We had the special opportunity to speak with Katrina Rodabaugh, crazy-talented fiber artist, author and slow fashion champion. Read her thoughts on design, slow fashion and sustainability below!
1. How did you get involved in fiber arts?
My fiber arts training started as a child at the side of my mother’s sewing machine. Though I went to graduate school for poetry and book arts and my book arts professors taught me a great deal about working with fiber, binding, printing, and thinking more conceptually about my work in a fine arts context. Then I turned to slow fashion in 2013.
2. What inspires your beautiful design aesthetic?
Everything! I’m inspired by medicinal herbs, dye plants, moon phases, seasonal living, homesteading, activists, authors, poets, writers, designers, other fiber artists, and the list continues. Mostly, though, how the natural world, fiber arts, and sustainability collide to create new opportunities and new aesthetics.
3. Describe the moment in your life that spurred your passion for slow fashion and sustainability.
When the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Dhaka Bangladesh in April 2013. That was a huge wake-up moment for me. I focused on environmental studies in college and then went straight to work for art galleries, theaters, and community arts spaces. But when Rana Plaza collapsed I realized I needed to create a deeper alignment between my values in sustainability and my work as an artist. I turned towards slow fashion soon after.
4. What sustainable and/or mindful practices do you incorporate into your everyday life? And how has your life improved / changed since implementing those practices?
I try to be mindful of the basic triad of needs—food, clothing, shelter—and how I can deepen my connection to sustainable living through each category. Simple things really make a difference like daily compost, recycling, reducing food packaging waste, and saving avocado pits for dye vats. In the summer months, I have a large garden and that’s a daily practice of planting, weeding, watering, and tending. That’s a wonderful ritual in the growing months.
5. As a fellow maker, I understand the sense of accomplishment and joy that comes with craftsmanship and working with your hands. Why is working with your hands and being a maker important to you?
It’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think growing up in a rural setting with parents who were gardening, tending fruit trees, raising chickens, and then my father always tinkering in the garage and my mother always with a fiber arts project in-progress—it just normalized handwork. Through my work in the arts and studies in graduate school I started to develop formal techniques, tools, and also ways of analyzing my work from a historical, political, and conceptual place—so that offered me ways to think of my work as something that corresponded to a larger community.
6. Tell us about your soon-to-publish book, Mending Matters: Stitch, Patch, and Repair Your Favorite Denim & Moreand what prompted you to write it.
As soon as I finished my first book, The Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Projects for Kids Using Paper, Boxes, and Books, I knew I wanted to write more books. When The Paper Playhouse published in 2015, I was already two years into my sustainable fashion project, Make Thrift Mend. Soon after the first book published I started writing a proposal for Mending Matters.
Teaching is such a huge part of my work as an artist—I teach mending, natural dyes, and sustainable fashion through in-person workshops, craft retreats, soon in my own barn studio, through my craft kits, and eventually I’ll teach online too. So, I see books as another avenue for teaching, sharing knowledge, and creating access for folks interested in sustainable fashion. Not to mention, it’s incredibly exciting to make a book. It’s so much work, but it’s the best kind of work.
7. You're a busy, successful woman! You teach classes, you make and sell art, you write books — and on top of that you're a wife and mom of two, currently renovating your farmhouse. How on Earth do you make time for it all?
Well, I don’t make time for it all in one day, that’s for certain. But, instead, I try to make time for it all over the course of one year. My background in administration with arts organizations was really good training for being a working artist and running a small business. But I’ve had to create opportunities to work from home and then to work around limited childcare schedules, naptimes, school hours, and kids’ bedtimes, etc.
I realize that my lifestyle is truly not for everyone. And that’s okay. Some things are easier to do alongside my kids—gardening, homesteading, foraging, dyeing—and other things need complete focus like writing, editing, phone meetings, etc. So, I organize my day according to those needs. But now my oldest is in first grade and my three-year-old attends a part-time preschool so I have more time alone too. But overall, it’s just worked for me to juggle home and work. As my children grow, my business is growing alongside them. So, as they become more independent there are more opportunities for me to work independently too. It’s always a juggle. But, my gosh, it’s the best juggle of my entire life.
8. There are a growing amount of people who want to live more mindful lives but don't know where to start — what advice do you have for them?
One decision at a time. Just start with that very next decision regarding food, clothing, or shelter and see if you’re making a decision that aligns with your ethics. If not, can you redirect that decision to better reflect your core values? I think awareness is truly the most impactful. Awareness of how we spend our time, money, energy, etc. And remembering, regarding sustainability, that sometimes there is no perfect choice, just a more mindful decision.
9. Is there anything else exciting and new that we can expect from you in the near future?
I’m thrilled to host my first retreat in our converted barn this fall. I’m offering our Slow Textiles Retreat in October and I’m so excited to invite students to my studio barn to work with me. We’ll mend garments together, harvest plants from my garden, forage from my neighboring fields, and spend the weekend considering mending, dyeing, and slow textiles. I plan to offer more retreats in the future, so, stay tuned! I also plan to offer subscription craft kits soon too. And, of course, I’ll keep teaching, writing, and making work.
10. Do you have anything else you'd like to add?
Thanks so much for inviting me into your space. And for making such thoughtful and beautiful products too.