November 20, 2018 Artist to Watch: Andrea Eastin
Owner of Fair Fit Studio, and new artist member of the Baton Rouge Arts Market
Andrea Eastin is one of our newest members of the Baton Rouge Arts Market, but she’s not new to her craft. She’s been sewing clothing since she was young. We’re fortunate to have a talent like hers to add some unique flair to our bodies and lives. We took some time to talk to Andrea about her work and how she got started into fiber arts. Check out what she had to say.
How did you begin your work as an artist?
I have always been a maker- I remember that as a child I was always talking my mom into drawing or doing craft projects with me. I started sewing because I wanted to make things I wanted to wear that I couldn’t buy in the store. It’s funny, because until I was in my mid twenties I didn’t think of sewing as my art, I thought of it as a utilitarian and functional skill that helped me express how I wanted to dress myself. I’d say my first love was painting, and that was why I ended up going to school for visual art instead of fashion, but honestly, I’m not that great of a painter! When I was finishing up my undergrad, I started making artful clothing and those pieces were very compelling - even to my painting professors. I ended up pursuing those projects, and never really returned to the painting as I found that fashion and textiles were a more complimentary form of expression of my aptitudes.
Tell us about your background & where you’re from.
I’m from Iowa, I grew up in Madison County, on a farm near Winterset. This area is famous for the Bridges of Madison County, and it has always been a craft and quilt community, before crafting and quilting was the maker phenomenon that it is today. I fell in love with sewing when I was around 6 because I’d watch my mom make me things. I also was very much into clothing and fashion and these were the days before the internet. If I wanted something I saw in a magazine, I had to make it. I began fumbling my way through sewing patterns around age 11 or 12.
Can you tell us more about your formal training?
I’m formally trained as a visual and conceptual artist, and I graduated with my BFA in Painting and Drawing from the University of Iowa, and in 2010 earned my MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When it comes to sewing and fashion design I am a mix of self taught and on the job trained.
I had always made my own clothes and sewn since I was 6 year old. I even had a little side hustle as a teenager selling handmade dolls as my first business endeavor. Back in 2003 when I was living in New Orleans, I started to design clothing for sale to help support my art practice. That became a lucrative endeavor, and as I started selling in stores, I really had to change up my sewing to make it ready for retail. That was when I started to work with other sewists to improve my techniques. Keep in mind, this was before Pinterest and Google, so I had to track down the sewing skill and knowledge through relationships and it didn’t come as quickly as a web search. It was so much harder to learn sewing back then.
When I was working on my MFA I really explored pattern drafting and draping. I designed a pattern system of blocks and interchangeable parts that I use in all of my garments while working on my thesis. Back then I designed a system of “fashion legos” that allowed for customization through draping the garment on the form and a unique approach to grading that helped me size the garments differently. I am still using these parts, adapting them, evolving them and it informs the garments that I’m currently selling.
Finally, I got another round of improving my sewing and growing my expertise when I sewed in the film industry for a year on and off. I was forced to learn and execute conventional classic methods found in historical costume and ready to wear under the pressure of intense deadlines and scrutiny. Working those long hours gave me the opportunity to sew things I would never choose to sew on my own like gowns and tailored menswear and gave me hours of practice to really execute a professionally made garment.
Where do you gain inspiration?
I try to protect my mind by not taking in too many images or exposing myself to too much outside visual information. This keeps me focused on my own trajectory, so that I don’t stray from my own language of visual expression or experience doubt about where I am at in my career or question the ideas that I’m curious to try. It’s hard to do this when right now everything is on Instagram, but I’m very diligent about keeping my eyes on my own paper, even if that means I’m not up to date on current trends and conversations. That keeps me happy, and I gain inspiration from my previous garments and collections, from practices of surface design that I’m curious to try. I like to ask my friends and customers what they like best (or what doesn’t work) about my garments and then design around that feedback. If clients really love a certain design, I’m compelled to make it better, or tweak it so they are surprised by the next iteration. I also learn from my fails, and design around the problem of why a garment doesn’t work. When I do a market, after all of my conversations and eyeing my current work critically, I am usually flooded with inspiration to go and make the next set of pieces for the next time I present. I love having clients who admire my work and purchase it, and often I think of them and what they would wear. That helps me to refine, and get out of just my personal point of view.
Where can people see more of your work?
or at the Baton Rouge Arts Market on the first Saturday of most months (excluding January and April). More info here: https://www.artsbr.org/batonrougeartsmarket/