My first memory of Nat's amazing sets are of a tiny girl wearing the MOST gorgeous vintage feel multi piece sets with so many tiny details. Lace and trims, ruffles and frills, sweet appliqué details, incredible Euro sets and THE most astounding collection of hats. And those sets just kept on coming, several a week – she was just so exciting. I used to look at her auctions back then and think with each set I saw that she just couldn't get any better! However, I am happy to say I was wrong. Since Nat's early ebaying days she has with continued to provide us all with the most breathtakingly beautiful and amazing sets. I think one of the most exciting things about Nat is the total unexpectedness of her designs – stunning Euro designs one week, a totally amazing costume the next. The depth of Nat's talent is mind blowing.
1. You have a background in design, both study and work. Can you tell us a bit about this?
Well, first of all...geez what an intro hon...how can I possibly live up to the hype now?? LOL! Thank you:)
okay, back to the question...Yep, I got my degree in Fashion Merchandising and did a duel minor in costume design and clothing history. I've been a buyer for a department store, managed several different stores, planned fashion shows, did costumes for various theatre productions...lots of fun things:)
2. Nat, what prompted your to start selling your designs on ebay?
I was helping a friend with costumes for a play--and her aunt mentioned to me one day that I should start selling designs on ebay...and I was totally bewildered! I had NO idea such a thing existed...let alone that there was a way to be able to design and sew from my home and still reach so many people...I still think its too good to be true:)
3. Can you paint a picture of the eBay scene when you first started – who were the main players, the big groups, what sorts of sets were popular?
Let's see...I listed my first outfit in August of 2005--Groups I remember being really "big" at the time were ODOD...the YAYA's...the Pixies (I think?). Big sellers were...Srann...JZCustoms...MonalisaBoutique...SweetFeetBoutique--I'm sure there were lots more big sellers, I just didn't ever have time to pay attention, lol! Sets that were popular were stripwork skirts/peasant tops (still are:)), appliqued overalls were still really big, cloche-style hats were pretty big at the time, euro-inspired styles were JUST starting to show up.
4. EBay is forever changing – what would you pinpoint as the major changes since you've been on eBay?
Ebay IS forever changing...its amazing how much its changed in just the short 2 1/2 years I've been listing! One thing that really stands out to me is how much more professional the photography is in auctions--its incredible how talented some designers are at not only clothing but taking photos! I think more designers are a lot more "diversified" too....it used to be enough to know how to design and sew really well, now you have to know html, have a really cool blog and keep it updated (I'm not good at this one, lol) have an internet or ebay fabric store, design your own line of patterns, list not only on ebay but also have your own website and list on etsy too....it makes my head spin how much some designers have going (YOU come to mind here my dear Cree, LOL!)
sigh....I feel like the "super-slacker" of the design world that I just make clothes and list....no blog, no etsy store...I just don't have TIME!! How are all you ladies doing all this, that is what I would like to know?What is my problem? hmmm.....oh yeah....I had a baby and now he's ten months old and a little "tasmanian devil" and I spend my whole day trying to keep him from pulling the house apart....;) (okay, sorry...that whole last part is off the subject...feel free to edit and delete:))
5. You have recently had the most gorgeous baby boy and have listed some boys' sets – do you think smallsomething will continue down this path?
Oh look, I could have wrote about the baby here! Yes...as mentioned above, I had a baby boy...he is such a squish! I LOVE sewing for boys...its thinking down a whole different path for me--something "manly" and "rugged" rather than the "frills and froth" of the girls things I design....
I definitely plan on designing and listing more boys stuff--I have so many ideas....I just need more of that "time" thing we talked about earlier...:)
6. Do you have any other plans for smallsomething going forward – do you plan to forge new frontiers providing boutique custom for older girls? Perhaps you are planning to take smallsomething a new direction?
hmmm...good question hon! I don't think I'll be headed in an older girls direction...just speaking from my experience with my "older" girl (she's 10), she is so much more into brand names now that I don't know if she would be interested in boutique clothing, lol! I would really love to wholesale my designs to boutiques someday...that would be an ultimate goal I guess.
