By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Dutton is all legs, red hair, long neck (of course) and cheekbones. She enjoyed a brief stint as a hair model for Rusk, traveling around the country and doing hair shows that had such themes as Electronic Tribal, which showed Ziggy Stardust-type mullet haircuts at varying lengths.
Her second Etsy store is CarnivoreCockatiel (after the couple’s gray-and-white pet cockatiel, Rocket), for which she hunts down vintage goods at estate sales and thrift shops, repairs them, and flips them.
“I definitely buy vintage clothing where the price is very comparable to the price of a new dress. But I also don’t have to worry about someone else wearing that dress,” she says. “Whatever wear and tear the vintage item has is not a mystery—it’s already been around for 20-plus years, whereas a new dress from Forever 21 or H&M may fall apart after the first wash because they have to keep their prices low, and in turn, the construction is really shoddy.”
The waste-less factor comes into play here, too. “The clothing is here and already made. Manufacturing clothing has many processes, many of which are harmful for the environment. It’s like investing toward a working wardrobe instead of buying disposable clothing,” Dutton says. “Personally, I like the feeling of being a naughty American consumer, not buying new things all the time.”
THE ONE WHO DOESN’T DANCE
“I really don’t dance,” Kelsey Cooper explains. “I end up in the corner watching everyone’s bags.”
When asked, she admits that she does dance in the car—but she thinks it doesn’t officially count.
“Actually, I think it does,” Abbott interjects. “Your name is a lie.”
Cooper spends her weekdays as a sales analyst building order forms.
“I’m basically on Excel all day. It’s odd, but I have so much fun with it. We even have Craft-a-Cube, where we decorate our cubicles,” she says with a laugh.
Cooper’s trademark is the tiered ruffle purse, in which she sews layers of ruffled, patterned fabric atop one another, resulting in some sort of adorable-bloomers effect. Her choice of fabrics is key—always matching but never matching. Her new line of vinyl newsprint wallets are especially eye-catching, finished with lime-green stitching.
“I’ve been crafting for a really long time. My mom was my Girl Scout leader.” She pauses for a chorus of awwwws. “And we had these filing cabinets filled with craft supplies. There was always a ton of stuff for me to make things with, so it got me at a young age and carried on.”
Cooper admits that she thinks the DIY movement is partially a trend. “I don’t think you can really argue with the fact that it’s a trend. Look at my bags, and look at how many people are now interested in using reusable grocery bags, rather than paper and plastic. And that becomes a market for me right there. It’s the green thing affecting people in a way.”
It also doesn’t hurt to have a cute bag.
THE QUIET ONE
Lexi Lee has curly, mousy brown hair, and she’s wearing a sensible white V-neck the night of the meeting. A spool of thread and a needle are tattooed on her forearm—in a few weeks, she’ll have “DIY or Die!” done in curly script on the other side. When the Craft Mafia discuss the especially young demographic flooding into Long Beach as of late, Lee says, “I think there are a lot of kids—yeah, uh, young people. I have that habit,” she explains. “I call everyone a kid.”
Dutton asks when they become adults.
Lee smiles and responds, “I guess when I become an adult?”
Her Etsy storefront is just getting started, but will eventually be home to those loose-knit caps all the cool girls are wearing these days; chubby, stuffed, felt stegosauruses and brontosauruses (she’s thinking about a triceratops); prints; homemade candles; and blank journals.
In her spare time, Lee enjoys gardening on her balcony and also plays in Family Tree, a Long Beach-based indie-folk and children’s-music band that has performed in local venues such as Koo’s, Que Sera and the Prospector and just returned from a cross-country tour.
A Cal State Long Beach graduate, Lee laments that one of the most difficult things about crafting is pricing. As Abbott refers to her own efforts as slave labor, Lee explains, “I make a profit because I don’t really take into account what I should get paid for my time, but I pretty much just take into account how much something would be worth to someone else and what the materials cost.”
She feels that if she raises her prices—her stuffed dinos go for $20—people will no longer purchase her goods. “It’s only because I know I’m so cheap,” Lee says. “I’ll love something and I won’t buy it because it’s expensive.”
THE KID AT HEART
The pricing dilemma is a common one for crafters. Steph Calvert’s store is the most successful of the entire Mafia’s. She’s been doing it the longest and was able to quit her day job in March, relying only on her Etsy store, her website, her items in boutiques and a freelance graphic-design job doing those cutesy tees you see in mail-order catalogs such as Delia’s. (Her favorite is one of Grover teaching us, once again, the concept of near and far.)