.Say ‘Awe’

Big Mouth Unique handmakes clothes, more

By Michael Giotis


Known first as a custom fabric arts atelier, the artist collective known as Big Mouth Unique started to get ideas of grandeur during recent successful “open studio” nights at the multi-tenant Studio 2410 in Santa Rosa.

“A nice little community version of Art Trails,” explained Matilda Amiot, one half of the seat-of-the-pants art power couple.

“People were always like, ‘What you’re making is so cool, where can I buy it?’” said Amiot. “And we were like, ‘Uh, just come on over.’”

The informal setting was not always working. It was time for a change. For the last year, Big Mouth Unique has been available on Etsy and at one or two local pop-up markets each month.

I saw the work in the volume of cloth when I visited the multi-level, indoor-outdoor atelier, workshop, chill-pad. “Mind if I look around?” I asked.

Joshua Thwaites smiled, “You can touch everything.”

The professional and romantic couple have gathered several lifetimes worth of upcycled—we will come back to that term later—odds and ends, from clothing to wood work and ceramics.

Or as Thwaites said with a glimmer in the eye, “Fabric and thread, and buttons, and googly eyes and glitter, and like all the things.”

Amiot and Thwaites’ studio is an explosion of fabric across the spectra of material weight and good taste. It is clear it is all there to get reused.

“The whole fashion industry [is] totally not environmentally conscious … ‘zero waste’ or the ‘recycled’ [get used as] words, but they don’t really mean anything anymore,” said Amiot, adding, “there’s no way to check.”

Big Mouth makes more than just clothes. Many projects are custom orders created to the whims of the buyer. Custom pieces need not be clothes. Said Amiot of Thwaites, “He’ll make canopies and awnings and more.”

Some of that work was on display when I visited the Big Mouth Unique at HEAD WEST at The Barlow in Sebastopol. They had the most impressive of the many booths I visited.

“Genuinely at The Barlow we especially stand out because [we are] the only people that get to put up an umbrella,” said Thwaites. Actually, the booth had three umbrellas, each with tassels. “We also push out into the row.”

“I believe that what we’re doing is really wonderful and that people enjoy it,” Thwaites said.

Like, hanging behind me during the interview, were floating eyeballs everywhere on a sheer, full length cape. Oh I see you, fabulous.

“What can you say to other makers about how to work?” I asked Amiot.

“I make things that I wish I had already,” she answered. “I only make things that I think are cool.”

One favorite approach is to develop whole cultures as a backdrop for the creation of original pieces.

“Pretend traditional clothes, cultures that are fanciful. [I imagine] cultures that don’t actually exist and like, pretend that I’m making their traditional garments from their country,” is how Amiot described her process.

Given the amount of upcycled—another “greenwashing” word Big Mouth prefers not to use—material on hand, cloth often drives creativity. “It’s the materials that I have that often I’m like, oh this is a nice texture; it would be good as a jacket. I don’t really plan it out ahead of time. The material dictates the thing.”

“That sounds hard,” said Thwaites.

“Yeah, he doesn’t work the same way,” Amiot laughed.

It is clear that these two makers have something truly unique they are bringing into the world. Thwaites and Amiot have different ways for creating and talking about art, and that’s their strength. They clash just right, like freakishly weird swaths of cloth pulled together into a radiant garment.

Follow Big Mouth Unique on instagram: @bigmouthunique and Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/BigMouthUnique.

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