Why We Create: Le Neko Noir

Today is the third installment of Why We Create. And this time, Annie Andre of Le Neko Noir shows us how she creates the super cute sleep masks that she is known for. Check out the video and then read my mini interview with Annie below…

1. Why Do You Create?

I create because it is my calling. It is my passion and a part of my true inner self. Its so gratifying to take something like fabric and turn it into something fun and useful. But for me, creating is more than just making the final product. I love to create my sleeping masks just as much as I love fiddling with my website HTML, learning which F-stop to use with my camera for product photos or optimizing my product descriptions for search engines. Its the full cycle from sketching my ideas to marketing and finally wrapping them up for my customers. Creating has become my passion and Ive learned to follow my gut. Not blindly but with eyes wide open. When it calls, I listen because it makes my heart very happy.

It wasnt always this way though. Up until 3 years ago and for over a decade before that, you were more apt to find me behind a computer screen perfecting excel formulas, building pivot tables and analyzing large amounts of data. All the while, a little voice inside of me was trying to tell me that something was missing. But I didnt know what was missing so I didnt know what to look for to fill the void. The voice of discontentment got louder until 2007. On a whim, while on a family vacation at Stinson Beach California, I decided to teach myself how to sew. I looked up a couple YouTube video and sewed my first tiny purse satchel thingy. It was really pathetic looking but from that moment on, I was hooked on the idea of creating things with my hands.

A few months later that same year, both my husband and I were laid off from our jobs. Thats when I decided, I wanted to pursue my new love of sewing and making handmade things. I bought a domain name, hired a web developer and started building my shop without a product to sell. I knew if I thought too long, I would talk myself out of it so I just jumped in. That was three years ago and I havent looked back since. Creating is part of who I am, and what I have always wanted to do whether I knew it or not. Im just glad I discovered and took a chance before it was too late.

2. Your handmade sleep masks are fun and playful. What inspires you and your collection?

My masks have a very distinct style which is a direct reflection of me, who I am and where Ive been. I lived in Japan for 3 years. While there, I was immersed and surrounded by anthropomorphic smiling cigarettes, pouting toilet paper rolls on packages and super kawaii ( cute) imagery. Think Hello Kitty on steroids. Couple that with the fact that my family is French Canadian so naturally Im a Francophile as well.

My unique background has heavily influence my style. The end result is what I like to call, eye mask mashups. I love to blend unexpected styles and ideas. Like cute and creepy, or chic geek. The one thing that really sets my eye masks apart is that the faces of each of my eye masks are completely hand-stitched and hand embroidered. I love the idea of hand embroidered things. It makes me think of a time past when things were made to last before everything was mass produced. But I also love modern cutesy things like hello Kitty. And, I love French style. So its only natural that I take different elements and blend unexpected ideas together.

I love anything with owls. So when the movie twilight came out, I made an owl vampire mask. That spawned another idea for a panda zombie eye mask. Sometimes my masks designs come out of whatever it is Im learning about or doing. This last week, Ive been reading about social media, so naturally I sketched about 7 designs and am working on a new collection for geeks. Whatever the idea, I always try to put my own little dreamy spin on them.

3. What is your fondest memory (highlight) thus far with your business?

My fondest memory was at my first Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco. I setup my modest booth and felt so insecure. I thought everyone could tell that I had no idea what I was doing. Then the doors opened and people started coming in the front door. People passed my booth and something amazing happened. Everyone smiled when they saw my eye masks. People actually stopped and bought my little lovely handmade sleeping masks. There was something so satisfying in knowing that others loved my masks as much as I do. That moment, was the moment that I realized that I love that my cute sleeping masks brought people a little bit of happiness. Ive been told they bring out the kid in people. Now with every mask I make, I know each one will put a smile on their lips.

Coupon Code from Le Neko Noir: Enjoy 15% off your entire order by enter code “paper” during checkout. Hurry, expires March 15th 2011.

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