My love of the 1950s-1960s goes way way way back to the days of New Wave, legwarmers and the beginning of MTV. On my lunch breaks in high school, I remember going to the local thrift store looking for anything vintage. My taste has always been stuck in the 1950s-1960s. The clothing, luggage, furniture, lighting, textiles, handbags ... if it was funky, it was in my hands! What's crazy is that 30+ years later, I still have some of these items in my possession. I'm still cuckoo for mid century design!
I have been an avid collector of all items from the 1950s-1960s since my teens. With my collecting, I had a hard time finding art to go with my vintage stuff. Sure there were big eyed kids and high end Caulders and such. I didn't want any of that. I wanted something more abstract, like what I'd seen in textile designs from the eras. I set to create a few paintings for myself. I liked them. Some friends/family liked them. It still didn't make me an artist, nor did I even think I'd become an artist. In 2001, I was browsing EBay for vintage stuff as one did back in the early 2000s. I noticed a few listings for new paintings that were inspired by the same era I was into. I turned into one of "those people" that say.. "I can do that!". So I challenged myself and I grabbed my craft paint (yep .. cheap craft paint), bad paint brushes, masking tape and a canvas. I found a vintage fabric design that I was really drawn to and recreated it. I took my bad photo and put it up for sale.. And waited. Luckily I didn't have to wait for long as it sold quickly. The next one sold just as quick. To say I was bit by the artist bug is an understatement! About a year later, my skills had advanced on their own. I invested in some quality canvases and real acrylic paints. I was a full-time artist!
I had many many opportunities during my painting years. I got to work with the Del Marcos Hotel in Palm Springs CA by creating exclusive, one of a kind paintings and murals for their rooms and lobby. I was published in Atomic Ranch, New York Living, and the Arizona Republic along with other print publications and web articles over the years.
In 2011, I decided to finally take some art classes at a local college. Up until this point, I hadn't taken a single art class. I was completely self-taught. Getting into graphic design really changed my career path. I took classes initially to learn web design and how to design my own art prints. The web design quickly went on the wayside and I emerged with skills that I continue to use to this day.
Around this time, Spoonflower was getting a lot of buzz. I had been told often over the years that I should pursue fabric and wallpaper design. While a lot of my paintings were inspired by vintage textiles, I always made sure that I made each piece my own and just used the textiles as a jumping off point. Creating my paintings into graphic designs to be used as textiles was just a natural next step to me. Selling via Spoonflower turned out to be one of the best decisions of my career. I love their products and I have been with them ever since.
With my graphic design skills, it really did open a lot of doors for me in terms of products that I could offer. Over time I've offered greeting cards, mouse pads, tote bags, magnets, journals, and other printed items with my designs. I'm always finding a new way to use these skills.
The retro design market was really heavily flooded, by 2016, with anything you could imagine being made with a 1950s-1960s feel. My graphic designed items (art prints, fabrics/wallpapers, etc) were all doing well on their own and I found myself being bored. I knew I wanted to get into something crafty, something that I could touch but it had to be something I enjoyed too. I took a couple of years to figure out what I wanted to do.
I don't recall exactly how it all came about. I know that I was expressing my love of Christmas and very specifically these 2 Christmas stockings I had that were passed down to me. They were made from kits, most likely 1950s and they belonged to my dad and his brother when they were kids. I took this as inspiration and ran with it! Living in the Pacific Northwest, I knew I wanted to keep things weird and I wanted to blend it with my love of the mid century modern era. The characters I'd start with were mermaids (now known as "Ethel Mermaid"), Sasquatch ("Sasquatch Santa") and a space age Santa ("Rocket Santa"). Next thing I knew I was buying a Cricut Maker machine and a load of felt, sparkle and fur. This is how vintage inspired kitsch was born!
In 2018, I launched Kukukitchoo (the name is derived from "I Am the Walrus", the "Coo roo coo coo, coo coo coo coo" theme from Bob & Doug McKenzie, my dog who I'd call "Cuckoo" and a mashed up version of coo coo crazy with kitsch). From the first year, I knew I was onto something. The feedback I was getting was fantastic and sales weren't bad either. In that first year, I sold around 30 stockings. Year two saw sales go up to around 50 stockings. 2020 is not only when the world went bonkers but my sales did too! 127 stockings sold in a single season!!! CRAZY!!! This was also the year that I created a prototype of a DIY (Decorate It Yourself) cat stocking that just about sold out. I plan on expanding the character selection and DIY offerings in the future.