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The Biography: Vicky

By Lotuff Leather

Vicky is the newest member of our team who brings her love of detailed work and beautiful craftsmanship to the studio. Liz interviews her here on starting her own children's line and raising a creative family. 

You have degrees in English and philosophy, but you originally started out studying music. Tell me more about your path! Is music still a big part of your life?

I had studied music growing up and so I started my college education as a music major in Nashville. But I later realized that I was getting tired of doing the same thing for so long and wanted to try something else—like reading books and thinking deep thoughts (laughs). So I changed my major to English and philosophy. I stayed in Nashville a little while longer but wanted to come home to Massachusetts and wound up transferring into Harvard. It was a great experience! It felt special to be a part of something that was so iconic and had so much history.

My Harvard degree is in liberal arts with a concentration in English literature and philosophy. I poured my life into my studies, and I also worked through college. I was just so busy all the time. One semester I even put myself on an every-other-night sleeping schedule to get everything done! It was what I needed to do in order to do well. It was crazy and exhausting, but I absolutely loved it. I made everything I could of the experience. Some of the professors I had were just so inspiring. 

During my time in school, I was recording an album as well. It was all super intense. But then when I had children years later, I was like, “That was nothing! Compared to this, college was so easy!” I did get to nap whenever I wanted to in college though. That was pleasant (laughs). I remember when I first had Eliot, my oldest, I was like, “I can’t take naps anymore!” 

I ended up with an EP and some other songs that were recorded but not finalized. That was a long time ago and so there are a few songs I revisit sometimes and others that were very much for that time and that place. I’ve mostly done vocal performance, but I also play the guitar, the piano, and the ukulele. I used to know how to play the violin… I no longer know how to play the violin (laughs). But I recently picked it back up, actually, and I’ve started taking a few lessons. 

My mother is very musical, and it’s funny because she and I are very different and yet so similar in ways like this. She plays the guitar and was a singer-songwriter for a little while, and I learned how to sew from her too. She was always playing music, and so us children did the same (I’m the youngest of three). My sister ended up studying music at Berklee, and my brother took an academic route. I grew up performing, but it was always other people’s songs. So when it came to performing my own material that was more personal, I often froze and thought, “Wow, this is a totally different animal.” I was super shy about it, but I do think I’ll get back into that again at some point. Last fall, I did a ladies’ rock camp through Girls Rock!, and it was so fun.

For the past year, I’ve really been playing the piano more than anything. I think it’s mostly because we now have room for my great-grandmother’s piano—which was given to me a few years ago—since we moved to a new house. We have a room that’s just designated as the “music room,” where we all play together and make noise. My boys take piano and drum lessons; they’re both very musical and [my daughter] Birdie is too! She’s always singing. We have fun at home.

You haven’t always lived in Providence. How did you find your way here, and what’s kept you around? 

My husband Charlie and I have been here in Providence for four years. We moved from a country house on 14 acres of land that we’d lived in for two years; it was inspiring and amazing but riddled with rodents! I had been divorced, and then Charlie and I met while he was living in Brooklyn. Then we all moved up and into the country house with our little reconstituted family. That was a really creative time for me, and I actually started my children’s line at that house. But Charlie had been living in Brooklyn for so long that [living in the country] ended up being a little bit of a culture shock. He’s a graduate of RISD and was familiar with Providence and so we decided to try living here as a middle ground between New York and the country. It’s been really nice and a really good fit for our family. 

Something we started noticing about Providence right away is that everybody knows everybody, and I love that! It kind of feels like a small town, but there are a lot of really cool things going on. I’ve enjoyed getting to know some of the music community here, and Charlie has connections with the fine arts community. It’s been great to experience both! There are wonderful people here.

You mentioned that you started your own line of handmade children’s accessories, home decor, and toys. What served as your inspiration? Do you have any future plans for it all?

When I first had my two boys, Eliot and Oliver, I got really into finding beautiful things for them…things that were well-made and not full of plastic and chemicals. I started to realize there were so many inferior children’s things on the market! So I started really searching for beautiful things, and what I did find made me so excited. From there, I was inspired to start making a lot of stuff for my kids: accessories, home decor, clothing, and toys.

