Sunday, September 13, 2009

Interview with Terri Collins of Callidora's

We are happy to present another interview with another talented artist, Terri Collins of Callidora's.

1. Tell us a little bit a
bout who you are and what you do.
I'm Terri Collins and I own Callidora's. I'm a homeschooling mom of 4, although my oldest is in college now. I started Callidora's 2 years ago when prompted by friends to sell my creations. I thought it was silly, I mean who would buy my stuff? But I've been really surprised and overwhelmed with how my business has grown over the last two years! Callidora's first started out as aprons and handbags - I felt safe making 'one size fits all' kinds of things. During that first year, I began offering simple skirts as well and bid on a lot of custom projects through Etsy. After that, I gained enough confidence in sewing without having the person in front of me, I was able to offer more in the realm of clothing. This past year, the economy has really forced me to focus my efforts since sales slowed down quite a bit.

2. How and when did you learn to sew?
I was 13 when I took my first sewing class at a Bernina store. My mother insisted! She's a great seamstress as well, and I always wanted her make things for me. But she was a single mother with 2 children and 2 jobs - not much time for sewing and certainly not for all my dreamed "necessities"! During that class, I was taught how to make a top and skirt for myself. Bernina also used a make your own pattern approach and I was delighted with my first projects!

3. Are there other arts or crafts that you enjoy?
I learned how to crochet at 5 and did that on and off over the years, but taught myself to knit 5 years ago. I much prefer the knitting to crochet. As a teenager, I did a lot of sketching with charcoal and took photography in high school. 8 years ago, I taught myself tole painting and did lots of home decor projects, but hubby got sick of all the little paints. Just before starting Callidora's, I tried my hand at jewelry making. I loved doing that, but the market seems so difficult to make yourself stand out. I didn't have my own style, just making pretty things. I'm now realizing as I answer this question that I have really been surrounded by art my whole! I wonder what ever made work in the corporate world for 15 years?! Must have been those darn bills!

4. What is it about sewing and fabric arts that caused you to choose it as your primary focus?
I sew women's clothing because don't feel good in the clothes they buy from the store. Every woman I know has some complaint about manufactured clothing. "I have a long torso - they think everyone's short!" "I have short legs - they think everyone should be 5'7"!" "It fits my hips but not my waist." And on and on. Whenever I've made my own clothes, I get a lot of compliments and I don't have those issues. I decided to offer other women the opportunity to FEEL and look great.

5. What is your favorite project that you have worked on before?
That's a difficult question! I put my heart and soul into every custom order I make. Oh gosh, I can't chose one or even 6! That's like saying out loud which kid is your favorite. The others would be heartbroken to hear such a thing. I love them all :)

6. You have some dresses on your blog and in your shops that are replicas of dresses in movies and on TV. How did you get started doing that and what all have you done in that area?
That started as answering a request on Etsy for the Ghostbusters Zuul dress costume. It looked like something not too complicated and there weren't many bids. I won the job and then I sort of panicked! The customer of course wanted as close to movie accuracy as possible. So I rented the movie and paused the film and watched the Zuul possession in slow motion 5 times - just to see how the dress moved so I could determine design and fabric used. Once that project was done, other requests came in for the same costume. It seemed that I had done something people wanted but didn't know how to get.
After that, I got requests for skirts done by designers selling for hundreds. I did what I call the "Pushing Daisies" dress. It was from the show "Pushing Daisies". My customer loved the design of the dress and chose and fabric and we were off! I did a request for a designer houndstooth coat - again hundreds of dollars for the designer one. A lot of ordinary women want to look beautiful and have nice things, but either can't afford designer labels or don't have the body those clothes are manufactured for. I am thrilled to create a replica for someone within her budget to fit her body and have revel in how it feels when she receives it!
I'm currently working on adding a "Penelope"movie inspired coat to my replica repertoire. It's not an exact copy because the customer made some design changes, but the flavor is still there.

7. Are there other projects that you would like to work on but haven't had the chance?
A wedding gown. I did one in the past for a customer, but I want to create 2 or 3 to have photographed and offer those designs for sale.

8. What advice do you have for people looking to get into sewing and fabric arts?
I can only speak for those who want to do clothing because quilting and toys and home decor are another matter altogether. My advice is to have a serger as well as sewing machine; take the time to press - pressing is sooooo important and is one step often shortened or eliminated all together; and handsew those important delicate areas - the hem, the zipper. A machine cannot take the place of handstitching for clothing of excellent quality. Most couture houses do the entire garment by hand - my customers deserve the same love and so do yours.

9. What do you think it is most important for customers and other people to know about what you do?
There is a segment of the buying public that feels that they should be able to get the same item cheaper because it's handmade. "Handmade" seems to mean that an unskilled person or kid made that. I want people to be aware that this does take skill and is an artisan craft. Being paid for materials AND time is only fair. I've seen many requests for a dress for $15 and I want to cry for the person who accepts that job - many times that's what the fabric costs or a little less. I would like dressmaking to be viewed as the art and work that it is and not some home ec project.

10. What is your ideal world as it relates to your art and how do you (or did you) try to change things to bring that world into being?
In my ideal world, more people will be aware of the importance of preserving these skills. I try to buy hand crafted for anything I need and suggest those artisans to others - whether its make-up, soap, wall art, gifts for relatives, whatever. I'm not against technology, but I don't believe it should take away our rich heritage as people of many cultures. Artisans care about their work and truly desire happy customers. You won't be put on hold for 20 minutes in a call center halfway around the world just trying to get a problem fixed.

11. Finally, where can we buy your items and hear about your projects?
My website,, has my photo gallery of custom work as well as some of my items for sale. I have two art community shops where most of my business comes from, and http://callidoras.artfire com. You can find out about my upcoming projects, what I'm currently working, and any specials I've got going either at my blog, or on my Facebook Fan Page,

A big thank you goes out to Terry for sharing her time and thoughts with us.
If you would like to be interviewed as well, post it in comments, find Hillary on twitter or convo us on etsy.


  1. Hillary, thank you so much for compiling this indepth feature on Terri and her art! I love getting such an informative peak inside an artist's studio and her mission :)

    I hope both of you are enjoying eSMArts team.
    ~Anna Lee H. in Toronto
    Please support our artisans by visiting our team shop:

  2. Wonderful blog. Isn't it fun to feature someone else and see how they see themselves. Love Terri's work and great job on your blog.

  3. Ok, I MUST check out your store. I always wanted to sew but I realized there are just some things I will never have a knack for and this is one of them. Great interview!

  4. Kudo's to both Hillary and Terri! This is a wonderful interiew!

    I especially love Terri bringing up the fact that some folks think hand-made means cheap. It's anything but! If you get something custom made it's *always* more expensive because you're getting added quality.

    It's cheaper to have some machine grind out millions of copies of the same dress in the same measurements. Unfortunately, you're out of luck if you don't fit those measurements. Here in NYC I have that problem a lot. I end up ordering a lot of my clothing online because clothing stores in NYC used to consider my tiny, less than 100 pound mother-in-law to be a medium. Anyone bigger than that is out of luck!

    Mary Anne

  5. I think that it is really great that you make clothes for people to feel good in :)

    Because I know people who say those exact things, and to know that someone has them in mind would definitely put them at ease!

    Thank you for sharing this :)