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Meet the Local Maker: måske

I’m not sure if there’s anything cozier than having a big, thick weaving on your walls, or anything better than embroidered snarky sayings in a hoop. It turns out Steph Kleeman-Olson just so happens to be crafting up both for you! It’s been super cool to see her work evolve in the fiber arts world and as she grows through some pretty cool commissions around the area. Read on to find out more about the maker behind måske!

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Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Steph and I grew up, and still live, in the Fargo-Moorhead area. I have a full-time job aside from my business, and making things is always something I’ve done for fun. It’s a great way to chill out. I have two rather large dogs, a basset hound (Humphrey) and a Bernese mountain dog (Bosco), and I also have all the plants. Baking is another hobby of mine. I always make far too much and make sure to pawn it off on friends, family or coworkers.

Describe what type of products you make under måske.

I fall well into the category of fiber arts. Mainly I focus on weaving and hand embroidery, but I have dipped my toe into macrame, knitting and cross stitching. Fiber is my main medium, though. The weavings I make are wall hangings mostly, and as for hand embroidery, I do pretty much everything. Mostly wall hangings/hoops, but I also stitch on hand towels, shirts, bags, hats—anything that I can pull a needle through.

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Tell us how you got started with a handmade business.

I took a class at Unglued a while back—beginner’s weaving. I really enjoyed it and got so into it that I eventually realized I had too many pieces to keep for myself (or give to my mom). I started out just selling my weavings and then rediscovered my love of embroidery, and now it’s been quite a few years. I still have that first piece that I made in that weaving class, too.

You do all kinds of crafts! What has been your favorite? And which has been your most consistent?

My overall favorite was when, after having a spectacularly failed attempt at learning how to do a punch needle a few years ago, I picked it up again earlier this year and suddenly, it clicked. I don’t know where I went wrong the first time, but now I absolutely love punch needles. I’ve made quite a few pieces since I figured out how to make it work.

The most consistent would definitely be embroidery. When I was a kid, I would constantly hand stitch up holes in my clothing, and to this day, I still mend things. I now just happen to make funky pieces that people enjoy hanging on their walls as well.

Where do you get your inspiration for what you create?

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I have this ongoing list on my phone that is just quotes I hear, jokes/puns I find, silly things my friends say. Most of these things end up as finished embroidered pieces. I also find myself looking at Pinterest a lot, and saving absolutely anything that even remotely interests me for future pieces.

As for weaving, I love to just grab a bunch of random colors of yarn and see what works. Usually what happens is I’ll make two or three pieces out of the same color palette. The yarn itself is usually what inspires me, it’s easy to just pull a bunch out and pile them up and see what works together.

What is your personal favorite item you’ve crafted so far?

I made a small hoop about four years ago. It was an oval with silver thread on black fabric. It reads, “Be like a star, distant and dying.” with various metallic stars scattered in the background. My grandmother-in-law had come over to check out our house, as we had just moved in a few months before. I had just hung this piece up on the wall. As we were giving her the grand tour, she stopped to read it and laughed for a solid minute. I’ve treasured that piece, and that reaction, ever since.

You also have taught a lot and shared your handcrafted skills. What do you enjoy about teaching?

Back when I was a starry-eyed youth, I had this grand goal of being a college professor. Once I got to college I realized that doing that full-time was definitely not something my introverted self could handle. I love teaching in small doses. The first class I taught was four people total, two of which were my mom and her friend, and knowing the people you’re teaching makes it easier to be yourself. My favorite thing is running into people well after the class who say, “I took your class last year and now embroidery is my new hobby and I’ve made so many pieces!” That’s what keeps me coming back to teaching, it just makes me feel so good knowing that I’ve inspired someone in that way.

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What is something people might find surprising about fiber arts?

There is quite a rift between those that use man-made fibers (acrylic, for example) and those that only use “natural” fibers (only natural dyes, etc.). I can understand the desire to use the “nicer” stuff for things you’ll be wearing, like using wool to make a scarf, but if you’re making a wall hanging, no one is going to be wearing that. Use acrylic yarn! It’s cheaper, there are definitely more color options and there are so many options out there that feel just as nice as the shorn-off-the-sheep stuff.

What is one craft you haven’t really dabbled in yet that you want to try someday?

Stained glass. I have a few pieces, and I’ve always loved the way they scatter the light. I am a little afraid to try it, as you’re literally working with something that could cut you or burn you, but the outcome is so lovely. I’d really like to try it.

What is something you’ve enjoyed the most about doing this handcrafted business?

I love having people that have bought my items reach out to me. Recently I’ve had a couple of different people reach out after buying to show me where they placed their piece and how much they absolutely love it, and that makes me feel great. Sometimes I wonder where my pieces end up, who bought them and what they think about it. Getting to actually find all that out is pretty neat.

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What is the most challenging thing?

Making the pieces themselves. I have about a million ideas, but there’s no way to make them all. Having to figure out what will work the best, will someone somewhere actually like this color palette? Is this weird saying or quote way to niche? Am I the only one that gets this? Sometimes I just get in over my head questioning what I’m working on. The amount of half-started pieces I have just around the house is kind of getting ridiculous.

Where can people find your work?

I sell at Unglued! I also do craft shows from time to time.

Website/social to stay in touch:

I post some of my work on my personal Instagram (along with my dogs, so many dog photos): @alwaysawkwardly

I take on commissions via Instagram or email: [email protected]

Written by Ashley Morken

Ashley Morken is the owner of Unglued, a modern handmade gift shop featuring over 300 local and regional makers in downtown Fargo. She also a founding member of the Creative Mornings Fargo committee.

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