Rules? What rules? For sustainable sewist and crafter Karoline Dahrling Hughes, the joy is in the making. Creating is above all a happy pursuit filled with embraceable imperfections that we learn from and move on. Sourcing her materials from thrift shops, Karoline lets already-loved fabrics speak to her, inspiring new garments with unique style. She shares her enthusiasm for making in her podcast for creatives, The Popcorn Brain.
How did you find yourself on an artist’s path? Always there? Lightbulb moment? Dragged kicking and screaming? Evolving?
I began sewing at 13 when my grandmother gifted me her old sewing machine. Then I started sewing in every material I could get my hands on – old tablecloths, curtains and my mum’s small fabric stash. But I remember being encouraged to draw and make for as long as I can remember. And my mother would often sew clothes on the weekends, do patchwork in the evenings or knit, while I tried to do something creative next to her.
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Did you have a “gateway craft” as a kid? Which creative projects led you to the work you do today?
I enjoyed drawing and painting, and my grandparents were kind to bring me on creative camps, where I could explore the artistic world. That opened up the idea that I perhaps too could have a creative future.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
I am a nonperfectionist, and I am not afraid to sew a wonky stitch or just try something. Perhaps it works, perhaps it does not. I want to inspire people to make, without all the hesitations and restrictions and worry about being good enough. Creating should set you free and not tie you up in rules.
Is there an overarching theme that connects all of your work?
Colors, bold prints, joy and fun. My art work does not take itself that seriously.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your books, especially your new title, Style Hacking: Create a Creative Wardrobe?
That sewing is possible for everybody! And that it can give so much happiness and pride. I really hope people dare to try the techniques, even though they are completely beginners, so they can experience the fun of making clothes themselves.
How did you become interested in repurposing and recycling materials into creative projects?
It started as a necessity for me because we did not have a lot of money for fabric when I was growing up. So I went through the thrift shops for fabric, and ended up thinking that those materials were awesome and perfect to work with. And for beginners they are also a cheap way to start.
Do you use any unusual materials in your work? What would surprise us?
I have begun doing a lot of textile paint and fabric dyeing. Both with natural colors foraged from nature and with chemical processes. That is so much fun, and I feel like a witch when I put the old white sheets in the pots and take them up in new colors.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I am both. I batch work which requires planning, but I also love to suddenly start a new project because I feel inspired to.
Do you focus on one piece exclusively from start to finish or work actively on more than one project at a time?
My husband always laughs at me, because he says I am working on 10 books at a time. And it’s true.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
I am lucky to have a big work studio that can hold all my creative mess, but we will rearrange our house soon, so I have to move into something smaller. But I will still have a small room, and a door I can close to my mess and creativity. I feel so lucky that I have that.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
I love a good pair of scissors, my serger and just my abundance of different fabrics. The fabric often inspires me in what to make.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I used to love fashion sketching, and I still love journals. I have so many. Each new journal or notebook holds a dream of a new project. I also designed my own range of notebooks and project planners that you can get here on amazon.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I love this question. The best thing is to have family or friends around and make stuff with them. If I am alone, I love podcasts like Office Ladies or A Beautiful Mess Podcast. I have also made my own podcast for creatives that I hope somebody else might be listening to while making. It is the Popcorn Brain Creative Podcast, and you can listen to it on many of the podcast platforms and also here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-popcorn-brain-creative-podcast/id1587884782
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
Tori Amos – I have always loved her music and would love to make an outfit for her. She has always been a role model, daring me to be different and artistic, and her music has been the soundtrack to many sewing and drawing sessions.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think that we are all born with different amounts of creativity seeds. Some are lucky to have them nurtured so they can turn into a crazy jungle of amazing ideas, while others feel like they cannot be creative. But I think the right inspiration can unlock creativity in everyone.
What (or who) has been your biggest inspiration in keeping your creative energy going?
My mum and my grandparents have always been great fans cheering me on. I idolized actors and musicians, and was inspired by films, music and books. They made me dream of a creative world.
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
It is meant to be a portal to all my channels and ideas. By visiting www.skandimama.com you will hopefully find lots of inspiration and relatable content. I aim to be real in my posts, and my YouTube videos are also very unpolished. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuVWEL3GWHNfEOqL3pS9YxA When I think of all the blogs long gone that used to inspire me to make great things, I wish my posts can do the same.
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I can always be contacted through my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Skandimama.Karoline or email at [email protected] I teach workshops in Denmark, and I am planning to get into online workshops as well.
Interview posted November 2021
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