A few years ago I introduced my sister to Etsy. As she was scrolling through she noticed a knit designer that she fell in love with. She shared it with me and I became almost obsessed. Earlier this year I got the nerve to contact this designer and ask to meet with her. To my joy she accepted.
I met with her at a little cafe in Downtown L.A. and we talked for hours. Time just seemed to slip away. I was nervous at first and she relaxed me with her calm demeanor and generosity as she shared a wealth of information to help me in my quest to expand my brand and enhance the quality of my designs.
Not only is she a talented knit and crochet designer, she teaches crochet, works at a Yarn Store in DTLA and is a jazz singer. She is gifted and wise beyond her years. I asked if she would allow me the opportunity to interview her for my blog and showcase a few items. . . she obliged!! Yay!!
Introducing you to Renaissance Marie Austin of Raghouse International!
1. Tell me about yourself and how we came to meet
Greetings! I am Renaissance Marie Austin and I am an artist and creative. I am hugely passionate about music and fiber, the two things mostly consume my time and creative energy. I am a native of Los Angeles mostly growing up on the South side in the South LA, South Bay, Torrance area. My fondest childhood memories are going to the beach every Saturday and fishing with my father. Sometime we would go to Redondo Beach to fish or El Dorado Park. Tracy had been a friend of my Raghouse International facebook page for some time until she contacted me with the desire to meet and talk about crochet! I was so happy about her design aesthetic and talent that later I went back and let everyone know on facebook about her work. We met for three hour and had the most wonderful and inspiring conversation. We've been in contact ever since.
2. What are your gifts and talents? Where they taught or God given or both?
My gifts and talents generally lay in art. I would say that singing is a God given talent and when it comes to crochet my grandmother taught me at the age of 8. I was definitely a natural, took it, and ran with it. I've used many of my discovered talents in the professional realm, such at makeup artistry, photography, graphic design, styling, fashion show production, and hair styling, to name a few.
3. What is your brand and what was your inspiration for starting it?
My brand is Raghouse International and I was inspired to actually start a business in 2000 when I was studying dance, music, and poetry at El Camino College in Torrance. I saw a vendor selling a crocheted head bonnet and from that point I had a light bulb moment. Before then, I did not have the realization that you could make something then sell it. I went home, picked up my crochet hooks again and I was in full swing. I don't believe I've stopped crocheting since, literally! lol.
4. Where can your brand be seen? Website, twitter, fb, youtube, etc...
Customers can shop on my Big Cartel website. I love that site. It is streamlined and beautiful. My two top sellers are located there as well as my live crochet demonstration event for galleries and boutiques. Customers can visit www.raghouseinternationalknitwear.bigcartel.com/
6. what advice do you have for someone striving to create a brand or find their gifts/purpose?
First things first. You have to be passionate and in love with what you are doing. You need to make sure that you are not just looking at other artisans and copying what they are doing. If you are not sure what it is you are supposed to be doing, look within yourself and go back to your childhood and a very revelatory event that took place in your live. Write and journalize about the things that you love and see what comes out. Once you start to see what it is that you are passionate about go for it. Authenticity and the best thing. Research, research, research ahead of time so that you will know how things simply work, especially when it comes to the internet. It is forever upgrading itself. People try to figure out their demographic before hand, but I've found that your customers will do that for you. It is just a matter of keep track of where they live and their lifestyle. Look into branding with websites like vistaprint.com. Packaging is everything. Think about colors, patterns and design, and be sure to treat each customer with respect and give them a lot of attention. Businesses are about relationships, but just selling a product and forgetting about that person because the return customers are the best. Be as helpful as you can to them by being an "expert in your field. Study at much as you can about what it is you do. They will be very impressed that you know not only your craft well, but the history of your craft.
7. Do you run your business full time or are you bi-vocational?
run my business full time. Be prepared and know that entrepreneurship is around the clock, but it is important to designate your hours properly, like having breakfast at a certain time, lunch, then dinner. Allocate time to creating, then time to internet work. Proper rest is important to me as well so I now set my cut off time at 12 midnight. When I was a little younger and spunky, I would stay up until 2am or 3am and really push myself mentally and physically, but it is important to have that balance and get the proper sleep your body needs. I am working both music and design, so the rest is the make sure that my voice is in good condition as well.