"Modern with a Nod to Vintage": The Love Behind Leo's Dry Goods
Returning Firefly Handmade Fall Market Featured Artisan, Shari Moraga of Leo's Dry Goods, shares her illustrations in thread story as she traces her inspiration from Prague to New York to Boulder, CO.
I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from The Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. After college I moved to New York. I started my career as a decorative painter, working for myself, building clientele in NY, NJ and CT, specializing in trompe l'oeil and decorative wall finishes. When I imagined that the fountain at Lincoln Center was a creek I knew it was time to head west.
In Boulder, I immediately began painting, then got married and the family grew...a son, dogs, chickens and ducks. From painting with brushes I began experimenting with drawing with thread. I started making small items as gifts and one day a friend said, “You should apply to Firefly Handmade." It was my first market and I sold almost everything in my booth. I haven't looked back. My work has evolved and I try to change up a lot of my designs through the seasons. I love textiles and I love using thread as "ink." The work I do lends itself to all sorts of styles, whether it be modern, bohemian, casual or sophisticated. I love working from nature and botanical, but try to add my own personal feel to each piece.
Designs are "drawn by hand" using my sewing machines. My machines are NOT the programmable kind, and the embroidery is not a machine-looking satin stitch, like on a commercial item, rather they are all one of a kind. This process is referred to as free motion embroidery, drawing with thread, or thread sketching; I call it illustrations in thread.
The materials I use are all natural 100% cotton canvas, 100% linen and 100% cotton flour sack towel; as well the thread I use for embroidery being 100% cotton. All materials are sourced and made in the US. Pieces are made from beginning to end by me in my studio in Boulder, CO. Pillow inserts, made in the US, are cotton lining with a hypoallergenic stuffing made from recycled plastic bottles, very cozy yet sustainable. Because my work is so different people tend to think it is screen printed, but on closer inspection see that it is all unique one of a kind art on home goods.
Leo was my grandfather. He had an amazing old store in Newark, NJ he opened after a long journey from Prague to Spain to South America. Picking up languages along the way, he ended up in NYC, then New Jersey. He married Lilly Rand and opened a dry goods store, classic awning with the words "Leo's Dry Goods." Some Saturdays I would go down and sit on a big, worn wooden stool and help out. Once in a while a customer would give me a quarter. Back then nothing was made with anything but natural materials, and it was made well. Hopefully I am making a difference in supplying people with handmade goods, similar in feel, modern with a nod to vintage.
Made with love and nostalgia.
Be sure to check out the latest issue of the fabulous Colorado Homes & Lifestyles magazine featuring an awesome article on Shari and Leo's Dry Goods, written by Margo Moscou.
Shop and visit with Shari Moraga and Leo's Dry Goods at Firefly Handmade Fall Market, September 17-18, Saturday 11am-7pm & Sunday 11am-5pm, Downtown Boulder Fall Fest on Pearl Street Mall.