The sky was a bright electric blue when Mo Lappin of Howlpop and I sat down to tea and chat about lawless fashion and what shoes to wear to the apocalypse. I’ve been a huge fan of Mo’s cut & paste recycling genius for many years now and boast a solid collection of treasured garments. Here’s the transcript of our get-together, sans the noise of bombs dropping and suns exploding.
Jo B: Hi Mo, thanks so much for coming to this Mad Tea Party today! Let’s start with the name Howlpop, which grabbed me instantly when I found your Etsy shop. Is there anything behind the name? It always put me in mind of Alan Ginsberg Meets Michael Jackson… something like that! Am I close?
Mo Lappin: The truth of the matter is not such an exciting story. Back in the mid 90’s I was living in SF venturing into the eBay world and I had a vintage bright yellow donut phone I was selling. It sold to a guy in Japan with a user name of POP HOWL, and I just loved those two words together. I loved the way it sounded, just like you Jodi. It wasn‘t really inspired by pop culture, but I just liked the rawness of the words. It’s like pop art, with teeth! There are no rules in all this, the Howl is the edge. I toyed around with the words for a year or so, then I bought the domain in 1997.
Jo: Well, that makes sense, the Japan connection. I love how the Japanese mash up Western culture and send it back to us spinning on its head. Howlpop seems to have a strong New Orleans connection, but I also get the sense that your life is an adventurous one (and thanks, btw, for the great photo of your own trusty magic boots, below)… Which places have had the biggest influence on your work and why?
Mo: I grew up in Boise, where I had a vintage/alternative fashion boutique called Retrospect for eight years (1988-1995). This period gave me the chance to develop a point of view concerning fashion and design. I moved to San Francisco in 1995 where I lived for five years. I relished the anonymity of the large city, and embraced the feeling of the whole world in a microcosm. After five interesting years the wild west call of New Orleans was irresistible. So I landed there in the spring of 2001. I determined from that point on I would live as an artist, and made myself sit down and overcome my fear of the sewing machine. I realized my designs had to be self made or they would lose something. The idea of New Orleans and the freedom to live as an artist with the whole culture of parading and festivals, I mean, there is always a reason to dress up there, Jodi! Life is a festival in New Orleans! I was delighted to discover that nothing that I made was too far out for someone not to love it and want it in that magical city. I realized there was a niche for me there, people didn’t know what Howlpop was, but they loved it!
Jo: Boise! For me, it was Columbus, Ohio and then here in the DC Area a vintage shop called That Girl which I ran out of my house for awhile. There must be something to this land-locked youth that sends us flying to the coasts in search of a different context for life. I love the whole concept of life as a festival and I really see that in your joyful design aesthetic. And I can’t believe that you too had a fear of the sewing machine… I wonder if that’s more universal than anyone realizes?! Your work is so incredibly free; have you had to push yourself to allow for chaos and chance or does it come naturally to you?
Mo: I call myself a line eraser when it comes to art and life, removing obstacles and unnecessary lines allows me to embrace chaos and chance. This automatically assumes that I have to be open to the happy accident as well as drawing from my surroundings and life experiences.
Jo: What a great way to express that… line erasing. It’s really gentler than my version which seems to want to veer toward a certain violence with scissors, but truly springs from the same place of a desire to remove barriers and obstacles. I’m going to think about erasing, that’s a whole new idea to me. Still, I can’t say exactly why I feel this way, but your aesthetic seems to have socio-political underpinnings. Are there any manifestos in the world of Howlpop or is it really just for fun?
Mo: Is it fun? Perhaps I am sometimes bored of the sewing part, but the designing is endlessly enticing. I am self indulgent enough to only end up making things I really like. And even after all these years and so many things, I get very excited when I start making something. When I start cutting into things I often have no clear picture of the end result. Every piece is a sketch, that is why I don’t take it too seriously and that is why I don’t take it to the fine finished point, I spend an intense but short period of time designing each piece.
