If you are a part of the indie art scene or the handmade movement here in Tulsa you have undoubtedly heard the names Thom and Christine Crowe (or at the very least Indie Emporium, Made, or make:Tulsa with which they are inextricably linked).
Thom and Christine are one of Tulsa’s dynamic creative couples and certainly people to watch as they are always finding new ways to foster creativity in their community.
Not only are they fantastically crafty individuals (both separate and when considered as a whole), but Thom and Christine are kind, funny, genuine souls that enrich the lives of those around them (this interviewer included). I was so excited to meet with them over coffee at one of their many local spots to pepper them both with questions.
Q: I think of you as the momma & poppa of make:Tulsa. Tell me more about how the group started.
“make:Tulsa came out of a need we saw here,” said Thom. Christine quickly added that Oklahoma City had its own craft community and she found herself wishing for “crafty fun”–like she had seen in OKC and elsewhere. Out of this need for a collective group, make:Tulsa was born.
Q: What do you envision for make:Tulsa for the future?
Immediately Christine said, “A national presence.” Thom further added that he wanted others to look at make:Tulsa like other successful, well-known indie craft groups & communities like Etsy Rain or the Austin Craft Mafia. Thom also expressed an interest in seeing “make” communities in more cities across the U.S.
As far as Tulsa is concerned, the Crowes envision more community events and helping more people find or hone their craft.
Q: Indie Emporium was a huge success. What was going through your mind when Juliette Lewis walked through the door?
Thom: “Oh crap, there’s Juliette Lewis!”
Christine: I wanted a picture of her.
Juliette Lewis’s appearance at Indie Emporium certainly caused Facebook and Twitter storms with hashtags & tagging–nearly every status of those in attendance mentioned Lewis. Lewis attending Indie Emporium highlighted another mission of this creative duo–to show off Tulsa as the same kind of creative community that you find in other cities and Hollywood. A fact certainly affirmed in a recent interview with Portlandia‘s Carrie Brownstein.
Q: You’re both organizers of Indie Emporium (& the very new, Marry Me Indie), what is the best piece of advice you have to offer artists who are thinking of applying to indie craft shows?
Christine: Come to our Applying to Shows class! (offered through make:Tulsa annually & the date for this year is TBA)
And if you can’t come to our class–here’s Thom’s bit of advice:
Thom: Always remember that the show organizers only see what you send them. It is important to have good quality pictures of your product and for your product descriptions to be well-worded.
Q: Christine, you’ve just opened up the second location of Made;the Indie Emporium Shop in December 2012. Congratulations! For a lot of artist-shop owners it can be difficult to manage a shop and still find time to make their own work. What’s one trick that helps you get into your studio?
Her advice is simple–setting aside time. Christine has days off to work on creating new weather&noise products. Also, in the cozy office behind her counter at Made there is a tiny studio space where she can make some of her smaller products that don’t involve screen printing–like her bookmarks, jewelry, pocket mirrors, and keychain bottle openers.
Q: Christine, how did you come up with weather&noise as the name for your handmade business?
Christine admits that she obsessed over coming up with the perfect name for her business. It took her 2 months! And what a great name it is! The name derives from a Counting Crow’s song–”American Girls“: “Girls are weather and noise.”
Q: Christine, I know that you’re working on your degree in Interior Architecture & Design. Does your knowledge of architecture and interior design inform your work?
Christine smiled. “Yes, absolutely!” And as a matter of fact her Etsy shop introduces her lovely home wares & accessories with a quotation from William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” From her pocket mirrors to her linen tea towels–all of Christine’s creations do not relinquish style for function but rather, marry the two. This same quotation sits over Christine’s studio desk and inspires the things she makes.
Her schooling informs her work by introducing Christine to new arts–like her current bookbinding class and screen printing which she first took as an elective in college and has now blossomed into much more.
Q: What’s your favorite crafty mistake?
Christine: “How I actually started screen printing.” Before her screen printing days Christine made candles. It wasn’t until the National Trust for Historic Preservation asked her to screen print 2, 500 tote bags that she found her craft. Christine, without ever having screen printed before, made her own screen printing press and finished 2,500 tote bags! It is amazing what creativity and determination can do!
