Ties….. they always have the most beautiful patterns, colors and textures, but often times are only worn once or twice at a few special events and then are either thrown out or donated to the local thrift store. The fate of the average discarded tie is usually a sad one full of loneliness, depression and years of rejection spent sitting on a shelf at a local thrift store. But there is good news, over in Saint Louis, Missouri Allyson Wilmowski owner and artist behind Buffalo Blue Designs is rescuing ties by the truck load and turning them into something amazing!
1. Would you consider yourself a crafter, an artist or both, because your designs are so unique and unusual?
I consider myself both a crafter and an artist for different reasons. I’m a crafter in that I apply my talents and skills to my medium- neckties, feathers, millinery supplies etc- and a piece of unique work that is one of kind and specific to me is made. I’m an artist because of the ways I use my media. My pieces are all one of a kind and no two are ever exactly the same. I thrive on craft and art- creating something new is an essential part of my day. I enjoy reusing vintage objects and materials in unexpected ways in my pieces and LOVE when that certain someone matches up with that certain something I’ve created and **squeals** in delight when they realize the piece is exactly what they wanted and perfect for them!
2. What first motivated you to turn ties into head bands and necklaces?
I think ties are amazing! The patterns and fabrics- the dimensions, the care with which they’re chosen and paired with outfits…. But what’s sad is how disposable they are. Men wear them once in a while, then eventually the tie goes out of fashion or the man spills something on it and either throws the tie away or donates it to thrift or charity stores. I decided they needed to be reborn into something that would be enjoyed in other ways. The headbands and hats I make from them are inherently turned menswear into something for women, but the collars can be worn by both sexes and are my best sellers to date!
3. Where on earth do you gather all of your amazing ties from, friends, thrift stores, or a mix of both?
I consider ties the best gift! They’re a gift that keeps on giving, if you will… I get them anywhere I can and from anyone who’s willing to part with them. Most come from friends and family combing thrift stores and asking people for ties they’re ready to give up, but I look for them where ever I go. I try to use vintage ties whenever possible, but if I find a newer tie that is just screaming to be used, I’m not opposed to that either. It’s all about using what’s available to make something new and different!
4. Is it safe to say that your main inspiration behind your work is both color and pattern?
Putting the colors and patterns together is my absolute favorite part of the process. During a collar making week, I usually set aside a couple of days of the week just for pairing ties, then the other days I sew and back the pieces. Headband ties just stand out as headbands to me immediately. It’s funny, but sometimes things that don’t match at all look really great together in a collar. It’s just really satisfying when someone tells me- “Wow! I’d have never thought to put those three ties together, but I LOVE this collar so much!” Like I said, matching that certain someone with a piece they fall in love with is the BEST feeling.
5. What is the next type of arts or crafts you would like to experiment with?
I already have my hand in several other crafts! When I’m not making collars and headbands, I make jewelry with skeleton keys and precious/semi-precious stones, do millinery (hat-making) work, use recycled fur from vintage coats and stoles to make jewelry and shawls, and I do a lot of custom feather work as well as wedding parties, proms and such. This winter/spring I’m taking a metal smithing class and learning some lost-wax casting so I can do a little more hands-on work with my jewelry. I’d also love to learn more about photography. In my spare time (when I have any), I like to embroider, needle-felt and crochet as well as watercolor painting. I’d say I have my hands full in the art/craft sphere but there’s always room to learn something new and include something else in my line!
I would like to thank Allyson for taking the time to inspire us and and share her story. If you would like to check out more of her awesome crafts be sure to stop by Buffalo Blue Designs