In Boise, Idaho in ‘91, I started my first fashion line called Shrew. The men’s line was called Shrewd. I was, in my own Edith Wharton style, reclaiming a word that had negative female connotations, and twisting it to open possibilities for conversations about feminist issues. So you got me there, Jodi!! I consider myself a citizen of the world these days, and this prompts me to use language and elements of design to be inclusive and enable connections between everyone. I mean, 8 year old girls or 70 year old ladies can go crazy about Howlpop! People seem to like to rest their eyes on something that confuses and delights them. A lot of my fashion is intentionally unisex. I sometimes wonder why people waste their personal billboard space advertising for Nike or Gucci, which tells us nothing about their own personal world view, and it wastes all the opportunities of their first impression. So, yep, there is intent. Busted!
Jo: Shrew and Shrewd… you are just brilliant with the poetry, you know? And I can see you working intensely and super fast, while I’m intense but work for so long that I often have to go back and edit because I’ll tend to go past the actual endpoint. And I can truly see the politics of inclusiveness operating under your creativity, the genderless ageless aspects of your art. In fact, I think this photo above is one of the first Howlpop images I saw and when I contacted you I felt certain I was talking to the guy in this photo.
What do you think of the description “post-apocalyptic” in art and fashion? Is that a term you’d use to describe Howlpop? And can you tell us exactly when/where the apocalypse is going to happen so that we can start planning our wardrobes now? In particular I need to know which shoes to bring.
Mo: Yeah! I would say that post-apocalyptic is a great description of Howlpop! Because it is completely recreated from existing materials… so, much like the coming apocalypse perhaps predicting a time when things aren’t manufactured anymore, and we make from what we have, which is certainly plenty here in America. A trip into any second hand store reveals the mountains of cast offs available now, so I don’t think that anyone will be running around without clothes after the apocalypse, unless that is their desire.
Heels! No heels girlfriend! Completely impractical for the apocalypse. Jodi, wear your favorite shoes, but there could be a lot of basketball. And remember, a hot pink flat goes with everything.
Jo: Ok, I’m going to take your advice and not go tripping through the apocalypse trying to shoot hoops in my Westwoods. Speaking of the upper eschelon, are there any fashion designers you particularly admire or have been influenced by? I think we both share a love of Alexander McQueen and I’m trying to remember if you made it to the Savage Beauty exhibit at the Met last year…
Mo: For me to miss the McQueen show would have been the equivalent to a Tibetan monk missing the Dali Lama. I went twice. It was a pilgrimage. It was so eye opening in a real way, to be able to stand so close to his work, and to see how he put things together, it demystified him for me and awed me simultaneously. Martin Margiela and the whole Belgian deconstruction movement really blew my mind about fashion in the late ’80’s early 90’s. I’ve always looked at fashion since I was a young girl, it is infused in me. Xuly Bet and his fashion collages and Coco Chanel and her liberation of the female form; Any designer who liberates through their work inspires me.
Jo: I wish I had gone back to the McQueen show a second time b/c the first viewing was so visually and emotionally overwhelming it was hard to truly absorb it all. And Xuly Bet! I can’t believe you brought it up… I haven’t thought about that Funkin’ Fashion house for a long time. I bought a little collaged sweater from that line back in the early 90’s at Patricia Field, when her store was still on 8th Ave., and I loved that piece. He was so ahead of it really, from upcycling to modern tribalism, his African pop-culture vision was so fresh and unique. And of course, I too love those Belgian deconstructionists particularly Ann Demeulemeester. Now, I must ask, how massive is your stash of discarded garments and textiles for reworking? Are you any better than the rest of us at using materials at the same rate as you acquire them?
Mo: When I moved into my new studio, I winnowed out all the riff raff from my raw materials. In doing that it helped clarify my vision for what I’m up to right now. That said, I’m a genre jumper, and I still enjoy surrounding myself with unlimited possibilities. So, yes and no, Jodi, yes and no.
Jo: Awhile back I tried to get to Asheville NC to take a workshop you were giving, but sadly I never made it. Do you give workshops often, and how do you teach other artists to embrace their own inner Howl?
Mo: Jodi, I love doing workshops because it is really fun to explain my lawless techniques to current/future seamstresses and see the lightbulb go on when they realize they don’t need a tape measure to fashion-party Howlpop style!!
Jo: Sharing your freedom to create just takes it all to another level in my mind and heart. What music is playing in the Howlpop atelier when you’re at work? Somehow I picture there’s a hard-rockin’ soiree when you’re designing!