7. How do you think your designs have changed since you began on eBay?
Well, when I first started I had NO idea what I was doing as far as listing or groups ...or what really sold...so I just did my own thing! The longer you list and the more you learn about what sells and what doesn't...and what tends to go for higher prices...I think that changes what you design, whether you want it to or not. Hopefully I still remain true to what I LOVE to design, not just what I think will sell...you know what I mean? One thing that has maybe changed from the beginning is that I feel freer to put some very "out there" listings up, things that are totally off the wall usually become my biggest sellers!
8. You sometimes use Farbenmix patterns – what do you like about them and do you have a fav?
LOVE Farbenmix patterns...can we send a shout out to those ladies right here and now??? What a fabulous service they have done designers by bringing a little euro-inspiration to us all! They are wonderful because the patterns are so easy to use...and such a nice "base" for hundreds of fun things you can do to them...the possibilities are endless!
I think my faves are the jumper style dresses...both the "anna' and the "marieke"
9. Two outfits of yours that really stand out in my mind are Marie Antoinette and the black lace and toile set from way back when – can you share some photos and perhaps some background or interesting titbits about these two sets with us?
Oh fun...I think those are two of my favorites too:) Let's see...the Marie Antionette one was totally inspired by the movie that came out with Kirsten Dunst...how could anyone watch that and NOT be inspired by the colors and fabrics and styes of that time period? LOL! Besides I love trying to recreate anything that is historical costume, so it was total fun to make that...Let me add however, that so much work went into that dress/wig/choker...etc...that I promised myself I would NOT remake that one EVER. Ahem....and then a really funny thing happened...
I had entered a picture of Reagan in the Marie Antionette dress in the Simplicity Pattern Co. Halloween costume contest, just on a whim....and because I thought it would be fun to win the $1000 prize, lol! Well, several months later...I get a phone call that I am a finalist in the contest and I needed to send in the costume for final judging. Weelllll....I had NOT read the find print in the contest, that you had to send in the actual costume...aghhhh...I didn't HAVE the costume, I'd sold it on ebay for heavens sake! I truly debated whether or not it was worth it to re-create it....sigh...but I DID, and it won...so I guess it was worth it....LOL! Please take it from me...READ the fine print of any little contests you may enter, ladies....it could come back to bite you:) That costume also won the "Modie" for Journal Modiste for best costume...so THANK YOU to all the lovely ladies that voted for it, I so appreciate it!
The little Black Lace set was inspired by a picture of a Victorian gown with a velvet jacket. I had this sumptuous vintage black lace...vintage velvet and some amazing silk toile, so that outfit was the result. I think I liked the hat better than anything, lol!
10. Do you have a favourite type fabric to work and do you have any current or past absolute top fav fabrics?
oh gracious....I'm a fabric NUT! I'm beyond help...I need a 12-step program or something...;) I have so many fabrics...and they are all so gorgeous...sigh....but I think my favorites are probably velvets/corduroys and silks--I must have a thing about texture or something, lol! I love vintage textiles too though...and really sheer gorgeous batistes and cottons...
This is a bad question for me, I might offend some of my fabric if I leave any out, so maybe I better just say I love them all:)
I made an outfit out of some of my most favorite fabric ever...it was "Mary Rose" fabric from Robert Kaufman--that was LOVELY fabric...
11. Can you walk us through the 'birth' of a smallsomething set? Do you start with an idea or are you more driven by the fabric or is it a combination?
I am really weird:) I design things AS I sew them--I know there are designers that have the design sketched out to the last detail before they cut anything, and measure everyhing carefully, etc...but I am NOT one of them, lol! I tend to make yards of ruffles just to decide which colors and where I might want them, and then end up not using most of them....or have one thing planned until I look at my fabrics and pull in a whole different color or idea...
Sometimes it is a fabric that determines the design...but I think most of the time I already have an idea of what I want to make and find the right fabrics to make it:)
12. Nat I am totally in love with your hats – tell us about your 'hat story' and would you mind sharing some photos of your fav hats?
