Saturday, March 7, 2009

INCrowdteam Interview, 3/7/09 - Julie Finn aka pumpkinbear

Don't you just love it when you have a chance to look at some fellow team members' (or just plain Etsyians') work, and though it's COMPLETELY different from what you do, it strikes you as wonderful nevertheless? That's my feeling about finding Pumpkinbear. I do believe that we are sisters from different misters, and that Kawfee-Tawk is imminent.

Where were you born & raised?
I'm from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, smack next to Oklahoma, which means that we know ALL the ways to describe Oklahoma drivers. Ahem. I don't think I have any Bowers in the family, but it would be interesting to know where your relatives lived--my family's first records begin them way up in the mountains in North-Central Arkansas, kind of like Appalachia only with hot springs and natural caverns, and none of them were particularly literate, NOR did they apparently have a lot of time for an oral tradition, so there it ends.

What's the origin of your shop's name?
Pumpkinbear is the super-goofy name that my partner used to call me, really over-the-top on purpose. We were those sarcastic kids who sat in the back row and everything we said had to be all ironic, you know, and look at me now--we're married with children, unironically, and that ironic pet name is now the name of my CRAFTS SHOP. Anywhere your life takes you, it'll never surprise me.

Where are you now & what led you there?
I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, for grad school, and even though I dropped out, I'm still raising my babies here.

What types of creations do you sell in for your Etsy shop(s)?
I focus on items made primarily from recycled components, and items that I can make through collaboration with my girls, or at least in company with them while they play. [Ed. note: quilts, buttons, gift tags, decorative bunting, record bowls, among other items]

What's your educational background, as it relates to your work?
My gender studies background has helped me appreciate the greater significance of the traditional "women's work" that I spend most of my days doing, and the skill, artistry, and community that underlies handicraft of all kinds.

Does creating stuff, women's work and the like run in the family? Were you taught things on purpose or by osmosis from prior generations?
It's an interesting question, because I really wasn't encouraged to own my traditions as a child. Whenever we went back up in the mountains to visit our Ravenden Springs relatives I think we were all a little embarrassed, and me and the other "city cousins" would do a lot of "They're YOUR relatives." "No, they're YOUR relatives," etc. Ridiculous, because now that most of those relatives have passed on, wouldn't I just kill to get back up that mountain and learn all about everything I could?

My real concept of traditional women's work as meaningful, and handwork in particular, came after I had my first daughter, and became completely isolated from my once-vibrant academic social life (can an academic social life even be called vibrant?) at the university where I'm still a grad student. You know, you can't bring a baby into a bar. Or a seminar. Or a lecture. Or the house of the futzy professor with the pet cockatoos that are afraid of children. And not only that, but I also felt that many of the professionals within my department had no respect for me after I became a mother, and the departmental politics got just really strange and ominous and exams committees began to fail me for sort of obscure reasons--you know, the way groups do when they don't really want you anymore. So I'm still just barely hanging on by the skin of my teeth, and teaching through the benevolence of the university's AMAZING composition program.

So I really began to get into handicraft as something to do with myself to keep from going nuts hanging out alone all day with an infant, and then, you know, I'm an academic, I like to study and think about stuff, so I did a lot of reading and thinking and analyzing the concepts and meaning of handwork, and I did a lot of teaching myself pretty much any craft I came across, and by then I had yet ANOTHER kid, and if I was ever going to do anything for myself by then, I had to incorporate my kiddos into it. And once I began doing that, I discovered that my children, even very small, have a lot of real insight and artistry and inspiration to add to what I do, so much so that I consider all my work now, whether directly assisted by or inspired by one of my daughters, true and real collaborations with them.

How'd you get started creating?
Mommy Brain made me too stupid for grad school, but I can't stand not being occupied, so I started making stuff.

What's your muse, or what turns that little creative light inside you on?
My girls, always.

Do you belong to any Street Teams (other than the INCrowdteam)? If so, which ones and why? I'm also in the Craftivism Street Team, because if you're going to craft, you might as well craft for good, not evil.

What's your favorite thing about selling on Etsy?
I love it when someone besides a family member, who has to like my stuff, likes my stuff.

Recommend your five favorite shops on Etsy.
1) sushipot
2) 16BIT
3) tenfingerworkshop
4) thetinylittlegirl
5) CarolinaPatchworks

Show us three of your own favorite pieces, from your shop and work.

White on Black Dinosaur-Loving Baby Hat

Recycled Denim and Burlap Bunting

Spiderman Quilt

Anything else to brag on?
I'll be in an upcoming issue of Craft Magazine (by end of year, 2009). Look in the Quick Craft section for the Recycled Materials Matching Game--I wrote it!

Awesome, and thanks! I'll keep my eyes peeled, though that is a really disgusting saying when you come to think of it...
Carolynn aka nilochlainn aka wolfgangzehen

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