Meeting Coleen of Five Five Studio was total chance. I happened to stop into the short lived, but amazingly fun, Freelance Friday’s at Local Works—the place to be if you’re a creative in Charleston.
We immediately bonded over a shared obsession with Crossfit and all things beaded (no one appreciates my love of Marchesa as much as Colleen SCAD’s fibers department and is launching her creative business this fall, featuring delicately handmade items for you and your home, including wall hangings and fine art pieces. Her business, Five Five Studio, is built on the traditional practices of weaving and quilting curated with her modern eye.
How did you get your start?
I went into high school and college with fashion in mind, but after two years of design at SCAD, I branched out and tried a textile class. Really learning the basics of fibers, stitching, and beading allowed me to completely fall in love with it. The fibers community is just so interesting, and while some people go into pattern and print, others go to work for major corporations. We are prepared for a wide range of things, but I chose to be my own boss and do my own thing.
What lead you to Charleston?
I’m originally from Massachusetts but Charleston has so much more to offer in terms of a community. It’s also an incredibly inspiring place to be because handmade, handcrafted items are so appreciated here. I knew this was the community for me.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Surround yourself with people who are on your team, who support what you do, and lift you up. I have a group of friends from SCAD who were all from fibers and we’re so different but bond over our shared love. We don’t compete with each other, but we encourage each other. I ask for and take their advice seriously because they know the craft and also have my best interest at heart.
What’s the advice you give to other creative people?
Don’t be scared of the business side of things. There are so many people out there to help you. Don’t let that hinder you from making whatever it is you do. Go out and just do it. You can do anything you want to do. Don’t let little things freak you out.
Looking back at yourself as a child, what traits made you perfect for the job you have now?
My mom was always really supportive of my creativity. When I was younger I wanted to be a bus driver, so she really encouraged that. I had a really nice bus driver and for a while and so that was my dream. But my mom is a very creative person and I watched her and anytime I wanted to try something, she was more than supportive. When I wanted to do fashion she would buy me books and take me to classes. Growing up in that atmosphere made it seem like there were no limits. Anything was possible! But really, I have a picture from when I was 7 where I cut small pieces of fabric and made it into a cat. Looking back, I definitely see this is what I was meant to do.
Was there a moment of panic when you decide you didn’t want to go into fashion?
I was going into my junior year of college and having done fashion for 6 years, that’s what people knew me for. That’s what everyone thought I would ultimately do. It was scary going into fibers because I thought I would lose my identity without fashion, but I actually found more of it. I was so nervous I drug out the process. I thought it might not be right but then I just went for it. Fashion wasn’t making me happy. I think it’s healthy to freak out. If there isn’t a sense of panic what good is that? What would you learn?
What has been your greatest professional hurdle?
I guess a big one is learning how to promote my business without feeling like I am shoving it in peoples' faces. It’s also educating people about fibers and what that means. People have a lot of misconceptions about textiles. They think machines do it. People don’t really know where things are made and how they are made. Everything I create is 100% handmade; I make it myself, start to finish.
What do you struggle with?
Self doubt. Handmade objects are so personal because I put time and work into every piece; it feels so personal to me. When you sell it, you’re giving a piece of yourself. It’s scary and you start to undersell yourself and question everything you make. You can lose yourself in the process. Being confident in myself and in my craftsmanship is a huge struggle and something I still have to work on.
What’s your spirit animal:
I like to think sloths and I are kindred souls. They’re so cute and they just do their own things and eat and sleep.
Who is your Charleston fan girl?
I follow her on instagram and her name is Teil Duncan. She is amazing. I think all of her work is breathtaking and I creep her instagram all the time. Her wedding portraits OMG have you seen them? I want that!
What is your proudest accomplishment?
The fact that I am putting myself out there. I got into the Indie Craft Parade, which is huge. I’ve never been in any art show/craft show before! Now I have my website. This is just the beginning.
Shop Colleen’s beautiful creations online via her website and follow her on Instagram to check out her newest pieces! #christmasiscoming #shoplocal