Thursday, May 5, 2011

May Denver Made Interview: Benjamin Ballerina

For May's installment of Denver Made we are excited to introduce you to a line of locally handmade children's clothing, Benjamin Ballerina: Pretty Tough Clothing for Kids. This line focuses on quality handmade clothing for children helping consumers to move away from mass produced products that all look the same. Benjamin Ballerina is a collaborative effort between local creatives Maggie Evans and Dylan Scholinski, who met through their work at The Other Side Arts. All of the clothing is produced by hand from reclaimed fabrics and is then screen-printed with original photographic imagery. Recently Maggie and Dylan took the time to answer a few questions for us in preparation for their Denver Made event Friday May 6th.

(The designers behind Benjamin Ballerina, Dylan & Maggie)

FT: How did you come up with the name for your line?

BB: We made lots of lists of names we liked... and didn't like. We wanted to come up with a name that meant something to both of us as well as a name that could reflect the fluidity of gender by balancing strong stereotypically gendered names/words. Benjamin is Maggie's brother's name and Dylan has a couple of Benjamins in his life too. Benjamin is a strong stereotypically masculine name and while searching for the strong stereotypically feminine side - ballerina seemed to bring the right balance... but we like to believe that Benjamin could be a girl and that the ballerina could be a boy. The balance is then reinforced by the use of "pretty tough" as well. 

FT: How did you get your start?

BB: Maggie has always wanted to run her own clothing company since she was young and has been designing and sewing clothing of all kinds since then. When she met Dylan, a working mixed media artist, in addition to falling in love, ideas for a co-run kid's clothing company fell into place and they launched their business one year after meeting. 

FT: Where do you find your best inspiration for your work?

BB: All over, Maggie checks out fashion all the time. She pays attention to little details that she'd like to try out in her designs. With the kid's clothing she tries to keep the designs timeless and simple and let the fabrics and the prints shine. 

Dylan has always enjoyed collecting images from everyday life, images from things that are often overlooked or discarded. Dylan is heavily inspired by the study and practice of Wabi Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic that recognizes the beauty in the imperfect and weathered, a reclaiming of beauty on its own terms. Such as a flattened rusty can or a string of birds on a wire trying to stay warm. 

FT: What music do you listen to when you work on your product?

Dylan:  I am kind of all over the place. I love lots of different music. I'm a big fan of shuffle on my ipod and just listening to what comes up. Recently I've liked listening to Low, The National, and Gnarles  Barkley and also lots of classic rock.

Maggie: I'm kind of embarrassed to say it, but I watch TV instead of listening to music. Lot's of crime/detective/mystery stuff, I love it. Lately I've been listening to a little bit of french pop music too.

FT: What would you like people to know about your work/process that isn’t evident when looking at it?

BB: We hardly ever discuss our creative ideas ahead of time. Dylan takes yards of plain fabric to his workshop, prints on it, and then gives it back to Maggie. Maggie then turn it into clothes. While at the same time, Maggie is making clothes from the plain fabric that she then gives to Dylan, and he prints on the ready-made garments. We work both ways. It's super fun and I think it keeps us both inspired to not know what the other person is going to come up with and to both have total creative license about what we do. 

All of our fabrics are reclaimed/repurposed. Using reclaimed materials is our way of lessening our carbon footprint. Plus it makes the creating so much more fun because everything really is one of a kind. We love the stories that come with the materials too, like the dress we made out of a blanket or the vests that are made out of old sweaters. Some of the lace and trims have come off of wedding dresses Maggie has altered. This spring and summer line is almost wholly produced from off-cast decorating and upholstery fabrics so you can be sure they will last! 

We think the other thing that is unique about what we offer is that it's not perfect. We don't strive to make everything match or line up, we look for the beauty in the imperfect which, as a parent, is an important message for little people to hear. 

Join us Friday May 6th from 5pm-8pm at Fancy Tiger Clothing and get a closer look at the work of Benjamin Ballerina. This is a family friendly event and there will be beverages and snacks available for all ages.  

See you Friday!


Fancy Tiger Clothing

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