A Crafty Questionnaire: Lauren "Lola" Falkowski

"Only through art can we get outside of ourselves and know another's view of the universe." ~ Marcel Proust

At the end of the 19th century, the French novelist Marcel Proust (Remembrance of Things Past) examined his own personality by answering a questionnaire in a friend's confession album meant to reveal one’s innermost thoughts. Answering such a list of questions, offering insight into the tastes and aspirations of the taker, was a popular pastime among turn-of-the-century English families. Proust reportedly delighted in the game, enthusiastically answering the questionnaire several times.

So, with a nod to the man who wrote most vividly about the transformative potential and yearning of an artistic life, here is the {NewNew} version of The Proust Questionnaire. Perhaps it will spark your own thoughts about what, and why, you make the things you make. Or maybe, like me, you're curious about what makes your favorite artisans tick. In either case, enjoy!

Lauren "Lola" Falkowski started making her brightly-colored bags, found online at Lolafalk, two and a half years ago. Frustrated by knowing what she wanted but not being able to find it anywhere, Lauren decided to make the things she wanted to wear. After learning sewing machine basics from her mom, Lauren started creating totes that reflect her eclectic style and quirky sensibility. All Lolafalk handbags and accessories are cut and sewn by hand in Brooklyn, and every last detail is accounted for – from the carefully crafted design to the overall attitude and style of each item. You can catch Lolafalk in person at the Spring Crafts in Chelsea market on Saturday, May 8th, 2010 in New York City.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
To me, perfect happiness always occurs in those moments when I'm least seeking it and just being my authentic, relaxed, genuine self. This happens, without fail, when I'm walking around the city with my guy, talking, laughing and finding new and interesting neighborhoods to explore, or when sitting at my sewing machine working on a project.

What is your greatest fear?
I'm not afraid of dying. But I don't what to go before I get to do all the things I want to do in life. It's actually a great "fear" to have -- it makes me pretty fearless when it comes to putting myself out there, or taking chances or opportunities that I might otherwise not have had the courage or guts to go after.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Eleanor Roosevelt. A first lady that made a name for herself beyond just being the wife of FDR. And she's the author of one of my favorite quotes: “We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Which living person do you most admire?
My mom. She's the most selfless person I know.

Do you have a theme song, and what is it?
"It's Amazing" by Jem. A great song, and it also reminds me to stick to my guns through the ups and downs of growing my handbag business.

What is the trait you most like in yourself?
Being considerate of other people. I always follow up, acknowledge people, respond to them. I'm never "too busy" to give people the courtesy of a hello, an email or call back.

What is the trait you most like in others?
[Laughs] Consideration! All of the traits I've described in the question above. I think the fact that I've encountered a few too many "flaky" people in my life has made me go to the extreme of not behaving like that type of person.

What is it the one thing you dislike the most?
Lack of consideration from other people. Can you tell it's my biggest people peeve?

What is your greatest extravagance?
Fancy foods to cook or nibble on at home with friends. I love gourmet cheeses, crackers, wine, fancy chocolates...all those types of edible delights you find at boutique food shops and that cost just a bit too much. But so worth the splurge!

When and where were you happiest?
I know there have been a lot of "happiest" moments throughout my life...too many to pick just one. But I can say without a doubt that I am always happy when I'm sewing. Ridiculously happy.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I were more patient.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Starting my own business from scratch 2 years ago, pretty much all by myself (with a little help from my guy).

If you were to be reincarnated as a person, animal, or thing, what do you think you would be?
A fish maybe, though I can't quite explain why. Perhaps because I'm a Pisces.

What is your most treasured possession?
My Bernina sewing machine. I've often though about what one thing I would grab in my apartment if there was a fire and I needed to quickly escape. Despite the fact that it weighs about 20lbs, that's always the one thing I consider hardest to replace.

Which talent or skill would you most like to have?
Playing the piano or cello proficiently.

Who are your heroes in real life?
My family, my guy, my friend Dee...these are all people that have qualities I admire and make me a better person just by being around them.

What is your motto?
If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. (Ancient Buddhist proverb).

Who are your favorite artists?
Frida Kahlo, John Galliano, Bjork, Gwen Stefani, Salvador Dali, Betsey Johnson. I know these run the gamut of artists, but these are all people who's art (be it fine art, or fashion, or music) is a direct reflection of their personal style. And I love that. When I design a bag, the most important standard that I hold my work against is this: is it a reflection of my style? If so, I've accomplished what I've set out to do.

Is there any invention you wish you had thought of?
I love kitchen gadgets (i.e. salad spinner, cherry pitter, a spoontula). There is always something new being invented that I wish I'd thought of first!

What's the first thing you remember making?
As a kid, I remember doing latch hook a lot. My first foray into "fine art." Sewing didn't come until much later in life for me, but the very first thing I sewed was a tote bag.

Learn more about Lauren and her passion for bags at her Etsy shop, LolaFalkDesigns.

Susan persuede