We have been fortunate to have such wonderful people participate in our Meet the Maker series. It has been such a fun way to get to know our favorite designers a little better and hopefully, you have learned some interesting things along with us! This Meet the Maker is an extra special edition for us though because we are "meeting" our very own Amber Corcoran, the mastermind behind all of our popular garment and quilting patterns, and giving you a glimpse into the inner workings of Fancy Tiger. Amber's eye for style, fashion, and willingness to follow her own trends, pairs with her design mastery to make the perfect blend of modern, everyday styles and patterns. We are so proud of the amazing designs she makes possible for us and we are in constant awe of her creative energy and efforts.
Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to be part-owner of Fancy Tiger Crafts and what made you fall in love with textiles and fiber?
I learned to knit in 2003. I had always been interested in various creative pursuits--painting, photography, sculpture, woodworking--and when I picked up knitting, I fell in love. There is a beautiful combination of creativity and practicality with knitting. That is what drew me in, the idea of something you create with your hands, which then becomes a cozy, well-loved, everyday object. As I got more into textiles, the same was true for quilting, garment sewing, and so many other textile crafts.
Jaime and I met in Texas in 2001 and quickly became friends. In 2003 Jaime taught my sister, Emily, to knit. I was living in Oregon at the time, went through a breakup, and my sister came out to help me move back home. On the road trip home Emily taught me the knitting skills she had just learned from our friend Jaime. It's amazing how the sharing of craft skills connects people. I remember riding in the passenger seat as my sister drove and talked me through how to move the needles and catch the yarn. I knit a hat the size of a basketball, from terrible acrylic boucle we bought at a big box store. Haha! But the chance to make something with my hands and learn a new skill was a welcome distraction during that life transition.
Over the next few years, Jaime and I kept in touch as we both moved around and our love of knitting grew. Then in 2006, she began what is now Fancy Tiger Crafts. In 2007 I moved to Western Colorado, working on a business plan to open my own craft store there. As I was working on the plan, Jaime and I traveled together to a trade show and realized we had a shared vision of an amazing craft store. Jaime invited me to partner with her, and I moved to Denver to become a part of Fancy Tiger Crafts.
You have to balance your duties as a store owner and pattern designer. What does a typical workday or workweek look like for you?
Every week is a bit different. With such a bustling store and the constant stream of projects and ideas we have, there is never enough time for everything I'd like to achieve. As the store has grown, though, we have been so fortunate to have amazing staff, helping us do more every day. Having such a great team allows time to focus on design work. I spend some days at the shop, and a few days a week at home working on various design projects.
Where did you originally learn to design patterns?
I'm mostly self-taught. I learned the basics of garment sewing from my mom growing up, which gave me a good starting point, and the confidence to learn more. I experimented with self-drafted garments for myself and learned about construction by examining existing garments. I took a class many years ago from Cal Patch, and she helped me understand drafting a bit more. I also, out of curiosity, got a really nerdy book on grading and worked through that to understand more about sizing and garment construction. Essentials of Pattern Grading: The Projection of Cartesian Coordinates into a Spherical Geometry of Fractal Order 2.5 Using Collinear Scaling As the Algebraic Matrix, Clarified might be the best book title ever, right?
What is your number one priority when you design a new pattern? Does it vary from pattern to pattern?
I've always started with an idea I have for my own wardrobe, something that I want to make for myself. I tend to like things that are easy to wear, not too fussy in the fit and not too complicated in their construction. Usually, I imagine something I want to wear and immediately go to work at making it. I love the support I get from the community here, customers and Fancy Tiger staff alike, who encourage, give feedback and test sew patterns. My main goals in making patterns are making something I want to wear, making something that other sewists want to wear, and making a pattern that is rewarding for folks to sew. Plus, I really enjoy the process of pattern making. It is both creative and detail oriented, two things I really enjoy.
What does your creative space look like?
My organization goes in waves. I need to have a clean space when I'm beginning the design process, but often in the throes of an intense project, it will look like a disaster. I usually tidy and organize between projects, or when I need to clean the space to clear my mind. My creative space is probably a reflection of where my thought process is at, actually! I'll work on projects any time of day, but I feel like I really work best in the evening. If it's mindless crafting I'll listen to podcasts, or if I need to focus I have a playlist of instrumental music I listen to. Sometimes I just need total quiet time though, with just me and the hum of my sewing machine and iron.
What is your favorite trip you have ever taken and why?
I love visiting new places, and I don't think I could choose a favorite! I love eating new foods, I love being inspired by other craft traditions. A few favorite experiences from my travels...Iceland: sheep sorting day with the farmers, picking and eating blueberries in lava fields, and swimming in a hot spring in the middle of the highlands--uninhabited except for sheep. Sweden: Climbing ancient city walls in Gotland and swimming with gentle jellyfish in the Baltic Sea. Faroe: Hiking steep cliff hillsides with the friendliest sheep ever and the most majestic ocean views. Scotland: treacle pudding, scotch tasting and climbing the Quirang with sheep grazing all around us. Portugal: Visiting a sheep blessing in the mountains, lazy beach days and eating all the seafood under the sun. Obviously, food, nature, and sheep are highlights for me!
Amber’s early days of computer design