This week we meet Karina Manarin, the founder of a multi-disciplinary fibre-based studio in Arizona, USA. Karina works across clothing and homewares, drawing inspiration from desert landscapes and advocating slow fashion.


Can you tell us about your background? What did you study/where did you work before launching your own label?

I studied art in college, I was a fibers major and I loved it! It was pretty much play time all the time, dyeing, weaving and printing. I mostly worked on large scale printed works. It was only a year after graduating when I really got into dye. My work always incorporated dyeing but it gradually morphed into the main thing I wanted to do and pursue.

What was the motivation behind starting your own business?

I always wanted to have my own business. I just have this urge to make stuff, I have all these crazy ideas. I think funneling them into my own business felt like the most natural progression. 

Your work uses eco-friendly production methods and advocates slow fashion. Can you tell us a little more about that? How does this method of working influence your creative process?

Although my methodologies are very intentional, I think having a small business that does most things in house inherently leads to eco-friendly production and slow fashion (for me at least). Anything I wouldn't expose to myself I wouldn't expose to others. I use low impact synthetic dyes, indigo and have plans on incorporating more natural dyes into my work. (It's a long, experimental process to be able to use these commercially). My prints use natural organic cotton or linen, digitally printed here in the US. I try to source all my fabric from the US. I never use animal derived materials - silk, wool or leather - as I'm a vegetarian. 

Dyeing and working in small batches allows me to make small limited edition and one of a kind items. I can then explore and experiment with processes probably too costly for bigger production runs. I feel like I have more freedom to play and it's very motivating to be able to create something and put it out there in a shorter amount of time. I like to create limited edition pieces every month as well as a small collection of items once a year.

What does a typical day at work look like?

I actually have two jobs right now! I work for a tech company which produces GPS related apps. I work with aerial imagery and GPS technology, which probably has had an impact on the visual work I do. In the mornings I drink lots and lots of coffee and drive to my office. At night is when I work on my art. I can usually be found packaging orders! When that's done I'm either doing production for new orders or scheming up new ideas and dyeing new samples. For dinner my boyfriend and I usually go out to eat, that's my vice! We love Indian food and probably eat Thai or Indian at least twice a week, I know!! 

Do you have any tips for aspiring designers or small business owners? Anything you wish you had known at the start?

My tip would be to start small and look ahead. Make sure to edit yourself at times. When I first started I wanted to make everything!! Every idea I had I had the urge to create and put out there. I think it's best to take a few months to explore these ideas with no pressure or thoughts of commerce; see what works, what makes you happy. Then with a defined focus create your business. I wish I has been more organised from the start!

Who/what are you inspired by at the moment?

I took a recent trip to Lake Powell. Desert landscapes are always an inspirational point for me. Currently I'm inspired by other makers who really dedicate themselves to making beautiful naturally made items such as Australian Belinda Evens from Alchemy, her weavings and natural dye prowess is amazing! I'm also loving the work from Audrey Louise Reynolds from ALR dyeing. She makes natural paint from pulverized rocks.. what!!

What are you most proud of in your career to date?

I think I'm most proud of my website. I've always valued the intersection of art and technology and I built this website myself. It's not perfect, it's a work in progress.. a lot like myself, ha. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself on my own plot of land with a hand built home/studio working on my art in the company of my boyfriend and animals. I have 4 dog right now, I'm a little dog crazy. I'm also obsessed with alpacas! They are so cute and there is some fun fiber potential there too.

How do you like to spend your days off?

I spend my days off with my boyfriend cruising around to scenic spots in Arizona, camping or just hanging out with our dogs. When it's cooler out we take out motorcycles out for a spin. I also take naps whenever possible!! And at the end of the day nothing beats burritos and margaritas, Mexican food is a staple round here!

What did you eat for breakfast?

Tofurkey bacon and coffee.

Photos courtesy of Karina Manarin