When she travels to Seattle this weekend for the Urban Craft Uprising, Moth and Squirrel’s Libby Chenault won’t be alone. After making it through the competitive vetting process to take part in Seattle’s largest indie craft show, the Bellingham artist discovered she’ll be joined by a variety of other creative types from Whatcom County, including Rachel Price, Kate Henefin, Jenny Rose, Teresa Remple, Erin Boyd, and others. We caught up with Chenault last week to find out more.
Cascadia Weekly: For those who aren’t familiar with your work, can you describe what your primary goal is with Moth and Squirrel?
Libby Chenault: To make classic yet unique hats, gifts and accessories from reclaimed and recycled materials.
CW: Do you ever spot your pieces on Bellinghamsters?
LC: I love seeing my hats on people. I feel total pride and I am always delighted with how the owner has made the hat their own expression of style.
CW: When did you first start making/sewing/creating things? When did you start selling them?
LC: I have been cutting up old clothes and trying to make new stuff from it since I could hold scissors. But it wasn’t until home ec in high school that I figured out the sewing part. Around 2000 I started selling my first “scrappy rascal” dolls, pins and journals using hemp and silk scraps from my friends’ clothing business. Moth and Squirrel has been an official business since Christmas 2006, and I started selling at the Bellingham Farmers Market the next spring.
CW: If you had a motto for the way you create, what would it be?
LC: “Making recycled remarkable.” I want to always use interesting sewing techniques, color combinations and my own personal quirks to make items that are well crafted, tell an interesting story and make people happy—while being good for the environment.
CW: Your husband, Steeb Russell, is also an artist. How do you balance your art, work and parenting?
LC: Steeb and I work odd hours at our day jobs and don’t see each other much so we can each spend time with our son Franklin while he’s young. Now that Franklin is almost three, he enjoys spending a little time with me in the studio.
CW: What do you enjoy about the creative process? What irks you?
LC: I love figuring out a new design or losing track of time drawing with stitches and color. The irksome part is when my technical skills haven’t caught up with my imagination and that I have to condense my creative process into a few hours a week.
CW: What’s cool about getting accepted into the Urban Craft Uprising?
LC: It is fairly competitive show, attracting independent artists from the whole country, as well as the northwest. I push my creativity each year for the application process, so getting in is some sort of affirmation that I am growing and keeping my work fresh. Once I am there I just love seeing all the amazing crafters who come together to put up such a beautiful and interesting show.
CW: What does it say about Bellingham that so many of its artisans and crafters were accepted into this big-city shindig?
LC: We live in a super-talented community! And we are honestly supportive of each other. There’s a spirit of mentorship in the indie craft community. Whether trading childcare, assisting with application photos or transporting booth displays that don’t fit in tiny cars, we help each other succeed.
CW: What else do you like about being an artist in Bellingham?
LC: You can live a rich life without a lot of money. Working day jobs in food service and being friends with farmers, we may not have much in the bank, but we have never been starving artists.
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