Mother-daughter designing duo Christine Guanipa and Faye Hurley have a lot in common aside from their DNA. They’re both graduates of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design who have gone on to design accessories for women and children — handbags, totes, bib sets, fabric, greeting cards, prints, and more. Their work caught the attention of the most famous address in the country and has led to a unique collaboration between Washington, D.C., and Whitinsville, Mass., where Christine’s Little Man Originals shop resides. Below, Christine talks about creativity and kids, and Little Man’s most famous client.
How did you become interested in sewing and design?
My first completed sewing project was a shirt I made in my high school Home Economics class. As a teenager I began to experiment with sewing patterns making some of my own clothing. I would also frequent thrift stores to recycle old clothes into new ones; today they call that “upcycling”!
When did you realize Faye enjoyed art and design?
For Faye, creativity was in the genes, and we would often joke that Faye was born with a pencil in her hand. I so enjoyed the way she saw things and choose to express them. To this day she continues to delight us with her enormous talent and creativity.
As a former art teacher, what’s the best piece of advice you can give parents when it comes to encouraging a love of art in children?
I’ve always thought the best route is to provide an environment within your home where children are open to explore. We had a little desk and easel for our girls. I
always preferred activities that were more open-ended, allowing the child to choose the direction of their work and completing their piece whichever way they desire. I believe this approach instills a sense of confidence in the child and fosters a love for the creative process.
Do you and Faye collaborate on projects?
Always! Faye and I have very similar esthetic sensibilities and are often drawn to the same looks, whether in fashion, home décor, or design. We have had the pleasure of working on projects from children’s clothing for a catalog, fashion shows, product packaging, fabric design, and more.
How did Little Man come to design bibs for The White House?
I received a phone message from a representative from The White House. They had found us through our Etsy shop and were inquiringfor the Senate Gift Shop, a small shop located inside The White House, which is not open to the public and specially set up for White House staff.
We set to work designing fabric that depicted the Senate Seal to be made into wristlets and fabric with donkeys and elephants to be made into our Bib Sets. It was quite a process getting the designed finalized, as there were lots of back-and-forth emails and final approvals on design. We’re just so pleased to have had, and continue to have, the opportunity to work with and sell to The White House.
Say you’re a parent with a child who wants to learn how to sew, but you don’t know how. What’s the best way to help your budding seamstress?
When it comes to sewing, the best way to learn is to get started. These days you can find perfectly functional used sewing machines for a bargain at second-hand stores. Today’s patterns are labeled from beginner/easy to advanced and include all the instructions. YouTube also has sewing tutorials and is great for those of us who are visual learners.
What is your best advice for young seamstresses and designers?
Although I was fortunate to have some initial instruction on the sewing machine, most of my sewing skills were acquired hands-on — by sewing, making mistakes, and trying again. Like most things, the more you do it, the better you become, so keep creating.
Your products are handmade in the USA, two facts you market proudly. Why should people shop locally?
American-made captures the essence of what makes our country great. It invokes a sense of pride, community, and quality not found in outsourced manufacturing. For the local maker, it connects them to the community they call home and ensures that money made local stays local.