Today we are honored to have Aki of Oktak. She makes the most beautiful things from vintage fabrics!
1. What is your first name and where are you from?
My name is Aki, and I'm from Japan.
2. What type of art or craft do you create and how did you get started with it?
I make bags & pouches of all shapes & sizes as well as baby items such as bibs and smocks. I think I'm best known for my frame pouches though.
I had always been interested in arts & crafts, but it wasn't until I had my first child that I decided to pursue handbag making.
I took a course in handbag design and construction at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NY from 2003 to 2004, and started creating my own line in 2005.
3. Where do you market your products? How long have you been selling your work?
My main source of income is my Etsy shop at the moment. However, I do sell wholesale as well, and am in the process of reopening my own shop. (I had my own shop, which I temporarily closed in early 2009.) I've been selling my work since 2005.
4. What is your dream for your products or artwork? Is it a mainly a hobby, or a main source of income (or would you like for it to become a main source of income)?
I started this business with the hope of making a living out of it. In 2008, I reached a point where I could probably live on my income if I weren't in NYC, but in an expensive city like this, I still can't say I make a living with my craft.
5. How are your items different from the next guy’s? What is unique about your work?
(1) I try to come up with designs that no one else is making. When I started selling on Etsy in 2006, there was only one other frame purse maker, and it was easy to be 'unique'. Since then, the number of people selling the same types of purses has increased exponentially, but I constantly try to be the trailblazer. Before I produce a new design, I do a thorough search to check that no one else is making the same style. So I came up with frame purses with frills, with corsages, with hand embroidery, with patchwork etc. - but new designs quickly become old and ubiquitous, so I feel like it's a rat race, but I do try to be original. I make it a point not to copy other people's ideas/designs.
(2) I only use high-quality frames made in Japan. I know I could get much cheaper frames manufactured in China, and I did try a few of them when I started out - but I wasn't happy with the quality, and I decided only to use those made in Japan.
(3) Even when I am making plain bags/pouches, my choice of materials will always be different from other people's choices. I only use materials that I love.
6. What is your favorite subject matter/medium/material (whichever applies to your art form)?
I love working with medium to heavy-weight cotton, especially vintage fabrics from the 1960s to 1970s which have bold designs & colors.
7. What is your favorite part of creating and selling your products or artwork? The part you like the least?
The favorite part is thinking of new designs. I have a book full of sketches.
The least favorite is packing. I wish someone did that for me!
8. Tell us a little bit about your family and how they feel about your business or your artwork.
My husband has always supported my business. In fact, he was the one who encouraged me to dive into the world of design & craft! My kids, ages 10 and 5, are equally supportive. They are my cheerleaders and I am extremely grateful!
You can see more of Aki's work at her website, her Etsy shop or her shop for kids' items, oktakmini.