Meet 14 Must-Follow Indie Makers from the Coolest Craft Fair Ever
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Meet 14 Must-Follow Indie Makers from the Coolest Craft Fair Ever

For us, this past weekend’s West Coast Craft was like our Instagram feeds came to life. The summer edition of the biannual art and design fest brought together more than 250 of the Left Coast’s best makers — most of whose squares we double tap on the daily — for two days full of can’t-miss shopping, and along with that, some serious *off-screen* creative inspiration.

We left our stroll through the bustling stalls feeling inspired to tinker with our wardrobes, update our home decor and blueprint our next DIY project. That really is our kind of event. So we couldn’t help but tap 14 of the makers who set the spark to share their creative processes with us. Scroll on through to meet the guys and gals behind your favorite ‘grams: there’s major inspo ahead.

Roseli Ilano, Ilano Design

How did you get started making?

I’ve always been inspired by textiles and wanted to blend my passion for textiles, traveling the world and my commitment to social justice to create good jobs for women. So I design all the textiles in my Oakland studio and I partner with women’s weaving cooperatives around the globe. These rugs are made in Oaxaca Mexico paying living wages. Everything is fair trade and it’s a really great collaboration.

What is your biggest inspiration?

Natural colors and patterns.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Turn your cell phone off and just be in the moment. I feel like so many times we’re more focused on FOMO than just being present, and that’s the only way you’re gonna be able to see what’s around you.

Diana and Michelle Stock, Small Gunns

How did you get started making?

Michele was in the film industry and I was in advertising, and we were just disgruntled in our careers. We both chose these creative paths but we weren’t feeling like our creative sides were being fulfilled. So we started a side project… and we were like, oh, it’s really fun to do something we completely own!

What is your biggest inspiration?

We’re really into art and design and fashion, but honestly we just make stuff that we would want in our own homes. Our stuff tends to be pretty gender neutral, and that’s kind of who we are as people so I think that’s where it comes from.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Travel. You get to experience different things and see the world through different eyes. It’s also energizing when you get a little bit stuck in a rut.

Meghan Shimek, Meghan Shimek

How did you get started making?

I started weaving about two and a half years ago. I was visiting my family in Michigan and took a scarf weaving workshop and I just really loved it. Then I decided I wanted to make wall hangings instead, so I took a bunch of Navajo weaving classes and tapestry weaving classes and it just grew from there. This style started about a year ago. I was asked to be in a pop-up shop and only had a few days to prepare for it, so I went to the yarn shop and was like “what could I use that I could weave pretty quickly with?” I found the roving because the material is so bulky and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger.

What is your biggest inspiration?

Nature is very big. I live in Marin, California and I mostly work in my garage with it open or outside in my driveway. I really like to incorporate elements like from the sky or the stream under my house. Also being from Flint, Michigan, this post-industrial city, I really like the softness that this has versus how I grew up in this area that had a lot of hardship but still there was a lot of softness to the people who lived there

Give us your best creativity tip.

Pick up a coloring book and play with different colors. Do something you wouldn’t normally do that feels really simple to just see what happens. And don’t put expectations on yourself, just let things happen and see what that makes you think about.

Angie Kim, AYK

How did you get started making?

I was working for a design firm for a while and I always wanted to do leather goods, specifically bags, and one day after coming back from India I thought, there’s no better time than now to start doing my own thing. So I quit my job and moved back to San Francisco, which is where I’m originally from, and started.

What is your biggest inspiration?

It’s the materials. When I first found out about veg tan leather, I was completely blown away. It actually acts like your own skin. When it’s exposed to the sun it gets darker and richer and each hide has blemishes — some have freckles or wrinkles. I think it’s a really beautiful material and I wanted to enhance this aging patina, so I thought of doing this gradient that I’d never seen on leather before.

Give us your best creativity tip.

The only way to see your idea out is to try it. Just start making it. the idea is always the easiest, but starting is hard — it’s just like going to the gym. Somehow you create a barrier to doing it, but once you start, you just keep at it and just riff off it. And if you can find a creative buddy, that makes it more fun to work on and explore.

Juliana Hung, jujumade

How did you get started making?

It started from a blog. I was working full time, so I created a blog to document things I was interested in and my own side projects. After getting enough interest I created my own line in 2013.

