Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ten Question Tuesday - Liz Smith of Made in Lowell

Hello! Who are you? Give us the 411 about yourself.
My name is Liz Smith, I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts but for the past 11 years I've been a resident of America's first planned industrial city, Lowell. I live with my husband and cat in an old brick mill building on a canal. About a mile away along the same canal is an old textile mill that was converted into artist's studios and that's where I go to work every day!

When/How did you start your business?
I've been making things since I was a little kid. When I was about 10, my sister showed me how to make miniature kitchen goods like little bars of soap on tiny sponges and little rolls of aluminum foil for dollhouses. I would make these things and set up a table in my living room and sell them to my mom. She was a great repeat customer. So I've always wanted to make things and sell them. While I was in college I'd do craft shows and during the summer I'd setup at flea markets. There wasn't quite the indie craft scene back then like there is now. I worked lots of temp jobs and some other jobs that required artistic ability while always making and selling things on the side. In 2008 my job managing a fine crafts gallery ended so I got a studio and went full time with Made in Lowell.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
That's mostly what I do! I also cook dinner almost every night, I like reading, listening to NPR, going to book stores with my husband who is a writer. I like searching thrift shops for jars of buttons, vintage yarn and sewing supplies. But most of my time is spent making. The things I make are very time intensive and I have a very large product line so I am always scrambling to catch up on productivity.

What first made you want to become an artist?
I think I was born with the want. And since my mom is an artist, she gave me projects to do that let me learn how. Then I went to school for it as well.

What inspires you?
Color! Texture! Patterns! Sunshine, flowers, animals. Anything that lifts the heart and makes you forget that there is anything but beauty in the world. I really am a romantic.

What's your favorite thing about your craft?
I have many crafts, but the thing that I like the best about making is the idea of taking raw materials and deliberately creating something new from them, something that did not exist before. I will never lose the awe that inspires me. I feel that way about other people's work as well!

Where would we most likely find you working?
Either in my studio or at home at what used to be the computer desk.

What's your favorite music to listen to while you work?
I normally don't listen to music while I work. I need to have my left brain distracted so my right brain can make the pretties. So I listen to National Public Radio or to one of the 500 (yes, five hundred) podcasts I have downloaded. During Open Studios I play 1960's samba, Billie Holiday and Thievery Corporation to create a mellow mood for visitors.

What's your favorite thing now?
I love to listen to the Planet Money podcast and knit. Or read a magazine in the bath. Oh! My absolute favorite thing is when my husband reads to me while I make dinner. We've gotten through quite a few books this way.

If you could have one wish for the craft community, what would it be?
Customers aplenty for everyone! I wish for everyone the ability to sustain themselves with their heart's work at a living wage. And with that I want especially the American consumer to reject mass-produced and embrace handmade.

You can check out all of Liz's work in her Etsy shop.

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