The first time I laid my eyes on Shea Christner's beautiful pieces I had a revelation, how can something so incredibly simple looking have so much depth to it. Then, after meeting her and hearing her talk about her process everything made sense.
With a BFA in textiles from Savannah College of Art & Design, Shea's training and knowledge of fiber, textiles and traditional techniques is the key to all of it. Sustainability being the motor in her creative process as well as her focus on conscious sourcing for wearables, gives her beautiful line life. OAM is a label that breathes around the slow fashion movement- conscious consumerism of sustainable, long-lasting, effortless fashion.
Marta: Hi Shea ! I have to start saying how excited I am about this pop up ! I just love the simplicity yet intricacy of all of your designs, I can't wait to wear them all ! Well, I always like to start asking the same thing, how did it all start? How did Open Air Museum come to life?
Shea: I studied textiles in college as I was really drawn to the primitive techniques and history surrounding the art of material. My work always leaned more toward tangible application - things you can use and wear, and my interest in textiles really took root when I began to research and create with sustainability at the forefront. I built my thesis around workwear garments made from natural materials. From there, it was really just a matter of time before Open Air Museum began. After college, my creative ambitions all began to center around garments, and one day I realized I couldn't wait any longer to start paving the path for what OAM is today
M: And I can see that in your designs but more than that in your exquisite taste in fabrics. I always say that I could buy with my eyes closed just feeling the texture and the weight of the materials, it is so important to me! That and the idea of sustainability together is just magic! Did you always know fashion and apparel design was what you wanted to do?
J: No! I have always been very over-stimulated in terms of art. There are many art forms I could enjoy and see myself pursuing as a career. When I started making garments in college, it was more for utilitarian purposes as it gave a voice to the material I was constructing. The more I worked with garments, the more I realized it was the strongest application for allowing my ideas to take shape and form into a holistic brand.
M: I couldn't feel more identified with your process, I love shape and pattern making, but to me it all always starts with a fabric, that is why I feel going to fabric stores is my favorite thing to do, and from there start imagining shapes, and drapes and volumes... it is all such a magical process! Besides the fabric, how does it all start for you, what are the first steps when creating a new design? What is the first inspiration that set’s all in motion?
S: I don't really have a formula! I find that my approach tends to be different for each new collection. My first collection was a response to styles and shapes that were interesting to me personally... things I wanted to own! From there, after having a few collections behind me, I am able to evaluate what styles have been the most successful. Many times I will take a piece that was interesting and break it down into a new shape or style. For me, the best way to come by inspiration is being open minded and relaxed - not trying to force anything. I find that my best ideas come when I am not even working or trying to come up with anything brilliant. I might be eating a taco, and suddenly, something great comes to the surface
M: Definitely! I feel most of the times, the best things in life come when you are least expecting it, when you are not even thinking about them and that is the biggest beauty about any creative process! I love the idea of deconstructing a garment to build something new out of it, that idea of giving something that is important to you a new meaning is so interesting to me. Is that part of what you feel Open Air Museum's heart and soul is about? How would you describe in a few words what Open Air Museum is? What are the fundaments of it? And what keeps you motivated to continue doing what you do?
S: An artful approach to quotidian wear. Open Air Museum gives a conceptual voice and spirit to sophisticated yet easy-going wear. It is natural, sculptural and guided by ethics in sustainability and quality.
Motivation is a tricky thing to keep hold of, especially when running your own business. It's not as glam as it seems. However, I feel very connected to this brand and the concepts that fuel it. Connectivity is something we all search for, especially in terms of our vocation. So I think holding onto why I started this brand, and opening myself up to the joy and challenge of it, is what keeps me up and at em.
M: Absolutely!! That idea of being true and never forgetting why it all started is something I always look for when researching for new brands to carry at the shop, that cohesiveness to the heart and soul of the designer is so extremely important to me... on the other hand I always wonder what is that you look for in retail spaces for them to carry Open Air Museum, and I guess more than that I am always curious, why did you choose Voyager for a pop up and us for hosting and carrying your beautiful line?
S: Voyager feels like home! The shop has a beautiful and defined aesthetic that complements the nature of our pieces so effortlessly. The collaborative spirit of the shop is something we embrace within our own brand, so it is very exciting to come together and celebrate the unifying principles of our two brands.
M: Aww thank you ! Saying that the shops feel "like home" is the biggest compliment that you can give us! One of the more important things for us is that all of our customers and brands feel the shop as a safe space, to be themselves, to be creative and more than anything to create... that is why collaboration is such an important part of who we are, so thank you for saying that, it really means a lot !! We are always wondering what the future might bring, how do you see OAM in I don't know, 10 years? What are your long term goals with it? What would you like the future of the brand to be…
M: Yes please!! Your own textiles! I can not wait to see that in action!
Thanks so much Shea for taking the time and chatting with me, I am so excited for the pop up and more than anything for our Party this coming Friday in SF, and next Saturday in LA! Please ALL DON'T MISS IT!! Special pieces and tons of new stuff at Open Air Museum Pop Up for the whole month of June!
But first! come by this Friday, June 2nd to meet Shea, shop the incredible pieces, grab a drink, dance to the tunes and enjoy the first pop up of the summer!
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All picture courtesy of Open Air Museum