Renaissance Austin is a crafter I met through the California Crafters Club of Etsy group. I'm so excited that this super-busy crafter had a moment to talk with us about her ultrahip line Raghouse International!
After the jump, more amazing pieces from Raghouse International that you won't find at any renaissance faire!
OC Weekly: Tell us about you – what's your day to day life like?
Renaissance Austin: I am Renaissance Austin from Los Angeles, where I was born and reared! I've always been creative from a child, whether it was singing or pulling curtains off my window to make skirts. I loved writing then and still do now; I write poetry, songs, read a lot, and create every minute of the day. I do hold various jobs, so my day to day is quite busy. For a long time I've been a one woman show, but now my brother is becoming a huge team player to take off some of the load.
I usually wake up around 8am, do meditations and reflections, organize my day, make breakfast, then I get dressed. I set goals to list one to three items a day in my Etsy shop. I have a whole list of operations that I go by to promote and market my listings, which include email blasts, tweeting, Facebook, blogging, Craftgawker, Etsy forum promotion, Indiepublic, Stylehive, Kaboodle, Lookbooks.com, and Flickr. I am also a part of California Crafters Club of Etsy! It's a wonderfully supportive and active group.
I am also California guard carded, and work part time doing security for entertainment and sporting events. When I'm not doing that, I am singing professionally with my concert ensemble. We do celebrity weddings, corporate events, and private parties. That's always fun because I love singing the most. It's truly my first love… If I am out of the house, I in downtown Los Angeles looking for great findings, buying yarn and material. With all the computer work I do, I don't usually get to bed until 2am or later. But I am an owl and an early bird, so it's a win win situation!
OCW: Tell us what Raghouse International is all about.
RA: Raghouse International is all about confidence and boldness. I create for the beautiful woman and the confident man no matter what size you are. If you know and believe that you are beautiful then my company is a perfect fit for you. If you are not afraid to be different, then we are for you. I believe in creating style that has longevity, that makes you shine and glow, that emulates love and beauty. Raghouse International is also about evolution, growth, and the green lifestyle. Being green is something that I learned from Etsy and I am very thankful for that, so I strive to be excellent this these areas. We are the trend forecasters.
OCW: You have totally gorgeous knit and crochet items in your shop – tell us a little about those dresses! Do you knit those by hand or use a knitting machine?
RA: I knit and crochet all of my pieces by hand still. I did purchase a knitting machine before Christmas last year, and I really haven't used it much. I can see that it is quite an adjustment and transition to go from hand knitting to machine knitting, and I have not accomplished that yet. The thing is, if you make something on a machine, you can't really go anywhere because the machine is not portable. If I am knitting by hand, I can continuously do it anywhere, at home, or at the beach. Yes, doing a row of stitches on a machine is faster overall, but really it all balances out…So I am not really sure if I am going to use the machine. Besides, hand knitting is much more relaxing…
The original design of my body knit dress was actually an accident. I was trying to make something else and was playing around with the knitting, and discovered different ways to make the dress. I had just learned knitting and was knitting swatches, then the vision came to me. Those are the best designs, usually. I am still developing the line, expanding styles and colors…They are sexy, which I don't intend on purpose, but somehow my designs come out that way!
OCW: Be honest – are your big knit head bows Hello Kitty inspired?
RA: My hair bows are both Hello Kitty inspired and google images inspired as well. I don't really like to go to malls or look at other designers or photos of creative works, because I don't like to be influenced that much – it helps to keep what I do very authentic. But every now and then, I will do a google image search to see what's out there. From there, I get refreshed with new ideas that I can make my own! I also have over 50 vintage magazines from the 60's, 70's, and 80's, that I love! The 70's are my favorite decade, from fashion to music to culture… The crochet fashions from the 60's and 70's are a huge inspiration and I believe it shows in my work in a very modern way..
Last year I attended the Hello Kitty Anniversary with my aunt, grandmother, cousin, and brother. I saw all the girls trying on the big red bows and they were so cute! I really wished I could have gone home with one. I think I would be wearing it every day! So, yes, the red bow was very much so inspired by Hello Kitty. I am truly in awe of hair accessories during this time and love the fact that grown women can really be in touch with the little within by wearing a bow in their hair, something that is usually associated with being young, except it's more sexy. And let's be honest, guys love it! haha…
OCW: What's your favorite thing to knit or crochet? Is there anything about the process that's a pain in the butt?
RA: I really do love making the body knit dress because I am still having a lot of fun getting more and more creative with them. I love crocheting hats as well. I used to dread making the bills and sewing the burlap onto them, but once I got into the groove of making the hats, it's was great. My crochet hat is one of my most original products that's been with me since the beginning of my company and it's taken me 9 years to finally perfect them.
OCW: Tell us about your Haiti fundraising efforts – how can folks help the disaster effort by shopping with Raghouse International?
RA: My fundraising efforts are gong very well now – we are giving 10% of sales to the Wyclef Jean Foundation and Doctors Without Borders. So far we've raised $9.24 (more by the time this comes out) and I know every little bit counts. I am also donating scarves, tams, and t-shirts. We are praying that all items make it through customs okay. I keep my buyers updated daily on our Haiti relief efforts through my shop announcement. I am also involved in a few upcoming concerts at the House of Blues to raise money for the relief efforts. So with fashion and music, it's all working out great. That is what the creative artist is here for and I am so glad to have a portal like my online shop and music to be able to give through.
OCW: Anything else you wanna share with us?
RA: Yes! I am excited to say that 2010 is Raghouse International's tenth year in business, so this is a very special year. It's been an up and down, but awesome experience. We are outlining plans for a fashion show where we will be inviting local retail establishments as well as artisans, bloggers, and publicists to attend. It's really an exciting time for us this year and we are looking to do great things to further expose the company, taking it to greater heights!