This week, we’re crushing on Calico, a sweet line of bags & pouches made from vintage fabrics. Mariko, the brains behind Calico, kindly gave us a little glimpse into her world, and discusses the inspiring qualities of friendship bracelets, feed sacks, and Bon Jovi.
When did you first start crafting?
I always loved art classes in school, and my mom used to do flower arranging, so I often went to the craft store with her. I remember that I liked making stuffed animals from “handmade stuffed animal kits” and I sure made a decent looking Mickey and Minnie Mouse. I was probably about 10 years old at the time.
I also think back to those times (early 90’s!!!) and remember making braided bracelets and learning to knit. I never liked sewing back then, but somehow I ended up going to fashion design college in Tokyo and making a line of hand sewn accessories!
What is the story behind your business name?
Simply, I have a “calico” cat which I really love and “calico” is also a type of unbleached woven cotton fabric, originating in India. It was often printed with many different colors, and that is why the name became used for the cats, as well.
What is your creative process?
My inspiration comes from the antique feed sacks that I find. My initial idea was to make tote bags with feed sacks, so that each one would be totally unique and special, but I soon found that many of the feed sacks were damaged or stained, so only some parts would be useable. This forced me to look at the bags as source material for many different products, and sometimes a sack that is mostly destroyed will have one little corner that is perfect for a coin purse. Making these products takes time to source the material, and then find the best way to use the material in a way that has good design qualities, and still has the character of the original print. I also use vintage inspired new fabrics for some products, and with those it is a matter of choosing patterns and color combinations that fit with my vintage aesthetic.
Do you have a best seller?
I think the best seller is the small Japanese coin purses. They are small, affordable, and available in both vintage and new fabrics.
Are you working on anything new that youre particularly excited about?
Yes, I am working on key fobs and silkscreened totes right now. The key fobs are fun because I have to stamp the leather by hand and that means I have to do a lot of hammering into a piece of wood to get the stamp looking right! The silk screened totes are cool because it is an opportunity for me to let the influence of so many wonderful feedsack designs come out in an original design, and it will be a fun and simple product.
Who are your favorite artists and designers?
Samantha Hahn – Illustrator
Whats a typical working day for you?
After having breakfast with my husband, he goes to his recording studio by vespa, and I start cleaning our house, taking care of our cats and my fire escape garden and all other chores. I usually have an early lunch around 11:30 (my metabolism is fast!), and then start working from around noon till 8-ish.
Can you tell us something silly about yourself?
I like listening to classic rock radio while sewing, and sometime sing along to “You Give Love a Bad Name” and that gives me more energy to keep sewing!
(Photos by Yuki Wakamaki)
Thanks, Mariko! See more beautiful Calico goodies here