Mo: Jodi, I’m gonna come clean here. It is more often than not new country, straight off the radio. I like to stay in touch with the real world, but I do go all over the road with what I listen to. And then I get hung up on songs, depending on the show or event I’m working on, the ideas I’m trying to get across are driven by the music, so I relentlessly listen to the same song over and over while I design the show.
Jo: I never pictured a country soundtrack for Howlpop, but of course it makes perfect sense and one of the things I love about you and your work is the constant surprise element. Well, I could personally stay and chat with you all day, but I’d better let you go off to your next adventure. Do you have any parting advice for readers who want to make clothes but feel they may not have the skills and training in the traditional sense?
Mo: Pick up the scissors, and start! Be fearless, because really, what is the worst that could happen?! It’s not brain surgery.
Jo: I love this picture of you celebrating The NOLA Saints big win, and I’m going to chant that mantra when I’m working… What is the worst that could happen?!. Thanks so much Mo for breaking all the rules and helping us keep it fearless. xoxo
Jodi: Cathy, it’s so lovely to sit down to tea with you! And, you have SO many cool objéts; I want them all! Can you tell me about your collections?
Cathy: It’s kind of like I have been in this deep acquiring coma for the last 30 years, and I am starting to wake up! I have gathered things that I love, or feel they need love, and just made room for them. I find, when I really look at stuff, they have alot in common…color, texture, scale, etc. Now I am at a phase where I am thinning out the herd and only keeping what I really really love, and only letting something in that is “worthy!” That doesn’t apply to textiles or stuff that I use in my art, it is still wide open. And bowls. And circus stuff. And donkey stuff. But, still, it’s the colors that draw me, whether it’s mid-century, kitsch, Monterey, Santa Fe or industrial. And you know we love sharing our treasures with each other, don’t we?????
Jodi: Yes we sure do!! And, I completely know what you mean. It’s so incredible to be at a point in life where you trust your instincts for art and design. My collections are eclectic too, yet somehow these things look cool together and there are indefinable threads that connect it all. I think this happens in our professional lives as designers too, right? Our ways of organizing information, using colors and fonts and such? You and I share the schizo life of artist/designer, among other things. Are we lucky or cursed?! And… who is Trixie?!
Cathy: You know, when I first went freelance about 7 years ago, I had this notion that I could actually meld the two together, and found some artists like Kitten Chops and Lauri Rosenwald who actually seemed to be able to do that. But then I just fell into the normal routine of grinding out my graphic design, and trying to paint on weekends. I continued to feel very frustrated and honestly wanted to give up both. But something happened when I got a job recently that allowed me to use both my talents in one piece and I was totally excited about. Kinda like falling in love with your husband again, you know what I mean? So, my goal is to do that. Oh, and Trixie is my alter-ego. I was a cowgirl in a past life.
Jodi: I can see you as a cowgirl, for sure. You know it is so tempting to want to always combine the art and design sides, but personally, I also feel ok with these things being separate in my life. That said, I can think of several projects I’ve been involved in that really tapped into both, and those were truly very satisfying indeed. What types of design clients do you have for Trixie Design Studios and does your work for them influence your art? Alternately, does your work as an artist influence your client-based design work?
Cathy: I am very fortunate to have some great clients, almost all non-profits, who give me lots of leeway and trust me, as I trust them. So, now it is just a matter of trusting myself and not editing, which I often do, both in art and design. It is amazing to me that finally, at 54, I’m thinking that I do pretty good stuff and have something to offer.
Jodi: Well, I’ve always known you have lots to offer. You know, we have such similar clients, non-profits etc.. and I too love that feeling of making a solid contribution to the people I work for (who are, in turn, doing such great work for the world). It’s interesting… people like us seem to have active/developed right and left brain functions. We can handle ourselves in business but are wildly creative too. Do you have any insights on how this may have occurred for you?
Cathy: Ahem, I am not sure I got the whole money/savings /billings/plan for retirement thing going so well…but, I am a good business woman! I think I am good at spotting trends and also working with people and really understanding humans. I also have worked with the best and I just copy them. When I worked at the agency I was at in San Diego, my office was across from the owner’s, and I would listen to the way she spoke to the clients, with strength and respect, and I just learned to copy it. Other than that, I just go with my Mission Statement of “do good work for good people” so if something doesn’t fit both of those categories, I won’t do the work.
