Interview with Manic Manx aka Kristi Smart

 If you havent guessed it yet, I gravitate to a few things. I cant help it. Horror... bacon... zombies... streampunk.... Well, if you are looking for some  great steampunk clothing, you need look no further than Manic Manx. I have been eyeballing this shop for ages. I am so happy to bring you an interview so you can appreciate her work even more! Plus she seems to be a cat person... bonus!!
I’m a lucky girl (cough-fifty-one-cough) living in a Pasadena courtyard in Sunny California. I landed in a tight knit community of artists and sillyness. We all have cats. Some of us have lots of cats. The courtyard averages 27 at any given time. We eat breakfast on the porch and watch "cat tv". We talk about the cats. We take pictures of the cats. We play with the cats. We feed our cats. The delivery men look nervous around us and our cats.
A neighbor had a hamster but her cat ate it. Some one else had a bird but their cat ate it. I would like to get a pet rat but my cat would eat it. We aren’t allowed to have dogs because they might upset the cats. Its all about the cats.

How did you find Etsy? How long have you been selling on Etsy?
I signed up a few years ago after seeing it repeatedly mentioned on I was looking for an online community that revolved around arts and crafts. Etsy is clearly that. The selling started only about a year ago. It’s a great site. Its so much user friendly than ebay. I love the set prices, the long listing period and the community on the forums. I have met several people in my neighborhood through Etsy. Some of them very wonderful. I refer to Kika’s Fancy as an old friend I just met.

How would you describe your style? Has any other artist etc influenced your style?
I am aiming for the "rich hippy" look. The designers I really liked in the eighties were Vivian Westwood, Claudia Grau, Betsy Johnson and all the street fashions I saw when I was running around being a punk rocker. When I started actually selling my own clothing I quit looking at fashion trends. I found I never designed anything good when trying to be like some one else. I see my self as a trim designer more than a fashion designer. Its all about the applications.

How long have you been creating?
I have been creating all my life. My parents fed us crayons and construction paper for breakfast. I know no other way to be. I went to Trade Technical College and graduated from their two year curriculum. In college, I took a shine to two things. Designing coats and the idea of making plus size clothing. This was the late seventies and plus size clothing was frowned upon. Here it is in 2010 and I am making plus size coats. I love it!

What are your inspirations?
Fabrics, trims and customers are my inspiration. I get to browse through my library of fabrics and see what goes together. I always ask how my customer wants to portray themselves. They may want to evoke a certain feeling. Fire, water, soft feminine edges, harsh warrior, What ever it is, I do my best to make that happen.

Have you had any mentors, or are you self taught?
As kids, we weren’t allowed to have a television in our house. Our parents said it would stifle our creativity. We ended up being a quite the creative bunch. Thanks, Ma and Pa! (listen to your parents. They might be right) They were the biggest influence on my sister and I. I learned pattern making and fashion design at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. This was 1978/79. My teachers became my mentors. Two that I adored were Mrs. Helen Armstrong and Mrs. Scully. They both worked our asses off and I loved them for it. We had five hour classes and rounds of homework that would last until two in the morning. To this day I still remember their lessons word for word. I still use the same tools I bought for my classes. I still have all my books. Another mentor of mine is Sheri Cohen. A wonderful woman who has given me very helpful advice. Her etsy shop is Indigo Lights.

Do you sell more at one time of year than others?
My sales get very busy during faire season in early summer. There are a lot of events and pirates must have their coats. I make a lot of men’s coats and vests. Those pirates keep me pretty busy.

What is one thing about your creative process that you think most people don’t know?
I think that I do it at all. I don’t wear my own clothing. I always end up selling everything I make. I dress out of thrift stores. Even long term friends don’t really see my work. I had a friend of eight years finally wander into my studio. His remark was "I know you said you made coats, but I didn’t understand that you make Coats with a capitol C".  My goal for 2010 is to make four coats, wear them around and try not to sell them.

What kind of custom work do you do most often? What has been your favorite custom order?
Custom orders are both wonderful and intimidating. My favorite kind of client is one who lets me do what I want. I work fastest that way and achieve the best results. I have sometimes frozen in the face of hard and fast rules. The day you go shopping for a specific fabric, is the day they no longer stock it. I do a lot of specialty sizing. I love that. I make a lot of plus sizes, tall sizes, anything. I have developed a system that that is pretty accurate even online. My years of experience help in spotting the possible inaccurate measurement when going over the information my client has sent me.

Do you have a favorite item you have made?
Over the last year designing has gotten really rewarding. These days my most recent garment is usually my favorite. I made an orange flavored coat. It is featured in the January 2010 issue of Belle Armoire. That’s a favorite of mine. I had been hanging onto a piece of silk that has those shifting colors. From pale green to pale orange. Very ghostly. It went so well with my persimmon colored pile of fabrics. My orange and green trims. It sewed up nicely into a lovely woman’s frock coat.
Right now my favorite piece is a man’s jacket. The latest item to be away from under the sewing machines busy little needle. The body is black denim and corduroy combined with a strange combination of lavenders and gray for the applique and trim. Its very odd but it works really well. I was aiming for a Circus Master type of garment. I think I nailed it.

What is the best reaction you have gotten from one of your pieces?
I am very grateful that people like what I do. The response has been amazing. Some years ago, I was confused as to why an order for a coat was still on my books when I know I had sent the client her garment the week before. I called to clear it up with her, She said "Oh, yes, I got my coat, that second order is for my husband, You know, we have five of your coats" That wasn’t the first time I had heard a remark like that.
I love doing this more than anything. I mentioned that to someone and they said "It shows"
I live for this. I really do. Its my passion.


  1. Thank you, I enjoyed reading this! I think Kristi already started to grab me with the cats, but what truly exquisite pieces!

  2. Great interview! The stuff about "cat tv" cracked me up. I only have 2 and know how entertaining they are...


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