Saturday, May 14, 2011

What's Your Story? Weekend Edition: Allie Push of Soft Shell Crafts

I'm proud to introduce the inaugural post for this thread. Allie Push of Soft Shell Crafts kindly agreed to be the first brave soul to share her story. I admit a bit of self indulgence in selecting her; once upon a time I fell in love with book binding, particularly books made without glue I got to meet her and  her adorable journals at Mayday! Underground a few weeks ago. She might have inspired me to brush off the dust and start using some of those lovely hand bound books I made so long ago. And to buy new ones! Thanks for sharing Allie!

Name: Allie Push

Business Name
: Soft Shell Crafts

Etsy Shop

r:; Soft Shell Crafts on FB

Age: 22

Profession/Day Job: Saranac beer demo girl / RIT figure model / intern at RoCo

Craft(s) of Choice: Hand bound books

List 5-10 words that describe your work:
Upcycled handmade books to save the world

How did you get started? Almost a year after first learning how to coptic stitch, I pulled out the instructions we had received and got to work making a sketchbook as a gift to a friend. And, to my pleasant surprise, it turned out really well! (And he seemed to think so too, so that was an extra vote of confidence) I started looking around at pre-existing materials that just built up around the house: the brown packing paper I’d been saving up know, I’d do something with it eventually...and the beer boxes always added up at the end of wild college parties as well. So I started making books out of beer boxes; it seemed logical to just start turning what was usually waste into something useful.

How did you first hear about Etsy?
I’m not really sure, to be honest. There wasn’t ever a defining moment where I realized “Hey! There’s this awesome online venue for selling art and crafts! Whoa!” It just kind of sneaked into my awareness at some point.

Besides your main craft of choice, do you enjoy any other crafts? I’m starting to make some collaged wine bottle vases and painted vinyl record bowls. I am also a painter and do some drawing, so I am trying to find ways to incorporate those skills into my books and other crafts.

Is there a craft you've always wanted to try, but never got around to learning? That is certainly a list that could go on forever, as I love learning and experimenting with new techniques! Printmaking was always a craft/art form I wanted to experiment with more but never had to the time to focus on it in college. I was always interested in the building up of layers and process-based work, which are both things that printmaking seems to allow for.

If you could add to your craft/art line, what would you like to add? I would really like to start working some original drawings into shop, or find ways to use them on book covers or bookmarks.

Did you go to art school or are you self taught? I went to art school at the University of Delaware and got my BFA, but I mainly studied painting, and very intensely at that. Although I did learn coptic book binding in a workshop; I went on a photography based study abroad program and before departing we all made hand bound books for our alternative process work.

What influences your creativity? When I comes to the craft I’ve been making lately (and I never thought I’d be one of those artists, but): Trash. I have become more and more aware of environmental concerns and it makes me so crazy and sad to see the amount of waste our world produces. So I find myself looking at materials that would normally be trash or recycling or something in between and asking myself “Okay, how can I make this useful?”

What does your workspace look like most of the time? Like a violent tornado just passed through it. I have tried, on countless occasions, to be one of those perfectly organized, neat people. But that’s just not me. Over time, I have developed an artist process that requires me to be working on at least 4 or 5 different projects at once. This means that all of my materials are always out all the time. My “studio” right now is the corner of my living room, but usually sprawls out to the floor, coffee table, and sometimes even the kitchen table (at least until my boyfriend asks where we are going to eat dinner).

In your creative life and work,  of what accomplishment are you most proud ?
When I was in college, I had my first solo show featuring my paintings at a local restaurant. The restaurant/bar was basically the cool, classy hipster bar and was very well known for hanging great artwork. Having my artwork hanging there, and for twice the time as most artists, was a huge accomplishment. They accomplishment become even more profound when, by the end of the show, almost every painting had sold. I very proud of that show and cherish it greatly.

In your creative life and work, what’s “the one that got away”? I guess the answer to that question relates back to the answer of the pervious question. I never got the chance to meet or have contact with the people who bought my work and, since I wasn’t into signing paintings, they never got any of my contact information or anything. An art collector from Texas bought one of my pieces and took it home on the spot and I don’t have any way to connect with him/her.

Have you had an "a-ha" moment related to your art or craft? Plenty. And they always fall into one of three categories:
  • “a-ha! Oh, duh...”: For when I am doing something inefficiently and discover the easier, more logical way.
  • “a-ha!” (hours later)“Well, that was stupid/didn’t work at all.” : For brilliant ideas that end up being impossible to execute.
  • “a-ha! I’m a genius!” : An actual good idea, that works in concept and method.

I’m going to keep examples of the first 2 to myself, because most are embarrassing. And I haven’t actually started making and announcing any that fall under the 3rd category, so you’ll just have to keep up with my Etsy shop for those.

What do you think is the difference (if any) between “art”and “craft”?
This is a great question and something I have been battling with for the past few months. I trained and studied as a “artist”, as a painter. I developed a practice and language and body of work that completely existed in the realm of “art” and held no connection to that of “craft”.

Many people see an “art” object as something that exists for aesthetic purposes, as something that speaks to the viewer in a purely visually language to impose an idea. “Craft” objects are seen as items that, although are can be created “artistically”, are practical. You can use them, sit on them, or wear them.

So with that, I think, yes, there is a difference but there doesn’t have to be and maybe there shouldn’t be. It is ultimately up to the creator and the viewer (or customer) to decide if their work is art or craft or some combination of both.

Thanks again to Allie of Soft Shell Crafts for being the first featured artist in this series. Have suggestions or feedback? Want to be featured? Leave a comment or email me at beauty.i.t.eye[at]gmail[dot]com or through Etsy at


  1. Good questions! Great answers! Liking this new edition to the blog.

  2. Really great interview and awesome shop, Allie!!

  3. Awesome! Really love reading about fellow artists. Looking forward to the next one. (And happy to contribute in the future if you need me!) -Heather

  4. yay! Thanks for starting this new segment. I can't wait hear everyone else's stories!