October Visiting Artist: Made by Hank
We are excited to welcome Katie Henry, founder of Made by Hank, to Moon+Arrow for October. Katie created beautifully hand crafted bags using quilt designs, funky patterns and cool designs. You can spot a Made By Hank bag from a mile away and we're so happy to have her work in the shop all month long.
1. Tell us about yourself.
Scrappy. Often tardy. Loves vegetables. Surprisingly good at claw machines. Mediocre at hydration. Dislikes when people use words like 'delicious' to describe things that are not food. Most content in the corner with a specific task while attending a party but also somehow probably the loudest person in the room.
2. How did Made by Hank come to be?
Back in the early 2000s, my housemate at the time inherited her grandmother's vintage 1950s singer sewing machine. We were all immediately drawn to it and started playing around with altering clothing etc. I was hooked. I started stitching and just never stopped. I use my bicycle as my main means of transportation around the city, and started making bags for myself that made more sense to carry while biking. I would pick the craft up and put it down, mostly depending on how much free time I had. Maybe closer to 2005ish some friends started asking me to make them bags similar to mine. I had a few little pop-ups here and there, and a MySpace page (yes, MySpace). The name happened because I was sewing a bag for a friend's girlfriend. I was really into freehand stitching cursive at the time. So I stitched 'made by hank for blahblah' (I cannot recall who exactly the bag was for- maybe Melanie?), which was a play on Built By Wendy, a clothing company in Brooklyn. And madebyhank just kind of stuck. I sewed it as all one word because i preferred stitching it without stopping. Happy accidents.
3. Who is Hank?!
It's me! I am Hank. Hank is me. I've mostly been a firstname/lastname as one word kinda guy- KatieHenry. I think because in the 80s there were a whole lot of katies so that made it a little easier for the people in my life. And Hank is a nickname for Henry, and since I am such a tough badass (spoiler alert: I am neither tough nor a badass), my friends just started calling me Hank a bunch of years ago and it just kinda stuck.
4. What do you derive your inspiration from?
Oh gosh. Everything? Certainly and most recently/obviously, old quilts and quilt patterns. This most recent wave of madebyhank (as opposed to the hank bags I was making a bunch of years ago) were born of what I had access to at the time, back in spring of 2020, in those early days of being stuck inside alone and wanting to use those hours to get back to sewing. There were no fabric shops open and I don't know enough about fabric words to order things online. And everyone was doing jigsaw puzzles and those coloring books for adults and I was like oh! I know how to order canvas, its just canvas! So now I use whatever colors of canvas I can get my hank-hands on to use as my own version of colored pencils/puzzle pieces and I absolutely love it. I spend endless hours playing around with my little canvas triangles to create classic and/or fun patterns and color-ways.
My color inspiration comes from everything from my favorite rugby shirt from high school to that county fair tent I saw that one time to that outfit I saw on that person crossing the street last week to the shelves of produce at the market. Even the way the fabric scraps land together on the floor after a day of cutting down yardage of canvas. As I mentioned, happy accidents are a big part of my life and work.
5. What are your favorite patterns to work with? Any stand-out designs you’ve made in the past?
Hmm, I am honestly not certain I have a solid favorite. Certainly favorites come and go in waves. I might fall in love with fanny bags one month, only to allow backpacks to creep back up to the top of my heart. And then before I know it- bam! Fanny bags are back to the top. The barrel/cylinder crossbody style bags are definitely a personal favorite, though not the biggest sellers, so I do not find myself making them very often. And before you ask, the answer is yes! I am working on new/more totes.
Or perhaps you meant what is my favorite pattern to make in terms of checkerboard versus kaleidoscope etc? That is possibly even more difficult for me to choose from. It depends quite a bit on what my brain is drawn to most at the moment in terms of colors. When I am focused on bolder/ more simple combinations of two or three shades, I tend to fall extra in love with the quilt/star pattern variations. When I find myself feeling drawn to a big ol’ pile of the most colors possible, I love working with what I call the kaleidoscope pattern. It lends itself more to incorporating several different or similar shades without the need for as much contrast. As far as which of these is more fun to actually sew together, it would have to be the patterns that involve more triangles. Not sure I know why, but it just feels right.
The standout design is far and away the tough ruffles of the early days of hank bags. It was a fun way of adding texture by scrunching up layers of fabric and topstitching the heck out of it. I loved it. You loved it. You maybe still do but me and the tough ruffles are taking an extended break and seeing other fabrics. If you know, you know.
6. What is it like being a creative maker in Philadelphia?
Excellent. Lucky. Fun. A constant compliment. If you know or live in this chaotic and beloved city of ours, you know just how incredibly special it is. You likely also understand that Philadelphia is the smallest big city. Not in terms of size on a map, but more in how completely, incredibly, unavoidably interwoven it can be. I have lived here for over 20 years now, finding so many unexpected connections along the way, largely through weaving in and out of the restaurant industry over the past two decades. That combined with the magic of the internet, and now here I am, spending my days happily cutting up canvas and sewing it back together, stitching the weeks away. Almost daily I either see someone in a shop or walking down the street wearing a hank bag, or receive messages from friends and supporters of others they spotted with their hank bags. Philadelphia can be cold and cruel I know, but it can also be the absolute effing best. And for me, right now, it is certainly the best. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of long hours and hard work and even some occasional tears involved in hank life. But I truly don't think I could have done any of it without this beautiful and bizarre city of ours and all the incredible people I've met along the way. Thank you all for making me feel way cooler than I ever truly could be. Sometimes those occasional tears I mentioned are happy ones.