It’s true that artistic parents occasionally spawn equally creative offspring. Just look at the Wyeths, the Barrymores or the Wainwrights. I recently interviewed two Handmade Arcade vendors, Allison Glancey, one half of the husband and wife duo that make up the local the screen printing biz, Strawberryluna, and Allison’s mom, the Philadelphia based creator of Mamoucha Soaps, Kate Johnson. I discovered that, in this case, the apple really didn’t fall far from their crafty family tree…
Some families are full of such creativity it makes me wonder if it’s hereditary. Do you think you two are genetically predisposed to craft?
Kate: Yes, we come from a long line of craftspeople: cobblers, carpenters, dressmakers, stainless steel fabricators on US Navy ships, manufacturers, and at least one farmer. My mother and grandmother were proficient in the “Ladies Arts”, because that is what they were, ladies, until the great depression impoverished their family, and sent them out to work.
Allison and I both intensely curious women, and when something gets our attention, we will dive in head first. And we both adore color, and mixing pigments and dyes to get there. Allison’s step-father is the landscape painter, Clay Johnson, and we both learned by watching what he does, and talking to him about the process of going from your mind’s eye to actually creating color. Allison’s husband, Craig Seder, is also creative director of an ad agency. What is in that man’s head is amazing!
Allison: I definitely think that is a possibility! Especially on my mom’s side of the family, nearly everyone does some of kind handcraft. One of my aunts, Maria McCormick-Snyder, was a quilter for a number of years and even had a few quilts shown in the Smithsonian. My mom has tried and excelled at more crafts and mediums than I can recall. From weaving to painting, to sewing, ceramics and now soap making for her and printmaking, design and illustration for me, we are both pretty committed and invested in bettering our crafts.
Sometimes when I am super tired towards the end of a long day (or night!) of printing or designing, I wonder where my compulsion to keep going until something is finished comes from. And maybe it is partly that ancestral predisposition to make and create.
Well, it sounds like you both have a combination of great genes and amazing taste in men! Kate and Allison, how would you say the two of you inspire one another?
Kate: From a distance, damn it! I live in Philadelphia, and Allison in Pittsburgh, so I see her work mostly on-line. I love Strawberryluna’s sense of color and whimsy. Because Allison had already been doing the craft show circuits, I knew it would not kill me to try. I picked her brains so much, that by my first show, I was already presentable. Strawberryluna did my branding last summer. They made a fabulous logo with a tulip growing through the O to honor our Dutch heritage on my mother’s side (she was an immigrant).
Allison: The way that my mom has always fearlessly plunged into a new medium has always been very inspirational. Rather than wondering if she can, she just does. I love that her curiosity has led her to so many great places and amazing craft skills. I find that I am a bit more cautious about plunging in head first to a new media. But whenever I do get the chance to explore, it’s always really cool. It reminds me that I need to let go a bit more, like Kate!
You are both incredibly talented at what you do. You also manage to run successful businesses, which clearly comes from investing a lot of time and hard work into your craft. Would you say you tend to be similar or different in your crafty work habits?
Allison: I think that we do in a lot of ways! We both have the “OK, this needs to be done, and then this, and then this” type of an approach to work and craft. For me, I see each whole project as a series of tasks laid out before me. I like to be pretty methodical in a lot of ways with how I work.
But it is true, when I’m done…I’m done! I love working hard. It really makes my down time feel so well earned. I’m also a pretty solid nerd. So rather than do other things with my hands, when I am not working on my craft, I tend to read or watch movies. Sometimes I do both at the same time (thank you Wikipedia)!
Kate: I am a little different in that I do crafts nonstop. If I am not making soap, or reading, I am knitting socks, scarves, etc. I watch TV because I can knit while I am doing it. Allison knows how to chill.
We both have good work habits, in that we work at our crafts just about every day. We have both put in the effort to build serious studios to support our work, and dreams. Allison’s has natural light and a view, mine is in my basement, but I have a lot of fun down there.
Well I can certainly relate to geeking out with a movie in my down time, but I’d have to say my hands are usually busy knitting while I watch too. Perhaps motherhood is the cause of our restless hands, Kate?
Before we go, do you have any current favorite products of your mom/daughter?
Kate: Silly, I like all of them! But, I like the new wood layered pieces a lot, especially the trees. I also think the labels they did for Mamoucha Soaps, are super!
Allison: Right now I am pretty much just loving the fact that my mom has four soaps debuting and being sold in Anthropologie stores worldwide this holiday season! I’m so proud of her and it’s just solidly awesome that her small soap company’s designs caught the eye of the fine folks at Anthro. So those four designs are definitely my current favorites!
A huge thank you to Allison Glancey of Strawberryluna and Kate Johnson of Mamoucha Soaps for taking the time to do this interview. Come out and meet Kate, Allison and some of the region’s (and nation’s) best crafters this Saturday at the 9th Annual Handmade Arcade. While your there you can pick up our new Handmade Arcade tote featuring artwork designed by none other than Strawberryluna.
–Interview by Sarah Ulrich
Handmade Arcade is Pittsburgh’s largest indie craft show held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday December 8th, 2012 from 11am-7pm. ADMISSION IS FREE!