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Made in Chicago: Devotees

By Jess D'Amico in Miscellaneous on Nov 2, 2007 8:25PM

2007_11_devoteesgirl.jpgThe last two weeks, our Made in Chicago feature, about local artists and crafters, has brought you jewelry. Now, we bring you some crafty clothes to go with that Chicago skyline necklace.

Amy DeVoogd ( it's Dutch, pronounced “deh-vogued”), 42, a drifter from Boston, MA to Charlottesville, VA, has settled as a Chicagoan since 2004. Her illustrations are bright contrasts of color that are both surprisingly simple and detailed. Her work has appeared in Playgirl, the New York Times, and USA Today, among others. In fact, her USA Today campaign is currently being featured on digital elevator screens in over 200 office buildings in New York City, and on the "Geoffrey Tron" video billboard in Times Square. Her Etsy shop sells reconstructed t-shirts and small paintings of the same style. We're lusting after this smoking girl t-shirt, featured right.

In the little time Amy sleeps, she told us about life as an illustrator, hanging up on the New York Times, and why she she likes her DIY messy:

Chicagoist: How do you make your art stand out from everything else on Etsy?

Amy: The egalitarian nature of Etsy makes it difficult to stand out, and I actually appreciate that aspect of it. I guess if I had to say I had a niche, it would be that each shirt (and painting) is a one-off; I cut each stencil by hand and I prefer bleach and spray paint over screen printing. And I prefer using recycled shirts. I was once approached by a boutique to sell my stuff but only if I switched to new shirts. But I'm stubbornly happy with my methods, taking funky photos and writing personable product blurbs.

C: Where do you want to go with your art?

A: I'll know I've arrived when I see one of my illustrations in the pages of the New Yorker. I also have fantasies of some giant company like Target or Urban Outfitters buying one of my designs for pillows or posters or whatever.

C: What was it like working for your bigger clients like Playboy or The New York Times?

A: When the New York Times called me, I almost laid an egg. Well, first I almost hung-up, I thought it was someone trying to sell me a subscription. Anyway, that’s my most cherished project to date, since it's one of my favorite publications and my work was the on the cover of the Style section.

C: How did you first get into DIY?

A: Out of necessity, being broke basically. When I was a kid my mom was on welfare and we would make stuff to sell, like bean bag frogs and stuffed animals. When we moved to Virginia we lived mostly on food we grew ourselves. When I quit the corporate world to do illustration full-time I had an excuse to make stuff to sell again, since you never know when your next project will come and extra cash is important.

C: What's your artistic process look like?

A: It starts with hours and hours at the thrift store. It frees up my brain somehow and gets me inspired. I also take lots of photographs everywhere I go. Occasionally I scavenge old copyright-free material. Eventually I mess around with my images in Photoshop to create a final composition which I use to cut the stencil. For the t-shirts it's bleach and spray paint. For the paintings it's acrylic on paper or wood.

C: Where do you see DIY culture going?
A: Where I hope it doesn't go is down the too-polished drain. When I buy DIY half the fun is when the package it comes in is obviously recycled and chicken scrawled and the product itself is quirky. I'm disappointed when there's a mailing label, glossy business cards and a mass produced feel to the thing. I just hope DIY-ers don't think that success means your stuff has to look all brand-new and store-bought.

C: Lastly, do you have any advice for other crafty people wanting to start selling their goods?

A: Try not to get shot down by self-doubt or too many practical concerns, know that if you feel confident about your talent your enthusiasm will pull you through. I think that might be a cliche, but it really is true.

Think you know someone who should be featured? Let us know: