Who are you?
Eek. I am probably the Eel, in Eel & Ermine. I am a seamstress and designer, I am also someone who very recently became an entrepreneur in small clothing shop sort of way without quite knowing what that might entail (daily gumboot assignations included). I guess that I am a person or thing that lives and breathes and eats and thinks, I think, and is somehow a grownup now. I am also a person who is lucky enough to have made the acquaintance of John Horn before it was even cool to do so (before it was cool to know it was cool), and am now feeling/suffering from/ benefitting from the aftereffects.
What do you do for fun?
I like to paint pictures and sew things and cook foods, and bake foods with sugar and then decorate those foodstuffs so that they look inedible. I also like to run, a lot. I like to read beautiful prose by amazing authors and then write long stories without plots or endings in a fruitless effort to emulate their talents. I like to go hiking and camping with my lovely husband Adam and mischievous dog Kolya. I would like to go bike riding, but find the steep and uninviting hills of San Francisco more than my antiquated bicycle can bear, so I settle for the flatlands of wine country whenever I/Adam have the chance. I like to think about things too much and wax poetic about them if anyone will listen. I like to travel whenever I have the means to do so.
What is your favourite community and why?
My favourite community is my family. Is that allowed? Anyone who has met anyone in my family can attest to the fact that they are amazing. I grew up on a farm in the wild woods of Cape Breton Island with a super pair of parents and more siblings than I can sometimes recall (or at least recall to call), and all of them are unique and wonderful in so many different ways that I’m not even sure where to start. Let’s just say that the super pair of parents were, and are, adept at making everything we need (ed) and we lived off of the land as best we could, in the rural modern sense of the term. And that the siblings wandered to all corners of the Earth (except Antarctica), where their charms and talents prevailed above all and their deplorable inter-communication skills were overcome by brotherly, or more often, sisterly, affection. To paraphrase; my parents have always embodied and instilled in us a sense of self sustainability that is an invaluable asset in a world where so many humans have become divorced from the processes that keep them alive. They have also given me a good sense for what is ridiculous and what is not. I am very grateful for that knowledge and wisdom, as well as the inspiring and surprising things that it has engendered in my lovely sisters and brother, who are always there for me and each other, no matter how sporadically we manage to see each other.
What is your superpower?
My superpower is making things. I am really good at making lots of different things. In my life I have been historically good at making artworks, specifically oil paintings that look like things that I think I feel like. But then I learned, while working in a cake shop of really over-the-top decorated cakes for people who want to think that they are eating artwork, that making all things is related. And that if you are not afraid to attempt making something, you will often succeed. And once you start making a lot of things for yourself your idea of wanting and needing changes quite a bit. For example, I rarely buy anything that I think I can make for myself, but then if it doesn’t seem like a good use of time to make, I won’t, and then I know I didn’t really need it. So much energy is wasted so that people can acquire useless objects; it can be baffling.
How do you use it to build your community?
I have very recently channeled my superpower into the opening of a small shop in San Francisco called Eel & Ermine, where my business partner, Elinor, and I, make all of the clothing that we sell. We also made or repurposed almost everything in the shop including our work table(recycled door), counter(recycled crate and window), dressing room situation, racks and other display style things (with some assistance from our husbands when any power sawing or model boat assembly was required). We also stock hats by a local friend and milliner, Kitty Andrews, who makes everything from scratch. Our goal is basically to reintroduce our community to handmade goods, to the point of possibly seeing your garment being made (by us) while you wait. The idea is to make a shopping experience as enjoyable as possible, as well as make people aware of where their goods are coming from, and how they are produced. In this way they can also be a part of the process by choosing fabrics or requesting alterations, producing a unique and customized piece. We want our store to be accessible to as many people as possible (well, just women for now) who buy clothing, so our price point is relatively low. We’re hoping to get a few people at least away from the mass-produced, customer eating machine of big time retail stores. And maybe even inspire them to start making clothes themselves. We have already had such good feedback from people stopping by and most are amazed that we make things ourselves, but that’s what everyone used to do!
That's right. It's a duck-shaped zucchini. Do you have a problem with it?
Since we also want to save the world we also have several designs made from recycled materials, and none of our clothes are made from styrofoam, so rest easy John. For example, our boyfriend shirt is a men’s dress shirt, re-tailoured and jazzed up for gals. Our customers can also bring in their guys’ old shirts for us to remake for them, which aside from the obvious goodness of recycling, is also pretty nice sentimentally, provided you have fond feelings for the former occupant of the shirt you have commandeered.
We would also love for our shop to be the kind of place where friends from our neighbourhood can stop in for a chat or a coffee, and since Elinor and I both love to bake, we always have some sort of sugar based item available for consumption as well. For this dropping by and hanging out purpose, as well as for those not actively participating in a shopping trip, we have set up a small seating/relaxing/snacking area. Just nice, you know?
My Three Favourite Things About Evelyne Are…
1. Bottomless Talent. She’s one of those people who is just good at so, so many things. Painting, writing, sewing, building, singing, debating, hugging, drinking, problem solving, and, probably, math, science, and sports – but I mostly know her passionate artistic side. When you hang around Evelyne, sooner or later (usually sooner) you will be inspired to do something creative.
2. The Aikmans. True story, they’re the best sort of folk – local with global minds, organic and delicious. That’s right. I’m talking about people.
3. Randomness. Every now and then I will receive an email or typed (on a typewriter, it looks like) letter from Evelyne Aikman. And it will be a stream of consciouness narrative of some sort. And it will go on for pages/screens. And it is brilliant in its honest simplicity. And such a random, delightful surprise really makes my heart smile. So, Evelyne, thanks for that.
As told by John Horn…