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Q&A: Artemis Design Co.

  • Artemis Design Co. is new to our shops this season. Boston-based designer Milicent Armstrong creates bags and shoes out of antique kilim rugs collected on her travels, and recently spoke with us about her inspiration, process, and pet rabbit, Norah. She also shared some photos from her trip to Turkey.

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    You recently returned from a trip to Istanbul, a city we love. What did you do, and were you there during the protests?
    I sourced materials for upcoming products and looked at hundreds of antique Kilim carpets to choose the most unique patterns and colors to be used for future bags and shoes. We also looked into creating new handbag shapes, wallets, and smaller clutch bags. The most enjoyable part for me is hunting for new inspiration and textiles. The artisans who make everything are very talented and skilled in the quickly fading art of handmade goods. I love talking to them and watching them work. The food in Istanbul is also a big draw. We were very lucky to have left in time because we weren’t staying far from where the protests happened. Seeing it on the news was a shock.

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    Travel seems to play a big role in your work. What are some of the places that inspire you?
    Turkey and Uzbekistan are the biggest inspirations because I use their traditional textiles and Kilim. I love that each pattern tells a different story and shares something about the artist and the family who created it. Travel opens your eyes to how other people live and adds a lot of richness to your life, so I try to get on a plane, train, or boat as often as I can! It’s fitting that my collection reflects this because the shoes are so comfortable for walking (or running in an airport!) and the bags are made for weekend jaunts.

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    What drew you to textiles, and how did you arrive at creating bags and shoes?
    I have always loved textiles. My favorite thing to do as a kid was shopping for fabric with my mother and then making things on our sewing machine. Fast forward about 20 years, I went on a buying trip to Istanbul for my mother’s store – Galatea Fine Jewelry in Milton, Massachusetts – and fell in love with the Kilims and textiles at all of the Bazaars. I bought a pair of the traditional shoes and a carpet bag and was so impressed with how well the Kilim held up and formed to the foot. I didn’t realize it at the time but Artemis Design Co. was born out of that experience.

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    Fill us in on your design process, from inspiration to finished product.
    I am always thinking about what the next bag or shoe will look like, and I used the materials as a guide. Silk, Kilim, and velvet all feel and bend very differently, and therefore some materials are better for different items. I usually have many different samples made and try them out for a little while. This tells me which bags or shoes are the most comfortable to use, complementary to the wearer, and beautiful to look at.

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    What are the most important features to you in a travel bag or shoe?
    Comfort, utility, and beauty.

    What are you currently working on?
    I’m in the process of developing my next collection, which will continue to use rich, beautiful materials in classic and easy to wear shades. For the fall I am using lush velvets, silks, and Kilim in earth tones with pops of bright color.

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    We’d love to know more about Norah, your pet rabbit.
    Norah is quite exotic, a Jersey Wooley and Lionhead mix (that’s where all of the fluff comes from) and still a baby. Her favorite treats are dried fruit and currants. Norah roams around our studio and keeps everyone entertained. She is a rescue from the MSPCA animal shelter in Methuen and was a gift for my last birthday.

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    Many thanks to Milicent for having us! We’ll be hosting an Artemis trunk show all day this Saturday at our Brooklyn Women’s shop, and at our Boston shop on June 22nd, so stop by to meet her and check out the collection.

    This entry was posted on Thursday, June 13th, 2013 at 12:57 pm and is filed under Events, In Stock, New Arrivals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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