Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Birdcrap Featherwear Interview

Today I have a great little interview for you with Geneva Sutter, the head lady in charge of Birdcrap Featherwear out in Portland. (I first heard of Birdcrap through a mutual friend, Nicole who models for the company.) I've really loved all the big, long feathery earrings that have been popular lately, and when I first saw these, I thought they really stood out from the rest. Geneva uses unique techniques like stenciling on a beautiful color pallette of all different types of feathers to come up with her wearable works of art. I was so happy when I received my very own pair of American flag style earrings in the mail last week, and I couldn't wait to post the photos of them. It's always refreshing to me to talk to people who are really motivated and actually doing something they love, so I've asked Geneva a bunch of questions and she has kindly answered them. Here you go!

ME: What's your story....
BC: Howdy, my name is Geneva Sutter, I was born and raised in Austin, Texas but have traded in the sunshine for the ever so rainy Portland, Oregon. I have been in Portland now for just over 5 years, and have been making feather earrings the entire time. Bird Crap Featherwear began (in concept) 6 years ago with a pair of pink earrings made for a Halloween costume. They were in fact made from some hot pink fur I found... and then duct taped to a pair of chain earrings I had. They were incredibly crude but everyone LOVED them... everyone also thought that they were feathers. A light went off in my head instantly, and the idea for feather earrings began. At first they were presents for friends and coworkers, but at the time I worked as a cocktail waitress in a very popular bar. Customers wanted them, then their friends, and even a few retail shop owners wanted them in their stores. The demand just kept on growing, and growing, and growing! It has been a wonderfully unexpected event, especially since I came to Portland to study Interior Design at Marylhurst University. I received my BFA in 2008, but the job market was horrible... however,  the demand for the earrings was HUGE! I recognized the potential my earrings had and used my design background to... well, design an entire business from the ground up. Its business structure, brand identity, marketing strategies... the works! It has been an incredibly rewarding experience, but the hours are grueling! My Fiance Matt Tompkins has actually had to step in to help, and we now share in all functions of the company together. We have a great work-live situation, where we live above our production studio in SE Portland... I can honestly say that we are a "Homegrown" business. We always want our product to be recognized as a family based- handmade brand, we just like it that way! We now have retail accounts across America and in Canada, and ship to customers worldwide! 

ME: Who came up with the genius name of Bird Crap?
BC: For quite a while the company actually operated under a different name (Phoenix Design Studio) but it didn't really identify the product, it's personality,or any solid business concept. In fact, the name kinda sucked... so began the grueling process of selecting a business name that identified the product. We had a few requirements, that the domain name be available, we could easily trademark the name, and it had to reflect the personality of the items being made, and the people making them. Lots of names were tossed around but nothing had that glorious ring we wanted. A good friend of ours, who happens to also be the owner of our favorite breakfast joint Bertie Lou's was aware of our dilemma and began offering his ideas to us. One morning Bird Crap just landedl on the counter! It was edgy, perfect for our brand identity,  memorable, and most importantly AVAILABLE! It was settled and Bird Crap Featherwear was born that morning over crass conversation and coffee! 

ME: What type of materials do you use? Any real bird feathers?
BC: Feathers Feathers FEATHERS.... we use a lot of feathers! We have all kinds of feathers.... it is really quite a site to see! The studio is filled with peacock, emu, turkey, and rooster feathers of all varieties, lengths, and colors. We dye lots of colors in house.... and even hand paint several varieties. It is such a wonderful material to work with and so many combinations can be created! Possibilities are limitless! 
ME: The whole stenciling idea on the feathers is what first really captured my attention. How did you come up with this idea?
BC: We were asked to design a pair of earrings for a 4th of July photo shoot some years ago but all the combinations of feathers that were put together just didn't quite capture the look wanted. It just kind of hit me.... stencil stars on them.... and the Old Glory style was born. With stencils so many motifs and patterns can be achieved and we now have multiple animal print styles. They are really fun to make!

ME: What can we expect from Birdcrap in 2011?
BC: We are going to be bringing our "A" game in 2011, so watch out!! The website is going to EXPLODE with lots of brand new styles, photos, and sales through out the year! We will also be concentrating on gaining more retail outlets so that people across the US can get their hands on some Bird Crap! So keep your eyes peeled, we just might land in a boutique near you. Custom orders will still be available and are always a pleasure to do!

ME: Where do you see the company in 5 years?
BC: Hopefully still plowing ahead as strongly as it has been over these past years. However, we will always keep it a handmade operation. 

ME: Any style icons?
BC: Mr. T! I pity the foo who don't wear Bird Crap Feathwear.... LOL! Anything edgy has always been at the top of the inspiration list however no one particular individual stands out.... the stylings of Mad Max movie sets, the era of punk fashion, goth, steampunk... David Bowie.... We really explore concepts through a wide array of outlets... books, movies, art, even the paint chips at the local paint store. Inspiration is all around us.

ME: Why Portland? What do you love about it?
BC: I came to Portland to study Commercial Interior Design at Marylhurst University. I did, and graduated with a BFA in 2008. I'm happy to say although it isn't interiors, I am still designing something!! Portland has been such a fantastic outlet for our product. People here are edgy and love to take fashion risks... which people all over adopt.   The cities progressive nature towards conservation and the environment makes it a pleasure to live in but UGH the rain gets old!
ME: What's your secret?
BC: It wouldn't be a secret anymore if I told you...(wink wink).

ME: What advice do you have for me?
BC: Unexpected opportunities are EVERYWHERE! Keep your eyes and mind open so that you may spot the one that makes you happier than you could have ever imagined!

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