Well....I love hats too! I made hats for some theatre productions, and they are just fun. I truly wished we still lived in the age where you didn't leave the house without a hat....think of all those gorgeous milinery creations we are depriving ourselves of? Maybe I need to move to Britain so I could at least wear hats to weddings...and Ascot....lol! Do they wear alot of hats in Australia hon? (why, yes they do - we have a BIG racing season here where hats or at least some sort of headgear is a must ed)
Anyway, sometimes I feel that an outfit is not complete without a hat...and so I make one---lately mini top-hats are my obsession, they are so cute:)
13. You started off making 'age range' sets – mainly 2-4 and then 3-5 but recently you have moved to customs – what prompted this move and how are you finding repeating your designs.
well...I have a problem repeating myself (maybe because I design in such a haphazard manner;)) which is why I didn't used to offer customs that much. Also, the whole first year I was listing on ebay, my family and I were crammed in a tiny town-house in Texas while my husband did a residency down there...and I didn't really have a dedicated sewing space...so it was easier to list an outfit that was already completed. Since we've moved to Oregon and I have a lovely new sewing studio to work in, I found I have the space and the organization to be able to offer customs more often.
14. Do you have a least favourite thing to make? For example I hate making straps for shirred back tops – totally unreasonable but I just hate it! Do you have anything like that?
You hate making straps? you are silly.....;) No, truly there are some things that just BUG you isn't there? I think I don't really like shirring the whole backs of halter tops...(between the two of us, if we had our way, the top would have no shirred back and NO straps...LOL!) Shirring is just monotonous and I hate hand-winding the bobbin with the elastic thread...its just one of those things that I wish took less time I guess!
15. You have two gorgeous girls and a baby boy. Do your girls have any requests when it comes to you sewing for them?
You know, I truly am so grateful to my sweet mom and grandma for teaching me to sew...I LOVE being able to make my girls church dresses and its always a tradition in our family to have a new dress made by mom for Christmas and for Easter...my mother made my sisters and I new dresses...and I love making them for my girls now.
My oldest daughter is learning to sew now, so where before she always had requests for doll clothes and doll blankets, now she is MAKING those things for her little sister...as well as purses and bags....
Maybe more than requests for me to sew for them, they request my fabric scraps more--they can do amazing things with scraps, yarn and buttons, lol!
16. If you had to choose your absolute all time favourite set EVER, which one would it be?
oh man....that is hard! I love things about each of them...my designs are like my sweet little children I send out into the world to bring joy to others...lol! Do I only get to pick one? hmmmm...well, I think I really like the "tea-party" dress I just listed recently...it was such a sweet dress and I loved the pockets:) Another one I've always loved is the vintage looking sailor dress I did a few years back...it reminded me of an old-fashioned bathing "suitie", LOL! I'm really interested to know which design you've done is YOUR favorite Cree??? Do a whole blog entry on your own faves and I promise I'll come and leave a comment....;) (Ha Ha!!! ed)
17. I have many people on eBay (yourself included) who I have always looked up to and admired – who are your eBay idols?
Well, I've always loved you Cree...you are one of my first faves! (Cree and I have been friends since almost the beginning;)) LOVE Susan--Little Moonkey, she never fails to inspire...DandelionAvenue...JZ Customs...Pumpkinlittle (I so wish she still listed), SpendyStyle (Wendy's creativity and craftsmanship are amazing), Monalisaboutique (Servane ALWAYS has something new going on)....sigh...there are probably lots I'm forgetting:)
18. I know we have discussed eBay groups a lot together over the years – what is your opinion on the role of design groups – what role, if any, do you think they play in ebay success?
You know...I think its possible to be successful without a group, but only if you are incredibly unique and really stand out...and start gathering customers that will search you out--otherwise, its so much easier to align yourself with a group. Like Michelle mentioned in your interview with her, most buyers don't have all that much time either--so being able to just search under a group name saves them time and they feel that they can trust the service and workmanship of a designer listing with that group. So honestly, YES, I guess your group affiliation is still an important thing!
Thanks Nat for doing this great interview and for being such a lovely and special friend to me.
Cree you sweetest lady...thank YOU for the interview...great questions hon! You made me stop and think about a few things I haven't for awhile:)