Interview with the artist - Martiel from Sewmantra

Today I want to introduce you to a fellow artist from Zibbet - Martiel from Sewmantra.

Custom made flower brooch

Tell us a little about who you are and where you come from.

I'm a native Colorado-ian transplanted to Washington, D.C. by none other - a job. Trained as an anthropologist, I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Habitat for Humanity International for two years before launching Sewmantra. While I could share with you all the reasons and events in my childhood that made me into the fabric artist I am today, I would say that cultural moves are what encourage almost any girl to sew or craft something during their lives. I was no different.

I never thought I would start an art or crafting business - I was on a different track heading for a Ph.D. in Environmental Anthropology and Geography when I had an accident which for all intents and purposes has put me on a different track both mentally and physically. This event changed my life and in essence changed how I had to function - through some self-discovery and a lot of failures, I realized I had to change my plans.

Sharky monster critter hat

One weekend last fall I happened across five giant boxes of yarn at an estate sale in great condition - I'm not kidding. I nearly jumped with joy all the way to the car - I'm 6'3'', how is that for imagery? After buying the boxes of yarn I decided that I should start making and selling my scarves and hats - I had no idea what I as getting myself into. Lo and behold, my handmade adventure began and Sewmantra was born.

What's your craft/art and how did you get to do it in the first place?

I was enculturated from a young age into the sewing club as I call it, and have been doing it ever since. Actually I began sewing with my mom when I was five and then at the age of eight I won at the county fair in sewing. That was about 25 years ago. My work with yarn, specifically crochet, has a shorter history. I learned to crochet just over 12 years ago. You can read the entire story on my blog about how I learned to do this in a warehouse while working as a call center representative at the age of nineteen - when laissez-faire was not a way of thinking, but a way of life for me. I like to think of this as my own personal industrial revolution - and you'll know why after you read the article.

I think this is one of the most asked questions - where does your inspiration come from?

Many places - and that is about as accurate of a target I can give you. I love all kinds of things and people - part of why I was studying to become an anthropologist. However, I find that inspiration rarely comes from other fiber artists in my experience, but from everyday life, from traditional designs, from things I see at a thrift store or at a yard sale. Even when I visit the grocery store, I am on the prowl for ideas; I'm always looking, observing and making notes. In fact, it is rare to find me without my notebook in hand ready to jot down a note about something interesting I see.

Pooch Pouch

Tell us a fun thing about yourself.

Doing business online is a great way to meet new people and I love the new shops and products I come into contact with. Furthermore, I like the anonymity that comes with being online sometimes - what people who've never met me before don't know is that I'm 6'3''. This is usually a fun and interesting fact to learn about me. The other thing that most people find pretty funny is when I feel stumped I put on my hardhat and do some sewing. I'm laughing right now just thinking about it, but what is so liberating about this is that it really works for me. Not only does this help me reframe, but it changes my perception of the room - plus it almost always makes me laugh which usually gives me an opening to find a solution to what I'm seeking.

Do you do other crafts, if yes, what?

I think it's good to try out new things you haven't done before and stretch your muscles artistically. I don't go for anything specific, I just like to pick up things around my studio that have been in need of a use for a while and see how I can piece them together. What usually transpires is a one of a kind piece that I sell before I'm able to list it. I also do a lot of work with the nonprofit organization I founded earlier this year, the South Potomac Arts League.

Which one of your pieces is your absolute favorite? Which one was the hardest to make and why?

My absolute favorite piece is my ribbon scarves. Though they are not online for sale right now. They are part of my Econique Line, all of which are made of at least 50% recycled or reclaimed yarns. One customer who bought a scarf from me last year told me that it's luxury for the new environmentalist movement - I just love that! Now that I'm writing about this, I think I may have to post this piece early, as I usually do not post these until September.

As for the product that is hardest to make, I would have to say that my Upcycled Cherry Blossom Handfan would be the most time consuming to assemble. The most complicated are my Mutty Boots for Dogs which for all intent purposes should be complicated as they are dog shoes which are both skid proof and water proof.

Cherry Blossom Handfan

Is there someone whom you admire and who inspires you?

I absolutely adore and admire Georgia O'Keeffe. I recall when I was twelve and I visited Santa Fe and I saw her work for the first time. She has an incredible way of conveying texture and color and life in her work. Every time I sell a piece of my work, I think of her - I feel like the Georgia O'Keeffe of fiber arts.

If you had free choice of just one supply you can use for your craft/art, what would you be dreaming of, no matter how expensive?

Wow, I don't think I've ever been asked this before! If it could be anything, it would be a heap of organic yarn of all types - wool, cotton, hemp, bamboo, blends, alpaca, etc. Much of what I make in my collections are made with organic yarns and they are expensive. This is what I would love to have if I had to choose just one material/supply for my art.

Organic cotton dishcloths

Do you sell online, if yes, where can we find you?

Yes, I sell exclusively on Zibbet. You can visit my collections at Sewmantra.

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