Suzanne Podhaizer, who write about food for Seven Days, got in touch with me today. She's writing about kitchen fashion. We have a phone interview scheduled for tomorrow, but she gave me a couple questions to think about. The words just started flowing so I thought I'd share them here:
How did you get into kitchen fashion?
I've always loved working with fabric. I was also very interested in fashion design when I started. Then I got into quilting. I was making small crazy quilts by putting together all the fabrics I loved into one piece, but I ended up thinking they were ugly, too chaotic. I gave myself the aesthetic challenge of combining just two fabrics in a way that was really dynamic, or wonderfully harmonious to the point that the fabrics really hum together: not boring.
I’ve always been stuck on making objects that have a practical purpose (i.e. I’ve never made a quilt with the intention that it be hung on a wall and not used for warmth on a bed). I think the object is appreciated more and on many more levels when it can be a useful tool or add comfort in everyday life.
So I started making potholders out of two fabrics only about 15 years ago as this aesthetic exercise and giving them away mostly. I was working with vintage fabrics, old bark cloth, interesting prints that were obviously from a different time period and combining them in unusual ways. I started selling HotHolders as a business 3 years ago. My customers have been most drawn to the ones with characters on them: firemen, kittens, owls, day of the dead skeletons, and the pin-ups, so that’s what I make mostly now.
I’ve also always loved aprons. My aprons came about as a marriage of my interest in fashion and the kind of quilt-appropriate fabrics I’m drawn to working with plus my desire to make helpful, attractive objects used in everyday life. I’ve met a lot of women who didn’t grow up using aprons, or their mothers didn’t, but I did. We had a drawer of aprons made by my grandmother, who was born in 1898. It’s not that I’m out to promote a women’s-place-is-in-the-kitchen agenda. Food preparation and clean-up and laundry are inevitable facts of life for most people. When I tie on an apron, I feel purposeful and organized, and they protect my nice clothes. If I feel cute wearing my apron, I’m enjoying my tasks more.
Meanwhile my family life has become more and more food centric over the years. My husband of 15 years and I have always had vegetable gardens, and they have grown every year. We raised lamb for a few years and started raising meat chickens about 10 years ago. It got to a point a few years ago that most of our meals were comprised of food we had grown ourselves. I’d say 70% of what my family of 4 eats year round is from our own land. The stance I have while preparing a meal is less of drudgery and more of profound gratitude and celebration. Tying on the apron to set about making the evening meal is a little ritual, marking a shift in the day away from my work-for-money and towards the task of nourishing my family with food I feel so incredibly appreciative to have available to me. Preparing a meal feels special to me, and having a business making special tools to aid other people in their culinary adventures feels appropriate.