Inspiring Artist-Deborah Stone-Richard of Revamp

At this early stage in my artistic career, I'm often inspired by other artists and creatives who are doing their thing.  I want to highlight some of them here and learn more about what inspires them and how they make it all work. 

It's been awhile since I featured an "inspiring artist" and Deborah is just the person to get this series going again.  I met Deborah years ago at church (she is very musically inclined and made beautiful music for us).  We moved away, but thanks to Facebook, I was able to keep in touch with Deborah.  I have loved seeing her posts about her business beginnings and now big success with her business "Revamp."  She takes clothes from thrift stores and creates beautiful NEW pieces.  I am always impressed by what she comes up with.  Here, Deborah shares thoughts about her art and business.

Tell us first a bit about you and what you do.

I learned how to sew by hand at age 10. Soon after, I was using a sewing machine to make my own clothing. Over a period of decades, my sewing included alterations, dressmaking, bridal work, custom window treatments and bedding, sample making and sewing for other designers.  I studied Fashion Design at William Rainey Harper College in the mid 80s.

Currently, I am a clothing designer. My business name is Revamp. I purchase clothing at resale stores and create new garments out of the clothing I buy. I have two garment lines. ReVintage is primarily linen tops that I reshape and embellish with vintage lace. The other line is fun and funky tops, very colorful and expressive. I also make hats, scarves, fingerless gloves and purses.

When and how did you discover this outlet?  Tell us about the shift from idea to action.

I owned and operated a sewing workroom for 12 years. When the economy tanked I had to find another way to earn a living. I then worked in the corporate world for 2.5 years and I was completely miserable. My job was the opposite of creative and nurturing. I decided to leave without having devised a plan for earning. I was just certain that staying at that job would suck the soul right out of me.

I traveled to New Mexico and spent time sorting out my next step. With the complete support of my husband, I formulated a plan to return to garment making. I decided to only create one-of-a-kind garments, rather than fill orders for other people. I made my creativity a priority. I started out making sweater coats and set up an online shop on Etsy in October, 2011. I had a lot of sales up front which enabled me to explore my own design style while still earning.

How do you manage your time and energy?  How do you make your art a priority?

My work never feels like work. I wake up in the morning excited about what I will create that day. I structure my time around business priorities. Creative sewing is my main focus, but I also do everything else that supports the business – shopping for and laundering the recycled clothing, making hang tags and garment labels, updating spreadsheets, managing the finances and taxes, marketing, photography, social networking, pattern drafting, updating the website, delivering garments to galleries. I do one or many of these tasks every day of the week. I may work 6 hours or 20 minutes on any given day.

What struggles have you faced and how have you overcome those struggles?

This is a great question. I rent space in a gallery where I sell my clothing. Just prior to investigating this possibility, I almost gave up on my business. Sales on Etsy had slowed to a stop and gallery sales were not adequate to support my investment in the business. With encouragement from my husband and friends, I decided to commit to a year’s lease at local art market. On day one of setting up, I sold enough to pay my month’s rent with some profit left over. Having support in my venture has made all the difference. My motto for overcoming struggles is, “Keep on keeping on.” I also learned that I don’t have to know every outcome before starting. I do what is in front of me and the next step will be revealed.  This applies to both sewing and business administration.

Who or what inspires you?

I do a lot of research on the internet. I search Pinterest for ideas using altered clothing and vintage lace. I have a Pinterest Board dedicated to design inspiration. I don’t copy anyone’s work; I use the input as a springboard for what else I can create. I also look at how I can distinguish myself as a designer rather than making what is already out there.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

  • 85% of new clothing ends up in a landfill. In my work, I have purchased and reused at least 2,000 garments that might have otherwise been wasted. I like making a difference on the planet.
  • I make loans through Kiva to other women who are developing their sewing business. Part of my work is to support others in their own success.
  • I recently did a focus group with plus-sized women and have developed a plus-sized clothing line.
  • My work has been published in Altered Couture magazine, and I recently had my own 82 seconds of fame on our local ABC affiliate when they did a story on my business.  
  • My work has been in up to 6 galleries at a time. I am right at the edge of keeping up with production and I am assessing my next business steps.
  • Because this is my own company, I decided I would only sew using two thread colors – natural and blue/black.  I love having that kind of freedom!

Thank you so much, Deborah for sharing these words.  The line that really stuck with me: "I also learned that I don’t have to know every outcome before starting. I do what is in front of me and the next step will be revealed."

Deborah is all over the web.  Be sure to visit her sites.