Background: Originally from Bailieborough Co. Cavan, Clarke is the co-owner of a handmade stationery company called Madge & Mabel in Sunnyside, Queens.
When did you move to the U.S.?
“In 1993 I moved to New York. I had spent the previous few years in London and then moved back home but I didn't really settle back in so, on the insistence of my older sister, I came to stay with her in Maspeth just for six months. I never thought the U.S. was a place I'd like to live. Just last week marks my 20th year here!”
Tell us a little about Madge & Mabel. Where did the name come from?
“I met the co-owner of Madge & Mabel, Elizabeth Uzelac, through my job as a nanny. We became fast friends and would have many conversations about how we would spend a perfect day, and we would always end up with the same answers -- doing something creative! We would discuss things like the disappearance of traditionally handmade products, the lost art of letter writing and how we just don’t take the time to connect with people with something as simple as a note card.
“So from there we decided to create Madge & Mabel. Some of the stores that carry our line like the Brooklyn Women's Exchange for example sell many handmade products and keep those traditions alive. Also, spending weekends at all the local craft fairs selling our wares is lots of fun and a great way to meet new people.”
“Our name comes from us sitting for endless hours drinking coffee, having a laugh and making stationery that we wanted to see in stores -- just like two old biddies from back in the day.”
How did you become interested in arts and crafts?
“I've always loved and made art. Growing up I learned all the usual crafts young Irish girls did from their mothers like knitting and sewing. I took many art classes in school. When I came here I decided to follow my passion for art and earned a BFA in fine art at Hunter College.”
Where do you get the inspiration for your products?
“It can come from anywhere! I can be walking through the Union Square Market or just sitting on the subway and the person across from me is wearing something original that triggers an idea. New York is a great place for ideas.”
Some 70% of your items are printed on recycled stock. Why is being environmentally friendly important to you?
“I think sustainability should be a priority for everyone these days. It's getting much easier to recycle so why not? I think we should all be held accountable for our carbon footprint, so at Madge & Mabel we always try to make conscious decisions about what products we use and what companies we source from.
“This is our first year on the market so our goal is to hopefully get as close as possible to 100 percent recyclable as we move forward.
“If anyone would like to learn more about us or our products you can find us at www.madgeandmabel.etsy.com.”