|Unique, Inspiring, True Wearable Art: Inkspoon|
|Written by Magaly Fuentes - Wednesday, 18 March 2015|
When we, at EFW, speak to brands about how their ideas were born, we are often inspired – we learn, we grow, we go through the steps of their individual stories and see what they saw and feel what they felt. It’s a big part of what the Ethical Fashion industry is about. Every once in a while you meet people who are exceptionally raw, exceptionally artistic and real, and live by all that their hearts inspire them to live by. This is what I have found in Inkspoon.
Lauren and Blake Wylder, founders of Inkspoon
Lauren and Blake Wylder hard at work
Lauren and Blake Wylder, the founders of Inkspoon, met while attending Emily Car University of Art and Design in 2006. Lauren likes to say Inkspoon happened while they were making other plans. They were both majoring in Integrated Media when a friend named Basil Magpie, who was studying at UBC, snuck them into the print studio at UBC after hours. They brought wine and a couple of garbage bags of donated clothing items and away they went putting ink on clothing. That summer they spread out a tarp on the grass outside of the Vancouver Folk Fest and sold their items. Inkspoon, the name, was coined while some friends got together and took LSD. They narrowed their shortlist down to Inkspoon or Ordinary Loaf and decided on Inkspoon. These are the humble beginnings of Inkspoon.
As I set out to learn more, I spoke with Lauren and would love to share some of our conversation:
EFW: I love the idea of your freestyle method and how you have chosen it because it keeps things fun for you. Can you tell us more about the actual process?
Lauren Wylder: We work with several design layers- usually between 7-12 layers per garment- to create each series. The goal of most silk screeners is to make identical copies over and over using mechanical means. We have never done this, and instead every layer is laid down by hand and by eye. This means there is a lot of room for improvisation and variation. In this way we are physically incapable of repeating ourselves exactly- even if we wanted to. The result is that while an overall print series will seem fairly similar- all the same designs and colors were used- each garment has a uniqueness and a magic of it’s own. I like to think the Japanese term Wabi-Sabi applies to each Inkspoon garment. The word describes an aesthetic that finds beauty in imperfection, asymmetry and incompleteness.
EFW: How are your sustainable materials acquired? What types of materials, specifically? What do you look for when you look for them?
LW: We buy our fabric through a few different suppliers who maintain ethical and sustainable standards when sourcing their fabric. The fibers are made from renewable resources such as bamboo, hemp, eucalyptus and are usually blended with organic cotton. At this point almost all fabric production happens in Asia. However, we have been assured by our suppliers that the fabric manufacturers they work with observe fair trade practices- their employees are well paid and work normal hours- and meet Oeko-Tex 100 Standards- a certification program that insures all chemicals and substances used in the creation and dying of the yarns are not harmful. The mills are also working to lower their environmental impact and water use through recent water filtration and recovery innovations.
The water-based inks and citrus solvents we use are also environmentally friendly and biodegradable.
EFW: How did you find your seamstresses? Is there a special process when partnering up with people? As in, like minded when it comes to sustainability or anything else or just looking for someone who does quality work? Tell me a little about your seamstresses.
LW: We began Inkspoon by printing on donated and thrifted clothing items. We then graduated to wholesaling t-shirts and hoodies from American Apparel. In our third year as a company we met our friend Cat Gaudreault (SeaofWolvesDesigns) at Shambhala music festival. She is a designer and seamstress and she offered to design and sew clothes for us. We’ve had a great partnership with her and her team of seamstresses in Nelson ever since. When our production needs exceeded her capacity, she put us in touch with a small cut-and-sew facility in Vancouver with whom we have enjoyed a great relationship with as well. Our 2015 line is sewn both in Nelson and in Vancouver. Our priority is to have our clothes sewn as close to home as possible, thus supporting the economy and industry here in B.C..
EFW: In your art studies, you say you studied everything but silk screening. Were you specifically studying the art of fashion, or what other ‘major’ were you studying towards?
