MAKER: VANESSA CROOK
REALM is the brain child of Vanessa Crook, a fashion school drop-out creating textile work in Austin, TX. With a degree in studio art and anthropology; she focused her studies on soft sculpture and textiles, constantly incorporating heritage craft and needlepoint into her work. She has since turned her love of making into a more serious endeavor, attempting to turn visual whims into functioning products.
By experimenting with dye work- finding unique processes and color combinations through research, trial and error, Vanessa created bedding pieces- blankets, pillows, shams. Then embroidering on these products, using patterns of sacred geometry as well as designs of her own to create lovely one of a kind pieces for the home. Vanessa often does custom commissioned bedding for clients- sheet sets and blankets, collections of pillows for a specific room etc. From bedding, she expanded into bags- wanting to create pieces that you can nest in or bring with you into the world.
A lover of process, Vanessa creates pieces based on the direction of each textile, the inspiration of a picture, or a story overheard. Her way of creating graphics draws on that love of one liners and playfulness, acting on impulse and drawing heavily from her sketch books. The pieces that are not hand embroidered are created from her own hand drawings. Constantly leaving herself notes for pieces to create- "embroider ghost tip-toeing" or "planet with rings and lettering." The bags are mostly pieces she has been imagining for a long time.
REALM is truly a one-woman show. Vanessa makes every pattern, every textile, and every embroidery from start to finish in her little work shop. She loves spending time on each piece and creating one of a kind little gems. If you have an idea for a custom piece get in touch.
BIGGEST DEBATE OF ALL: COFFEE or TEA, BE SPECIFIC ;)
I’m a coffee drinker 100%, but I don’t think I’m really a person who can tell what is good coffee or bad coffee. Honestly, I don’t even really drink coffee for the caffeine because I can get through the morning without it just fine, I just enjoy drinking coffee. I used to flirt with the idea of giving it up probably because some goop nonsense got in my ear but I enjoy the ritual of it too much.
WHO DO YOU FOLLOW FOR INSTAGRAM INSPIRATION
My Friend Isa (@gentlethrills) is incredible for inspiration. She makes amazing clothing and art that she airbrushes and embellishes. Her process videos are awesome.
GO TO MID-DAY SNACK or ROUTINE FOR CREATIVE FUEL
Our studio is plenty big but the only window opens up into a garage space- so no access to natural light means that you go into the studio vortex and never know how long you’ve been there and if it’s still day or night outside. Leaving mid day is absolutely necessary for mental health, and we love to leave and get coffee and tacos and check in about the day’s progress and make big picture plans.
WHERE DO YOU CREATE BEST? EX: HOME, STUDIO, NATURE, ETC.
I am very social I feel like a lot of my freest moments of creativity or times when ideas just click are done when I’m hanging out and laughing and talking with friends. Much to the chagrin of my partner I love living in my work so even though I have a whole studio to make a mess in I also have the kitchen table and guest room littered with sketchbooks etc. Whenever I’m working through a creative problem though my smartest move is to take my dog on a walk or take a shower.
HOW HAS SOCIAL HELPED YOUR BUSINESS, IF ANY
A good majority of our customer come from Instagram itself, so unfortunately for me (a person who is inconsistent and uncomfortable on social media) it is the lifeblood of our small business and it isn’t going anywhere!
WHAT OTHER ARTISTS HAVE YOU LOVED COLLABORATING WITH
Collaborating is one of the easiest ways to stay agile in your creativity, stretch your skills, and cross promote with other makers. Being a “maker” can be a lonely line of work at times so it’s also nice to use collaborations as a way to work with other makers. I’ve gotten to do some really fun collaborations with @moldiegoldies on some embroidered mesh tops, and with @the_bluebeard on some embroidered vinyl pouches for their jewelry.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH PEOPLE KNEW ABOUT YOUR DESIGNS
We do everything in house from start to finish from drawing to embroidery to sewing zippers on and constructing the bags.
WHY DO YOU CALL AUSTIN HOME
I had the good fortune of being born in Austin but I spent most of my childhood in Gainesville, Fl. I moved back to Austin about 10 years ago when I left school at Pratt and picked back up at UT. I decided to move back to Austin to be closer to some family and get to experience the city that both of my parents had such radical college experiences in. I’m so proud to have been able to build my business here among such a laid back and creative community.
FAVORITE SONG/ARTIST/ALBUM FOR A SPARK OF CREATIVITY
As a teen I used to love listening to 70s and 80s punk music, like the buzzcocks and X. I would read everything I could about it and make really devotional art work about women in punk history etc. It was so inspiring to me and such a thorough art/sound/fashion obsession that helped me learn how to be expressive and channel creativity. I’m still inspired by a lot of that music but I also listen to a lot of Grateful Dead, Benjamin Clementine, Frank Ocean, etc when I’m in the studio creating.
WHY DID YOU CHOSE TO BE A MAKER
I have always wanted to work for myself in whatever capacity I am able to. I have been making art, clothing, jewelry, organizing maker’s fairs etc for myself and to sell for most of my life and went to school for studio art with a focus on sculpture so I feel like I’ve been winding my way down the maker path for some time.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EXCITING MOMENT SO FAR OF YOUR CRAFT
Getting our work on Bando, a company that I love and respect so much, was a huge moment for us. It was hugely exciting, validating, and nerve wracking all at the same time.
AS A SMALL BUSINESS, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOUR BRAND STANDS OUT
Instagram can really wear down your sense of self and individuality when you see how many other brands are working in a similar mode or making objects that you wish you were making. I feel like it is a constant battle to both participate in social media and try to maintain confidence in your authentic design. I just try to mostly keep my head down and keep creating, making things that I want to own and hope that others like and want them too.
AUSTIN LOCAL INSIDER RECOMMENDATIONS
FAVORITE LOCAL FOOD TRUCK
I love love Cool Beans vegan taco truck in Austin owned by an amazing young married couple- so many great choices and flavors. A must.
FAVORITE LOCAL CURATED BOUTIQUE
Laura at Olive does an amazing job of bringing in cool labels and items that are otherwise impossible to find in person in Austin. Its also a beautiful space to shop at.
MUST-SEE RECOMMENDATION FOR THOSE TRAVELING TO AUSTIN
If you come to Austin you must swim at Barton Springs, it’s a huge natural spring fed pool by the river downtown. I would also recommend walking around the hike and bike trail that runs along the bank, it is a great way to see Austin and get a little exercise.