Questions for Katie Kukulka: The Maker of Moccasins

August 22nd, 2010 by | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

A couple months ago, I brought a pair of adorable and very comfortable moccasins on Etsy.  What’s so great about these moccasins like the red jacket I also purchased from Etsy is that I knew who took the time to design, manufacture, and package the product.  There was a power of a direct link between the buyer and the seller.  Katie Kukulka, the woman behind making Darlingtonia Moccasins, was very generous to take the time to interview for the blog.

What inspired you to produce and sell the moccasins?

I was inspired to produce and sell moccasins when I realized I didn’t have to live with the selection on the market and I could make moccasins myself. I wear moccasins on a near daily basis and I grew tired of what was available for purchase from both artisans and big shoemakers.

How would you describe the difference in handmade products such as the moccasins you create and the products made in factories that we purchase in “big box” stores such as Target and Wal-Mart?

I consider each pair of Darlingtonia Moccasins a little work of art. Each shoe has a little piece of me sewn into them. When I send a pair off to their new feet I take care to make sure they are packaged just right and I place a hand written thank you note in each box. I want my customers to be reminded that a person who truly cares just made something special for them. When you buy a pair of moccasins at Target you don’ think about them as art, or about the person who helped make them, or where they came from, you just add them to your basket and think what a great deal they are only $14.99. For me I fall in love with things I buy on Etsy, they have personality and life beyond their tangibility. When you wear something handmade you have a story to tell people when they complement what you are wearing. You can tell them about the person, or process that was used to make it.

Please describe your working conditions in producing, selling, and shipping the moccasins.

I work out of a small comfortable room in my house. This is where I do everything, sew, cut leather, punch holes, package. I work at a steady pace but try not to stress myself out too much. I take breaks when I need them and I push myself when I need to meet a deadline. This is of course my job, but I would like to keep it from feeling too much like work. When it comes time to ship a package I drive myself to the post office downtown where the ladies who work there know me and love to chat. I feel like my entire process of producing to shipping my product is a pleasant one and I look forward to starting work each day.

When buyers purchase your products online, you communicate with them until they receive their product to inform them your progress on producing and shipping the products. How do you feel about having a close connection with your buyers?

I love it and I hope my customers do too. I love when I buy something on Etsy and the seller takes the time to let me know when I will receive my order or just to make sure I know they got my order and are working on it. I knew from the very beginning I never wanted my customers to have anything to worry about.

Do you plan to continue to create moccasins by hand or would you like to have your moccasins mass-produced one day? Please explain the reason.

If I needed to increase production to fill a higher number of orders I think the first step I would take would be to purchase a die cutter so I wouldn’t have to cut out each pattern with a pair of scissors. Doing that is one of the hardest parts of the process, my hands ache after doing more than a few pairs at a time. I would be able to make more pairs while still keeping the handmade quality and because each pair would be cut identically I bet they would be more consistent too.

That being said, if by some chance Darlingtonia Moccasins ever became popular enough to require them to be mass-produced on a major scale I suppose I would have no other choice. 100 orders a day would be impossible for me to handle alone. But one thing I can say for certain is that if it ever came to that point I wouldn’t be outsourcing production over seas and I would continue to buy from and support my local suppliers.

Go purchase a lovely pair of moccasins for yourself here!

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2 Comments

August 23, 2010 at 8:11 am

great post on the moccasins…hope all goes well in the MA program in London and hope to hear about it on your blog!

Rachel

August 24, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Thank you for your comment, Barbara. I will certainly blog about what I learn in my studies.

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