I wanted everything I made to have a sort of heirloom quality to it and used lots of natural fabrics and fibers like cotton and linen. I also did some knitting with wools and cottons. I named the line Little Piece of Moon after something my son Eliot said when he was two years old. There were a couple of boutiques who carried my things, including one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and I also did the artisan show circuit for a little while. But then four years ago I got pregnant with Birdie, my third child, which I thought was going to be a breeze, but things got tough and everything with Little Piece of Moon just kind of stopped.

I have a studio at home and occasionally get in there to create—just not with one particular goal in mind. Birdie has recently started preschool, and I think having that extra bit of time will give me a chance to play more in the studio and figure out where I want to go with my work. What I know is that most of my designs will definitely look different…but there is one main “trademark” I do plan to keep. I always love adding some kind of little detail to whatever I’m making to help it go from a thing of utility to something that’s really lovely and special. I used to make these little skirts, and on the underside of the hem I would add a line of vintage French velvet ribbon. Nobody else may notice it, but when you wear it, you know it’s there. Whether it’s vintage smocking, embroidery, or pintucks, I love detailed, tiny work, and all those little fine details always make me happy. So I know those are the kinds of things I will always do, but how it will all translate I’m not sure. It depends how I feel when I get back in there!

Your three children—who are so adorable, by the way—are growing up in a pretty creative household. How do you see them developing their own sense of creativity?   

I think they’re all very creative, and I think that goes into everything they do. They’re cool little people! It’s been really fun having them. No matter how busy and crazy things get, I love seeing all the different ways that they operate and how they approach things in different ways. It’s really special. They’re all problem solvers and love to build and create things.

I think that one of the greatest parts of being a parent is seeing how they all have a little bit of a different way of approaching things. We all have similarities in our house, but I constantly learn things from them. They’ll have these little areas of expertise and we’re like, “Wow, that’s really cool!” Everybody adds something to the family. We’re a really good team… when everyone’s not arguing (laughs).

Charlie comes home and tells the kids about all the fun things he’s doing with technology and design; it’s awesome and they’re so into it! He has a background in fine art and painting but now works in industrial design at Tellart, which is right upstairs from Lotuff. We both love working so near to each other. Every Tuesday we have our little date lunch, and sometimes we drive in together… and he brings me snacks (laughs). It’s nice that we can be part of the same work community now and know a lot of the same people.

As the newest member of our artisan team, how did you first find out about us, and how does it feel to be back at work?

Two years ago, Charlie bought me a Lotuff bag for my birthday or something, and at the time, I didn’t know that Lotuff existed. I opened up the box and was like, ”Woah, special!” I noticed the edge wraps and thought they were so amazing. It’s those extra special little things that I love! I figured he got the bag in Brooklyn during one of his work trips, but he said, “No, there’s this beautiful leather studio downstairs from where I work!” And I was just so excited because that type of quality is something we’d normally go to New York to buy, and now we can get it here. 

When I first thought about going back to work, I hesitated for a long time because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do or what I would have time to do. I knew I would need to be working with something that I believed in and coming here felt good. If I’m going to be away from my family and go through all the craziness and chaos to make sure everything is accounted for at home, I want to be doing something that feels special and that I believe in. So this whole thing feels serendipitous. 

I kind of love everything about working here! I did a sewing test with Lindy when I first interviewed and even loved that. My inner nerd came out—that girl in high school who was always making my friends quilts on the weekends. My hands like to be busy! It feels very special to be around such beautiful creations, especially going from admiring them beforehand to, “Oh, I know how to make that!” I really enjoy being around beautiful things and seeing all the detail and time that goes into them to make them really special. 

The edge wraps are my favorite thing to do. They’re a beautiful little detail that is essentially unnecessary for the construction of the piece, but the time, precision and care that goes into perfectly lining up those stitches is one of the many details that makes each bag really special. I would like to learn stitching later on, but I also really love turning and burning. It doesn’t feel like a means to an end. I love all the detail that goes into the work I’ve been doing. 

And I like everybody here! It’s great to be around artists who are good at what they do. Everyone takes their work seriously and puts their care and energy and focus into it to make these bags perfect.