Category: Interview

Portrait of a Seamster: Olan Reeves

Let me be clear, Olan Reeves quilts are not folksy fabric scraps thrown together. He is a real artist with an impressive background who pursued a traditional, non-sartorial handicraft on his on terms. Based in South Philadelphia, he has me rethinking the classic coverlet and coveting one for myself. Not interested in dressing the human body, he creates beautiful pieces that dress the home. While fashion is thought to make one feel better, Olan believes that making your surroundings can have an equally profound impact, maybe even more. I am originally from Bryant, Arkansas, and spent my summers as a child on my grandmother’s farm. We constantly had an abundance of feed sacks, and I used them to make my first quilts. I became more experimental later on – implementing cornhusk and other “fabrics” into my designs. I continued quilting throughout high school, but started diving into painting. I attended Savannah College of Art and Design first as a painting major, then as a photography major, and finally settling on a degree in fibers. I studied abroad my senior year in Berlin. My senior thesis was a juxtaposition of European graffiti merging with traditional quilting. Creating traditional quilts, I explored different distressing techniques by spray-painting and even dragging one behind a car! Directly after college I moved to Philadelphia. For the first year, I designed and sewed for a leather handbag company. After, I worked at a sewing and knitting studio in Rittenhouse Square called Spool & Loop. I taught several classes covering a variety of quilting techniques. During this time, I lived and made work in an artist residency in Center city called Goldilocks Gallery. We conducted a variety of shows and were involved in several community art-related organizations. I’ve taken a full circle and currently work part time at…

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tags: Interview, portrait of a seamstress Comments: 20

Portrait of a Seamstress: Mali

In the last 50 years, sewing has undergone an evolution. A necessity for women in the early 20th century, it transitioned from a chore to an almost obsolete hobby during by the 1980s. There was a lull in the 90s where sewing moved neither forwards nor backwards, but in the past few years, maybe even decade, it has grown into an intriguing life skill, like an item to put on one’s bucket list. People are eager to learn a trade that has an intimate, fond history, especially if their mother, grandmother or member of their family sewed.  Amalia is the owner of Butcher’s Sew Shop, a studio space that offers sewing classes of all levels for adults and children and focuses on teaching students how to make professional looking pieces at home.  Coming from a lineage of sewers, Amalia first started a career in the non-profit sector, but her sewing DNA seeped slowly through her veins. On nights and weekends, she kept up on her heritaged hobby and sewed. The urge to start something new ran rampant when she walked by a closed-up shop in Philadelphia’s Bella Vista neighborhood. With a beautiful, marbled doorstep, the building called to her. She took a chance, and got the place. Once renovations began, she came to understand that it was once a highly regarded meat store -“Guarrera’s Quality Meats” had been a Philadelphia establishment for 80 years. She uncovered many of the design elements from the 1920s, which only adds to its charm. Open for just six months, it’s become an establishment in the neighborhood. As I was interviewing Amalia, a local stopped in to say hello and admire her Christmas tree. Oh, and it’s also where one of my favorite sewing ladies, Andrea, works (hey pretty lady!). While this series, Handmade, started as…

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tags: Fashon, Interview, portrait of a seamstress Comments: 10

Handmade: 611 Menswear

I’m guilty of it – bashing overseas production and praising domestically made products. At its core, that’s what this series, Handmade, is about. While I root for team USA, there are times when I side with China, India, and Sri Lanka. That’s what Nigel, owner of 611, taught me. A men’s clothing line based in Philadelphia, 611 only dealt with local manufacturers when it launched in 2007. Ironically, and at the suggestion of several domestic partners, he transferred a percentage of his manufacturing overseas. With a few points of reasoning, he proved to me that both have their strengths and weaknesses. While I’m still passionate about this series and its message, I think it’s important to look at both sides in order to make a fair judgment. Your story: Hi, my name is Nigel and I am the founder of 611. Before I launched the line, I owned a music store called 611 Records, named after its address, 611 South 4th Street. In addition to selling music, we produced t-shirts with our logo printed on them, and that eventually expanded to bags and different varieties of t-shirts. After 14 years in business, 611 Records closed in 2007. About 2 years after, I lost a quite a bit of weight, and like any man or woman, became interested in fashion. I had the urge to bring the brand back to life, but this time, I wanted it to be something different. Working with a design consultant, I relaunched 611 as a clothing line for both men and women. Right before the relaunch, my wife and I attended Milan Fashion Week and seeing the international trends inspired the initial collection. The t-shirts that 611 Records made were laid back, but I wanted to make something more upscale. I had grown up and…

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tags: Fashon, Interview Comments: 6