Imagine what our community would be like if there were no etsy to act as a center of commerce, no organizers to spring craft fairs and gatherings into being, no bloggers to share their daily indie finds. The indie community as we know it would not exist.

Box vs. Indie is about opening our eyes to the merits of buying handmade over mass-manufactured goods. One of the benefits that appears again and again is that we are not just buyers and sellers; we are a community.

To help us better know the drivers of our community, I conducted a series of interviews with various indie supporters (out of fairness, I also requested interviews with several large retailers, but none has yet replied).

Here is the first of several (thanks Mallory/Miss Malaprop!):

Miss Malaprop is such an asset to the indie community. How did it get its start?
I’ve been involved in various ways in the indie community for awhile now, as a founding member of the New Orleans Craft Mafia and with my own biz, dismantled designs. I’ve always wanted to open a retail boutique one day, specializing in work by independent artists and designers. Last spring I wanted to start getting more serious about the idea and began planning Miss Malaprop. I wanted to start off with the blog and eventually expand the site to include an online store and one day expand that into an actual retail location. I haven’t gotten very far with the online store yet, but that’s definitely still something I plan to do, and the blog is going better than I ever could have expected!

Has it changed at all since you began? How?
Since I launched MissMalaprop.com in August, I’ve found myself getting more and more involved with and interested in environmentalism. It’s something I’ve always been concerned with, but more than ever, the time to act is now. So to that end, I find myself trying to focus on green & eco-friendly products and services more often than I thought I would when I started. But that’s okay, because I find that usually independent artists are much more concerned with creating a sustainable product than the big chain stores are, so often I’ll be able to write about both indie designers and recycled or eco-friendly products in the same post.

What has been your favorite thing about running Miss Malaprop?
I really love the feeling of helping to get the word out about so many talented artists. People have told me about certain things they’ve purchased because I featured them on my blog, and I know that were it not for them reading Miss Malaprop they probably would have sought out that item at the mall or a big box store otherwise.

What do you look for in the sellers you highlight?
I try to seek out designers whose work I really love and would buy for myself. I really love bold design and bright colors, and of course I love anything that is sustainably made and environmentally friendly.

The indie community has many advantages over mega-retailers. Which do you feel is its strongest? Why?
I think one of the most amazing things about buying from an indie designer is the personal connection involved. Opening a package from them is usually like opening a present…there are handwritten notes or extra goodies involved. It’s not like getting a package from Amazon where there’s just a ton of extra (plastic, disposable, hazardous to the Earth) packing materials and a
receipt.

What is the biggest challenge we face?
I feel like we’re at the point now where we’re a pretty big community, of both buyers and sellers, but it’s still kind of insular. I think the challenge now is about opening ourselves up to a broader market and reaching the rest of the population. It’s about convincing the Oprah watching, Wal-mart shopping public that indie is the way to go.

Where do you see the indie community in five years?
There are a lot of plans in the works to create a stronger sense of community within the
indie craft scene and to work together more cohesively. I’ll be attending the Craft Congress (for indie organizers) in Pittsburgh in late March, and I hope that we’ll come out of there with plans to bring the community together and work to expand and reach the wider market. I hope that in five years time there are at least twice as many people making a full time living off of their art and that the indie movement is making national media and is on more people’s minds.

What was your most recent indie buy?
I just purchased this wallet from Supermaggie and Slaughterhead, two great Louisiana designers.

What was your all-time favorite indie buy? What made is so special?
I’m really in love with the mini messenger bag I purchased last fall from Construction for All via their Etsy shop. It’s the best made messenger bag I’ve ever had, and it has tons of pockets to keep me organized. And actually, when I ordered it, the designer had accidentally just sold the bag I purchased at a local market, so she offered to make me a new one and add any special features (extra pockets, etc) I wanted. I had her throw in some pen slots, and even though it was a custom order, it arrived in about a week and a half. I was super impressed! Lately I’ve been thinking about ordering a second full size bag to use for traveling and to carry my laptop around in.

You also create and sell original and reconstructed clothing and
accessories, Dismantled, through your etsy shop and the New Orleans Craft Mafia’s online store. Can you tell us a little about your own work?

Most of what I make is recycled clothing and accessories. I work primarily with denim, making a lot of skirts out of jeans, as well as denim chokers and neckwarmers. It’s something I started doing for myself, and people kept telling me I should sell my
work. I’m trying to focus on it more as time allows…I haven’t had much time for sewing lately as I’ve been working two part-time jobs on top of Miss Malaprop and dismantled.

You created your blog, in part, to keep people informed about New Orleans and the MS Gulf coast. Is there anything you’d like to tell us?
I guess the main thing is to let people know that we are not okay yet. People in other places seem to think that either everything down here is still covered in water and decimated or that life is back to normal. The reality is somewhere in between. There are areas, both here in New Orleans and when I go back to my mom’s house in Gulfport, Mississippi, that I can pretend things are normal again. But then you drive out of those areas and you see construction crews or neighborhoods that are still half abandoned. Most of the beach on the MS coast still looks like it was hit by a nuclear bomb. We also deal with a lot of stupid stuff on a day to day basis that makes it hard to pretend things are normal (insurance companies, the power company, reduced business hours).

Do you have any new projects on the horizon?
I’ve just started writing a monthly column for our local alternative magazine, Antigravity, and I’ve also just started blogging for BloggingNewOrleans.com. I also want to really focus more on dismantled and Miss Malaprop in the coming months and push them as far as I can take them. And yeah, I’m still hoping to get an online boutique opened up, if I can ever find the time.

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