As you know, I’ve been running a series of Indie Community Builder interviews for the last couple of weeks. I’m very honored to say that today’s is with Jena from Modish.

Previous interviews: AnythingIndie, Miss Malaprop.

Modish is such a great asset to the indie community. How did it get its start?
I had recently discovered design*sponge, oh joy! and a few other wonderful design blogs and got to thinking that I had never seen a blog that specifically featured indie designers and handmade goods, so I decided to just start my own! It caught on and gained readers quickly which I’m very grateful for, and seems to have sparked an interest for others to start their own indie shopping specific blogs which I’m also grateful for to help feature more amazing designers, as I can’t feature them all! :)

Has it changed at all since you began? How?
It’s changed in terms of gaining more of a readership and there are some added features like the monthly giveaway, weekly newsletter and the indie shopping directory, but the main tenant of sticking to handmade goods made by small, independent designers has remained the same.

What has been your favorite thing about running Modish?
Being able to help out small designers who may have a hard time getting recognized by magazines and the big design blogs feels awesome! Every time I get a happy email from a designer that is grateful to have been featured or a reader who was able to find the perfect gift from one of my recommendations, I’m just overjoyed! I smile all day long looking at the blog, watching stats from visitors all over the world and getting e-mails from people- I just feel like Modish was kinda meant to be for me.

What do you look for in the sellers you highlight?
I first look for a well put together website that’s easy to navigate and represents the products well. I want to highlight sellers that are serious about their craft and about getting the word out about their businesses, and those sellers always tend to present themselves professionally. I also look for items that are original and unique in some way, especially in jewelry- using different sorts of materials or finding a different way of putting things together will usually catch my attention! I also like earth friendly items and re-using vintage and recycled materials in a new way.

The indie community has many advantages over mega-retailers. Which do
you feel is its strongest? Why?

The strongest assest is the personal touch, by far. There’s always a hand-written note, a pretty package or a hand-screened card included- something that makes you feel like a) you’ve helped to support an artist and b) that artist is genuinely appreciative of you buying from them. It feels more communal, more personal, more real like you’re actually exchanging energy with a human being, not just giving money to feed the corporate machine.

What is the biggest challenge we face?
I suppose the biggest challenge is to convince the community at large that “indie” is better. There will always be the super mega retailers trying to edge out the little mom and pop shops, but when a community agrees that those independently owned shops are an asset, they can work on keeping the Walmarts and Starbucks out of their neighborhood in order to give the little guys a fighting chance. I think the most valuable, but hardest, task is to gather a “critical mass” of people that can affect their own communities. Portland and Berkeley are good examples! No one person can do it on their own, but as a community we can affect change.

Where do you see the indie community in five years?
I think it’s gaining popularity and I hope hope hope that it will continue to grow and that in five years there will be more indie craft fairs throughout the country, more specialized indie specific boutiques (one of my own perhaps!) and just more indie resources available for the community at large to partake in. Farmer’s markets attract people to buy locally and organic and indie craft fairs and seeing more indie goods in cool shops will hopefully encourage people to buy indie in the same way.

What was your most recent indie buy?
My most recent buy was some jewelry from Dreams and Jewelry. It’s gorgeous, I’m wearing it today!

What was your all-time favorite indie buy? What made is so special?
I think my favorite buy is the Slaughterhead wallet I got from Supermaggie. It’s just perfect for all my needs, it’s so pretty, I get compliments on it all the time and it’s just the best wallet I’ve ever had! I love it!

We’ve been hearing a lot about Modishoppe. Can you tell us more about
it, or do we have to wait until Spring?

I can tell you that it’s a soon to open, hopefully in April, consignment shop. I’ll have lots of different products from jewelry to home goods to paper goods from tons of different designers, including All-Mighty, Bookhou, Dog & Pony Show Designs, Nooworks and Alena Hennessy just to name a few. There will be about 20 some odd designers for the opening, and once it’s up and running it’ll be open for other designers to submit their work to be considered. I’m so excited! The site is being designed by Aeolidia and it’s gonna be so pretty! I can’t wait!!

And most important of all: have you picked a place to move yet? My
vote is for Berkeley, but I guess I’m biased.

Berkeley is an amazing place! I think I’m still headed to Portland eventually, but we’ll see where the wind takes me. I’m planning on visiting Asheville, NC this summer, so I may fall in love with it there… All I know is I need to get out of Reno! And, fast!