In 2004, my sister and I were both stay at home moms… and it was just before Christmas. She said, “I have no money to buy you a Christmas present”, and I said, “that’s good, because I don’t have any to buy one for you either”. We are both artists…she had already found her niche, I had not. I cut up every bridesmaid dress I had ever worn, and cut every silk and velvet fabric I had previously hoarded and made table runners for my family members. One friend commented that they would make beautiful scarves. Inspired by this, I shopped them around to local boutiques and received orders for 3 dozen from one shop. Soon after, my cousin who was in the recycled textile business called telling me he had a couple barrels of vintage cashmere sweaters for me to look at. I bought as many as I could and started restyling them immediately…business blossomed.
I have operated my own company, Angelina Accoutrements, LLC, since then. For a decade, I have deconstructed and repurposed vintage cashmere sweaters and garments into new one-of-a-kind wraps, ponchos, scarves, hats and fingerless gloves utilizing a self-taught technique that delicately reworks the edges of the knit. Though I am a one-woman operation, I create and manufacture more than 350-400 original pieces of clothing and accessories each year~producing and selling them myself through luxury boutiques, private trunk shows, fashion shows, and most recently juried art shows. In addition, I work directly with clients to restyle their own cashmere into beautiful new accessories and statement pieces. Clients always come back to me telling me that whenever they wear their pieces, they get stopped several times by other women complimenting them, and wanting to know where they bought it.
1. What’s your medium of choice and what do you love about it?
For a decade, I’ve worked with vintage cashmere sweaters, deconstructing them and reconstructing them into new wraps, ponchos, sweaters, scarves, fingerless gloves, hats for women and babies. I love that i can take something that was once discarded, and turn it into something beautiful again. I love unique pieces that tell a story and inspire a connection with the wearer of the item.
2. What are you working on right now? What’s on your camera/desk/easel or in your studio?
Right now I’m working on hand-stitched infinity scarves with handmade bows of cable knit cashmere. They require quiet time with the needle and thread. They can’t be stitched on the machine because of the stretchy nature of cashmere knitwear. Some have wool boucle bows which is a little nod to a 3rd degree connection I share with Coco Chanel.
3. What practices/activities are most valuable to your creative process?
I start each day with some quiet and meditation, which clears my mind and sets up my awareness level to high for the rest of the day. It adds a certain serendipity to my day and everything flows. Other activities that inspire me are getting out and about~anywhere new, or out in nature. This will sound odd after the “meditation” answer above, but watching Gossip Girl all summer with my teenaged daughter was inspiring beyond measure. The clothing and styling was probably the BEST part of it. We had travelled to NYC last spring and she and I both received lots of compliments on our fingerless gloves while we were there. When we came home, she made me sit down and watch Gossip Girl because it was filmed there. Spending quality time with my daughter and her friends really fills me up as well…I love seeing them have photo shoots together and watching them encourage and compliment one another.
4. What’s one thing you want to share with others about your art and/or process?
I love the connection between people that art creates… for me it is what helps to inspire me over and over again. It’s not just the creating of the goods that I love so much, it’s seeing a woman try something on and smile at herself in the mirror. It’s uplifting to me to hear clients come back and tell me how many compliments they receive when they wear my cashmere pieces. It’s what inspires me to get back to the studio and make more goods. It’s a big circle.
5. What advice would you give to your young artist self?
I’d tell her to always follow her heart, and that her path will “light up” along the way. I said those words in an interview in 2008 and my grandparents read the article. In 2011, my dear grandpa died. He and my grandma had been my greatest source of inspiration on how to live a good life. Shortly after he died, I started finding little stars on my path, ALWAYS while I was doing something in his honor, or something from the heart for another… I cannot tell you how many stars I found in the last 4 years. So I began making bracelets (see photo) in his honor and as a way to tell the story of connection with him after his passing. I didn’t realize until almost a year later that my grandpa was reminding me of my own words in 2008 in that interview… the question was, “when do you feel your best?” I said, “I feel my best when I follow my heart… when I do, the path in front of me lights up.” I still find stars almost every day at a poignant moment. And, as I’m sitting in my studio writing this, I hear a commercial playing that keeps saying the word “stars” over and over again. It’s little things like this that make life seem magical and perfectly in time… and that may sound crazy to some, but it makes me feel full of joy.
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