Tuesday, November 2, 2010

SillyHilli interview and spotlight

I was browsing through Etsy a few weeks ago while looking at knitted things(my fav!) and came across the sweetest scarf ever!
Foxy wants to come home with me. I just know it. You can see it in his eyes.

And, he has a couple friends. That I'd also like to take home! Rocky and Persy.

Foxy grabbed my attention and brought me into the SillyHilli shop- and I'm so glad he did! Not only can you find Foxy and his friends there but also some wonderful handmade ceramic buttons, Raggedy Ann dolls and baby bibs. The available items change as the artist(s) are inspired, so more items are always being added.

Let's get to know one of the main contributing artists, Silvia!

When did you learn how to knit/crochet and who taught you?

Knitting and crocheting are 2 passions that I inherited from my grandma (my “nonna Zita” is how I used to call her in Italian). My grandma was one of the finest and fastest ladies using a crochet hook I ever met. I used to stare at her fast little hands for hours during the afternoons spent at her home after school. Zita was born in 1908, went through WW1 and WW2, became an orphan after WW1 and had a terrible accident at the age of 6…quite an awful start of life, that forced her to spend long hours in bed at a nunnery near my hometown. During that time she learned many crafts, some of which I don’t even know how to translate in English. Crocheting, embroidering, sewing and knitting became soon her “daily bread” as she used to say, meaning that she used to do it daily as a mean of support of her family. Mother of 4 children, she became so experienced and fast, once she became a grandmother, that it was clear to me I couldn’t have found a better teacher when I decided to learn those skills, at the age of 7-8. She was very sweet and patient and she taught me everything I know about crocheting and knitting.

What new items are you planning on adding to your shop?

I am currently developing a series of animal scarves, inspired by those days in which women used to show off with stoles made of endangered animal species … I am not endorsing animal slaughtering here, I used to find those stoles pretty gross myself as a child, when they were in fashion…but the thought of having a wild creature from the forest that close always intrigued that quirky child still in me. What if I bring the concept back to life, but in a more ecofriendly and less freaky version?
I started to work more seriously on the idea when I sat down playing with the little kids of some friends of mine this summer at the Jersey Shore. My sister-in-law had given me a bunch of soft yarn of various colors and I decided to crochet with it some new creature…a lot of this yarn was orange, so a fox was an appropriate start to experiment with.
I showed the fox to the kids …everybody was mesmerized and asking to caress, to kiss and to hug the fox before going to bed. I then showed them an orange scarf, some ears a snout and told them I was making a flat fox to keep kids warm during cold days and they went bananas, they thought it was supercool!
So how could I stop myself after all that cheering?

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas come usually from nature and from anything surrounding me… a walk on the street, a cappuccino sipped with my husband Mike, a surreal chat with my sister-in-law Eileen, a dinner at the neighbors, a trip to some exotic place, an exhibit at some museum here in NYC, a baseball game, a beautiful day…if I only could name them all!
Animal scarves are not the only things you will find in my store though. I started making ceramic buttons a while ago, since I couldn’t find special ones to finish my own knits with. I am also in a joint venture with my mom-in-law Elizabeth, who is THE queen of the raggedy ann dolls. She has made hundreds in the past decades and I am not afraid to say that they are the best I’ve ever seen on the market so far.
Thanks to the constant pressure of me and my sister-in-law, we convinced Elizabeth to push her boundaries and twist the raggedy-ann-theme a bit ….did you see the vampire version she came up with for Halloween? Raggedy Vampire even made her appearance on stage during the Fringe Festival in NYC in 2005! Not too shabby Betty!
So what would I add in the future? I would like to bring my quirky side into fashion and maybe develop funky clothes for kids and adults. I took a class in patternmaking this year and I can’t wait to start developing my own line of skirts, shirts, you name it!

Why do you create these items?

Creating is one of the best things in life, or at least in mine. It’s one of those things that you do for the pleasure of doing.
No matter where I am physically... on the subway, on the passenger seat on my way to a construction site, on the plane back home I am always creating something: a tail of a fox, a sign for my neighbor’s doghouse, a new pair of knitting needles, a secret garden, a piece of pottery, a façade of a building, a photographic composition, you name it! No day of the week, no hour of the day represent an obstacle to creation!

How long have you had your shop?

I brought to life SillyHilli with my friend Hillary when we were working with the corporations, about 2 years ago. Oh, I forgot to tell you, I am an architect by trade.
We have been speculating about opening an Etsy shop for a while, until it really happened about a year ago. Our daily job doesn’t allow us to be “Etsyians” 100% of the time, but we try to make the most of our free time.
I am pushing myself a lot lately to finish up new products, show them to friends and family and getting ideas on how to improve them. My dream is to try to keep going and hope to split my work time between architecture and creature design.

What area of the country are you from?

I was born and raised in the north of Italy, in the small town of Ventimiglia at the border with France. Currently I live in Brooklyn, where I moved about 10 years ago.
I always loved to travel (along with creation, it is one of the best things in life!) and to know new cultures and languages. I spent my 20s moving from town to town until I hit the Big Apple at the beginning of the 2000s.

Is this your sole job or do you have others?

As I mentioned I am an architect. I have a degree in architecture from the Bauhaus Universität (Weimar, Germany). I worked in Italy, Spain, Germany and New York.
I have worked for big and small companies designing and developing projects for various kinds of public spaces, residents, resorts and casinos, offices, theaters, museums, schools and even federal courthouses.
About 2 years ago I started to work on my own with my husband Mike, who is also an architect and we work mostly on residential jobs. Working on my own coincided with the opening of my Etsy shop and with the decision of developing a parallel design career.

Do you have any other hobbies?

I promised myself that if I win the lottery I would spend the 24 hours in a day (minus some
time to rest and to eat) doing all the things I like to do. Beside knitting, crocheting, sewing and designing fashion and buildings I like to stick my hands in mud at the ceramic studio I joined a while ago, I like to take photographs (check my photo journal at http://www.blipfoto.com/silviasjournal), paint and sculpt with different media and of course travel a lot to recharge my inspiration.

Would you like to share any info about family/pets?

My family of origin is small and lives in Italy. Beside my mom and my dad who shaped both my responsible side and my quirky and humorous side, I have a younger brother, a grandfather, 2 aunts, one uncle and 2 cousins. I love all my family, they all have their special side, from which, I think, I learned a lot throughout life.
I currently don’t have pets of my own in NYC, but both Mike and I love dogs a lot. We both are supporters of a lot of dogs of our friends and family, like Charlie, Roofus and Lilly, who I walk regularly Mondays through Fridays.

Thanks, Silvia, for letting us get to know you better! 
(And no, she cannot be your neighbor as I am already petitioning her to be mine.) 
We look forward to seeing what other wonderful things you come up with next.


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