Leah Peterson chats up Natalie Zee, co-editor of CRAFT and saucy
fashionista blogger (Coquette). Natalie talks about the revival of craft, fashionology, and her grandma’s glamorous pants. Natalie talks about the revival of craft, fashionology, and her grandma’s glamorous pants.

Hey there, Natalie Zee! Thanks for dropping by to chat. Let’s start out easy— please tell us about your childhood.

My dad was an artist, graphic designer, and cartoonist (his day job was a businessman). But he taught me so much about the design world with lots of books and drawing
lessons. He still draws me the most hilarious cards to this day. He’s got a very New Yorker magazine style of drawing. I love it. As a kid, since I was an only child, my dad was the one who’d be taking me to comic book stores or to watch sci-fi movies because he didn’t have a son to take. Maybe it’s not too smart to bring a 7-year-old girl to go see Alien.

Why not?

It scared the hell out of me! But he took me to see Star Wars, which, of course, like any kid back then, changed my life. I loved reading books, baking cakes, sewing, and making clothes for my Barbie dolls. I wanted to be a novelist or a fashion designer when I was a kid.

My grandma (my dad’s mom) was a famous socialite in Shanghai in the 1930s-40s. She was also a fashion designer, and I admired her sense of style and wanted to be like her. She was one of the first women in Shanghai to wear pants like Katherine Hepburn.

What was your first real job?

I landed my first job was about a month after graduation from UC Berkeley in the summer of ‘95. I got a job as a web designer intern at Macromedia (now Adobe) just right after they launched their site. I got the job because I learned HTML in college. I ended up learning all the graphics and multimedia software on the job. What I didn’t know was that the company, at the time famous for its software called Director (a multimedia tool used to design CD-ROM’s), was creating Shockwave, which would bring multimedia and rich interactivity to the Web. After a few months they hired me full-time and I ended up working a year or so later on the launch for Flash. It was a really exciting time back then with all these new technologies happening. And it was exciting for me to help design experiences for these new interactive worlds on the Web.

Please tell us a little about CRAFT and MAKE magazines.

MAKE magazine (makezine.com) has been around for a few years now and it brings DIY to the technology and science world. CRAFT Magazine (craftzine.com) is a new quarterly magazine that just launched in October of 2006 that showcases the revival of crafts, but with a modern twist. It’s a magazine where crafters can discover new ideas and share projects.

What are you doing for CRAFT and MAKE magazines?

I wear a lot of hats on the CRAFT / MAKE team. I’m an
associate editor for CRAFT where I work on the editorial team for the magazine. I’m also the web editor for craftzine.com where I handle the CRAFT blog (craftzine.com/blog) and help keep the content on the site fresh. And finally, I also do the web design for makezine.com and craftzine.com. So all this keeps me busy!

What in your past has influenced what you’re doing now?

I’ve somehow always been drawn to technology. I studied Mass Communications at UC Berkeley so I have a background in
writing/journalism. I’m a self-taught designer and I’ve been working in the Internet industry professionally since 1995. My last job was as an Interactive Creative Director at an Internet agency. Crafting has always been a part of my life because I’ve always been making things and I find that it’s another creative outlet in addition to design. What has driven me in my career (and in my life) is my constant quest to do something creative— to be creative.

What do you blog about at Coquette?

Coquette (coquette.blogs.com) is my personal blog where I talk about all the things I love: fashion, technology, design, crafts, etc. It’s mostly a fashion blog because I love fashion, fashion design, and style— so this is my outlet for that. My husband, Gilles,
suggested that I just put everything I love in one blog, so I wouldn’t have to separate out the tech stuff. That was a great idea; now I can bring my tech expertise to other women since I am a gadget geek. He also helped me come up with the name; he used to always call me coquette, which is French for “stylish young woman” (because he’s French, but I guess you wouldn’t know that with a name like Gilles, right?).

How do fashion and technology live together?

Right now, I think there is some amazing progress being made in the world of fashion and technology. One fashion designer to look out for is Angel Chang (angelchang.com). I got to see her Spring collection in New York and her design concepts aren’t gimmicky when it comes to technology. Her designs are
beautiful and integrate technology in a fun way such as special ink dyes in fabric that change color based on temperature. Her designs are sleek and modern.

I also see the fashion world starting to take notice of technology via the online world of blogging. You no longer need to wait for photos of a fashion show to appear months later in a glossy magazine. With the large crop of fashion sites and blogs, you can see photos within minutes of a runway show. I’m a part of a new fashion network called Pop-Life-Style (pop-life-style.com) and it’s about upholding our place as professional online publishers, because it’s not just about blogging — it’s about the quality of writing, reporting, and professionalism, not to mention the pride we take in our fashion life.

What will you be working on this year?

This year I’ll be working on CRAFT and more crafty projects to put up on craftzine.com. I’ve also got some fun work ahead on special events. We have our Maker Faire (makerfaire.com) that’s happening in May (in San Mateo, CA) and in October (in Austin, TX), so I’m helping to plan the crafting components of the fair. I’m also part of the Stitch N’ Pitch (stitchnpitch.com) committee for the San Fracisco Giants game that’s happening this summer on July 24. I’m a native San Franciscan so I love that it’s my home team with all the needle-arts goodness thrown in. There’s 19 Stich N’ Pitch games happening around the country this baseball season, and it’s a fun thing to do with your friends.

Where do you see DIY and crafters going next?

I like the direction we are going in now, which I feel is all about spreading the good word about DIY and crafting. I love that all these craft fairs are popping up all over the country, and we are promoting handmade goods from indie crafters over mass-produced department store gifts for the holidays. There’s just something there, an energy, when you are at these events with other crafters. It feels great.

What’s your favorite craft activity?

I love all crafts (obviously!) and actually now find myself with crafting A.D.D. sometimes because I see so many cool projects out there— I want to make them all. Of course, there isn’t time for that! If I had to pick the two crafts I’ve loved the most, they would have to be knitting and sewing. I don’t think I could live without them. Knitting is like my yoga. I can do in front of the TV and just feel completely relaxed. Sewing is fun too, just not as portable. I’ve been recently trying to improve my sewing skills by taking a quilting class at Stitch (stitchlounge.com) and just finished my first quilt!

Any words of wisdom for fellow bloggers and craftsters?

The advice I give is the same for bloggers and crafters: to keep at their interests and to not worry if people like it or not. I say if you want to do something— like start a blog, craft business, or large craft project— just do it. The more time you spend doing it, the better you will be at it. You’ll start to be able to find your own voice and style by keeping at it. ¤