LW: Blake and I both attended Emily Car University of Art and Design (where we met). We were both majoring in Integrated Media and were working in film, video, sound design, animation and performance art. At the time, there was no Textile program offered at the school, or else I am sure I would have taken advantage of it as well. We both intended to continue to work in the video art new media fields when we graduated. I like to say “Inkspoon happened while we were making other plans”. We never took a single silk-screening class between us and I think that may be one of our greatest strengths in this project. We never learned “what to do and not do” and so we have always proceeded with a feeling of freedom and exploration.
EFW: Tell me about your core team.
LW: The main force behind Inkspoon for the last 6 years has been the partnership of my husband Blake and I. Blake is the core design generator, web-site builder, technician, photo-editor who also prints his butt off when things heat up and we head into our busy summer season. I silk-screen the majority of the clothing that passes through our studio while also managing production, communication, bookkeeping and pretty much keeping everything on track. When our now 1 ½ year old little girl was born we decided we needed some help and brought on two excellent and talented friends – Sarah Dykstra and Magda Pay - to help us print, heat-set clothes, design garments and ship orders from here in our studio. Sarah will also begin managing our social media this month. One of our founding members, Basil Magpie, has started his own great clothing company – Glass Magpie Apparel - in Grass Valley, California. Two of the main design contributers are Justin Totemical and Isaac Mills (Mugwort Designs).
EFW: Aside from collaborating with artists, do you have any other collaborations, special projects, or plans in works that you want to share with us?
LW: We are currently in the start-up phases of an organic apple cider business. We are going to be planting close to 3000 apple trees on our property this year. We are pretty excited to become “farmers” in addition to artists. Between this new project, running Inkspoon and looking after our daughter Kymera we are pretty busy! We both hope one day life will calm down and open up a bit, allowing us more time for other artistic endeavors.
EFW: Why do you think sustainability is so important?
LW: The future of our planet is so uncertain at this point in time. If we want our grandchildren to have access to the freedoms and experiences we still enjoy we need to hold ourselves accountable for the choices we make. We need to remember to vote with our dollar for the world we want. As business owners we need to be responsible for the impact our production has on the environment and on the people involved. Sometimes (often) that extra dollar profit has to be foregone in order to be sustainable and be good citizens of this planet.
EFW: Just by reading your About page, I can see that you believe it is really important to love what you do and to do what you love, correct? What inspired this philosophy in you? Past experiences with jobs or something else?
LW: We value quality of life. We think that when people do work they love and enjoy they maintain a greater integrity in their choices about their work and how it affects their environment and community. We would rather freely give our time to something we love than get paid to do something miserable. Who wants to sell their life away hour by hour? We just followed our joy and here we are.
EFW: What have been some of your best sellers?
LW: Certain design series are definitely more popular than others. We have worked under the motto of “one-of-a-kind” since conception, which means that every print series we produce is limited edition and within that series each piece is unique. However sometimes when a design series seems super popular we may be tempted to re-mix the designs slightly, alter the colors and print another release of the series. Series’ that have been popular lately are the “Avalon,” “Tyto,” “Stakaya Ayla,” and “Khepri” series’. As far as garment designs go, our Bustle Jacket, designed by our collaborator Cat Gaudreault, has been a best seller of late.
EFW: What do you see for the future of Inkspoon?
LW: We hope to continue on as we have been for many more years. Our main goal is to increase our web traffic so that we can rely mostly on web sales and not have to truck our clothes around to festivals (unless we WANT to) or sacrifice our already slim profit margin by wholesaling to stores. Every year we get a little closer to stream-lining our business and figuring out what is working and not. We intend to go on innovating our designs and styles and enjoying new collaborations with other artists.
EFW: What do you think the ethical fashion industry needs more than anything else, in order to grow?
LW: We need to produce fabric here in North America. This seems like a business niche just waiting to be filled, especially for the production of hemp fiber. As always, it may be hard at first to compete price-wise with fabric being imported from overseas, but hopefully customers will remember that they are voting for the world they want to live with every dollar they spend.
Inkspoon undoubtedly fills a void in the market for apparel that is eco friendly, comfortable, unique, and artsy. The story behind the brand adds value in that it inspires in so many ways. I urge you to be creative, follow your heart, do things you love, things that are good for you, for others, and for our planet... Inkspoon, by example, urges you to do the same. Check out their shop and continue to check back often, as the offerings are ever-changing and you don’t want to miss out!
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