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Laurel's bag is Penguin Bot

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.

My name is Laurel and I own I create funky and original knit and sewn purses, tote bags, and housewares. My unique designs are well-crafted, bright, bold, and 100% handmade. I started PenguinBot officially in October of 2008, and I’ve been taking custom orders since 2007. San Francisco Bazaar at the Maker Faire will be my first craft show, and I’m very excited to meet other crafters and new customers!

How did you first get involved with crafting?

I’ve always enjoyed creating things. My first foray into selling my wares was in 3rd grade, where I set up a small booth at my elementary school’s annual craft fair and bake sale. I sold bookmarks I’d stamped and embossed. I didn’t pick up knitting and sewing until I graduated from college. I started knitting because I wanted something to do on a road trip other than reading (so I could talk to my friends). I decided to start sewing because I was pretty sure that if I could figure it out, I’d be able to make skirts just as cute as ones I liked in trendy stores. I only made a few skirts before I got hooked on making bags. I started making purses for friends, then friends of friends, and then eventually started selling purses and totes through my blog.

What are your favorite materials to work with?

My favorite thing to work with is all the beautiful cotton prints I’ve found from great fabric artists like Amy Butler and Joel Dewberry. It must be, since my stash of fabric is a bit out of control. I also enjoy working with vinyl for structural parts of my bags, and using vinyl cut-outs for decoration. I continue to be amazed at how a single strand of yarn can be transformed into a gorgeous piece of fabric (or just about anything you want!) with just a set of knitting needles.

Do you have a favorite color palette?

Right now I really like rich browns with aqua, teal, or pink. I also love orange and rust hues, especially when combined with red or burgundy. While these seem to be the colors I seek out on my own, I often come across great suggestions from customers in custom orders, and am always inspired by the great combinations I find in my fabrics.

What are your inspirations in your art and in life?

I draw inspiration from the fabrics I find. A cut-out on a vinyl bag can be inspired by a leaf on the fabric I’ve chosen for the lining, and sometimes I’ll find a great color combination I wouldn’t expect to work. My first vinyl-bottomed tote bag was inspired by beautiful fabric my sister-in-law gave me. It had a white background, and knowing how hard I was on my bags, I didn’t want to make something that I would ruin by getting dirty the first time I sat it on the ground. In my life I draw a lot of inspiration from my family.  It can be hard to balance the demands of a day-job, a family and PenguinBot, but I look forward to the prospect of turning my crafting into a full-time endeavor. It makes for some long days (and nights), but I’m driven by the thought that hard work now will get me where I want to be in the future.

What is your favorite song or album to listen to while working?

Upbeat music like the Shins, the New Pornographers or Spoon helps keep me moving, and I listen to a lot of NPR and baseball (when spring rolls around).

Who are some of your favorite indie artist/crafters and why do you love them?

I love Jessie Oleson of Cakespy. Aside from having super cute paintings of desserts, her blog is always informative and funny. Jessie also encouraged me to start doing craft shows and answered some questions I had about getting started in them. She was incredibly warm and welcomed me into the crafting community, and her enthusiasm is infectious.

Any exciting future plans or developments in the works for your business?

PenguinBot is fairly new, but we’ve recently launched a line of items for the kitchen that we’re working to expand. We also have some new handbag designs in the works and we’re always finding new fabric to use on our tote bags, so keep an eye on us!




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