What is your biggest inspiration?

Usually I start with really basic shapes. Inspiration comes from shapes I observe like toys or buildings, and I make them in different pieces and see what I come up with by piecing them together, so it’s fairly organic.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Experiment as much as you can and something will come up.

T. Ngu, Upper Metal Class

How did you get started making?

I kind of fell into it. It was a hobby in the beginning. I was in between jobs that didn’t mean anything to me. I was in this corporate world of working my life away and I’d just come home and cry — people were just mean, and I was like, I don’t deserve this! So I ended up quitting and one day I was like, I’m gonna try this jewelry thing just for fun. After I started making a few things for myself some friends started asking for pieces and random people on the street were like “Where’d you get that from?” and I started a small little online shop in 2010 and grew from there. It turned from my side job to part-time job to full-time job.

What is your biggest inspiration?

My latest collection is called I Am Now, so it’s the idea of being present. I’ve been going through a personal thing of not being “here,” and my mind is off to another place, and I’ve noticed that when you’re able to be present, you’re able to enjoy what you’ve got. It’s about just being grateful and open to what you have here, so all the pieces in the new collection are left open.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Do what you like. And try not to stray away from what you’re doing. I tend to do that, like “Oh, she’s doing better than I am!” And that’s where being here and present comes in, because you’re taken away with all these thoughts… But bring it back and be proud of what you make.

Madeline Moore and Branden Collins, Shop Yugen from The Young Never Sleep

How did you get started making?

BC: The Young Never Sleep is an interdisciplinary studio and we do art direction, photography, illustration and styling, so shop Yugen is our retail extension where we get to play with objects and make a bunch of things, and hopefully people love them.

MM: It started with a conversation, mutually beneficial — we inspire one another. Then we just started to play with things and ideas. We want to look at objects as functional and beautiful and playful.

What is your biggest inspiration?

BC: Inspiration for me comes from all over the place. I’m interested in science and astrophysics and biology and how those things connect, philosophy and a lot of ancient architecture and ancient styles.

But a big part of inspiration for us is to reclaim the fearlessness that comes with youth  — that’s kind of where The Young Never Sleep came from, is trying to embrace that energy, that vibrant fearless nature that you have when you’re younger.

MM: Yeah, for me I’ve been seeking interactions with children, watching them go after everything with confidence and enthusiasm, and they’re not really looking at the world through a filter of insecurity and judgment. They just do what they want and they don’t think about it and it comes out so naturally and genuinely, and I’m really going for that in all my work.

I’m driven by textures, by qualities of fabric — my background is in textiles — and I’m constantly seeking things I can touch and feel.

Give us your best creativity tip.

BC: Be interested in a lot of different things. You never know where you might get inspired from something that seems completely disconnected from what you’re doing.

MM: Don’t be afraid. You’re capable of doing everything — you can do anything you want to do and it’s going to be great no matter what that is.

Debbie Bean, Debbie Bean Stained Glass

How did you get started making?

I first took a stained glass class when I was 17. I was not going to be able to graduate high school, so I took a night class but then diverted to photography. Then last year I got reinspired to start doing stained glass again — I officially launched my website last August — and it’s kind of taken over my life.

What is your biggest inspiration?

I’ve always been a big fan of and influenced by the Bauhaus movement, and for me a lot of my design aesthetic happens to be what I’m drawn to naturally. As I’m working, I’ll start doing something, then I’ll start thinking about something and one thing leads to another.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Just keep doing it.

Meghan Perry and Meg Vaught, The Granite

How did you get started making?

MV: We used to work together. Meghan is an interior designer and I have a background in ceramics and metalsmithing, and so it was a really natural collaboration. Meghan does all the hand-painting and I do most of the ceramics production in our studio in Portland.

What is your biggest inspiration?

MV: We develop things as we go, but for most of our products, there’s an existing object we use as a model. These objects are all slipcast — there’s a plaster mold then we pour liquid clay into it to create it. These bottle vases are based on a turn-of-the-century cream jar. Our Epoca vases are based on a Mid-Century Modern Japanese vase. We both have an art background, so artists like Yves Klein and David Hockney are big influences.

MP: I like things that are fun and playful and add color to and interacts with the space.

Give us your best creativity tip.

