ARTIST INTERVIEW: Cathy Callahan
Cathy Callahan is a designer based in Los Angeles, California. She is influenced by her Southern California upbringing, the work of textile artists of the 60s and 70s as well as Japanese and Scandinavian craft and design. Her collection is produced locally using small independent suppliers, sewers and dyers. Many of the elements in the collection are handmade by Cathy.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now. Did you take any big risks to get where you are?
I majored in art with an emphasis on textiles. Life events lead me off of that path and into the fashion world. I worked many years in retail (both on staff and freelance) as a merchandiser, window dresser, photo stylist and product consultant. I was fortunate enough to work for a lot of great brands and met a lot of amazing and talented people. But I really missed making things. About 10 or so years ago I started a small handmade business while still freelancing. Three years ago the scales started to tip in the direction of my handmade business and I was able to eventually give up all of my freelance. I really didn’t take any one big risk but rather a series of smaller ones that lead me back to the path of making things. I think risks often present themselves to you when you need to make changes.
What are your most important artistic tools?
For inspiration: books, magazines and Instagram. My most essential tool is a really good pair of scissors – I always say that you should buy quality scissors, take care of them and they will last you a lifetime. I have 2 big pin boards in my studio where I tack up work in progress, color + fabric samples, notes to myself, etc. I am very reliant on 3” x 5” index cards – all of my notes, reminders and ideas go on those. But my most important artistic “tools” are the raw materials that I collect. Even if I don’t have particular use for them at the time I never pass up the purchase of a fabric or yarn that catches my eye. I am extremely drawn to natural earthy fibers like linen, jute and hemp. When an idea strikes me it’s good to have the materials at hand and ready to experiment with.
Do you have a daily working routine? What is it like?
My mornings typically start out the same: make a pot of matcha tea, go into my studio, read emails and look at my to do list. Aside from that I don’t really have a routine. It’s really not in my nature to work in a very structured way. What I do on any given day is all dependent on what has to get done. It’s really good for me that my studio is in my home because of the unstructured way that I approach my work.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
I don’t really have a method or practice when it comes to coming up with new ideas. I’ve read about how artists use daily rituals to help with their creative process but that’s something that has never really worked for me. For me personally it’s a process that I can’t force. My best ideas often come to me out of nowhere and/or when I least expect it. As far as renewing my creative energy, a day off is always helpful.
What other artists currently working do you admire?
I have no idea what I would do without Instagram. It has opened me up to seeing the work of others I might not have had another way of knowing about as well as giving me more insight into artists who I was already aware of. In looking at who I follow here’s a partial list in no particular order of who I find inspiring: Livia Cetti, Llane Alexis, Adele Stafford, Niki Livingston, Lauren McIntosh, Michele Lamy, Susan Cianciolio, Adam Pogue, Kiva Motnyk, Olek, Nathalie Lete, Monica Castiglioni, Tyler Hays, Ann Wood, Tamar Morgendorf, Abigail Doan, Sabine Timm, Makoto Kagoshima, Carla Fernandez, Christina Kim, Mister Finch, Maura Ambrose, Momoca Usagi, Anandamayi Arnold.
Are you inspired by the environment around you? How does the home/city/nature you live in affect your work?
Yes very much so. I was born and raised in Southern California and don’t think I could live anywhere else. Living only an hour or 2 in either direction from the beach or desert is very important to me. I am extremely drawn to the landscape and colors of California and find never ending inspiration in them. There is nothing quite like a Southern California sunset – they can be really magical.
Why is it important to you to show and share your work to a larger community?
Rachel and Beatrice have brought together such a supportive community (of both artists who participate as well as everyone who attends) in creating the Echo Park Craft Fair. Being a part of this community has been a very good way to expose my work to a much bigger audience as well as connect with other artists. These connections have of course lead to many friendships but also collaborations. Collaborating with other artists has helped me expand what I am able to do in terms of my products. I will be debuting my latest collaboration at the spring Echo Park Craft Fair: I recently worked with Jess Brown on a very limited edition collection of her famous rag dolls.
What do you hope to share with those who purchase your art and bring it intimately into their lives?
One of my main goals is to create things that my customers will be able to use and enjoy for a very long time. I have complete disregard for the notion of trends that make people think that they have to replace what they wear and decorate their home with every season. The pieces I make are intended to be worn and used over and over. There is beauty in the process of how something ages and we should embrace the fading and fraying that happens to fabrics and fibers over time.