Children and collectible vintage furniture generally don’t mix. No one wants kiddie edibles in their Eames or spit-up on their Arne Jacobsen Swan. But Tiny Modernist encourages such pairings with their fashionable children’s clothing line featuring embellishments of classic furniture designs.
Based in Seattle, Cheryl McKinnon’s modest Etsy shop sells a small line that includes US made cotton tees adorned with hand-sewn, eco-friendly felt silhouettes of classic modern furniture. While perusing the line’s virtual look book, it’s easy to see how Tiny Modernist satisfies the fashion appetites of hipster and hippie parents alike.
In addition to tees, the shop sells cross stitch and embroidery patterns for those of us who like to get crafty, and ready-to-wear girl’s dresses for those of us who don’t – all with that vintage, decades-old feel. I caught up with Cheryl McKinnon of Tiny Modernist and asked her a few questions about her inspirations and observations.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you make.
I am a Canadian-born artist and designer living in Seattle, WA. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from U of Ottawa, and a diploma in Fashion Design from Kwantlen University in Vancouver, BC, Canada. I currently work out of my home, and it is a true “live/work” space! I appliqué infant/toddler tees with mid-century modern chairs and make cute handmade cotton dresses for children.
Do you recall the circumstances behind making your first appliqué T-shirt?
I do, actually! My husband and I love to collect modern chairs, and when I decided to start a line of baby wear, it just seemed like the perfect match. The first appliqué I created was an Eames Rocker, chosen because it was the chair we bought for our baby nook.
Put a new shirt on my son and he’ll stain it in a matter of minutes. What’s your reaction when you encounter a well-worn item you have created on its tiny wearer?
My daughter is the same way! Have you heard of the Japanese term ‘Wabi Sabi’? It’s the idea that things become more beautiful with age. Now that all of our vintage modern furniture has become a child’s playground, I think it adds a personal history to our things (not to mention scuffs, scratches, and marks). I try to take the same attitude toward my designs- when they become worn with use, I know they’ve been loved.
Would you rather see your designs embellished with food stains or grass stains?
Food stains. Mmmmm.
How ‘handmade’ are your tees?
I do everything myself- from drawing to making the stencils to carefully cutting and sewing each cute design! I also use American Apparel tees, which are sweatshop free and made in the USA.
Do you consider yourself to be ‘eco-crafty’?
Yes. I shudder at the amount of waste the fashion industry creates. I try to use and re-use things with as little waste as possible, and I make everything to order, so there are no stock leftovers.
How do you think you could make your products more eco-friendly?
I try to make my designs timeless by using classic images that never go out of style. That way, my tees can be passed down to the next sibling/cousin/friend and still be relevant.
Besides mod furniture, is there anything else that inspires your craft?
In no particular order: Alexander Girard, Rockabilly music/fashion, Frank Gehry, Franco Moschino, Coco Chanel, 60s Art- James Rosenquist, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg.
What do you want your fashions to communicate?
The fashion industry is so saturated and mass-marketed. I strive to find my place by making things that have a handmade quality, but are not homemade-looking.
What will be next in the Tiny Modernist line?
At the moment, I am working on expanding into local stores. PopTots here in Seattle now carries my handmade dresses and tees. I like being a local designer, because it cuts down on shipping waste, and I can fill orders on-demand very quickly.
Last but not least, to whom will you pass on your craft?
My mom taught me how to sew and do needlework at a very young age, and I hope to pass my knowledge on to my daughter. She’s only 10 months old right now- so maybe in a few years!
Each tee in the Tiny Modernist line, decorated with a “carefully hand cut, industrial machine-sewed soft cotton applique”, is made-to-order, so shoppers are reminded to get the size absolutely right before clicking that ‘add to cart’ button. The complete line, including tees, dresses and patterns can be found at tinymodernist.com.