Jodi: Designfarm’s tagline is “uncommon solutions for the common good.” May the force be with us! With regard to our fine arts, people might notice that although our work is very different, we have some common subject matter. Tell us about the roots of your circus obsession.
Cathy: It’s strange, because I have this love for circus stuff and rodeo stuff, but I can’t come to terms with how animals are treated in either one! So, I will just stick with the visuals and, again, colors and textures. I have no idea why it appeals to me so much, but my eyes are like lasers when I latch on to something with circus imagery. Maybe it’s the red and white striped awnings? What is it for you?
Jodi: I went to the circus a lot as a kid and it literally scared the crap out of me and made me cry! There’s something about that attraction/repulsion aspect that draws me to these things that are supposed to be oodles of fun, but that also feel uncontrolled and crazy and weird, with a darkness underlying. Your work has an edge but I also love your sun-drenched color palettes. Is there a regional / cultural (ie, Left Coast) influence? Along with carnivals, what else inspires you?
Cathy: When I was little, there was a show on TV called “Wanderlust” about a husband and wife traveling the southwest in their camper. I was blown away with the images of the desert. I felt that is was home for me. I have sinced traveled alot through Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, and that is where I find peace. (Funny, I know, for a girl who has lived at the beach her whole life!) I also LOVE anything “Old Mexico” like in old movies, paintings, textiles, etc. I have a friend from Mexico City who says my paintings remind her of home, so I consider that a real compliment.
Jodi: I’ve only visited the southwest once on holiday and I remember when I first got there how incredibly different the entire landscape looked. I was sort of blown away by all the… endless brown. And the seguaros in Arizona, and how dry the heat felt compared to our swampy summers in DC. So, how do you get your paintings out there into the world? Tell us about shows or online venues. Where can charming readers see more of your work? And I heard something about you doing smaller pieces that can… ahem… be more easily mailed to the other coast…?
Cathy: I have done a miserable job of selling my own work. My website & blog has not be updated in a year, as are the other artists’ sites I subscribe to. We are doing our Cinco de Wino again, where myself, two other artist friends and a couple who have their own wine label get together on Cinco de Mayo, have food, wine tasting and show my work. I did a small show in Santa Fe, and have had pieces in shows at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art. It’s hard to find venues for my art here in San Clemente, since everyone looks for beachy, palm tree, plein air stuff, and my stuff is so different.
Jodi: Wow, OCCA looks really cool! Selling seems to be the most challenging aspect for artists. I know it is for me too; pricing things is so challenging, and half the time I want to just keep what I make! When we first met, it seemed that every time we chatted, we learned about more similarities in our lives. We each have a 14 year old daughter… how does being a mom fit into your creative and working life?
Cathy: No way would I ever feel the strength and security to pursue what I want in life if it wasn’t for my daughter and my husband. And my sister. I feel like I have a responsibility to show my daughter what it is to set and achieve your goals and dreams. And she teaches me everyday how to look at life from many different sides. I am always blown away by the things she says. Of course there is that “working mom” guilt thing, but it comes in waves. As I am yelling at her to get outside and play and not end up on the computer all day in your pjs without a shower, she turns to me and says, uh, mom…that is YOU not me. I was standing there, in my pjs, no shower, no makeup, having worked all day on my computer. So there.
Jodi: Oh, I hear that! Shower? Who needs it?! And, it’s interesting to see my daughter growing up with such creative parents… artists, designers, craftistas, and musicians. My kid is lots more math/science than I ever was, but there are still times that she gets a creativity bug and just HAS to knit a scarf or make a skirt or draw. I know what you mean about family support too… it’s truly been important to me. Do you have any advice for designers who want to pursue their fine arts muse? Anything that has worked in allowing you to do both?
Cathy: Yeah, don’t wait as long as I did to get this going! Seriously, trust yourself, work hard, pay your dues and stick by your guns. Everyone knows it has to be a labor of love. One of my artist friends once said, when I asked him if his fine art business was going to work… “Well, what else could I do?” Lastly, like my husband always tells me, “Paint for yourself.”
Jodi: I completely agree… no waiting! Life is short; make art; follow your dream… NOW! What’s on the soundtrack at Trixie Design? Is it different for painting?
