Hi Lydia, how are you?
Wonderful! I’m enjoying the sun today.
Eheh, you lucky! Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Lydia Krupinski and I am a designer, activist and all around busy gal. I spend my days working for a local Humane society in Chicago and my nights sewing for my fashion biz Pierogi Picnic. I enjoy working on my urban garden, singing at church, biking around the city and eating ethnic foods. I am also a first generation American and am very closely tied to my roots.
Absolutely! I think it’s well balanced. You have the creativity that comes from an urban environment, combined with a ‘roll up your sleeves’ Midwestern work ethic. People are also so open to collaboration in Chi - it makes for an inviting community for artists of all kinds.
What did you study?
I went to both an fine arts school and liberal arts college. I double majored in Gender Studies and Media Production which made for a really unique experience! While I was at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago I also focused on textile and fiber designs. Ironically I never studied fashion or design - just the visual media side of things.
Can you tell us anything about york work at Humane society?
Yes - I have always had a passion for animal welfare and found myself volunteering in various shelters through the years. In 2009 a position opened for a volunteer coordinator at one of the places that I was helping and I jumped at the opportunity. It’s been almost 3 years that I’ve been on staff at The Anti-Cruelty Society and I find the work so rewarding. Beyond working with over 500 volunteers I also manage our foster pet program and an emergency housing program for victims of domestic violence. It’s incredibly emotional work - but worth the effort.
I’m glad to know there is people like you! Now, let’s talk about Pierogi Picnic: when did it born?
Pierogi Picnic came to life in the fall of 2008. I was working freelance in media and television while serving on the board for Women in Film Chicago. I was close to a lot of creative types who would ask about the clothing I made and wore. It led me to explore various boutiques and craft fairs that supported local artisans. In the meantime I was also a huge supporter of the website Etsy.com and saw it as a potential venue for my creations. All roads pointed to me starting my own online clothing business - and so I took the leap and have never looked back!
Can you tell us anything about your working method?
My methods for Pierogi Picnic developed from what I had already been doing with my own clothing. The process involves sketching out designs, either on paper or in my head. Once I have an idea for the shape and texture of a piece my so-called “hunt” begins. I start to scour local resale, vintage and thrift shops until I find a fabric that suits my liking. From there I sit down and cut up the original garment until I have a basic shape ready. Then it’s about sewing up seams, altering hems and embellishing. Most of the time this first piece becomes a sample that I photograph and then recreate as a made to order item for an individual client. If I’m preparing for a show or wholesale order, I’ll use the sample to churn out anywhere from 3-15 of the same piece in varying colors.
What I love most about working with recycled fabrics is uniqueness of each piece. Even if the design is exactly the same the hue and weight of each item will vary slightly, giving it a truly one of a kind look.
What do you think of this return to handcrafted cloth?
I think that it’s an indication of the times we’re in. People are starting to value things that are made in small batches and not outsourced to sweatshops. There’s an appreciation for the unique one-of-a-kind creations being made. And it’s not just fashion! You see a similar trend in everything from gourmet foods to furniture design. People are craving originality and want to support the maker and not a huge corporation. It’s incredibly encouraging and a great time to be an entrepreneur.
Can you describe us your workshop?
My studio is in my apartment in the East Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. We have a beautiful vintage place that has a separate formal dining room that we’ve turned into the ‘art room.’ My husband is a painter and is currently working on a series of large scale portraits - so he gets half the room and I take the other half. It’s great being able to work side by side and mutually influence one another. My work area includes two sewing machines, hundreds of bobbins, threads, elastic and buttons all stored in hand me down jars. I have a vintage armoire that I converted into a fabric cove and painted a grass cloth green. I recently also picked up a bunch of wooden picture frames from a resale shop that I’m going to paint and mount with corkboard and fabric - creating a collage of inspiration boards and to-do lists. It being Spring I’ve really caught a bug to want to keep my space organized so as to not block the creative juices from flowing.
What is your greatest dream?
Wow - that’s a tough one! I have so many ambitions but not enough lifetimes to complete them. Since we’ve focused our talk on Pierogi Picnic - I’ll speak to that side of things (otherwise you’d have to listen to me chatter on about my role in animal welfare, my love of urban gardening and my passion for community outreach at church).
My dream for Pierogi Picnic would be to grow it to the point of complete financial sustainability. I would love to have a dual boutique/studio space where I could sell my wares (and most likely the creations of others too!) while also sewing on site, doing alterations and custom orders for people. I have yet to see a clothing boutique that offers hemming and other basics for an affordable price with next day delivery. I think it would be a huge hit!
Eheh, you’re right! Do you think your passion for the urban gardening can be linked to the creation of handmade clothing?
Who knows - I’m sure there’s some way to tie everything together. I was teaching classes on eco-crafting at a nature museum a couple years back - so anything’s possible!
Can you tell us anything more about this experience?
It was really interesting. I’ve hosting eco-crafting classes at a variety of places over the years and I always find it astounding how many kids and adults want to jump in and give things a try. I find it really inspiring to see how people are open to making things themselves while doing it in a way that’s respectful of the environment. Doing tutorials shows how easy it can be to be green.
The interview is almost over: is there anything else would you like to say to our readers?
I would like to thank you for taking the time to converse with me and for your reader’s interest in what I’m all about. Thank you!