Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 25: Angela Todd, AngelLeighDesigns

As a member of the Steel Town Etsy team, I have had the great opportunity to meet some of the most amazing artists and crafters in our city. Much to my good fortune, that is how I made acquaintances with Angela Todd of AngelLeighDesigns. During a regular monthly online team chat Angela had brought up the idea of flyering somewhere to promote small businesses and local handmade products. Seemed like there were no takers...except bel monili! Angela and I shared discussion, and a few weeks later she and I were together pounding the pavement in a local neighborhood. I had never done anything like that before and, to be honest, really haven't done it since, but it was a fantastic experience. The day was cold, so we did a little bit of walking but quite a bit more driving. I had a fantastic time walking, talking, laughing, and learning all about Angela and her amazing story. I'm not sure how much business I earned from my efforts, but I am so happy to say that I definitely gained a friend. 
Angela, adorable in one of her creations!
 Angela says that she is old enough that her rural Maine potato farm family did all this DIY stuff before it was a movement!  But, Angela's politics followed her background, and decades later in this urban setting it hurts her to see some of the wasteful habits we're all in.  Angela is an old leftie, and feels strongly about handmade products in two ways.  First, about the items themselves: the waste that bothers her comes from mass production -- we don't treat handmade items so casually.  In addition, handmade items, with their individuality and sometimes quirkiness, encourage real self-expression and thinking new thoughts.  Handmade objects come from practices of recycle upcycle reuse – further spurning commodity culture and its waste. They come from history, tradition, and human hands.
What WOULD Yoda Do? $25, Etsy
Second, Angela feels strongly about the theories behind handmade, and about social conditions around consumption: with handmade items, producers get the power of production and creative control. Consumers are offered not just the illusion of choices (Smucker’s or Welch’s grape jelly), but real choices (homemade mango jam).  Societies benefit with engaged producers, somewhat leveled playing fields, less dominance more engagement and hopefully less waste. Angela's purchases feed artists and families, not corporations.
Mnamana Tee, $25 Etsy
But, her actual shop started thanks to Angela's library job at a major university.  After years of wage freeze, Angela decided to follow the farmwife tradition of starting a little side endeavor. AngelLeighDesigns will be two years old in May 2012!  The shop has taken Angela to places she never thought she'd go -- craft shows mainly.  She has meet some really great people through Steel Town Etsy, the Travelling Pittsburgh Craft-a-tron Machine, the Rivers of Steel Heritage Center, Handmade Arcade, and I Made It! Markets.  But, it has also helped Angela to hone her real skills and lofty ideas.  It was lovely to discover how happy handmade items make people.  Whether it's a gentleman buying a hat for that woman with the beautiful voice at his church, or a new mother-in-law buying a pair of tees for her son and new DIL.  Angela was surprised by other folks' giddy joy, and it feeds her!  Angela's kids do some modeling and lots of free consulting. Angela's SigOther, Cliff Gearhart, and she have collaborated on the tee shirts in the shop, which has been a fun shared endeavour. 
Women's hat with upcycled vintage tie band $40, Etsy
Angela plans to return to the Rivers of Steel Heritage Center market at the Pump House in Homestead (at the Waterfront) this summer, and encourages folks to come on down to check out local artists, but also to contemplate Pittsburgh's industrial history.

You can find some of Angela's fantastic items online and in her Etsy shop. Make sure you "like" her on Facebook to keep up with what's new at AngelLeighDesigns!

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