Welcome to my new monthly segment: Artist of the Month! I am so excited to bring you guys interviews with local artists to give you an idea of the other amazing people creating in our community.
April's Artist of the Month is Seattle blogger, crafter and designer Scott Arend of Sock of Ages! I met Scott in January 2010 while working at The Seattle Opera, where he is Assistant Wardrobe Manager as well as a Principal Artist Dresser. I soon found out that Scott had many other talents beyond being an excellent dresser.
Betty: Who are you and what do you make?
SA: I am a guy who makes stuff. Right now that is primarily sock monkeys, but some other stuff too -- totes, small quilts, a little painting. I love making stuff from vintage craft kits I find at thrift stores and garage sales-- Christmas tree skirts, ornaments, embroidery. And I love to repurpose things -- give things a second life through paint facelifts, chopping off or adding legs, drawers, knobs, etc. I've got a great candle chandelier on my patio that started life as a god-awful 1970s pendant light fixture.
Betty: How/why did you get started as an artist and crafter?
SA: I’ve been making stuff since I was a kid, and I always like to “assemble” things. My mom got that magazine “Pack-o-Fun” and I devoured every issue. I used a lot of paper then - I made paper houses, then villages including fountains and trees, and I was really fond of paper collages with colored paper pasted on a black background like a stained glass window. I also loved things from kits, especially model cars and paint-by-number kits. My favorite and largest project was a puppet theatre I made in elementary school. I hauled that theatre to all the classrooms at school that December giving a Christmas show with my puppets from a script I’d found in a magazine. I’ve never considered myself an “artist” because I always associated that with painting and drawing and I never took any art classes in high school or set off to college planning to major in art. When people ask me what I do, I usually say “I make stuff” or “I design stuff.” But I do have a long history of being in art.
Betty: Why did you start Sock of Ages?
SA: Sock of Ages started four years ago with me dressing a sock monkey I’d made in a costume from an opera, but I didn’t think of it as a project with a name then. I launched the website last summer because I wanted my friends and family to have a place to go where I could show them what I was making and wouldn’t have to keep emailing so many people photos and information. As I got going with it, it became a good way for me to explain to myself what I was doing too! Sometimes I would get really caught up on something and I wanted to write down the process that got me to the finished item. Lately I’ve had a procrastination slump on finishing sock monkeys, so I’ve just posted the other craft things I’m working on.
Betty: Do you create full time or part time? How to do you make time for your crafting?
SA: My crafting is part time and I don’t work on it nearly as much as I’d like to. I break up my projects into segments and just focus on finishing one thing at a time, like “all I have to do is cut out the shirt and sew it together.” I find it’s easier if I know my time is in 30 to 90 minute blocks. I’ll save things like finishing hems, sewing on snaps, buttons, eyes, etc. to evenings when I’m watching television - it doesn’t seem like work then and I don’t feel like I’ve wasted two hours sitting and doing nothing. Working in theatre, I often have a lot of down time backstage during rehearsals and shows. I try to have at least one project with me to work on for those bonus hours, and I can still visit with people while I’m busy. And I work with super talented and creative people, so there is always somebody around to help me solve a problem or give me an idea to make what I’m doing easier. This is really one of the favorite parts of my job, and I’m constantly thinking, “Hey, they’re paying me to work on my projects!”
Betty: What is your workspace like?
SA: My workspace is not the greatest. It’s in the basement of our house, which is unheated, but it’s cozy if I plug in my space heater and put a sweater on. I have a large folding table with my sewing machine on it, and ironing board a 3-tiered rack for bins of fabric and supplies and a couple of cork boards to pin patterns and photos to while I’m working. There’s also a television and stereo there so I can have music or Food Network on as white noise. Oh, and I have a killer iron my brother gave me for my last birthday - it’s a fancy Rowenta that’s the only iron made with no auto shut-off - I LOVE IT!
Betty: Where do you get your inspiration?
SA: Ideas for sock monkeys come from a lot of different sources - sometimes it’s a favorite performer I’ve worked with and I love the costume they’re wearing in the show. I love vintage fabrics and fashions, and they inspire a lot of characters for me. I’ve got an awesome Liberty of London for Target floral dress I picked up in a thrift store that’s eventually going to end up as a full-skirted, ruffled and flouncy dress for a sock monkey gardening society kind of lady named “Flora Bunda.” And I’ve also got piles of fabric for other characters such as a vintage Christmas shopper, Coco Chanel, Marie Antoinette, a bride, Ebenezer Scrooge - the list goes on! I guess I’d have to say that film, literature, plays and art in general are a good source for me too - as I write this I realize I’ve just got to do a “Pinky and Blue Boy”!
Betty: Do you have a signature or favorite piece you have created?
SA: It seems like whatever I’m working on at the moment is my favorite, but two stand out - the “Dodge” I made for my favorite singer, Bill Burden, from the opera Amelia (see below). He’s wearing a copy of Bill’s dress white uniform and I used a blue sock for the monkey which looks great with the white uniform and its ribbons and medals. And I really love the ghost bride I created for my friend (and amazing artist) Rosetta Greek. It’s a costume she wore in the opera Lucia di Lamermoor (also photographed below). It has an actual boned corset, vintage trims from my great aunt’s button box and I hand-sequined and beaded the veil. There’s also a great story about this monkey’s life and why Rosetta named her “Verboten”, but you have to go to my website to read it! I’m also in the middle of working on a “Carmen” that I think will be a favorite.
Betty: What has been your biggest challenge (creatively or otherwise) with Sock of Ages?
SA: My biggest challenge for Sock of Ages other than time, is that I don’t have any formal training in clothing construction or sewing, and that makes it hard for me to pattern things and figure out the how-to of making stuff. I’ve got to read about everything and ask millions of questions because I know what I’m going for, just not the easiest way to create it. At the same time, one of the things that makes it fun for me is learning all of this. I can put waist bands on ruffled skirts now and they look good! And I know how to set sleeves into a bodice, make a continuous lap placket, etc. Of course I still find myself making maxi skirts when I intended to be making pants, but at least I now know how to fix it!
Betty: What hobbies or other interests do you have and how do you find balance in your life?
SA: I have too many other hobbies and interests! I’m a trained chef so I’m always dabbling with new recipe ideas, I do some restaurant consulting and a I write a food blog for the Seattle P.I. and have my own cooking blog. I love embroidery and have put several of my pieces in the Puyallup Fair that I’ve won blue ribbons for. I also knit, but have a hard time calling myself a real knitter - I always want it to go faster and I get stuck on simple things, but it’s a challenge and I keep at it. I do a little bit of quilting and want to do more. And then there’s this doll thing, which I guess goes along with sock monkeys. I’m considered to be an expert of vintage Barbie dolls, I’ve co-authored a collecting book about Skipper, Barbie’s little sister, and I’m currently working to launch an online magazine about vintage dolls from 1950 through the 1980s. It’s tentatively calledThat Doll, or maybe Forever Vintage, or possibly Glamour Doll.....we’re still not sure what it’s called, but it’s coming!
Betty: What direction do you see your work going in the future?
SA: As for the future, I don’t know where I’m headed. I’m considering a book - I have a couple of characters and a little story for them that would be fun to do. I’m also thinking of a costume history book with the costumes dressed on sock monkeys.
I am so excited to see what Scott posts next! You can read up on Scott's crafty pursuits and Sock of Ages here as well as his foodie blog here and his Seattle PI blog here. If you have any nominations for a great local artist who should be my next Artist of the Month, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! And as always, I enjoy your comments and suggestions!
Later this week, look for how to turn worn out or plain notebooks into fun pieces of art!