Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Talking Kitchen Fashion with Suzanne Podhaizer

This is the apron I wear on a daily basis at home. Here I am looking a bit tough with one of my cast iron frying pans. I took this picture for contrast after taking my make-up off from a particularly girly photo shoot (see below) in March. This apron was an experimental cut with the skirt shaped at the hips. It was one of two aprons I made from one red gingham dress. The bib was the front top of the dress. I took the buttons off and sewed the two front halves together. It is trimmed at the waist with one of my favorite Denyse Shmidt vintage-inspired Flea Market Fancy prints in a cheerful spring green plus a dark, dark shirt collar.

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.

Stay tuned for Suzanne's article on kitchen fashion in her food column in an upcoming issue of Seven Days. Of all the regular columns, I can be most relied upon to read hers, plus the "Side Dishes." Oh, and Mistress Maeve, who is always right on!

1 comment:

rockergirrl said...

I'm so glad I know you. You inspire me. Can't wait to read the article!