Interview: Austin Handmade

As we mentioned a few days ago, Austin Handmade is throwing a party tonight in honor of Austin Fashion Week. They will be debuting – among other things – a fab new DIY room, which from what I gather is like the arts and crafts room at school, but for grown-ups. Rad, right? Catherine Jones and James Butler, founders of Austin Handmade, were kind enough to drop by Austin Eavesdropper to give us the scoop on this crafty operation.

Welcome to Austin Eavesdropper, Catherine and Jason! First, give us a little background on Austin Handmade: What it is, and how it got started.

Hi there. Austin Handmade started as an online store in early 2008 but soon we realized having a physical location was necessary. the online store and physical store really work hand in hand giving people the ability to see a specific item online then come into the store to touch and feel or to take a closer look.

How do artists become a part of Austin Handmade?
People can visit our online store and use our submission form. We review submissions once a week. the submit form can be used for both our store and for the outdoor markets we host twice a month. we carefully curate the store and the market is also juried.

In addition to Austin Handmade, Jason, you own and operate Sixgunlover Records and Sonance Rehearsal Studios. How do you possibly make time in your time to juggle all three?

That is a good question, time is scarce these days. I also have a band (JBe), a 7 year old daughter named Harriet and a day job. Finding balance is a struggle but I am enjoying the challenge of building Austin Handmade with Catherine. Scheduling date night with Catherine has been a bit tough too but we manage to keep that a priority.

Catherine, give us a day in the life of a professional craft-preneur like yourself.

My day at the store always starts with a coffee from next door (Once Over Coffeebar). This is really the only consistent part of my existence as a business owner. I have trained myself to be really open to what the day brings. There are days that I have back-to-back meetings (some scheduled, others not). Issues with events arise and need to be quickly resolved. Some days I am able to catch up on dusting, sweeping, organizing, building, rearranging. There are also back end things that I help Jason with. I will go over designs, proofread ads, and brainstorm with him. Then there are the numbers. I think I speak for Jason as well when I say that we rarely are not thinking about the business. Our date nights turn into business meetings, as much as we try to avoid it. We do schedule time with friends. I do yoga on my one day off, and I have a rule that I don’t discuss business on that day. And when we hang with Jason’s daughter we try not to talk about the business. We are usually too busy playing Hanna Montana or backyard baseball, in that case. Otherwise, it is Austin Handmade in my brain all day long.

Tell us about the Austin Handmade bricks-and-mortart store on S. First. What does it looks like? What items will pepeople see there? And tell us EVERYTHING YOU CAN about that rad DIY Room, please.

The new location is much more of how we wanted to represent the work in the store. The space itself has a gallery feel but is also cozy which makes it comfortable enough to hang out and look over the art-design books we carry or to utilize the DIY room we are putting together.

The DIY room is something we are very excited about and are gradually building. This room will be filled with kits of all kinds. This idea enables a customer to purchase a kit then have the option of sewing or building the kit on-site. We have a workstation setup in the room for people to use along with some supplies if needed.

Do you think Austin is witnessing its own handmade revolution? We’ve always been a city of crafters and artists, but I’m thinking of Austin Craft Mafia, The WonderCraft, you guys….all popping up in the last few years. What’s at the heart of this crafty zeitgeist?

I want to say that the recent surge of activity is a product of our generation coming of age and being the change we want to see in our own communities. I am so thrilled that Austin is a part of what I think is a national coming together of like minded people who are tired of cheap, poorly made shit. I think the rise of “handmade” may be one of the beautiful elements of capitalism. We are building a genuine community based on the love of doing and producing beautiful things. I think some people in our generation were witness to this kind of change and redefinition in the 1980’s and ’90’s in the music industry. I know this is the source of my inspiration, optimism and D.I.Y. sentiments.

Are you two crafters as well? If so, what do you make? What label / design name is it under?

When it comes to creating, I’m mostly focusing on music for now. I am always drawing but nothing i wish to sell just yet. Catherine does make things, but feels conflicted when considering putting her items in the store. For now she makes stuff for family and friends.

What can we look forward to at Thursday’s Grand Re-Opening Party?

You can expect the official unveiling of all the hard work we have put into the store. From construction to presentation we have done it all ourselves. We hope that we have provided such an array of locally made products, that people are surprised to know that it is all from Austin area artists and designers.

At the party you will enjoy music by Lost Werks with a DJ set from Beef Eigler. Also some treats from Sugar Mammas Bakeshop, drinks from Treaty Oak Rum & Sweet Leaf Tea. We will be offering giveaways from a number of sponsors and much more!

Thanks for having us Tolly!