Hey there! I’m Erica Swantek, the creator/designer/seamstress extraordinaire at Erica in the Trees.
I live on the eastern side of the Cascades in beautiful Bend, Oregon with my amazing husband, Kyle and our three furry friends. My shop name actually came about after countless hours of trying to come up with something unique that encompassed my personality, as well as had a nice ring to it. After realizing everything I came up with was already taken, my mom suggested I use my email address, which of course was ericainthetrees! I’ve been using this email for well over 10 years and it just worked. Thus my shop name was born.
I strive to create high quality handmade clothing and accessories using exceptional textiles, including eco-friendly fabrics, up-cycled clothing and material, and high quality quilters’ cottons. My shop began because of my love of old school patchwork, but has evolved to include sustainability as part of my mission.
My creative process is a bit scatterbrained, to say the least. I usually count on my custom orders to keep me on track. All items are made in my home studio, which really is just a small room in my house. When I am creating a one-of-a-kind piece, I usually start with a vision of what I want to make, be it a dress, a skirt, or what have you.
Then I go through all my different fabrics, selecting colors that compliment each other and work toward that vision. If it’s an appliqué I have in mind, I will use that as the focal point, and work around it in terms of color, design, and ultimately the finished piece. Sometimes the piece morphs into a completely different item than I had originally envisioned, but I guess that’s all part of the way I create. All of my items are sewn on my amazing Viking Husqvarna sewing machine and serger. These machines are truly workhorses!
I never decided to quit my day job to pursue this artistic endeavor. It just sort of happened that way. I actually have a bachelor’s of science in forestry, as well as my elementary education certification. Back in 2005 I was working hard for the Forest Service, with very little time for sewing or any other artistic project. I thought sewing was pretty much a thing of my past, destined to memories of carefree college days. However, my husband and I grew bored with our lives and decided to jump ship. He’s a nurse, so he signed on with a travel company and we roamed the country (well, technically only a few states, but we had big plans) for about 10 months. We eventually moved back to Colorado and I decided to go enroll in a post-bachelorette education program and got my elementary education certification. I taught 3rd and 4th grade for a few years, but when we decided to relocate to Oregon, there were no teaching jobs available. I hated substituting and so I decided to pick up my sewing machines again and sew to cure boredom. Well, I realized I really enjoyed sewing and so I opened up my Etsy shop. And, as they say, the rest is history!
As a child, I always remember my grandmother sewing. In fact, she says when I was really little, she used to sew with me sitting in her lap. No wonder I love to sew! Both my mom and grandma were always sewing something. But my grandmother, in general, was always crafting. If she wasn’t sewing she was doing needlework, beadwork, macramé, crocheting…you name it, she probably did it. I guess I was probably destined to become crafty myself. Thank you, Grama Lou, you have always been my biggest inspiration!
Oh boy, this is hard, because I truly do love everything I put in my shop. However, I will say currently that my favorite pieces are the OM patchwork dress and the Seminole-style patchwork shorts. Patchwork holds a special place in my heart. So much love and energy went into creating those pieces!
I am inspired by many things, but I will say music and nature are probably at the forefront. I love to create pieces that remind me of shows or that I think will be worn to music festivals or just dancing the night away. Nature, of course, is always with me. I’m surrounded by beautiful mountains with big evergreen trees to the west, and the vast expanse of the Oregon High Desert to the east, with old growth Junipers dotting the landscape. And, of course, I am inspired by other artists doing their thing. I love the creative community that has embraced me and my wearable art!
The most interesting part of my job is definitely the vending aspect of it. I love meeting so many wonderful people and watching them light up when they find that perfect piece! It’s so much fun and it truly validates what I do.
Oh boy, the first concert I ever went to happened to be Michael Jackson, during the 1984 Victory (aka Thriller) tour! My mom and aunt took my cousin and I and we sat way up in the nosebleed section at Mile High Stadium in Denver. I was only 8 years old, but remember the matching airbrushed sweatshirts my cousin and I wore vividly (they were pink and had Thriller across them)! The most interesting concert I’ve attended is harder to pinpoint as they are all interesting in their own right. However, I will have to say it was probably the Coventry show, billed as the last Phish concert. After flying into Canada, renting a car, driving down, waiting for days in traffic and then told we couldn’t enter because of massive damage from a storm, I didn’t let that deter me. My hubby and I packed up our big backpacking packs, drove to the nearest gas station where I bought a local map, and proceeded to find back roads that got us within 7 miles of the venue. We then parked the car and hiked in. While the concert itself was filled with less than great performances, it’s an experience I will always cherish!
Besides sewing, I love to play outdoors. I downhill and cross-country ski, hike, and mountain bike, although I will say I don’t do some of these activities as much as I used to! Hmmm, I think that needs to be a goal of mine! I love Bend and all that it has to offer, so sometimes I have to be careful or I could find something going on every night of the week and I’d never get anything done. I try to take all sales, or lack thereof, in stride. I’m not a big name seller on Etsy, yet, so I just take it as it comes. I’m fortunate that I can do this and it helps to keep me really loving what I do. I have an amazing, supportive husband who encourages me to keep going too.
Well, since I’m the DHAA featured seller of the month, I’ve decided to offer 10% off for all who have read this blog! Use coupon code: DHAAFEATURED during checkout to take advantage of this offer.
You can also find me on facebook: www.facebook.com/ericainthetrees