawing skills was fun for me. When I go to visit my parents, I think it’s cool that they still have my art projects and my brother’s art all over the place, up in frames, on shelves. I had never really thought about it before but my parents certainly nurtured and respected our creativity. I’m still known to break out magazines, stickers and construction paper and make welcom home decorations to hang from the ceiling or silly cards for friends.

Bangle Bags from Bake Sale Designs


9. Share something really goofy about yourself

There are two things that are vital to a craft mafia meeting running smoothly: Wine and Frito Scoops. That’s just how it is.

Also, since none of us eat dinner before craft mafia meetings, we always need extra large amounts of those things.

HEATHER from HVM Designs

10. What does indie mean to you? You can give a literal definition, choose to be a little esoteric or a combination of both. 😉

Indie is a sensibility to me—something that has a new twist, but made using traditional techniques, or a new technique to make a traditional item. Something that builds on the classic idea, made in small batches, with lots of care and thought.

Unique art from HVM Designs

ALI from Pistol Stitched

11.What are you reading, watching, listening to?

Just finished Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon and LOVED it, watching the second season of The Wire, listening to Vampire Weekend and new Elvis Costello. Also listening to business tips for crafters from Bruce Baker!

Clutch from Pistol Stitched

JO of Meghan and Jo Aprons

12. What’s one thing you’ve learned as an adult that you wish you knew when you were a kid?

I am not sure I have learned anything yet from being an adult. The one thing I realized about myself now that I definitely knew better when I was little, is that I need to find ways to bring creativity into my life and if I can’t find it at work, I need to find it other places. When I was little, I painted, made dolls, created new board games, held “photo shoots”… Until recently, I thought I could find satisfaction out of my job. But, really, I need the outside projects, the ability to be creative, and to have multiple outlets to feel more fulfilled and happy.

CHRISTA of It Knits

13. What’s new with your business? Any new plans or products that you want to share?

I am about to make the jump from a full time day job to full time crafter/operator of It Knits, which is pretty exciting! I’ve just created a few new products including hand cabled wrist bands and silk knitted ties, which will be for sale at Pile of Craft, Artscape and on my website soon.

Scarf from It Knits

SARA from Kiss My Crafts

14. What’s the Charm City Craft Mafia all about?

The Charm City Craft Mafia is a group of talented and motivated artists and crafters who are dedicated to the independent crafting community in Baltimore and beyond. There are over a dozen members of the Mafia who all play a role in everything the group does, including: putting on two shows a year, “Pile of Craft” and “Holiday Heap,” participating in other shows and events, providing resources to local artists and crafters by facilitating free tax and legal workshops, and promoting and advocating for d.i.y. artists through press and online media (including our blog on our website). Each artist is successful in his or her own business, but there is so much more that we are all able to do by coming together as a group and pooling our strengths and resources! I feel very lucky to be a part of such an amazing and diverse group of artists.

Vases from Kiss My Crafts


15. What else is cool in Baltimore besides the CCCM?

It’s hard to believe, but actually, there are many things in Baltimore that (depending on who you ask) might just SURPASS the CCCM in coolness. Here are some super cool things to check out (definitely not a complete list):
Baltimore Etsy Street Team
Charm City Kitty Club
Charm City Roller Girls
Dangerously Delicious Pies
Red Tree
Atomic Books
Double Dutch Boutique
Trixie’s Palace
The Creative Alliance
The American Visionary Arts Museum
The Charles Theater
Normals Bookstore
Charm City Art Space
The City Paper
The Golden West
Wham City
Book Thing
-The Farmers’ Market (both Waverly AND Downtown)
Charm City Cakes
The 14 Karot Cabaret

Members of the Charm City Craft Mafia:

Red Prairie Press
Sleepy Records
Bake Sale Designs
Kiss My Crafts
HVM Designs
Spaghetti Kiss
Cotton Monster
It Knits
Pistol Stitched
Pink Kiss
Meghan and Jo Aprons

One thought on “Wednesday Indie Artist Fixx with the Charm City Craft Mafia

  • June 11, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    What a fantastic interview – Can’t wait for Pile of Craft! Thanks for giving a shout out to B.E.S.T!

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