Maker Profile: Owl + Mouse Textile Designs
Cristin Llewelynand Alice Youngblood are the talents behind local textile design brand Owl + Mouse. Learn a bit about their techniques, where they get their inspiration and what it's like to be makers in Kansas City:
How did Owl and Mouse come to be?
In 2004 Cristin moved from Tulsa, OK and Alice moved from Greenville SC to attend the Kansas City Art Institute. We met as sophomores in the Fiber Department at KCAI in 2005. Soon after graduation, we decided to put our degrees to use and create pieces that are works of art, yet still functional and affordable.
Walk us through your general process.
While we make a wide variety of products, everything is functional and accessory based. We hand dye fabrics using a variety of techniques (immersion dyeing, ice dyeing, shibori and dip dyeing!). We also hand print fabrics with original designs that have been transferred to silk screens. Many people are familiar with silk screening, however, we do it a little differently which results in a totally unique look and feel. We print using a thickened dye mixed with custom colors. After the dye sets and is washed, it actually becomes part of the fabric as opposed to ink/paint that sits on top of most fabrics. Following dyeing and/or printing, we cut, sew, and package everything. Each product takes many days to complete and there’s a lot of washing, drying and ironing involved! With so much time in between processes, we’re usually working on a bunch of different things at once. In a nutshell the two of us hand design, dye, print, sew, package, and sell every product we make!
Where do you source your materials?
We’ve spent several years finding the right materials for our products. Over time they’ve evolved and the quality is much nicer. We buy bolts of cream organic cottons (twills, knits, voile, duck canvas, etc) and organic linens from a company in the USA. We’re still on the hunt for the perfect weight organic linen/cotton for our men’s line (currently the only non-organic products) ...any recommendations are welcome! We go through a lot of salt so we buy that from American Midwest Distributors (located in the Northland) which is actually an agricultural supply store! Crane Yard Clay, here in KC, supplies us with all of our soda ash. Most of our dyes, chemicals and packing materials are bought in bulk, but when we’re in a pinch we’ll run to Artists and Craftsmen in the Crossroads. They have a great variety of materials for almost any project!
How do the seasons inspire your work?
It’s taken us a long time to get to this point, but we try to plan our collection out for the entire year in January. We’d love to do this earlier, but January and February are typically slower for us so we take that time to clean, organize and plan! While we do introduce a few seasonal colors and products, we’re mostly inspired and excited to dive into learning new techniques, adding a new print or two, and refining what we already produce. In the past we would create spring and fall lines with new colors and prints, but it was too much for two people to crank out quickly enough. Now we spend the time really perfecting and enjoying what we are making... and of course dreaming up new designs, but adding them in a little more slowly.
Can you describe the KC maker scene and what it's like to be a part of?
We’ve felt really supported here in KC as makers. The arts and crafts scene is so vibrant and KC is small enough to get to know other makers as well as buyers/customers. There are SO many wonderfully talented people that all have each other’s back and it’s great when we have the opportunity to hangout! Particularly when we were first getting started, several people were willing to share their advice and give us space to show our work. It was great to be able to get our start in such a generous art community!
How has your business changed most over the past year?
This past year has been really great for us. We feel like our work has grown and become what we always envisioned it to be. We were able to purchase two industrial sergers a few years ago, which was a game changer for both quality and efficiency! This year we took time to really think about how we want to present our work. In addition to making our products, we’ve been working hard on our website, show display, and product packaging. We have a few more packing changes to finish up, but overall we feel like this year has been a time to refine and elevate our work. We put so much time and love into everything we do and want that to be reflected in our presentation. Our goal has been to have a cohesive collection that is totally unique and distinctive, but also streamline the process so we can reach more people.
What are you excited about for the year ahead– any new designs you can reveal to us?
In the upcoming year we’re hoping to travel to bigger shows and wholesale markets. We’re also looking forward to having our everyday line of products and expand into also having a luxury line. This past year we’ve had so much fun experimenting with ice dyeing, you’ll probably be seeing a few more color ways with that technique!