Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Meet New STE Members Ruth and Sarah of BitsyKids

Join us in welcoming Ruth and Sarah of BitsyKids- a Mother-Daughter duo offering the cutest handcrafted children's clothing and accessories! Please read on in the interview below to learn more about these talented new members of STE...

Tell us a bit about yourself name, location, affiliations, personal stuff.

BitsyKids is actually a mom-and-daughter operation. Ruth (the mom) is the artistic talent – making hats and quilts, coming up with more great stuff to sell. Sarah (the kid) is the one who runs the shop – managing the website and etsy shop, filling orders, that sort of thing. We've both lived in Squirrel Hill for 30 years (Ruth for a little longer!), except for a brief jaunt to San Francisco for a few years – we just moved back to town last year, and we're thrilled to be here – we love Pittsburgh!

Apart from creating things, what do you do?

Ruth is busy working part-time and volunteering for various arts organizations around town, but any free time she has is spent creating things. In addition to making the baby hats and quilts that we sell, she also knits, crochets and makes quilts for grown-ups, plus she's an excellent cook.

Sarah doesn't create anything that we sell in the shop, but she's currently teaching herself bookbinding and learning to do letterpress printing. She'll be starting her own letterpress business soon, printing cards and other stationery with designs by a few of her fabulously talented friends.

We both love to read too, and we live two blocks from Schenley Park, so we love to go walking when the weather is nice!

What first made you want to become an artist?

Neither of us really set out with the intention of being an artist. We both love the arts, and we've been involved in various art forms our whole lives. Sarah took art classes at the museum starting when she was 4, became involved in theater when she was 16, studied stage management at Carnegie Mellon, and went on to be a professional stage manager for several years.

Ruth learned needlecrafts from her grandmothers when she was a little girl, and as a teenager, her mom taught her to sew her own clothes. Finally, as an adult, she discovered quilting and put those sewing skills to a new use. She loves using fiber, pattern and color to create beautiful things.

Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.

Ruth is the creative mind behind BitsyKids, and her process mostly revolves around using brightly colored yarn in fun ways. When she's at a yarn shop, she'll browse the hat patterns for ideas, but for the most part, she just makes up her hats as she goes along. She'll change colors or add polka dots as the mood strikes her, and then when she gets close to the top, she decides what sort of pom pom will finish it off perfectly. No two hats are alike!

What handmade possession do you most cherish?

S: I have so many great Mom-made things, but I think my most cherished would have to be the baby quilt she made me. It's a checkerboard of red squares, with lots of other bright colors mixed in, and little red ribbons in the corners. It sits on the bed in my office (aka our guest room), so I see it every day.

R: I have a collection of crocheted doilies made by my grandmother. They’re huge, ruffled and take forever to starch and iron, but are wonderfully fanciful and remind me of her.

Name your top five places to be in the Pittsburgh area, books/authors, movies/TV shows, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.

S: the art and hisorty museums (especially the Hall of Architecture and Dinosaur Hall), Schenley Park, Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor
R: Phipps Conservatory, walking in Squirrel Hill, the Ballet

S: Madeleine L'Engle, Orson Scott Card, Robin McKinley
R: Ray Bradbury, Christopher Moore

S: The Princess Bride, Sneakers, Leverage
R: White Christmas

S: Simon & Garfunkel, Storyhill, U2
R: Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, 40’s big band sounds

What advice would you give to artists who are new to the Pittsburgh craft scene?

We haven't been in the Pittsburgh craft scene very long ourselves, but getting involved in the community would definitely be the best advice we could give. Joining Steel Town Etsy, going to Pittsburgh Craft Collective events, and checking out the local craft shows, have all helped us get to know other Pittsburgh crafters and get ideas and help in running our shop. Go out and meet people! That's our advice.

How do you promote your work?

We mostly promote through word-of-mouth. We've told all of our friends about our shop, and asked them to tell theirs, and to think of us when they need to buy baby gifts, and that seems to have worked. A lot of our sales come from people who heard about us from friends. Other than that, we've participated in a few Steel Town Etsy promos, and we're looking forward to doing even more!