Cathy: Complete and utter silence! Except when I open my windows to let in the birdsong, which I love. I cannot be distracted by sounds of any kind, it’s weird. One of my OCD things. But, when I paint, I can have some music going. I tend towards old hillbilly country, bluegrass, folky, but also like 70’s funk and soul, 80’s punk and some of the new music my daughter listens to. Old Joni Mitchell is good for painting.
Jodi: I have to have silence when I’m working on professional stuff, graphic design. I’m so affected by music that I literally can’t think when I’m listening. But I love it when I’m doing more repetitive tasks like putting together designed jewelry or sewing. Thank you Cathy, for being such a dear friend and such an incredibly talented artist! And for sharing your thoughts with me and my charming readers today!
Welcome to the first of hopefully many Charming Chats with some of the people I adore in the Craftsphere. First up I’m honored to bring you the amazingly talented and often quite private, Julie Jackson. Julie started Subversive Crossstitch in 2003, one of the very first women to launch a DIY business celebrating the then-dying/dead art of crossstitch. Julie gave this “women’s work” the hilarious and snarky kick in the butt it needed and the rest, as they say, is history. More recently Julie, along with photographer Jill Johnson, and Boone — glamourpuss extraordinaire — launched Kitty Wigs to global acclaim. Read on for an intimate cozy chat with Julie over a cup of virtual tea.
Jodi: Julie, hi! Isn’t it great for us to find time to chat in our busy DIY-diva lives? BTW, you have the most charming little Texas accent. Who knew? Did you grow up in TX?
Julie: Oh no, do I? All those years of voice training were for naught? Kidding. Yes, I’m from Dallas. Big D, Little A, Double L, A, S. The stars at night shine big and bright… etc. Can you hear me singing from there? Yee-haw!
Jodi: Ha! And I’m from “What’s round on the ends and hi in the middle… O-HI-O!” I remember when we first “met” and we traded some work; a sampler for a charm bracelet. That seems like forever ago! But, I think my daughter is finally old enough for me to post the sampler you did (pictured above) without seeming like a very bad Mommy. Back then she might have said: “Inappropriate, Mom,” and then charged me a quarter for her swear jar. It is such a cherished object in my studio. Do you still find time to do personal projects?
Julie: Cool! I just came across a photo of that today, oddly. We’re psychic friends! Personal projects… hmmm. Oh yeah, I did something recently, though of course it’s not done yet. We love that weird song by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, “Some Velvet Morning”. I found myself stitching the title on some dark green velvet. Then I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I wrapped it around an old piece of wood and now I’m going to bead the ends. So I guess that’s a weird personal project, huh? Also, I’m taking on a lot of custom work. I haven’t felt like stitching for a long time but I’m getting back into it.
Jodi: Oh I love Nancy too; I wanted to be her when I was a little kid… with some cool go-go boots for walking! So, I know you’ve been up to some exciting things in addition to Subversive Crossstitch, but since you’ve been doing Subversive for so long, I have to ask: What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about it? What keeps the fire burning and what parts do you wish would go away?
Julie: My favorite thing is the incredible interaction I have with my customers and people who take the idea and make it their own. Also, I get the most amazing emails from people who found stitching Fuck Cancer to be incredibly therapeutic or cathartic, their stories are so moving. It makes me feel like I’m in the right place doing what I’m doing. Least favorite is shipping because I hate getting behind with orders–it is completely overwhelming doing everything myself. I love it when I can afford help, but I wish I could hire a fulfillment company. I’m glad I started a PDF shop, because it’s a win-win situation. I can design something and put it out there without having to stitch first, and the customers get the pattern delivered instantly. Brilliant.
Jodi: That is brilliant. And I have to agree, it’s those relationships with customers that totally keep me going. For me, I wish the Web code would go away! And yeah, it’s challenging for sure to be designer, maker, shipper, writer, photographer, Web programmer…. so many hats. But it just sort of happens, doesn’t it? So, I’m sure people will want to know, have you been a stitchy girl forever? How did you first get into making things?
