Interview with Puvithel!
"Puvithel is an alternative fashion designer who makes and designs original handmade jewelry, accessories, clothing and handbags for J-fashion and alternative styles. While currently based in Pittsburgh, Puvithel started in Atlanta in 2015." - Puvithel's website
We met Puvithel at Anime Weekend Atlanta... years ago! Her booth was sparse but full of amazing handmade things that had so much potential, we had to invite her to join us! She's come a long way from those humble roots, and we've been honored to be along for her journey.
In this interview, we asked Puvithel some of our pressing questions! We've always wondered about her design process and her extensive handmade items. Read on for her answers to our questions!
What got you interested in making?
Originally, I started crafting as a way to destress while studying at Georgia Tech. I looked up some tutorials on steampunk jewelry on deviant art and went from there. I only started trying to sell the jewelry when the craft supplies expenses started to pile up and I needed some way to make up the costs.
Can you tell us about your first convention experience? How long have you been going to conventions?
My first convention experience, Momocon 2015, was a whirlwind. I had originally planned to first vend at a small Alabama convention called Hamacon, as the members of the Artist Alley International Network on facebook recommended new artists start at small cons. I had applied for MomoCon just for the heck of it as well, not expecting to get in, but suddenly 10 days before the event I got an email asking if I'd like a last minute waitlist spot. So instead of a nice relaxing first con, I had 10 days to prepare for a competitive large convention. I was a complete fish out of water at the event, but the other artists, staff, and attendees were all very kind to me. I managed to sell most of the jewelry I had made, totaling to about $300 in sales.
Can you describe your first sales booth? What did you sell there?
My first booth was hastily decorated with objects I had around my house. I made quick paper signs for pricing, and printed out a couple of posters from my workplace, the Georgia Tech Library. A kind friend allowed me to dress her up for the con and came out to help me booth that weekend. I sold little steampunk goods made from mass produced charms I'd attached together in interesting ways, necklaces, plain pendants, and earrings. I also sold chibi $5 sketches for the heck of it and a few pouches I'd gotten printed as samples. It's a stark comparison to my giant over stuffed booths of today. At the time I was trying to make separate brands for each style I explored, something I gave up later when I decided to try and make my own encompassing style.
Puvithel's first booth!
I'll never forget meeting you as Xiao Loli and being inspired by the rings you were making and your setup. It was so different from other vendors there! Ahhh the memories.
Aww, haha I think at the time I had no idea what I was doing, and no conceptions about what jewelry was supposed to be like. This led to lots of mistakes and learning things the hard way, but I think it also leant to my style being unique and different. I like to hope I've maintained some of that uniqueness in my more modern work. I was extremely nervous meeting you and seeing Lolita Collective's booth at AWA 2015. Lolita Collective had and still has a reputation of being very discerning with the products and brands, and it's been a dream to have become part of Lolita Collective's carried brands.
a more recent Puvithel booth
Where did you find your materials?
I have a lot of different sources I've found over the years; sometimes I even use thrifted materials, although lately I have been focusing more on custom pieces. I try to cleverly combine sources, materials, and workmanship in ways that highlight the best aspects of each while creating something new.
What got you into laser cutting?
A maker friend of mine, Overworld Designs, ran a maker's space and taught me how the laser cutter worked. She also introduced me to a few laser cutting services, and the engineering processes that go into laser cutting. I don't have an art or fashion background, so I initially figured laser cutting would be a good way to apply my engineering background to jewelry making. Laser cutting also was something easy for me to start with as I'd been learning how to use Illustrator, and was already familiar with creating vector paths. It's also one of the cheapest ways to make custom designs starting out because there are no minimums on the amount of an item you have to make.
Puvithel's Knife Earrings - a laser cut design
Where do you find inspiration?
I try to keep an eye out for inspiration everywhere; movies, music, signs, other artists and designers. Sometimes even I just look through my old work and see if I can advance on an old design, or use an old asset in an interesting way. I do think creativity and finding inspiration is something that can be trained with practice and conscious effort. I find the laser cutting work of Yokai Candy, Arsenic x Cyanide, Kuma Crafts, Kittynaut, and Dandy Puppetrois very inspiring as they all use very cool materials in interesting ways.
Which tools(both digital and physical) do you use the most?
I usually make rough sketches in standard sketchbooks with mechanical pencils, and then work on artwork in Adobe Illustrator. Jewelry and bent nose pliers of course are always on my desk, and I've also found lots of clever ways to use wire cutters to create more unique designs.
The Crystal Heart Necklace is now ubiquitous with Western Lolita Fashion. As you say goodbye, tell us about how you came up with this design?
Tell us about some of your favorite memories with this design!
The crystal heart series has been quite a surreal experience. Way back in the day, I used to keep on hand small stretches of the teardrop and flower charms strung together (connectors) to use in custom waist chains. At conventions, customers would see these connectors and ask for me to make necklaces out of them. Since I kept getting this request, I decided to try making an actual necklace version. I played with a few designs, but settled on the current design with the heart centerpiece as I felt it would be a really good versatile bit of sparkle for sweet lolita coordinates. I wanted to keep the design simple, but elegant, so that the necklace would go with a large variety of coordinates. I really felt like a glass crystal necklace with a crystal heart was something so obvious, I was surprised nobody else had made a design like this for lolita before.
There are so many life changing moments in my life that circle around the crystal heart series, including when VoodoooDolly and Automatic Honey purchased items, or vending in Europe and seeing the European lolitas fawn over the necklaces, but probably the crystal heart purchase that made the biggest impact was when Haenuli purchased a couple necklaces from me at Tekko 2017. Haenuli is a designer I've always admired and looked up to; her stained glass print was my first dream dress and my first 'real' lolita main piece purchase. I was significantly more unknown then and new to Pittsburgh, but Haenuli immediately treated me like another designer, and purchased a necklace that she later wore in an absolutely stunning underwater photoshoot.
I honestly have a hard time wrapping my head around how many people own these necklaces, and the number of people who have been collecting different colorways. I don't think it's really hit me how many lolitas own these necklaces yet. It'll probably hit me once this final pre-order is ready to ship and I see the physical volume of the necklaces.
I have very mixed feelings about saying good bye to this necklace. This design was never supposed to be around for more than a year or two. While I am very proud of the design, I do worry that none of my future work will have the same impact.
At the same time, I am feeling quite melancholy about possibly not being able to continue the design.
What can we expect for 2021 from Puvithel?
I have quite a lot planned for 2021! Firstly the Dogs and Desserts sweet lolita Cottonbook collab will finally be released in the spring. I have been back and forth tweaking the print and the design for over a year but now (with a lot of thanks to A. Gato Design's patterning) the design is finally perfect. We are just waiting on the weather/covid situation to allow for a photoshoot. The second and third sets of the Haenuli collab Medical Melancholy will be releasing next year as well, along with a follow up to the Jiiri collab I Did Not Hurt Myself. Additionally with 2020 having robbed me of my 5th year anniversary celebration, I am hoping to have a lucky number 6 anniversary tea party later into 2021~ I also accidentally formed a online event production group with Alexis and Kat, so we have more virtual jfashion events planned for 2021 as well. Woo that's entirely too many things and I'm already getting tired just thinking about it.
My number one wish for 2021 is that I'll finally get to see all my fellow designers and jfashion friends again!