It’s time for another Made to Create interview! I have so much fun with these, it’s too fun to be true. I try hard to find uniquely talented people to interview, to spread the truth that everyone is creative. Which means I get to talk to amazing people.
Richard Herr is joining us for the November Made to Create interview. Richard lives near Guys Mills, PA, home of Faith Builders. We met while I was a student there. We connected over writing, and then I found out he sews historically accurate clothing. (Unique? Definitely.) I’ve included several pictures of his work below. Check out his his blog if you’d like to see more: taylorshistoricalsewing.wordpress.com
Let’s see what he has to say about his creative process.
Sheri: Hi Richard, thanks so much for taking the time to do this.
Richard Herr: It’s my pleasure! I feel so grateful to have this opportunity to share my interest in historical clothing with people!
S: Sewing historical clothing is a unique craft. What got you interested in it?
RH: I’ve been interested in history since third grade and I remember noticing how pretty the clothes were that people wore in the old days. I would say I really got a passion for it about two years ago. I was looking up a song from a musical that my piano teacher was having me play, and I came across a video from the movie and was just struck by how beautiful the dresses were in the song and how lovely everyone looked. I wondered why people didn’t dress like that anymore and decided that I wanted to make those clothes for people who do want to dress that way.
The other large factor was watching Anne of Green Gables and the sequel to that. I completely fell in love with the aesthetics of Edwardian life and the gorgeous clothes!
I was also inspired by sewing blogs that I came across right over that time.
After I started studying historical clothing, I realized just how many myths and lies surround the history of these beautiful garments. Myths such as “Women had ribs removed to be able to get small waists,” “People roasted during the summer time because of all of their clothing layers,” and “Corsets are uncomfortable, unhealthy or deadly.” After much studying, having conversations with learned historians, and reading books published by companies such as Colonial Williamsburg, diaries, and articles from the “old days,” I realized just how untrue these myths were. I wanted to educate people on the fact that none of the myths they believe are true and that many of these myths are flat out lies or contradictions to what actually was.
S: I have to confess I believed most of those myths, at least somewhat. I’m relieved to know they’re not true.
Do you work with other tailors? Exchange notes or tips with anyone?
RH: Yes and no. I have never personally worked with another tailor/dressmaker on a garment, but there are many seamstresses that I have been in communication with over the last two years. I ask them questions and show them pictures of my work for critiquing. Also there is Facebook group that I am part of where I can showcase my work, and ask and answer questions.
S: Where do you get your materials? Are they hard to find?
RH: Thankfully the blog I first found had a long list of suppliers for historically correct fabric and notions. The one I site I use most is called Renaissance Fabrics. It can be difficult to find the exact print of a fabric you’re looking for because there is a limited selection and a lot of fabrics are made of nylon or polyester whereas the fabrics that I have to use are natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, silks, and other natural fabrics. There are also a lot of other small companies that can be difficult to find if you don’t have the right connections or knowledge.
Many people also wonder if it’s difficult to find patterns and the answer to that is no. There are about 10 small companies that I can think of at the moment (there are more) that are dedicated to selling historically accurate patterns and even making available to the public vintage ones that were published in the time period. There are also books available with hundreds of authentic patterns that you can scale up to your exact size and fit perfectly.
S: What inspires you to sew?
RH: Blogs of other costumers and dressmakers, movies, my imagination, working with the antique clothing at the historical society where I work, viewing clothing collections at museums, and reading. I am especially inspired when I see someone who looks like they stepped out of a picture.
S: What discourages you about sewing historical clothing for a living?
RH: I am slightly concerned about how much business I would get. There are some people who just barely make enough to keep going and others who are doing extremely well. I would not have any qualms if I had a job at Colonial Williamsburg or other historical sights, making the costumes for the employees, but I am sometimes afraid that I would struggle to keep a business going by myself.
Another thing that I am not sure about is if it is God’s will for my life. I believe He gave me my interest for a purpose, but I’m not quite sure if that means making a career out of it. I will say though that I would be very happy if that was His will for me.
One last thing would be that sometimes people can be very discouraging. There are a few people who have let me know that they think my interest is weird or stupid and that can be very hard to deal with. I wouldn’t say those people have discouraged me from thinking about pursuing a career, but they have definitely have had a depressing effect at times.
S: I think it’s good you’re thinking about these things. That makes me sad that people have said such things to you. I think it’s grand you’re doing something so unique, that you obviously enjoy. Keep creating, as long as you think God wants you to!
One last question: How do you see your craft as a blessing to others?
RH: I definitely love people, and I want to bless people through my craft whether it is being a light for Jesus to my customers and co-workers or sewing clothes to raise money. There was a woman recently who raised $20,000 for Haiti by making a faithful reproduction of a famous Edwardian dress. I would love to do something similar to that. I would also love to have a job at a historical village portraying a dressmaker, because I could talk to people all day long, and educate them on my passion while at the same time I would hope that they could see Jesus through my actions. Another way would be doing honest business with customers and suppliers, etc.… Another option for me would be to go to a country, such as North Korea, and sew clothes for the poor. A family I just met who were missionaries in North Korea told me that every Korean woman they were in contact with wanted a cape dress, but they didn’t have the materials or the time to make them.
S: Wow. Those all sound like good ideas. I wish you the best, hope you keep learning and growing in skill. I pray God’s blessing on you as you serve Him with your craft!
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