When Nicole Trent moved to Albuquerque, she fell in love with the beautiful geography and the laid back attitude, so she decided to stay. She has a degree in aerospace engineering, and she's a whiz with her sewing machine. Nicole has a talent for working with vinyl and has been running her Etsy shop for two years. You can visit her etsy shop or find her wallets locally at TrendBenderz 311 Gold Ave SW (right next to Burt’s Tiki Lounge).
How long have you been making your wallets?
The wallets were a bit of an accident. I made the first one in May 2008. I was originally selling a variety of handmade purses and clothing on Etsy. One day I was working with some remnants that I had purchased from the fabric store. I had a piece of vinyl and I matched it with a fabric that I had. I was just having fun and playing around with the materials when I came up with the wallet design. I listed it on Etsy and it sold right away. It was really fun to make and I loved how it came out, so I decided to try working on some other variations. Next thing you know I had twenty or so designs and I decided to focus on the wallets in my shop.
I noticed you say on your profile that you are a "non practicing" rocket scientist. Could you tell me a little about that?
I have always loved science and math and when I was in high school I decided to go to college for aerospace engineering. After about three and a half years into the program I decided that it really wasn’t my dream job after all. I had already invested time and money into school so I went ahead and finished my degree. I graduated with a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering but have never entered the profession. I used that piece of my background for inspiration for my shop branding.
Who taught you to sew?
My mom taught me to sew and even still teaches me when I am working on something new. When I was a little kid, she and my aunt did a lot of sewing together. They made me, my sister, and my cousins clothes. They also had a crafting business making country crafts like small decorative quilts, stuffed rabbits, and a variety of other items. I would help out by cutting pattern pieces and pinning things together. I absorbed a lot during that time. When I was in high school, I began to sew some clothes for myself and got active in theatre costuming. I really honed my skills then, definitely with guidance from my mom.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Usually I begin with the materials. I find fabrics that really attract me and then I just play around with ideas in my head. Sometimes it is just a color or pattern that really strikes me. I sketch out ideas and some of them turn into my new designs. The designs themselves are inspired by the many things around us - nature, items in my home, signs, animals, etc.
Does being a rocket scientist translate at all to making wallets or any other crafty hobbies you have?
Not directly, but it does help me to visualize finished designs and create a detailed plan of how to make a new pattern.
If you could make a wallet for any of your personal heroes (alive or dead, we can allow for some time travel here) who would it be and what would the wallet look like?
Umm ... this is something I’ve never considered before. I am going to go with Archimedes. He is considered my many to be the father of mathematics. His wallet would likely be more of a coin pouch and I would adorn it with the an Archimedes spiral (as we call it now). I suppose he would also be rather fond of my pi wallet!
Do you have any advice for people working with vinyl?
Get a walking foot for your sewing machine! It is hard to sew vinyl with an even stitch on most home machines because it sticks too much. A walking foot feeds the vinyl through easily and allows for even stitches and keeps the vinyl from stretching out.
What was the first sewing project you ever did? Did hilarity ensue?
I don’t even remember! One of the first big projects I did was to make myself a skirt. I almost finished the whole thing and was so proud of all of my work when I realized I had sewn all of the wrong sides together. I wound up scrapping the whole thing and using the fabric in other projects. Since then, I’m especially careful about putting the correct sides of fabric together.