My Maker Story
by Ari Takata-Vasquez
For those of you who haven't met me yet, I'm Ari, the owner/founder/designer/maker/shopkeep at Viscera. Over the last two and a half years I've been busy building the shop and brand, but realized I never really stopped to tell you about myself as a maker. I've talked a lot on this blog about being your own boss and a ton about how to organize and minimize your stuff, but I haven't talked much about creativity from the lens of 'play' and the importance of making things. At the shop, I design jewelry, clothing, and graphics all the time, but there's something fundamentally different between designing and actually making things with your own two hands. I've been making more and more items for the shop and so I thought I'd share a bit of my personal 'maker story' with you.
This is going to be one of the longer posts I've written, so here's the TL;DR-- I've always been a little creative weirdo. I missed making things with my own hands. I'm handmaking things for the shop because it makes me and you happy.
I've always been very creative. When I was a little kid, I was making things out of cardboard boxes, shopping bags, and basically anything I could find around the house. My little weirdo self even took apart and reassembled a music box once (can you tell I grew up as an only child?). Since it came naturally to me, I never really thought much of creativity as a skill until it was key in my very first hustle. When I was In fourth grade Pokemon was BIG. I used to really love drawing different Pokemon characters and I realized everyone at my school was also SUPER into Pokemon, so I took some tracing paper, some laminating paper and made my very own Pokemon stickers. I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world. I could make as many stickers as I wanted! So my little 9-year-old-self went to school the next day with a ton of Pokemon stickers on my notebooks and binders and I thought I looked so cool. Before I knew it, my friends were asking me where I got the stickers and I proudly said, "I made them!". That night after I finished my homework, I went to town tracing my poke cards and made a ton of stickers. I put them in a box, also decorated with Pokemon stickers, brought them to school the next day, and sold them each sticker for a quarter. I sold out in one day. I was so proud of myself, especially since I had made something like $5, which is a lot for a 4th grader. It was incredible. It was the first time I realized people would pay for creative. After that, I basically kept on making and selling Pokemon stickers until one day my teacher told me I wasn't allowed to sell stuff at school anymore. I got detention, but many years later, I think it was a worthwhile lesson. If only my 4th-grade teachers could see me now.
Another creative breakthrough was when I learned to sew in 6th or 7th grade (I actually don't remember how old I was, but maybe my mom can verify. She reads my blog-- Hi Mom!). The first thing I made was a strangely tiny pillow. I'm not sure if I was making it for a stuffed animal to sleep on, but I thought it was THE best. Learning to sew meant I could make anything. It was amazing! I didn't grow up with a lot of money so I couldn't afford all the cool new things my classmates had bought. But who cared, I could make stuff! Most of my learning was trial and error. I didn't have any real training so a lot of it was taking clothes that I had and trying to trace the different shapes until it fit right. My shining moment was when I sewed my very own backpack. I love that thing so much, I think I used it for a whole semester. If I were to find that thing today, I'm sure I'd look at it and say, 'what a hot mess', but at that time I wore my self-made backpack so proudly. It felt so special to make something unique just for me, out of super boring discount fabric.
Flash forward to today, and I'm realizing so much of who I am is tied in with my creativity. I'm at my happiest when I'm designing, making, and being creative. Over the last two and a half years of building my business much more of my day to day is filled with the boring stuff like bookkeeping, marketing schedules, and an incredible amount of data entry. While I spend a good amount of time designing for the shop (including jewelry, graphics, etc.), I don't spend much time making things with my own two hands. This realization came to me almost as an accident. A while ago, a friend had an upcoming event and wanted a body chain to go with their outfit, but didn't want to buy one online. They asked me to make one and, even though I'd never made a body chain before, I said yes because I figured it couldn't be that hard. After I made the one body chain I realized they're actually an accessory I really love. I would never have gone out and bought one, but it looked great with everything. So with the leftover chain and jump rings I had, I started making a whole bunch of different body chains and wore them around. Before I knew it, it was like I was in 4th grade again, people were asking me where I got it from and I proudly said, "I made it!". Just like my little nine-year-old self, I took the extra chain and made a bunch of body chains to sell. The next day I put them out of the sales floor and sold three! I was overjoyed. Which is sort of silly because I sell things I design and amazing handmade things other people make every day. The reason I felt so happy was that I could really engage with my customers and customize it for them. I could make the neck a little smaller or the waist a little bigger, all with ease. I love that being the maker allows me to create a really special experience for you. Now, if you've been to the shop. you know that I've been steadily making these body chains and they're one of my go to accessories, I've even made wear instruction for them.
New mock neck sheath dress, made in store.
In the last two and a half years, I've put a whole lot of hustle into building the shop and developing our brand but realized recently, with the focus on business, I gave up some of my creative space. With sourcing all the items from small makers in the US (with the exception of our eco-friendly Melissa shoes) I've put so much of my effort into telling other makers' stories but forgot to tell my own. To that end, I'll be creating more pieces, by hand, at the shop moving forward. The beauty of this is you get to be a part of the process. You can see the fabric turn into a piece of clothing, and I can customize your item, too! So come by the shop and see what I'm whipping up next. I'd love to get you opinion on things I'm currently making, and I'd love to know what pieces you want me to make. I'll also be posting more of the process on our Instagram story so you can keep up with the latest in-studio items.
Stay tuned, in the next blog I'll do a little maker-space tour blog!
Until next time!