05 December 2011

A Portrait of The Artist: Sesame Seed Designs

In today's edition of A Portrait of the Artist I am thrilled to present to you a fiber artist who combines her love for the environment with her desire to work with natural fibers. Casey of Sesame Seed Designs gives new life to reclaimed wool and cashmere sweaters that have holes, outdated styles or are otherwise unwearable. She turns them into stylish, functional items and embellishes them with designs inspired by nature.

When Casey is not sewing or knitting you will find her in Tryon Creek State Park where she is working as an environmental educator.

Tell us a little bit about your work as an environmental educator, are people open to the idea of living with the environment in mind?

I'm lucky enough to live in Portland, Oregon where green space is abundant and we have curbside composting. It's a very "green" city and I love being surrounded by people who care for the environment. I run a nature-based day camp for kids and get to spend my summers in a gorgeous state park, helping kids age 4-14 develop a sense of wonder and curiosity about the natural world.

Do you walk the talk? Describe to us your daily routine and how you integrate your eco visions in it.
I totally do! A year ago my family downsized our curbside garbage pickup to only once a month because we hardly generate any waste! By the time my oldest daughter was 2 she could determine if something should go in the recycling bin or the garbage. We use cloth diapers for our kids, grow a lot of our own food, raise chickens, buy almost all of our produce and meat from local farmers and are always incorporating natural and/or recycled materials into our numerous arts and crafts projects.

Wool toddler hat - Orange Dinosaur
What are the basic notions about the environment that you have succeeded in teaching your children?
I have two little girls, ages 4 and my baby just turned one last week! My oldest loves being out in nature. She's been to the state park where I work so many times that it's like her second home. She can identify deer tracks and name quite a few trees. She loves helping in the garden and composting and recycling are second nature to her. Now, we're working on the idea that water is a resource to be conserved, She loves leaving it running while she's washing her hands! My baby girl is absorbing out eco-friendly lifestyle every day and hopefully our green choices will be second nature to her too.

As an ecologist, what is your advice for reducing our carbon footprint?
Eat local! We buy almost all our food from local sources and join together with our neighborhood to buy things in bulk. It's good for our pocketbook and I love that our food doesn't spend days and weeks in pollution-emitting trucks and trains. Also, I'm helping the environment by supporting farmers and ranchers who are using sustainable practices. It's win-win. Even if you just pick a few items to consistently buy from local sources, you are helping the environment. Give it a try!

Interchangeable headband
You make wonderful baby hats, how did you decide on the end product of your creative upcycling?
I was invited to be part of an Advent Conspiracy holiday DIY fair when my oldest was just 6 months old. It was designed to give people ideas of gifts they could make themselves, instead of buying things their relatives didn't actually need. I decided to show people how to felt sweaters so I made several different items out of the felted wool as examples. My daughter wore the little hat I made all winter and I got so many compliments on it that I realized I'd hit on something worth selling. I make quite a few other items now but the hats are still my biggest sellers.

How do you promote your works and how much time do you spend on etsy?
I'm a mom and I work part time (full time during summer camp season!) so I don't have a ton of time to spend on my sewing business. I do a lot of work after the kids go to bed and during the day sometimes when my oldest in in school. I've become fairly well-known in Portland since my things have a distinctive style and I've gotten a following by doing several local craft shows. I work on making things and promoting myself so long as it fits in with the rest of the things I'm doing and so far it's been great.

Natural Maple and felted wool teething toy

Where do you see yourself creatively in 5 years time?
In 5 years I'd like to be creating things that make me happy. I'll keep selling on Etsy so long as I have the time and don't feel burdened by it. I do a lot of knitting and sewing (clothes, quilts, toys, etc.) just for my family and I and I never want my business to get in the way of making things for my family and just for my enjoyment. I hope that Sesame Seed Designs is still around in 5 years, but if it's not, know that I'm happily sewing or knitting and playing with my cute girls in my cozy corner of Portland.

Which is your current favorite item by another etsy seller?
I absolutely love the nature photography by Miles of Light. I haven't bought anything yet but keep going back to it over and over. This print by Miles of Light is one of my favorites.

Connect with Casey here: Shop | Website | Twitter


  1. Very nice!~Cindy

    Visiting from Blogging Buddies

  2. Very cool and I love her shop!!

    The little pouches and coffee cozies are wonderful....I'd love to see one of those in my Christmas stocking!! ;-)

  3. This is such a lovely interview Sonya!

    You make such beautiful things Casey and you seem like such a well balanced person! It's wonderful to see. I find that the women from my generation (born in the 60's)have a lot of trouble with balance. Finally, we could have it all and we thought that meant we had to do it all.

    I share the love of felting with you and Sonya. It's wonderful to see such creativity in others. It helps spark ours. So thank you so much for sharing with us!

  4. Great interview - thanks for sharing!

  5. I truly enjoyed this post! How lucky she is to live in a green city.

  6. Great interview, sounds like a nice place to live!

  7. Wonderful interview. She sounds like she has a great little corner of the world to raise her family in.