1. What inspired you to make your first pair of moccs and how did it turn into a full-time gig?
After years in advertising, I bought a vintage camper on a whim. I gutted it and planned to rebuild it as a general store. Around the same time, I stumbled upon 18 bolts of unused denim from the 1970's. I wanted to return to my fine art roots and get back to using my hands. I started to play around with the denim by distressing it using shibori binding techniques. This led to a line of bags and pillows which I still produce. I always kept every leftover piece of fabric as I strive to keep everything sustainable. One day I was playing in the studio and was thinking about what to do with the extra scraps and it dawned on me...baby moccs! I have 2 boys and purchased moccs for them when they were babies. They were cute, but very basic and I would have felt more inclined to buy them if I knew they were made with a sustainable practice. I also had leftover leather scraps from industries in DTLA which I used for bag handles. At that point, I realized I had all the materials already in the studio to make the moccs. I tried a few pairs and they took off. Each pair has a history. I think people like to hear the stories of origin, natural dye and fabrication. I know I do when I'm purchasing things for myself!
2. What did you do before you started Camper General?
I worked in advertising producing photo shoots and giving lectures on culture. Before that, I taught art and film at universities in New York and New Jersey while exhibiting my art. My own art practice started with photography years ago. Dying fabric and distressing denim have a similar feel to my days in the darkroom.
3. Tell us more about your studio space and how it came to be.
When we bought our house, we wanted to have studio spaces in the back. My husband, Adrian, and I had dreamed for years about shipping container design and it fell into our sustainable design plan. We sourced our containers from the Long Beach port. They are used containers that are under 10 years old. We also needed to build a fence line for our house and the containers created the perfect wall giving us a functional space at an affordable price. We have 3 containers. One is the boy's "'70's rec room" with a drum set, guitars, keyboards and a game system. Adrian's is a bike workshop. There will be several phases to the containers.
Next up in my studio, we'll be cutting a big hole in the side and welding in a window overlooking our garden. We found an oversized metal window at a salvage yard. We'll also be popping up an atrium on the ceiling. We'll find sliding doors or something comparable on craigslist and have a frame built for them. The third stage might include a rooftop garden and an outdoor staircase for storage, but that's way off in the future;-) For now, I LOVE the clean, white space with magnetic metal walls. It's like a blank canvas that I'm always changing. Essentially, it's my play-space.
4. How has your passion for sustainability influenced Camper General? How do you choose the materials you use? How do you dye the fabric? Tell us all the geeky details!
I wouldn't say I'm a diehard sustainability geek, but I do strive to do so whenever possible. It just makes sense to me. There's so much that exists that can be used without creating more, so I try to find materials that fit this model. I like a good story. When I'm looking for fabrics and inspiration, it's the story of the weavers or the factory or the place that gets me. I have made baby moccs with fabric remnant from Mali, Ikat scraps from India, blanket ends from the Pendleton Mill, vintage military canvas and fabrics that just feel great or have striking color tones. I only need a small piece for each shoe, so I'll take anything that strikes my fancy, holes and all!
When it comes to dying, I experiment and play. I love cochineal (the bug that adheres to the prickly pear cactus), indigo and foraged plant-life from hikes. Most recently, I was asked to create textiles for an event and it was raining non-stop that week in LA. This inspired me to use the rain water dye with rust, black tea and creosote from the desert. The results are cloudy, grey, moody and oh so beautiful!