Eco-friendly Wearable Art:
My Interview with Molly at Rags by Sock Monkey
By Stephanie Lynn, age 26, Massachusetts
ragsbysockmonkey.etsy.com), which features "eco-friendly wearable art", a.k.a. up-cycled fashion accessories. Molly exudes outstanding enthusiasm and energy towards her art and her business. She cuts, sews, and weaves everything from scarves to t-shirts to rugs using only recycled materials she's gathered from closets, rummage sales, consignment, and thrift stores. Her designs are youthful and fun, and I love all the bright colors she uses. Additionally, a percentage of her sales go to a no-kill, cageless animal rescue and adoption center aiding cats, dogs, and rabbits. So, remix your wardrobe and know you're giving to a great cause as well! I was pleased to have the honor of interviewing Molly this month. Enjoy! :)
Photo credit: Select photography by Lauren Baker at www.laurenbakerarts.com.
Tell us about yourself and your style of art. What makes you stand out from other artists?
Well, first off, you can wear it! That makes it different from most art. I also have developed the technique I use myself, using a sewing machine to sew designs freestyle onto a piece of clothing, and then carefully cutting the design out of the fabric by hand.
What motivated you to start your own business selling up-cycled and eco-friendly fashions and accessories?
A friend suggested I look at the website Etsy.com, and I decided to post a few items myself. After my first sale on Etsy I realized that I really liked knowing I had made something that someone wanted to wear or to use in their homes. It makes my day knowing that someone likes what I make with my own hands.
I started my business as an up-cycled clothing business because it was an easy way to learn how to make clothing (I have no formal training) by de-constructing something and then putting it back together. I remain eco-friendly because I am passionate about the environment and think that up-cycling is the best way to be eco-friendly. Why make something new when you can use existing materials that create beautiful, unique products?
What are a few challenges you've faced while mastering your craft and running an online shop? How have you persevered through those challenges?
The online shop wasn't easy, but it was more of a challenge when opportunities arose outside of my online presence, like consigning or wholesaling in stores. This is where I've learned many lessons about business - how to promote myself, make catalogues, decide on a fair price, manage inventory, create my brand - there are so many aspects that I had to learn on the fly and it took a lot of time and patience.
Most importantly, it was most challenging when I would have to call it quits when an opportunity wasn't in my best interest. It's easy to be taken advantage of when you are eager to be seen and make sales. I've been lucky to build a relationship with a store in Seattle called Reconstructed Clothing, where they sell my clothing year round. But other opportunities have taught me that you had best do your research carefully before you decide to jump in.
The most important thing I've learned from these challenges is that when something is not in my best interest, I have to let go and move on. Other opportunities will always present themselves. Some things are not meant to be, but it's not the end of the world.
I currently work part-time at a garden center gift shop in Chicago, IL, and also teach dance and choreography when I can. School seems like a long time ago! I graduated in 2009 with my Dance BFA from the University of Minnesota, but have found that I have too many interests to simply dance for a living. I also love to write, so I blog on two blogs, ragsbysockmonkey.blogspot.com and urbanherbalgirl.blogspot.com. One is for my business and the other is about my interests in herbal medicine and alternative health.
In whatever spare time I have after all of this, I read, ride my bicycle around Chicago, read some more, and spend time with my fiancé, Brandon, who also helps me make some of the items in my shop.
I have a lot of dreams, but for the moment one of my personal goals is to travel abroad, which I've never done.
As for professional goals, I plan on continuing to let my business grow at its own pace, as I've done from the beginning. However, I'm currently working on applying for the Institute of Artist Entrepreneurship this month, and so maybe that will change in the fall.
But, in fulfillment of another personal goal, I'm not going to worry over what will happen. I will simply put myself out there, and if it is meant to be I'll go to school. Or, maybe I'll travel to Spain. :) I'm getting my first passport this month, just to be prepared.
Take it slow. Find something that constantly nags at you when you are not doing it. If you find yourself dreading working on your craft, it isn't for you. You have to want and love doing whatever you are doing. I'm sure you've heard this before, but it's true.
Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about you and/or your shop?
The name for my shop has become a dedication to my grandmother, who helped me to make my first sock monkey named Ginny. Grandma lived during the Depression, when up-cycling was a way to survive on very little. At that time, a sock monkey was made from old socks and stuffed with rags. But this did not mean that it was any less loved than a brand new toy. The name of my shop, Rags by Sock Monkey, reminds me to be thankful for what I have, and also to make each item with care, just as my grandmother helped to make Ginny for me.
Where can readers learn more about you and your business?
Etsy Shop: ragsbysockmonkey.etsy.com
Herbal Blog: urbanherbalgirl.blogspot.com