Julie: I’ve been a crafty girl forever. I was always super creative — my mom says that when I was a kid I would just make whatever I wanted. If I wanted a purse, I made one. I never would have guessed I’d be doing it for a living, though. I thought I’d be stuck at office jobs forever, writing away at a desk all day. I guess I am actually doing that, but at least it’s my own desk and my dog is asleep on my feet.
Jodi: It seems like some of us just have to be making things doesn’t it? You know, the handmade world has really changed a lot since 2003 when we both opened our shops. I remember when I first wrote to you and told you that your stuff reminded me of Jenny Holzer’s work. I mean NO ONE was doing anything like Subversive at the time. What developments have been either good or bad for handmade?
Julie: It seems like ages ago, doesn’t it? I adore Jenny Holzer, so I liked you instantly! hee. I think the way the craft scene has grown is amazing and fantastic. I’ve always said there’s room for everyone, and I love that places like Etsy make it so easy for anyone to give it a try. Almost everyone in the craft scene is friendly and inviting and supportive of each other, it’s just a great place to be. I don’t really see any negatives, it’s all good.
Jodi: Do you have any favorite stories of people you’ve made friends with during the process of building your business, other stitchers or crafters or artists? Who would you want to meet if you could?
Julie: Oh, I had the chance to be on a panel once with Amy Sedaris. Our paths have crossed a lot, but it would have been so cool to be on a five-person panel with her–I think it was at BlogHer or something. But I was just too chicken to put myself out there like that. My friend Leah Peterson was putting it together and she was kind enough to send me all kinds of Amy paraphenalia afterward even though I wasn’t there. The pill box is my favorite — it says “Pee on Me” in Amy’s handwriting on the outside, with her photo. Some of my very favorite people I’ve met are Katherine Shaughnessey of Wool and Hoop, Laurie Cinotto of Itty Bitty Kitty Committee and author of Making Paper Flowers, Stitchy McYarnpants of course, Emily and Matt at Steotch, Claire at Miso Funky, Jamie and Bridget of MrXStitch… there are so many. Also, I love the ladies at Bust magazine, Natalie who used to be the editor at Craft, Christina Loff and all the people at Chronicle… man, this list could go on forever. I’m already composing apology emails in my head to the people I know I’m not listing. There are just SO many funny and generous people out there who inspire me and keep me going.
Jodi: The mutual support in the community is truly inspiring. And I think anyone you forgot will forgive! One of the things I love about your shop is that there are soooo many hilarious subjects, it’s like there’s really something for everyone. What’s been Subversive’s hottest selling kit? Is there one in particular that just keeps on keeping on?
Julie: It used to be Go Fuck Yourself, but now it varies more. Sometimes Fuck Cancer goes through a phase of big demand, or Awesomesauce, or whatever’s new.
Jodi: I personally love CandyAss, that was the first one I did and it’s on display in my bedroom (pictured above)! It makes me think of Jeff Koons for some reason. And I did Whatever for Molly’s room, which I also love. Oh, and the Stephen Colbert Truthiness kit… I have that too; I LOVED seeing your piece on his show. But even with so many sparkly ideas, I know that my creativity seems to go in cycles and most artists I’ve talked to describe similar things. Do you ever get stuck? And if so, how do you unstick?
Julie: Yes. I just wallow in it. Sometimes there’s nothing to be done. I’m prone to pretty awful bouts of depression, so sometimes I can only do the bare minimum. It makes me more thankful for the productive times like I’m in now. I’m totally in flow right now and it’s great. I hate to go to sleep at night and I can’t wait to wake up in the morning. This is mostly because I’m completely redoing my website for the first time in almost ten years.
Jodi: I think every single artist I’ve met has the depression thing kicking around, myself included. It seems to come with the territory… I know there have been studies about this. And hey, so cool about your new Web site. I think the new So Charmed site will launch shortly after yours, and I can’t wait. It feels like such a fresh start doesn’t it? And we really need that from time to time. Let’s talk about your larger Subversive Empire for a minute… books, media coverage, and having your work in major hipster emporiums like Urban Outfitters. How exciting and glamorous it all seems! But is there a stressful side too? What’s it like having a book deadline, or seeing your work broadcast nationally? What sage advice would you give the young up-and-comers about this stuff?
