Meet Anna Toth, the owner, designer and maker behind Bow and Arrow. She is such an inspiration to me, both artistically and personally.
I was first drawn to one of Anna's denim shirts, the Willa Cather Western, and I was instantly hooked to her style. Western shirts are typically made for men, but Anna has redesigned this shirt for women. This shirt instantly reminded me of one of Willa Cather's characters, Alexandra from O Pioneers! . I'd like to share a quote about Alexandra to help you see why:
Anna Toth, does not only design clothes for women, she helps women rediscover denim and help dress the strong beauty we all have within. I hope you enjoy her story below:
Tell us about your background.
After Graduating with an art degree in Ceramics and Printmaking, I moved to San Francisco. I didn't have the space to pursue those media in the city, so I focused on sewing as a creative outlet. I had sewn since I was a child, but lacked the formal training to bring my designs into fruition until I attended the Apparel Arts Institute. There, I learned flat pattern drafting and draping skills, and polished up my sewing skills through the process of testing all of my patterns. Pattern making and design encompass what I loved most about both ceramics and printmaking. It is at once 2-D and 3-D, functional and expressive, hard and soft. And the process is very fluid. I've always loved media that weren't static, and have always been drawn to creative process that involves several steps.
What made you take the leap and start your business?
In 2009, while briefly living in Nashville, TN, I was in an armed home invasion. I was visiting a friends house when it happened, and we were all tied up and held at gunpoint for an hour and a half. My friends and I were incredibly lucky not to have been hurt, as the perpetrators were responsible for harming their previous victims in unspeakable ways. I moved away from Nashville shortly thereafter, and returned to Asheville.
Once here, I knew I needed to find a job that could offer me space to recover. I found a job helping to clean rooms at a Healing Sanctuary in the Sandy Mush community just northwest of town. The couple living on the property also had a scroll-making business, and the scroll making became what occupied most of my time there. One day, while glueing dowels to finials, it occurred to me how obscure their market offering was. I thought to myself, 'If they can make a living selling scrolls, then I can certainly make a living doing what I love most.' I quit the scroll making job and opened my etsy shop within the month.
Why is making and shopping handmade so important?
For me, creating is important because it is the outlet through which I am most authentically myself. If I weren't able to create, I'd be a cranky, restless person. Dreaming up ideas and bringing them into fruition has always been a part of who I am.
Shopping handmade is important for so many reasons. It means that you're supporting an empowered- not exploited workforce. It often means that your supporting an industry with a lighter carbon footprint. And it almost always means that your supporting someone who is creating because it makes them feel good to make things that make others feel good. It's like an eternal reciprocal back scratch.
Tell us about your creative process.
My process generally begins with a sketch. Sometimes it begins with a special textile, but the shape of the garment is generally the first thing that comes to mind. I generally sit with several ideas at once before I begin the pattern making process. In fact, as soon as one collection has been made, I begin thinking about the shapes that the subsequent collection will take. After a month or so of pondering I begin working on patterns. I sew each new pattern in muslin first, and once it has been perfected I'll cut and sew the pieces to be photographed.
What is your studio space like?
My studio space is over 500 square feet on the top floor of a studio building in the River Arts District. The floors are weathered, old hardwood and the walls are painted brick. I'm grateful to have such an inspiring and accommodating space.
Who are your favorite makers and artists?
Most of my favorite makers and artists are friends, which is to say that I'm lucky to be surrounded by such an inspiring community! Melissa Weiss is an incredible potter and friend, Claire Colette crafts superb works in graphite on paper, and my partner, Brandon Skupski makes beautifully crafted, mid-century modern style furniture through his company, Iron and Ash.
Thank you Anna for sharing your photos and your beautiful photographs!