The Studio Nook: Sustainable Goodness

We’ll take them all, please and thank you. The Studio Nook is a thoughtful line of practical textiles that are always plastic- and cruelty-free. They also strive to be as close to zero waste as possible. That makes for a sustainable and very inventive approach – new products often come up from scrap material. They’re intentional about every detail, from zippers to the last stitch. That drive and positive spirit are contagious.

Like many local makers, Tatiana Spragins started her business almost without realizing it. Working with fibers was a fulfilling hobby and a great creative outlet. It was once she connected it with the values she’s passionate about that it really started taking shape (and taking off). There’s nothing better than doing work that you believe in, and that can make a difference in the world, no matter how small.

Catch up with Tatiana about why she ditched acrylic and wool, the values that are helping drive and grow her business, and her perfect way to spend a Saturday in Fort Greene.

Tatiana Spragins - The Studio Nook

A little trivia about yourself

– Born & raised: Brazil. I grew up in Rio de Janeiro and moved to the US for college, when I was 19.
– Cups of coffee a day: Just one, in the morning.
– Currently reading: Gloria Steinem’s ‘My Life on the Road
– The best brunch is at: Home! I love to cook.
– Hidden talent: I have a lot of succulents and they’re all thriving! I’ve had most of them for over a year. I have to say, I’m quite pleased with myself for keeping them alive for so long. Succulents are supposed to be hardy, but still… That counts, doesn’t it?

What inspired you to start your business?

I think it was a desire to feel more purposeful in my creative process. In the beginning I only made winter knitwear – it got to the point where I had way more scarves than I could possibly wear, and I was running out of people to gift them to. Starting a business meant I had a direction and purpose with my work. It allowed me to make as much as I wanted, but also forced me to be consistent with results.

Over the past two years my little shop has grown so much and I’ve grown with it. I taught myself new skills, I’ve adopted a new philosophy, and I’ve pushed my creativity to new limits. Making my hobby into a business has made this work so much more meaningful to me and it truly brings me so much joy.

What makes your products different?

I am a staunch environmentalist and a feminist. I believe in the impact of supporting small, local businesses, and I deeply value creative work. It’s my responsibility to carry those values over into my business as well, and it has been challenging but also a lot of fun to find ways in which my business can serve as a platform for a conversation around these issues.

The main way I do this is by choosing only natural fabrics and fibers for all my items – cotton, linen, and alpaca. There is absolutely no plastic (polyester, acrylic, etc.) in anything I make, even the zippers are organic cotton and brass. This proved to be especially challenging when it came to my knitwear.

All the yarn I used to buy was acrylic or wool, and it was hard to find an alternative. Acrylic was out of the picture. People don’t always realize that it’s derived from non-renewable fossil fuel energy sources. Besides, every time you wash an item that is made synthetic fabrics, you’re releasing millions of microscopic pieces of plastic into the water, which ultimately end up in the ocean or a local river or lake, destroying the ecosystem and killing animal and plant life. It’s horrific. Wool, on the other hand, is a cruel industry and even when buying from small farms, the fibers aren’t always from a traceable source or guaranteed cruelty-free.

That’s when I turned to alpaca. I shop primarily from two family-run farms, one in rural Canada and the other in Oregon. The Canadian farm has a hilarious instagram account – it’s just a bunch of alpacas roaming around their backyard. They shear them gently and they’re loved and treated like pets. It’s adorable. When I learned about all the other benefits of alpaca (besides the fact that it’s biodegradable, and super super soft), I was sold. My alpaca scarves are such a delight to wear, they feel like a real luxury! The fibers don’t go through any processing or dyeing and all scraps can be composted, which makes it truly environmentally friendly and zero waste!

Something else I do is I keep all my fabric scraps and incorporate them into new designs. Not only am I reducing the amount of trash I’m making, but even the littlest pieces can be repurposed to make a fabric collage that is one-of-a-kind and beautiful to look at. I also sell zero-waste kits – (above, a bento bag, napkin, mason jar (with a crochet cozy) and a stainless steel straw – to help make that daily coffee run zero waste! It’s been really incredible to see people suddenly feel inspired to reduce the amount of trash they make through something as simple as bringing their own reusable items to a coffee shop.

Last, but not least, I am a one-woman show: everything is made by my own two hands from start to finish. Every skill I have, I taught myself (usually on YouTube). I believe in shopping small and shopping local, so I make sure that, as much as possible, I too am buying from small, local, often women-run businesses when getting the supplies I need for my shop. Even my packaging and branding is plastic-free and minimally wasteful, by using stamps instead of stickers and customized pencils instead of business cards.

The Studio Nook

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started?

How much of a difference it makes when you create something you believe in. I started selling scarves because I liked making them. That’s a fine reason but, since going plastic and cruelty free, I find that I’m a lot more motivated to grow my business. I feel really passionate about sharing my work because I know it stands for so much more.

Any exciting plans for the next few months?

Yes, always! I’ve got three exciting new projects that I’m debuting this holiday season. First, zero-waste cloth coasters. Lots of makers keep fabric scraps, but I keep even the tiniest pieces, even just a few inches long. While I incorporate scraps into zipper pouch designs, I find that I can really go through large numbers of scraps by making coasters. Now these pieces of fabric that would’ve ordinarily get thrown out become lovely one-of-a-kind, practical items for day-to-day use. And they can be mixed and matched to create a unique set! I’ve already stolen a handful for myself.

The Studio Nook

Next, embroidered cards (like these origami animals). Originally I planned on having them as greetings cards but now I/m starting to think they’d look really lovely framed. It’s a fun change from embroidering on fabric. Lastly, I’ve been practicing some hand lettering to add a little flare to my embroidery work. I’ve been thinking of ways to alter my embroidery style so that it stands out more, while maintaining the same high quality and consistency. I think this hand-lettering project I’ve got up my sleeve is going to be really great, but it’s still a work in progress. I basically have to develop a new skill, and the embroidery ends up being a lot more intricate. It’s proving to be quite time consuming, but I think it’ll be well worth it!

What do you love about your neighborhood?

So much! An ordinary weekend in Fort Greene perfectly encapsulates all my favorite things about this neighborhood: Saturday morning I always go to the farmer’s market and buy way too much food (and often times a new plant!). If the weather is nice, maybe I’ll also stop by my community garden to check on my plot. In the afternoon I’ll grab a latte at Hungry Ghost, explore the books at Greenlight Bookstore, and at night we might watch a movie at BAM.

My partner and I usually go for a sunset walk in the neighborhood and, if it’s a Sunday, we catch a glimpse of whatever movie is playing on the mural at Habana Outpost. Maybe we go to the German beer spot on the corner and grab a beer, or maybe we go to the sushi spot a block away from our house for take out. I bring my own container for take-out there, and the chef knows me and is always super supportive of my plastic-free habits. Little things like that make my neighborhood really feel like a community.

Check out The Studio Nook’s growing collection at thestudionook.com — Tatiana makes custom orders too. Find her in person at Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar on November 25 + 26 at 501 Union in Gowanus.

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