We recently met with Kristen Kempton to talk about her handmade shop, iheartfink, aftcra’s featured store for March. Find out the story behind iheartfink, how Kristen creates handmade prints, and where she derives her inspiration for iheartfink in our interview. Kristen’s story isn’t just motivating, she’s a true artisan with an incredible talent.
1. Tell us about iheartfink.
I’m Kristen and my shop is iheartfink. I make garments completely from scratch using fabrics I hand paint and print using my original artwork. I work in my home studio in the Central West End neighborhood of St Louis.
iheartfink came to life in 2007. I get a lot of questions about how I came up with the name, and it’s easy – F = fashion + INK.
2. What is your background?
I have been creative since I was a child and have explored many ways of expressing myself through art over the years. I get inspired by new ideas and projects and tend to get bored without a challenge; for example, I taught myself to sew by making vintage style hats and making clothing felt like the natural next step. I am continuously challenging myself in all aspects of my work and never get bored. The combination of fabric design and designing each piece from my imagination (no sewing patterns whatsoever) keeps each one “alive” and keeps me very involved and inspired.
3. Can you share how you create your work?
I hand-paint and print my fabrics by using high quality water-soluble inks. Sometimes I create texture by hand-painting the fabric and then using silkscreens made from my original hand drawn artwork to hand-pull the art onto fabric. I also do block-printing using blocks that I free hand carve from printing blocks. I love to experiment and work my fabrics as if they are canvas to be mounted on the wall.
I then use my printed fabrics for each design. I do not use sewing patterns and simply (well, not so simply!) free hand cut each design using my imagination. This keeps each piece totally unique and truly one-of-a-kind.
When I make made-to-order items (and made-to-order sizes) I am working from memory and a measuring tape to make this happen! So, each one is based on the original yet a one-of-a-kind work of art made in your size.
4. What is the inspiration for your work?
I collect oddities and shop mostly at flea markets, yard sales, and thrift stores. Over the years I have built a collection based on intuition; I do not choose items to “go with” or “match” my life, I choose things that speak to me and make them work in my life! This how I make my art – I use intuition and get inspired by things I learn along the way. I rarely set out with an exact vision of what will come; I let the experience of creating guide me on the spot.
As for my work environment, sometimes I listen to the radio, sometimes I listen to the street sounds and sometimes I listen to records.
On the weekends I love to get out of town. I aim to see a new place or do something new each weekend. I love the city and I love nature. Life stays very fresh and exciting when I get a good weekend camping somewhere gorgeous, or hitting some flea markets or going to see a band I love. I love variety.
5. What is the next new exciting project for iheartfink?
I have ongoing orders and projects at all times and that keeps me very busy! I always enjoy custom orders and seem to make more and more (alternative) wedding dresses which is just amazing to me! I also participate in a local artist/flea market in my neighborhood each spring/summer/fall which is so much fun! I get to meet new people and see Fink on customers in-person!
I have also been working on my website which is so exciting to me – I look forward to creating a look-book to show Fink in action on customers, in fashion shows and other local events and relevant situations and to have a mailing list to show off the newest Finks and projects in the works. I love ways to stay in touch with my customers all over the world.
6. What is a quote that you personally live by?
I can’t just pick one, so I’ll share some of my favorites…
“Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life”. It just feels so hopeful. I inhale hope and exhale self doubt as much as possible!
I also really like “There is Nothing Noble in Being Superior to Your Fellow Man. True Nobility is Being Noble to Your Former Self” – Ernest Hemingway
And “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Bernard M. Baruch
7. Why did you choose to join aftcra, and what do you enjoy about the community?
I could see right away that aftcra truly appreciates and aims support American small creative businesses like mine.
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