Saturday, August 27, 2011

Interview: Kirsten Renz of Local Color.


Few things are more inspirational to me than a person my age who has turned their original designs and handiwork into a lucrative endeavor that is continually growing. One such success story is that of Kirsten Renz, a business student, blogger, and Etsy shop owner who lives in my hometown. Recently, Kirsten and some of the products from her shop, Local Color, were featured in the magazine Designers of Tumblr (DO.t for short). With nearly 200 sales to date since she started her shop in January 2010, Kirsten's handmade creations, from the zipper pouches made of recycled vintage fabrics to crocheted iPod cases made to look like Gameboys, are in high demand. And after one look through her shop--it's no secrety why: I love the way that everything has all the charm of being handmade, but with a look of clean professionalism that is seldom achieved without the help of an assembly line.

{Part of Kirsten's DO.t feature}

To be completely accurate I should mention that first met Kirsten briefly many, many years ago at a day-long first communion retreat in the second grade. Though I now know her through my long-time friend and former roommate Katie. I started reading Kirsten's Blogger blog (as opposed to her Tumblr) around the time I started my own blog last spring, and I've followed it regularly since then. I mean with frequent posts about her staggeringly large nail polish collection and pictures of her colorful and immaculate workspace, how could I reasonably stay away? After receiving my cosmetics case and lion iPod touch sleeve from Kirsten about a week ago, I thought I would take the time to sit down with her (figuratively; I conducted this interview via email) and talk a little bit more about Local Color. Sometimes in five words or less.

{Ready to ship!}

Gamine: What inspired your to start an Etsy shop?
Kirsten: Back in January of 2010 I started making neck-warmers for fun. Some of my friends expressed interest in buying them, so I set up my Etsy thinking it would be a temporary thing, but then I fell in love with the community and having my own little store.

Gamine: Where did the name Local Color come from?
Kirsten: Truman Capote. I had an obsession with him in high school and Local Color was the title of a book of essays he wrote. I just liked the sound of it, and it stuck.

{A colorful sampling of Kirsten's iPod Touch cases}

G: How/When did you learn to sew and crochet?
K: My affair with sewing started a long time ago. I was way into "crafts" when I was little and sewing always seemed the most fun. I started out really awful. I've mentioned before that my first completed doll was partially attached with staples because I got lazy. But my true sewing lessons came during my sophomore year in high school. I took a textiles class where I learned both to (properly) sew and crochet.

G: Where do you get your supplies?
K: The majority of my stash is from thrift shopping, actually. I think vintage fabric is so much more interesting. And less expensive. If it's not second hand I shop primarily at JoAnn's. I take advantage of the coupons they send out.

{A sampling of zipper pouches made from vintage fabrics}

G: Where do you go to look for inspiration when starting new projects?
K: My inspiration comes from a lot of things. I subscribe to Real Simple magazine, which is my bible. I'm a fan of simplicity. Obviously. Fashion magazines and blogs inspire me. I love Vogue and blogs like Cupcakes and Cashmere and Calivintage. Seeing the colors and patterns in outfits inspires a lot of the fabric and color choices I make.

G: When do you usually work on new items? What's a typical workday like?
K: I start new items as soon as they pop in my head. I'm always afraid I'll forget the pattern or style I'm thinking of. So I'll try something right away. A typical workday would be: messy. While I keep things looking pretty organized and orderly, my actual sewing process is a disaster. I lug everything out (I don't have a craft room - one day) and go to town. I typically create a goal list of what to make and work until it's done. Then I obviously clean rigorously. I also sew while standing, which I suppose is odd. Crocheting is basically always happening. I crochet while I watch TV, before bed… I'm always in the process of crocheting something.

G: Any strange requests for custom items?
K: Actually, no. Most people have really good ideas. What a boring answer.

{Arms for bears; I just like this picture}

G: I have to ask: do you ever Check out the Regretsy blog? As an Etsy seller, what is your response to it?
K: I spent maybe 20 minutes one night on it. It was kind of enjoyable…but if I ever saw myself on there, I would be devastated. But if we're being honest, some of those things just CANNOT be serious.

G: Do you know of any other Etsy shops based in Fort Wayne?
K: No! Which I find disappointing. I'm sure there are, but I've yet to find one. I've joined Indiana Etsy teams and things, but don't know of anyone from Fort Wayne.

G: What's the most exciting thing on the local DIY scene in Fort Wayne?
K: To be honest and depressing, I don't know a whole lot about this DIY scene. I've participated in one craft show and it was a real stinker. I'm trying out some more in the winter. I know there will be a lot of cool things at the Johnny Appleseed festival, though. THAT'S pretty exciting and so soon, which I'm looking forward to.

G: You mentioned on your blog that you are thinking about changing the name of Local Color. What's the inspiration for doing this? Any hints as to what the new name may be?
K: As far as the name change goes, the whole Local Color thing was a rather hasty decision and I never got as attached to it as I thought I would. I felt kind of trapped with it (especially after printing 1,500 business cards). But I figured if I was going to change it, better sooner than later. Let's just say the new name holds a lot of meaning and nostalgia for me. It's much more unique.

Alright, time to end on a light note with some Fast Five questions:

G: Describe the Local Color aesthetic in five words or less:
K: Local Color aesthetic. Hard one. <- Technically that's five words. These sorts of things are hard for someone as long-winded as me. I feel like Local Color has a pretty eclectic mix of things. I'm such a cheater.

G: Name five things in the room that make you happy:
K: (Thank god while I'm answering this I'm in my favorite room): my Singer sewing machine, my writing utensil collection, my boyfriend Casey, my favorite pair of tribal print sandals, and my Macbook (yeah, I'm that person).

G: Name five colors that you love.
K: Colors: aqua, deep purple, goldenrod, rusty orange and slate.

G: What were you doing at five o' clock yesterday?
K: Yesterday: Getting dressed for a date! My boyfriend took me to dinner and to see Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.

G: In five words or less, tell me what you would like to see for Local Color in the coming year.


[Note: All images are property of Kirsten Renz were borrowed from]

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