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Made in Chicago: Mom O Matic's Automat

By Jess D'Amico in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 25, 2008 8:10PM

2008_04_mic_momomatic.jpgNow that we're finally getting nice weather, it's time to stop wearing that gray sweater you've had on all winter and decorate yourself with bright baubles. We like to make it a personal mission to make ourselves look like a bunch of crazy wildflowers. Local Mom O Matic's Automat is helping us in our quest with their vintage buttons and plastic bits transformed as fun, bold jewelry (we adore this church basement charm bracelet, pictured).

Mom O Matic herself, Tanya Svoboda, 36, has been a Chicagoland resident her whole life, married her high school crush, and lives so close to Brookfield Zoo that she can hear the elephants on a quiet night.

Tanya gives Made in Chicago her thoughts on subliminal messages, found art, and the love of kitsch.

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

Tanya: I’m attracted to quirky things so I try to photograph my items against paper or photographs that amuse me. Sometimes I’ll even sneak in little subliminal messages in the backgrounds.

C: Where do you want to go with your art? Where do you see yourself in five years?

T: 5 years ago I was pregnant, broke and overwhelmed. 5 years later I’m happy, broke and inspired. If it would be possible to remove “broke” from that list I would be pretty thrilled.

C: How did you start making stuff?

T: There is a button stall at the Elkhorn Flea Market in Wisconsin that first started my button obsession. This sweet elderly lady ties vintage buttons to card stock in the most amazing patterns. I have them framed all over my house and have to credit her with giving me a desire to play with buttons.

C: Why is the sky blue?

T: Are you sure you live in Chicago?

C: What does your process look like?

T: When I first started I used to keep all my buttons in a giant glass jar. I would dump them out onto the floor and have at them. Now I’m forced to be a bit more organized, so I have old Jell-o molds filled with buttons and sorted by color or material. I spread the tins out around me and start making jewelry.

C: What's the best thing about being Mom O Matic?

T: The free pills they keep sending me.

C: Tell us a secret. . .

T: I’m the person most likely to fall, spill or have something caught between her teeth that I know.

C: What's the Chicago art scene look like for you?

T: I’m such a fan of found art. I love walking in the city and suburbs and finding an old store sign, like the giant horse outside Alcala's Western Wear. I got oddly excited about these little wash your hand signs above the sinks at the old Elmhurst Movie Theater. They were original to the building and had some great typography.

C: Where do you see that culture going?

T: I hope we keep preserving and appreciating. I’ve had some button collectors express anger over my using collectible buttons in a permanent jewelry piece. But I see it as bringing attention to an object that was languishing in a coffee tin. I enjoy seeing other artists that incorporate thrift store and attic finds into their work and hope that medium keeps growing.

C: Any advice for beginners?

T: Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask that boutique owner if you could email her photos of your work. Ask the shopping review site if they would like to do a giveaway with your product. Ask your friends to wear or carry your items and business cards. Be polite and be bold and you will be surprised at the great reactions you get.

Want to be featured? Let us know: MadeinChicago[at]chicagoist[dot]com