Interview: Amy Karol of Kingpod

by Grace Bonney

Amy Karol is an extraordinary crafter. She sells artwork and textile art at her online shop KingPod, she reports on what she is up to on her site Angry Chicken, she keeps up Tie One On, a site all about aprons, and her book, Bend-the-Rules Sewing came out last year. I was so pleased she took the time to answer a few questions. Also see her fantastic FAQ page for answers to questions you didn’t know you had.

Your bio states that you work primarily with textiles these days, but that you have a degree in Interior Architecture, you’ve worked in a costume shop, and were very successful with your painting and monoprint work while you were living in Seattle. Is there anything you miss from those earlier periods? Do you miss loud industrial sewing machines or a huge drafting table? (I know I do.)

Oh I do miss the big heavy Pfaff machines we used in the costume shop then and I miss architectural drafting terribly, especially casework. . .and miss painting so much it hurts–and the use of a press for monoprint (I never had my own) but more than anything I miss the time I had. I used to be able to work uninterrupted for hours, which now is just impossible. I know it won’t always be this way, but I can’t believe how much time I had then. With the 3 girls (5, 3 and a 3 month old) even 1/2 hour is precious and worth gold to me-it’s crazy for me to think about what it was like when I had more time. I had no idea how precious it was.

What is your strategy for finding time to work while raising children? Is it a juggling act or do you try to keep to scheduled work time?

It’s a juggling act. If I “plan” a time it gets completely hijacked by reality, so I have to just go for it when I can–which is why working with anything wet (paint, etc) is so hard for me and why textiles are so much safer.

Are there any websites that have resources for the small or crafty business owner you find helpful?

I really don’t think of what I do as a typical business in that sense so I have never used business type resources. I get the most from just being inspired, so I’d say my favorite resources are the ones I link to on my side bar at any given time, purely for inspiration. As cliche as it sounds, things have just happened, there was no business plan.

On your site Angry Chicken you show lots of the things you make for you home and family. Has there ever been a time when you’ve made something for your home that you’ve decided to also sell? Does inspiration work both ways?

Yes, the bonnet pattern came about that way. It was a gift made for a friend and after showing it on my blog a good friend of mine insisted I draft up the pattern. I was shocked, I mean come on, a bonnet pattern? I love them but never in a million years thought others would too, and I was wrong-that pattern has been my most popular project.

I really love designing projects and moving on to the next idea, so patterns are the most fun for me as opposed to making one item over and over again to sell. Because of that, if I make an item for myself for home personally, I’d probably sell the design/pattern, not the actual item.

How did the idea for the Mailorder series come about? Where do you get the inspiration on what to include?

Mailorder was just something that sort of came to me after discussing the idea with a genius friend (Sarah Neuburger of The Small Object) who is very supportive of my work. I told her my idea about a crafty club incorporating what I personally would like, ie. projects, recipes, and silly things like secret handshakes and hidden codes, and then just went for it. I pretty much designed it to be printed in small batches so if the idea was a total flop, I wouldn’t be out a ton of $$. . .but it did get bigger than I could handle and now there is a cap on it. Mostly because i just can’t stuff envelops for that long-it’s fun but the whole enterprise is really exhausting. It’s on hiatus right now until 2008, but I am itching to get back to it again. It’s really my favorite project I have ever done.

My ideas for it are really just what I am into at that time-I often don’t know what the main project will be. I just make stuff and show it on the blog and then every once in awhile there will be a ton of great feedback about one specific thing I have made-and then it becomes very clear that it should be the next project. I usually can’t guess what it will be, so I just wait until it feels right. Or I just design something that I am into, like a cross-stitch pattern, and try to make the aesthetic my own, so then if people aren’t really into cross stitch, they still might try it because it looks different than what is out there.

What is next for you? Is there anything you’re hoping to take on in the future?

I’d love to do another book, of course, and a fabric line. . .and a stationery/papergoods line, and get back into film (I mean digital video when I say that) again. I am excited about so much. . .I should probably focus more and not be so all over the place. Oh–a comic book, that’s on the list too. God knows when this will all happen. And I would love to get on a press again and do monorpint, but that will have to wait. And there was a time, long ago, when Pete and I had a band–and we will revisit that, it might take years, but dang it! I’d love to start that up again. Maybe a family jug band? We do have a mini washboard already. . .

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