26 August 2008
Talking to (Someone From) the Hand-Shaped State
Yep, that's the lovely and talented Melissa Dettloff's eye, folks! That's the photo she sent the Church. Though the beloved Lekkner may no longer be with us, this crafty gal's heart goes on—headless unicorn-style.
When and why did you decide to shutter Lekkner?
I decided to close Lekkner in the fall of 2007. I felt like it had its run—it wasn't fitting into my schedule as well because I was working full-time, and it was getting more and more difficult to find time to search for t-shirts and fill orders. It seemed like time to move on to other projects.
What did you do during your stint at VgKids?
I started out part-time redesigning their website and then went full-time working in the office and taking orders from customers—and then from there went on to be a manager (where I did a ton of different things). I loved working there a lot—they are an awesome crew of peeps to work with and damn good at what they do (which is screen-printing).
Are you crafting full-time now?
[Actually], I'm working full-time as a web designer at a community college. I'm always making things in my free time, but in a way that doesn't generate money exactly. Which I almost kind of prefer—it’s more enjoyable and I feel like I have more freedom in what I do.
Will you pleezpleezpleez come to Art v. Craft?!
Sure! I'd love to. I love Art v. Craft. Though if I did, I'm sure it would be to represent a new project—probably not too much like the things I used to make. I've been getting into soft sculpture more these days [rather] than clothing and pouches [I did under Lekkner].
How did the "Steak Is Wack" phenom occur?
I went through an overuse of the word “wack” phase, and, being vegan, it only made sense to bring the two together...
I noticed you're still in Michigan. Do you plan to stay there—or are you gonna move to PDX or Brooklyn?
At the moment, I plan to stay in Michigan—no plans to move anywhere. I don't see myself in Brooklyn; Portland would be more likely. I live in [a cool Michigan community] now, and I really love it here.
Can you describe an easy-fa-sheezy project that a craft chicken like myself would not be too intimidated to start and finish?
Knit a sweater for your bike! This is a project I started recently. I'm interested in knitting, but the payoff takes too long (for me). So, knitting a sweater for your bike is just making flat panels of knitting and then stitching them to your bike frame. Check out hoorayforever.org/?cat=4. (I will finish someday).
What was the most fun or interesting project you worked on during the, um, Lekkner years?
Hmm, it's hard to break it into one thing. The "Lekkner years" were amazing. I was given so many great opportunities and met a lot of awesome people. I liked being invited and going out to Washington, D.C. to speak at a feminist conference. I liked ending up in a book with Amy Sedaris (Tease). Renegades were fun.
What do you wear on a typical day?
I'm pretty simple when it comes to this—I’m pretty jeans-and-t-shirt (though I have a sweet and above average t-shirt collection from my years at VgKids). Sometimes dressed up with a necklace from the thrift store.
What indie designers do you buy and wear?
Preloved is my absolute favorite. I like Anti-Factory, but I can never get on there quick enough to grab something before it sells out! Valerie is doing nice things with dear birthday these days.
How would you describe your style?
Practical, slightly/barely interesting...I always wake up too late in the morning before work to put much thought into it!
Do you thrift a lot?
Yes! Thrifting rules.
Please tell me about the projects you're working on or involved with [lately].
Boy...well, one of the two big ones is the Severed Unicorn Head Superstore—for which I had an event June 22 and prepar[ed] for by sewing up headless unicorn bodies, lumpy rainbows and the like. The other big one [wa]s a biannual arts event some friends and I have been organizing the past few years called the Shadow Art Fair. We take applications for artists/makers of things to display their work for 12 hours twice a year and round the day out with live music and other fun things. We [had been] able to raise enough money through this event offer up an "arts grant" to the local community.
What's in your studio or work space?
The Gatorade Ranch of Decapitation and Dismemberment [is] my friend Amy's painting studio, and she lets me have a space in it for my sewing stuff—that’s where I do all of my sewing. I really love having a separate space to do that stuff in (compared to the days of running Lekkner out of my bedroom when I lived with my mom).The name is cuz of the severed unicorn headage and because, for some reason, we found ourselves drinking a lot of Gatorade there (and not really being Gatorade drinkers at all [in] the other parts of our lives).
What in god's name is Severed Unicorn Head Superstore?
It’s basically an inside joke with my friend Mark that got out of control. The fact that they are unicorns, and they shed their heads etc., is based on nothing...It could have been anything. I was drawing representations of my favorite animals (shark tooth, unicorn horn, etc.), and he was teasing me because I was separating the part from the whole and latched onto the "severed unicorn head" thing. He started making paintings on records and told me I should make something, too. And from there we have www.severedunicornheadsuperstore.com, which basically became a project that gave me the opportunity to approach sewing in a whole new way (not clothing, not pouches) by making three-dimensional objects out of really obnoxious fabric that I never got to work with much before. The fact that it's kind of a bizarre concept helps, too—it can make for some pretty interesting/weird t-shirt slogans and such.
Did Faythe Levine interview you for her doc Handmade Nation?
Yeah, she interviewed me about Crafters for Critters.
What was living in Detroit like? What did you like about the community?
I lived in Detroit (proper; eastside) with my family until I was 18, when we moved to an inner-ring suburb. I went to college in Detroit at Wayne State University. I love Detroit. It was scary to grow up there sometimes, but there is some crazy shit there that you're not going to find anywhere else, and I still like to go back there and hang out in some favorite places (Belle Isle, for one). I think growing up in Detroit definitely makes you a certain "way" that's hard to put into words.
Also, how would you describe the current state of indie/DIY culture—and where do you fit into it?
I'm not sure I can make informed comments about this. One thing I can say is that my place in it in the past few years has transformed from a wider sort of "global" scale into one that is definitely more community-based. What I'd done in the past was very internet-tied, which allowed a lot more people to see and be involved in what I was doing, but in the past year or so I've been very involved at a more local level in the city I live in. Beyond that though, I'm pretty out of touch. Which doesn't really bother me—I like it better this way. It feels more "real" and more relevant to me and the people around me and the people I care about.
Photo of Melissa Dettloff's eye by, I'm assuming, Melissa Dettloff.