Julie: Oh, it’s not glamorous AT ALL. And it’s never as much money as you hope it will be. It’s very stressful and the scariest part is, what happens if I get hit by a bus? It’s all on my shoulders and sometimes it’s hard not to freak out on that. If I have any advice it’s probably the advice everyone always gave me: follow your bliss. Kind of cliche, but it’s true. I used to stress out so much in my twenties about what I would do the rest of my life and you just have to wait and everything will unfold. You have to follow your heart and your instincts. The goal is to not have to do work that you hate. Also, I think something magical happens when you hit 40 – you kind of figure out what you’re all about, FINALLY. And things seem to start to fall into place. Don’t worry, enjoy life.
Jodi: Oh, I agree totally about bliss-following, and if you think 40 is magic… honey, 50 is nirvana! I’m thinking I’ll probably just explode with joy at 60! Lately, I’ve really discovered that it’s super important to sometimes shove the business stuff on the back burner and just get back to the joy of making things, of discovery and adventure. Speaking of adventures, how did you first come up with Kitty Wigs? The Web site talks about loud music and dancing. If we can turn back the hands of time, tell us what you and Boone were dancing to when Kitty Wigs was born.
Julie: Scissor Sisters! Yeah, Boone used to sit on my desk and stare at me all day long and I took a lot of photos of him. One day I was goofing off, looking around on Flickr, and I searched for “cat wigs.” I was surprised that there were only a couple of photos and the cats all looked mad and the wigs were clearly too big and really sloppy (no wonder the cats were mad). I don’t know what hit me, I just thought if people were going to take photos of their cats it should be more interesting and enjoyable for the cat (if possible). After a lot of research and trial and error, I found the right wigs and the right photographer. Again, I had no idea the idea would catch on so crazily, even bigger than Subversive. I’m still stunned but it makes me really happy that it makes people laugh. And gives them a new way of interacting with their cat that can result in amazing photos. It’s not at all like dressing your cat in outfits, it has turned out to be more about noticing things about your cat… it’s hard to explain. If you see the photos in our book, you can imagine how floored I was when I first saw them — it’s like the cats are showing their innermost personalities, it’s insane.
Jodi: Oh, I know, it’s really portraiture at its finest! Did you and Boone get to meet any of the famous people who have created buzz about Kitty Wigs? Conan? Chelsea Handler? Anderson Cooper? I can see Anderson having a cat who wears Kitty Wigs. Do you have any Kitty Wigs celebrity gossip to spread viciously through this interview?
Julie: We didn’t meet anyone, but I would have turned down any kind of public appearance. The Kitty Wigs photographer, Jill Johnson, was great to appear on my behalf in the press — she is such a pro and has such an amazing personality. I guess my favorite celebrity thing was Graham Norton, because I adore his show anyway so I was watching it when he suddenly started talking about Kitty Wigs and showing the website. He also talked about Subversive years before but I knew about that in advance and shipped some stitched pieces. The Kitty Wigs appearance was a complete surprise. I love Graham because he totally gets it, and he is just brilliant and hilarious. As for celebrity gossip, the people who were the coolest to correspond with were probably Bobcat Goldthwait and his girlfriend. They just reached out to me and were so nice. Bob had posted Kitty Wigs on his site and he ended up writing a blurb about it and sending me photos of he and his cat in a wig. Bobcat is truly a cool cat.
Jodi: Oh I would love to see those Bobcat photos! Before we finish up the last sip of our tea, will you tell us what else goes on in your world along with snarky crossstitch and wigs for kitties? What do you do to relax those busy fingers and that busy brain of yours?
Julie: I devour the internet, I always have looked to it for inspiration and I love those “wow” moments when I find something amazing. I’m always trying to get my friends to join in on my latest idea, like adhesive eyebrows for dogs or pistachio castanets. I’m the mischief maker.
Jodi: Yes, you are such an instigator, and that’s why we all love you so much! Anything new coming down the Subversive Road that you want to tell our readers about?
Julie: The Subversive website will be completely fresh and new — I’m hoping to re-launch on February 15th! I can’t wait, it’s going to make all of our lives so much better.
Jodi: Well, I know I’ll be looking for that launch email. Thanks, Julie, for doing this. You’ve made such a huge difference for so many people, helping to pave the way for so much of what’s going on today in crafts. And, with such good humor and generosity! Thank you thank you!