Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Artists Answer: Casey Dwyer

For this week's Artists Answer, I dove back into some of my favorite shops from when I first found Etsy. This lovely lady and amazing artist does such original and inspiring work that I had to introduce you.

Casey Dwyer is the creative genius behind The Candy Thief and I've asked her to share with us a little about her creative process, so let's dive in!
Casey graduated with a BFA from the State University of New York in Albany in 2005 and has spent most of the hours from then to now fashioning objects of desire. In 2006 she established The Candy Thief and offers a unique line of handmade hair accessories, handbags, pillows and small batch clothing.
Casey thinks of each Candy Thief piece as a place or surface where all her passions meet. A love of printmaking, folk art, fashion, nature, color, and the traditional arts are stitched together to create an absolutely one of a kind, handmade look. Simple, natural objects of beauty that befall one's everyday life inspire most of the imagery found in the work. Leaves, flowers, and feathers make up much of the Candy Thief aesthetic, and the ubiquity of such elements allow admiring clients to truly connect with the pieces.

1. What is your creative process? For me, working on a new collection of pieces always starts with a single image, and most often the image is something found in nature, like a leaf or a flower. Iʼll size up the flora pretty quickly, couple it with a color scheme, and envision a finished product. These things happen entirely in my head in a matter of seconds, and on average take place a few times a day, so it is really important for me to keep notebooks of ideas/sketches; you never know when you might need them!
2. How do you start creating?
Well, making a new piece or testing out a new product starts with my quickie sketche(s). I block print all of the felt used in my line of headbands, and many of the cottons used in my clothing and home accessories, so getting a nice linocut is key.

My images are hand drawn directly onto the block and carefully cut. After the initial carving, I do a few test prints (on fabric) and adjust the block with some additional “clean up” cutting if necessary. When Iʼm happy with the block and the print it yields, I move on to the product test phase.

When working with a specific design--something based on one of my sketches--I try like heck to make sure the first piece is as close to my original idea as possible. This really lets me see how and where I can improve the design. Once again, Iʼll quickly size up the overall look of the headband and see if individual pieces of fabric should be moved around for optimum aesthetic appeal. For those who donʼt know, my headbands are made from pieces of cut wool felt, layered and stitched.

This element of the design process is really fun; kinda like a jigsaw, except I decided where the pieces fit! Thing tend to get move around a bit and another test piece is made. When I the layout looks good I begin with embellishments. Iʼve recently really fallen in love with simple embroidery and using it to accentuate my hand drawn & printed images. French knots have been making quite an appearance in my latest work!

I let this last phase---the decorative stitching--- be pretty free form so that every individual Candy Thief piece is entirely unique!

3. Do you use patterns?
No, I donʼt use any commercial patterns. My line of headbands is entirely original in terms of design and donʼt require patterns, though, I have made myself some template here and there.
When I make clothing I base a lot of patterns off of existing pieces of clothing. They are, in general, the pieces that fit me well that I wouldnʼt mind having dozens of!

4. Do you have any tips for helping other artists with their creative process?
My overall advice for any maker, regardless of age or experience, is to constantly be experimenting and expanding your creative skill set. It keeps things fresh and exciting! And never cut corners. i.e.---donʼt rush things!

Finding the right set of tools and materials to physically construct your objects is really important. I think artists need to be open to lots of experimentation. This being said, I can offer a bit of advice for anyone out there who is interested in block printing on felt:

Speedball easy cut lino blocks are the way to go. You can create a deeper relief, which works well with the thickness of the wool felt. Iʼve also found that some fabric inks (I use screen printing fabric inks) require an extra bit of textile medium to yield a rich print.
Keep some on hand!
5. What is your favorite technique?
Again, the block printing is really my cup of tea right now. I love how organic the process is, and that the final images scream “HANDMADE”! Itʼs great to see the hand of the artist in all elements of the design. Iʼve got nothing against screen printing---I just really love the slowness that comes with blocked prints.

Thank you, Casey!
If you want to keep up with this amazing artist, here are her links so you can stalk follow her. 

Thanks again dear readers for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about one of my favorite artists and some new techniques and skills that you can use in your own creative process! Enjoy your Wednesday!


  1. Thanks so much for another great feature and I will be checking Casey's stuff out!

    I have a couple questions for you if you could e-mail me sometime!


  2. Thanks so much for showcasing Casey's work. Her headbands are gorgeous.

    Can't wait to see the next designer.. this is such an awesome idea!