MV: For me, so much of the creativity comes from the making process, so it’s so important to just get in the studio and start working. And as soon as I start working on something, it’s really developmental. Like with the sphere vases — those actually started with me stacking bowls together.

MP: Let loose and go with your gut. Just see what happens.

Larissa Hadjio, Larissa Hadjio

How did you get started making?

I studied fine art and sculpture at Central St Martins, and I just wanted to make pieces that had a life outside of the studio… and I didn’t have the right bag.

What is your biggest inspiration?

I have really themed collections. Each collection is based on something that is a big passion of mine. I love wildlife documentaries, especially David Attenborough, so the Deep Sea collection is all around the documentary The Blue Planet, and the Diamond Visions are based on this gorgeous mathematic book about simple lines and how to construct everything cut out of a circle. Then there is a Chicwawa collection that’s all centered around my favorite little dog.

I’m not such a fan of base colors. I love them on others but I love a lot of mirrors and shiny and bling, although there is beauty in taming it down and not making it kitsch, and really I love working with that borderline area.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Leave your studio and have fun for a bit and it will just come to you. I think if you think about it too hard it doesn’t work. Play works a lot.

Sonya Gallardo, Highlow Jewelry

How did you get started making?

It kind of happened by accident in a way; I was in art school and I dropped out. I had a regular art practice at the time but when I moved back home my studio space was gone and I only had a table, so I was like, “what’s really small that I could make?” So I thought I’d mess around with jewelry. Then the blogging world took off — my friend reblogged it and then I had three stores contact me for wholesale.

What is your biggest inspiration?

Definitely fine art. One of the first things I made was based on Rothko paintings, inspired directly by the color blocking techniques he used. Sometimes the technique itself will carry through in other ways too, like my own art process for example. Most of my stuff involves some kind of paint or painting reference.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Let the process take you wherever it’s going to take you. Don’t get stuck on an idea, just make something and rework it and let that guide you.

 Grace Kapin and Courtney Klein, Storq

How did you get started making?

CK: Two years ago I moved to the Bay Area and trying to figure out what to do with my life, and a lot of friends and family were getting pregnant, and a common concern was that they felt already from the get-go, they were being asked to sacrifice their identity and style, and there didn’t seem to be a lot in the maternity world that could help them retain who they were as they entered pregnancy and motherhood and beyond and keep a sense of self.

What is your biggest inspiration?

GK: Very generally, ‘90s minimalist. We’re tying to offer you things for your pregnancy that are completely essential and that function in many different ways; a capsule wardrobe to be your foundation that is seasonal and adaptable and works for all nine months.

Give us your best creativity tip.

GK: Trust your instincts. Just go with it and make what you can.

CK: Don’t be afraid to scrap your first idea. We had a whole different booth but then we scrapped it at 9PM last night because it just wasn’t working. But now we’re gonna trust our instincts and go with something different.

Tomra Palmer, Gravel & Gold

How did you get started making?

Gravel & Gold was founded by three women, two of whom are still a part of the business and one of whom is now a full-time home-birth midwife. I came on a couple years in when they wanted to get into growing their own textile and clothing business. Our design process is collaborative — we consider ourselves a collective, so we’re all involved in the design.

What is your biggest inspiration?

We make functional clothes that women can work in. Clothes for an active working lady. We’re inspired by the artists in our community who are doing and making things. My hands-down favorite print is our newest, called Tamboro. It’s inspired by Marin County in California and weavers.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Print-on-print in styling your clothes.

Jess Marie Griffith, Pine & Boon

How did you get started making?

I have an art background and had a career working for art galleries. I was down in LA and moved down there for that and just didn’t like it and stopped making art for a while — I was kind of burned out from it. So I moved back to Seattle and in order to get back into creating I started making bags.

What is your biggest inspiration?

Art — my art background. I have a lot of artist friends and my husband is an artist, so we collaborate a lot too. Really I’m trying to bring art into a more functional market. I want to inspire people to live and use art in daily life.

Give us your best creativity tip.

Just do it. What I hear from people who want to start creating or start a business is that they have this idea but they haven’t done anything. Just do it! Be confident. Life is too short to be sitting around worried and having fears.

What makers are you stalking on social media right now? Share who you click through to for creative inspo in the comments below.

(Featured photo via West Coast Craft)