Denton-based crafter, hot-rod enthusiast, and army wife Dakota Darling talks sewing, Day of the Dead, and pop culture.
Interview: Shoshana Photographs: Courtesy of Dakota Darling
Q: Tell us about the birth of Dakota Darling Designs. How did you get your start and what’s the story behind the name?
I’ve always been crafty! My father is an artist and a photographer, so I grew up in a home with a darkroom and a closet full of art supplies at my fingertips, and my grandmother insisted that I learn to sew before I was even old enough to see over the top of the table!
Selling my art started in high school and trickled into college, but I never really worked at it very hard-life got in the way! I decided to start re-working my designs and selling my goods on a more serious level about a year ago when I was asked to be one of the darlings for Hot Rods and Heels. Since then, I’ve opened an Etsy store and I have a website dedicated solely to my work! When I’m not working my day job teaching art, I work on my designs and my inventory for upcoming events.
I grew up in a small town in North Dakota and I’m always very proud to say that I’m from there. I was struggling with what to call my new “company” and my best friend came up with Dakota Darling. I loved it! It really suits me, I think!
Q: When did your love affair with sewing and knitting begin?
Oh, goodness…I can’t remember NOT knowing how to sew. I was so young when my grandmother started to teach me, it’s just what we did together. It’s something that really spoke to me. I have some really funny “clothes” that I made for my dolls when I was about 6. They are hand sewn and made from some of the ugliest polyester pants you could imagine! My mother also has a pillow that I made out of an old sweater when I was about the same age.
I started designing and making clothes for myself when I got my first Singer sewing machine for Christmas. I think I was around 11 years old. Once I had my own machine, that’s all I wanted to do!
Knitting and other fiber art came WAY later. Over the last ten years or so, I’ve challenged myself to learn a new craft every year. About 4 years ago, it was knitting. I bought myself the first Stitch N’ Bitch book, a set of needles, and a ball of pink yarn to get myself started. The moment I figured it out, it was like dancing! I love the clicking of the needles and the methodical nature of the beast. The only time I am sitting still for longer than 15 minutes is when I’m knitting. I can’t get enough of it!!
Q: You’ve become known for your Dia de los Muertos inspired purses, which are popular year around. What’s behind the current fascination with calaveras?
I’m not really sure, but I think the state of the nation has something to do with it, to be honest. With the influx of the Mexican population comes the influence of the Mexican culture. People who have never been exposed to the celebrations and art that coincides with the Mexican culture are starting be exposed to it and its beauty. Here, locally, they are starting to appreciate it more and more. Also, with hot rod culture on the up and up, skulls in general are becoming very popular. The idea of Calaveras and “hot rod art” becoming pop culture is kind of crazy to me…
Q: When not creating art, how do you spend your free time?
I have two young boys to wrangle!! My kids keep me so busy! As I mentioned before, I’m an art teacher, so I’m at school from 7:30 until around 5:00 Monday through Friday and I do crazy stuff with my kids most weekends. My husband works out of town, so I am a married single mom rearing my boys practically on my own! When he’s home, we do things as a family, so there is really no such thing as free time!
Q: What does the future hold for Dakota Darling Designs? Any upcoming projects or events our readers should know about?
I try not to look too far into the future. I am enjoying the ride!! My art and photography is starting to make its way here and there, so we’ll see, I suppose! I will have some handmade ornaments (and possibly some other art) on display at the Oxide gallery in Denton in November and December and the next show that I will be doing is the Gifts and Garters show on December 5th in Dallas. Holiday shopping season is around the corner, so I’m rolling up my sleeves and stocking up on yarn and fabric!!
Find out more about where to find Dakota’s goods at www.dakotadarling.com.