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Made in Chicago: Up in the Air Somewhere

By Jess D'Amico in Miscellaneous on Nov 30, 2007 8:15PM

2007_11_madechicagowatertower.jpgLast week Made in Chicago brought you art to hang on your walls. Now we bring you home accessories in our quest to help you live a more local life.

Susan Dwyer, 26, who describes herself as "a Chicago-based maker of things," sells architecturally inspired wallets, pillows and ceramics from her Etsy shop Up in the Air Somewhere. You can also find her work in person at the Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale going on next weekend. Her slim designs of water towers (pictured) and silos remind us of the ghosts Chicago industrialism.

We asked Susan the same questions we always ask, and she filled us in on giant inflatables, craft fairs, and staring at silos.

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

Susan: How your work is photographed is by far the most important part of standing out among the crazy amount of stuff on Etsy. Most of my work is about the shapes of the objects rather then any kind of detailed surface.I make a variety of things, but I try to keep my shop looking clean and unified through the photography.

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

S: I've never been a big planner; I can't even keep a calendar! I'm really excited about the direction my work is taking me right now. A year ago I wouldn't have thought I'd be working in ceramic and now I'm in the middle of developing a line of ceramic housewares. I just began selling work in Willow here in Chicago and I hope to pop up in more stores soon. I want to create a stable platform for my work, but I love not knowing what's around the corner.

C: How did you first get into DIY?

S: I've always been a maker of things. I studied sculpture in college and learned how to sew so that I could create large inflatable installations. After leaving school, I had to rethink how I wanted to get my ideas into the world. My friends at Cursive Design and Pearl and Marmalade were already participating in craft fairs and selling on Etsy and they really introduced me to the indie design world. I started to translate some of my larger sculptural ideas into ceramics and pillows using the imagery I have always been inspired by (water towers, silos, warehouses, etc.) The result was exciting and I love making things for the home. While I haven't given up my earlier work entirely, I can say with certainty that I won't be making another giant inflatable anytime soon.

C: What's your artistic process look like?

S: My artistic process tends to look like a girl standing next to a warehouse and staring at the old water tower on the roof. One of my favorite spots in the city is the corner of Halsted and Chicago. The giant wall of silos is incredibly beautiful.

C: What's the Chicago DIY scene look like?

S: A good way to get a sense of the Chicago DIY scene is to check out one of the many indie craft fairs happening around town close to the holidays. The Renegade Craft Fair Holiday Sale is happening December 8th and 9th at the Pulaski Park Field House. It's my first time as a vendor, but I've shopped at the Renegade sales over the last couple of years and it's always full of awesome stuff.

C: Where do you see DIY culture going?

S: I think the quality is just going to get better and better and the community is going to get bigger and bigger.

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

S: Etsy is a great place to start selling your stuff, but you'd be surprised how receptive local boutiques are to local designers. You don't need an entire catalogue of products before you approach a store. Just sending out a few emails with a simple description of your work can land you in stores pretty easily.

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