Handmade Women: With Yokoo Gibraan

Yokoo knits, sews, styles, photographs, edits her films, models and promotes her work. A look at her inspiring business.

Yokoo knits, sews, styles, photographs, edits her films, models and promotes her work. A look at her inspiring business.

By Kavita Rayirath

Making things by hand is revealing. It involves the body and mind, is intimate and expresses a personal way of seeing and doing. The maker thus is part of what is being made. Handmade Women is a series of interviews that shares words and thoughts of creative women around the world, who have chosen to craft their business by hand.

Yokoo lives in Atlanta, and gave up her day job to pursue her love for knitting. She spends hours making big chunky knitwear with personality. She recently started Mother, a women’s wear line, sewn by her. Yokoo’s Flickr page is where she has been sharing her work for many years now. She immerses herself in every aspect of the business. Her involvement and attention to detail shines through in her work. Her mind and thoughts are quirky and interesting and she’s built one of the most successful handmade businesses on Etsy. Sharing her thoughts:

What did you discover when you gave up your job and followed your handmade business?

I discovered many important lessons, fast! I wasn’t as knowledgeable about being a business owner as I should have been. I wish I was a bit more prepared but honestly, I don’t think I could have ever been prepared for everything.

I would compare it to a non-swimmer being thrown into the deep end of a pool and having to swim for the first time. I learned very quickly that if you invest as much time into your own company as you do in someone else’s, it pays off!

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Your knitting is plump and the proportions seem magnified – have you always knitted that way or did it evolve?

Oh my goodness, I’ve always loved chunky knitwear!

           Bronx Chain Scarf in Citron                                    I love Giants – epic pompom hat                                               
You do everything yourself – does delegating leave you impatient or do you enjoy keeping it personal?

Well it’s honestly a bit of both. I absolutely love the thought that something I made 100% with my own two hands is being worn over in Russia! And, I believe in the phrase, ’If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.’

What would I find in Yokoo’s mind?

You would find a wooden box on a shelf, in an old house, off an empty dirt road through the ruins of an ancient American cornfield; and in that box would sit a tiny folded piece of paper; that would read, in quotes:  FIRST.

A lot of creative people love making but seem uncomfortable or lost when it comes to selling what they make.  And even more pricing it. Did you face similar issues when you started?

No, I wasn’t uncomfortable at all. In fact, it was one of the things I felt most comfortable about. The pricing that I set 4 years ago are generally still the same.

The Barley Warmer                                    The Giant (aka Soopa) Scarf

Do you find yourself arranging and directing the frames of your life or does it just come together as it happens?

General day to day tasks, I am completely structured.  As far as the really big stuff is concerned, I let the natural flow of uncertainty take its course.

Smock de Méule – back                                             Smock de Méule

What is Mother all about and how did it come to be?

Mother stems from the desire to rid the fashion world of the notion that modern feminism is the absence of femininity. But true feminism is not the ability to rid oneself of the guilt that gives us “boundaries” whether that be the guilt of anxiety, domesticity, or the good old fashion Saturday-Morning-Walk-Of-Shame. I wanted to design clothes for the true feminist; women who are not afraid to be women.

If you packed your world in a basket of infinite size and dimension, what would you like it to hold?

The Truth.

The Europa Necklace – downtown girl meets uptown girl

As you knit what do you watch and listen to? Does it seep into your work as you do?

There are days when I need to put in twelve hours of uninterrupted knitting and knock out 10 orders.  Those are the days when I like to watch a whole season of Hitchcock Presents!

Now for the days where I’m feeling imaginative and inventive I find myself watching Old Westerns and Woody Allen Films.

Le Merveilleux ‘Half Apron’                                  Le Papillon Singé ‘Butterfly Collar’
The way you frame and style your pictures, the little films you make – has storytelling always been important to you or did it follow after you started to knit and create?

No, I have always tried to get closer and closer to just one story. My work has been different layers unpeeling to reveal one simple story. I currently don’t have all of the tools or resources necessary to etch out exactly what I am trying to say, but with each project I feel myself getting closer to this one story that I am trying to portray.

What have you learnt along the way? 

I could probably talk about this topic for hours, because I learn something new every day! I think the most important lesson I’ve learned, is that I should never stop learning. I’ve taught myself photography, photoshop, sewing, knitting, video editing and so on. The more I know, the more control I have over my final product.

What do you find yourself wishing for?

Infinite Creativity!

Thank you for sharing your wonderful handmade world Yokoo.

Yokoo’s Etsy shop

Mother Etsy shop

Yokoo Flickr

Yokoo Tumblr

Yokoo Facebook

*All photographs courtesy Yokoo.          


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