Q: Thom, you are an excellent cook. It’s one of your many creative outlets. There’s a saying in Italian–”Anche L’occhio vuole la sua parte”–meaning “The eye also wants to take part.” Food is not only delicious & nutritive but beautiful to look at. What is the most artful meal you’ve ever prepared?
Thom: Chicken Marsala on a bed of lemon-caper risotto. Or my chicken curry (to which Christine nodded enthusiastically).
Q: Thom, you’re very active in reaching out to the community, what is one craft/art program that you’d love to see here in Tulsa?
Thom’s dream is that art could end poverty. It’s a beautiful dream. One that we can all aspire to. On a more practical level Thom would like to see more Gorilla Art, for kids to find a creative way to express themselves, and more varied programs and opportunities for children despite budget cuts to art programs.
Q: Thom, you’ve appeared on television on numerous occasions to promote Indie Emporium and make:Tulsa events & classes. You are always so calm, composed, and personable. What’s some advice you’d give to artists who find themselves waiting in the green room.
For Thom, public speaking comes very easy (he started acting when he was only 8!). But for those who don’t find public speaking as natural as Thom, he suggests the following: Remember why you are there and what your purpose is and not to lose sight of it while you are speaking; Don’t babble; Don’t cuss (advice he directed sarcastically at this potty-mouthed interviewer); and finally, that your interviewers want you to succeed.
Q: What are some of your favorite blogs, tools, materials to work with, & magazines?
Here are a few of their favorite things: For Christine, her tool of choice is a Dremel. Blogs she loves are a ton of interior design blogs, like Apartment Therapy and DesignSponge. Linen, of coarse, is her material of choice and numbered among her coffee table literature are the magazines Anthology and MollieMakes (in which she was featured–check out Issue 19!).
For Thom, his favorite tool is a saw. A blog he loves is The Kitchn. Among his favorite mags is The New Yorker (which this former New Yorker was happy to hear). Thom’s material of choice is silk chiffon…just kidding.
Q: What’s the first handmade gift you ever made for each other?
Hers was “cheesy and unfinished”–which sounds like the best kind of gift in my opinion! When they were dating Christine would keep mementos of their time together–ticket stubs, flowers, & pictures which she then compiled into a book for their first Christmas together. She added poetic & flowery excerpts from her diary on each page of the book. And though it is unfinished, it was a work of love.
Thom learned to knit so that he could make scarves for Christine. He finally stopped when he’d made 30–and when Christine admitted that she had enough scarves for one woman.
Q: Describe your perfect crafty date.
Christine has a fond memory of one of their crafty dates. In front of their roaring fireplace, they ate a sumptuous dinner that Thom had made. After which they crafted Christmas ornaments for a Holiday Ornament Swap. Thom added that this date was very special since it combines their two loves: Christmas and crafting.
They also learned calligraphy together–very romantic! And in readying the new shop in the Pearl District, they spent many hours collaborating and creating a beautiful space together.
Q: How do you challenge & encourage one another to be creative?
Christine: “I tend to get a lot of ideas and Thom asks ‘What are we going to do to make this happen?’” From new tea towel designs to creating new events–like Marry Me Indie–Thom provides support.
They are each other’s sincere “sounding board” delivering criticism when needed in order to grow.
Christine: “Like my craft school bus idea”
Thom: “That’s terrible.” They both laugh, it is terrible. But as we all know, it is important to always be creating–good or bad.
Q: Last question. What does the handmade movement mean to you?
For Christine, it means taking the things she learned from her grandmothers (sewing, baking, and entrepreneurial work) and making a livelihood from them. For Thom, the handmade movement is about empowerment. It offers people the freedom, or choice, to leave the traditional workplace. It’s “mindful consumerism” according to Christine. It’s buying local and connecting with the people who make things and getting to know them. It’s all about the stories behind the objects made and I have certainly enjoyed hearing some of Thom & Christine’s stories.
For more on Christine’s work click on the following links: Etsy Shop, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram, and Pinterest!