By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
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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.)
Calvert’s especially known for her robot designs, a character that has been showing up in her doodles for years: “I was robot-y before robot-y was cool!”
Among Calvert’s best-sellers are melamine plates with her colorful original designs, ranging from a robot to a very assertive carton of milk. “One of the hard parts about being a small, independent designer is that you don’t necessarily have the resources to get better pricing,” she explains. “My melamine plates are really cute, but I hate they’re priced so high. And they have to be because I can’t order a thousand of each design from China. I’m hoping I can keep doing them, but it’s kind of an uphill battle with that sort of stuff.”
A graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Calvert has had experience doing art for websites and even for Osh Kosh B’Gosh—in, yes, Osh Kosh, Wisconsin, which she insists wasn’t really all that bad.
Calvert makes an assortment of items, including handmade aprons, archival prints, and graphic and slogan T-shirts, most of which are just inside jokes with her husband. “One of the shirts I do has a trolley on the front and ‘Ding, ding!’ on the back of it. The joke behind it is what I call it when the thong underwear hangs over the waistband of the pants and you just wanna go up and go ‘ding, ding!’ and pull on it! It signals your stop.”
Calvert will actually not be in attendance with the rest of the Mafia at Second Saturday—she’ll instead be attending the opening reception of her art show, “Coming Clean: Secrets and Stories From Catholic School” at the Kids Are Alright boutique in Belmont Shore; it runs through the end of the month.
She was inspired to paint her series of woodland creatures in compromising situations by from her days as a student at St. Bonaventure School in Huntington Beach. A bird flying upside-down as others look on was about the time she got in trouble for flipping the bird at the eighth-grade retreat. A bunny in a tartan school jumper whispering something to an adult bunny sitting on a tree stump? About how she used to make up horrible things she’d done to tell the priest at confession just to make things interesting. A smiling badger holding a tree branch atop its forehead tells the story of how she wanted to be a unicorn when she was 6.
THE FUNNY ONE
Liz Abbott sits in the living room of her Belmont Shore apartment in a black skirt and a TSOL shirt she has modified into a tank top with safety pins. She calls the room her personal sweatshop, and it does kind of look like one: Along the walls, there are two sewing tables she’s carted back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, both draped in scraps of bold fabric. An old metal ’50s x cabinet with countless drawers and a large table is just around the corner, along with more cloth and supplies. Among the chaos are a few midcentury-modern pieces and kitschy gems: a pink plastic Hello Kitty camera, a Twiggy storage box, a baby-blue Barbie jumbo jet covered in pink daisies. She’s nursing a cold as she frantically prepares for Saturday.