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Delightful Imperfections – A maker interview with Untold Imprint

Pennsylvania based artist Phoebe is the founder and maker behind Untold Imprint; a handmade textile, jewellery and home décor brand. I first stumbled across Phoebe’s beautiful work last year when writing for the Etsy Seller Handbook and searching Etsy.com for great Photography examples to include in my article. I’m delighted to now share her lovely world and products with you on my blog.

An FIT graduate in textile design (Fashion Institute of Technology in New York), Phoebe uses fabric in everything she makes. She paints original designs and then uses screens and blocks to make prints onto items such as towels, aprons, scarves and more.

All of her work is handmade; from painting, to dyeing, to printing and sewing, all in small batches.

“I design patterns by painting with watercolour. I’ll paint several pages of motifs and design elements and then scan and manipulate them on my computer. Once I come up with patterns that I like, I’ll print them out on paper full size to see if they translate as a large-scale print.”

“I cut all of my screens by hand using a liquid called drawing fluid. It allows me to paint directly onto the screen. I like the painterly look of this method. It’s particularly nice when there is a repeating pattern and each motif of the pattern is slightly different because it’s been painted by hand, rather than duplicated digitally.

I also print with blocks, which I carve by hand. It’s a very different process than screen printing, and I love that there’s a lot more space for playfulness with block printing. You can change a pattern so easily by altering spacing and orientation, and even introducing another block into the print. It allows for so many options.”

Following a suggestion to study textile design Phoebe moved to New York City to study at FIT and for many years after she worked in a corporate atmosphere using mostly computers to design textiles. Eventually she sought to return to the challenge and connection found in the laborious physical work of hands-on textile design.

Phoebe loves the imperfections and surprise of working with natural materials and hands-on processes, which comes together beautifully when printing and dyeing textiles such as cotton, hemp and linen and with painting watercolour, as well.

“I welcome and encourage imperfection in everything I make because it leaves my trace. Lifting the screen from newly printed fabric usually has an unexpected outcome. I like to think of it as discovering something hidden, an untold story imprinted into every piece.”

With her appreciation for old things that show their history proudly, Phoebe speaks about the things that inspire her in an affected and gracious way; like precious antiques, nature, working with tangible materials and walking her dog.

All these little things count for everything in her creative process, they make up a world of creativity and possibilities on which she can build and allow her to feel her passion for her work even more deeply. One can imagine her seeing the tiniest of detail on her morning walk with her dog, Alice, leading her to a whole notepad of watercolour designs.

“I’ll collect wild flowers for small arrangements or natural dyeing projects. I’ve started using the flowers in photographs of my textiles as well. The natural beauty of my surroundings are a perfect complement to my handmade items since so much of what I make and design is inspired by the plant and wildlife that I see each day. Walking is a time of connection with Alice and inspiration for me. I’ll take photos each day of wildlife, or flowers, or old houses that I imagine living in.”

Phoebe seems to make beauty out of the everyday magic within which she envelopes herself, either in her peaceful home studio, with her dog, or on her adventures at the market.

“I collect vintage and antique textiles, books, and other items that spark a nostalgic feeling. I have a number of bisque dolls from when I was a child. I started photographing them and this led to my first collection of postcards picturing vintage items that I both own and have sold over the years.”

Like many crafters and creators, Phoebe loves the community and the experience of selling at markets,

“My parents sold antiques while I was growing up and I have the fondest memories of being at auction houses and outdoor markets. We camped out and got to experience a world full of old treasures and eclectic personalities. I think that’s where my love of selling at markets originates. It’s one of my favourite parts of being a maker. I enjoy every aspect of markets — the long drives, the set-up, meeting customers in person – it’s so rewarding at the end of an exhausting day or week, to pack up and head home with a lighter load and lots of memories.”

Phoebe’s everyday involves splitting time between her part-time job as a virtual assistant and then mostly working on her Untold Imprint collection, with some time in there devoted to her dog, Alice.

Working long days and in the evenings as well, multitasking and thinking of all those important business decisions that go with an online, one-person small business, Phoebe doesn’t go about it without gratefulness and appreciation for her customers and for getting to do the work she loves doing everyday.

“I learn new things every day through research, trial and error, and sharing with my fellow maker friends. Each success feels like a small victory. Every time I’m accepted as a vendor to a new market, or ship something out to a customer in a country that I’ve never shipped to before, it’s an achievement and the weight of each of these milestones is fully felt by me and celebrated…If I had to name a favourite achievement, it would be getting to know customers who return, again and again to my shop.”

If you haven’t visited the Untold Imprint online shop before you absolutely must. Phoebe posts some beautiful photography of her intricate pieces (it certainly caught my eye among millions of photos on Etsy!) as well as photos of her journeys to markets and around her serene home. She has some truly authentic designs showcased for your perusal. If you are seeking inspiration for a slow creative lifestyle or want to purchase one of her various treasures – please pop by and check out her work via the various channels below.

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All photos in this article are by Phoebe ©Untold Imprint 2016