#CLEative Groove: Meet Krista Tomorowitz, creator of Selvage Garments

Our #CLEative Groove series features Q&A profiles on our city’s creative makers and shakers! Read on for our next installment with Krista Tomorowitz, who specializes in garment and textile design as the Collinwood-based creator of Selvage Garments.

Name something local that helped to shape your creativity as a kid: My parents are both artists and have always been supporters of local galleries, concerts, shops, and restaurants, so they took us along to events that we might enjoy as a family. East 185th Street once had lots of places and coffee shops that hosted art openings, concerts and other happenings that I used to frequent growing up. 

I went to high school at Villa Angela-Saint Joseph, so my friends and I would stop at the cafe, go thrifting, or go to Music Emporium on our way home from school. There were so many places that younger people could congregate and get inspired or listen to music. The East 185th Street festival was also a huge summer event that celebrated the deep ethnic roots in our neighborhood, as well as an excuse to party for five days straight.

Share a bit about your professional path to date: I originally went to Kent State to study fashion design and ended up getting my BFA in Costume Design from the University of Cincinnati. My first professional job was working wardrobe at the Cleveland Play House. That job eventually landed me in the costume shop at Great Lakes Theater in Playhouse Square. I worked in the craft department, which involved doing a lot of dyeing, millinery, distressing costumes, and other accessories. 

I’ve always loved designing clothing, as well as dabbling in textile design, so I decided to pursue that idea on my own. I started collaborating with other visual artists, creating my own textiles, mostly through silk dye processes. They would make the fabric, and I would design the clothing. Currently, I work part-time at an industrial canvas company sewing everything from heavy-duty truck covers to carnival tents. I also do alterations and custom clothing design.

What inspired you to start Selvage Garments and what does the business entail? I really loved collaborating with other artists—and still do—but I wanted to try my hand [at] dyeing the silks myself. I’ve always been inspired by the colors of the lake and the horizons that are always changing right in my own backyard. I enjoy working with clients and designing beautiful garments that celebrate all body types. I like the idea of accessible luxury, a really special article of clothing that makes you feel ethereal everyday. 

My business is quite young at the moment, and I finally have a really great website and logo. I’m always trying to make new pieces and samples. Hopefully I can reach a wider audience and get some of these garments to other places.

Where do you love to source your fabrics and textiles from locally? It’s really difficult to find silk fabric locally, but Bolt and Spool in Little Italy had some gorgeous cream crepe de chine silk that I used for several projects. They have lots of other beautiful textiles as well. Otherwise, I order my plain silks from Dharma in California.

In your opinion, what are Cleveland’s best-kept cultural and creative secrets? It’s not really a secret, but the Rockefeller Park Greenhouse is one of my favorite places to visit when I need a pick-me-up. It’s free, never crowded, and really peaceful. I like that it’s old and kind of wild; it makes it more romantic. 

Rockefeller Park

I also love just wandering around all of the little lakeside beach clubs in my neighborhood; there are lots of historic homes and dramatic cliffs. Many people from other parts of Cleveland have visited these areas with me and didn’t even know they existed. Waterloo also has a myriad of creative spaces in amazing historical buildings. And, of course, the Beachland Ballroom is a great place to see live music.

What are some of your other creative passions and how do you indulge them locally? I love working in the garden, and my favorite place to buy plants is Cavotta’s Garden Center. They always have a great selection, and you can visit goats and drink a beer—what else could you want?

Bijou Antique GalleryAny quirky Cleveland stuff people need to check out? Cleveland has an incredible amount of vintage stores and antique malls. Sometimes it’s fun to just poke around and see what trash has become treasure. If you’re into meats, Cleveland’s old-school butcher shops are always a treat, and sometimes they’ll even give you a sample of whatever they are smoking that day. Each region in Europe has their own way of preparing meats, and it’s always fun to explore different shops and how they do things.

Any favorite local artists or galleries? Brick Ceramic + Design Studio on Waterloo is an amazing place. Val Grossman, the proprietress, is an amazing ceramic artist and all-around fabulous person. Her studio space is in a renovated auto garage from the 1920’s. The building has so much history and now houses kilns, wheels, and a gallery. The creative energy there is wonderful.

Share a fun fact about you that might surprise other people: I play guitar and sing in a duo garage rock band called Madame.

West Side MarketIf you were a Cleveland landmark, which one would you be and why? Maybe the West Side Market? My family is from Europe, so food is always important, especially at holidays. I have so many fond memories of going shopping for specialty foods and sweets with my Oma. The market was so wild with smells and people and colors. The building itself is like a place of worship for food. Eating leads to conversations and comfort, two things that are important to me.

Favorite Cleveland mural/piece of art? I’ve always loved the Morell mural “Life is Sharing the Same Park Bench,” located in downtown Cleveland. When I was a kid, going downtown was always an exciting event. I always associate that mural with a day around tall buildings and lots of interesting people. It always felt like I was somewhere magical and far away, even if I was only 20 minutes from home.

A typical day in your life might include... Getting my son off to school and then enjoying some coffee and journaling. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to spend some time sewing or dyeing in my home studio. An afternoon walk to the lake is always nice if the weather cooperates. Later, put on a record, pour some wine and make dinner for the family. Then maybe a movie and bed.
Anything else you want us to know about you? I’m proud to be from Cleveland, but sometimes it can be really hard to live in this place, especially when winter won't quit. You’ve really got to spend some time here to truly appreciate all it has to offer. When I’m feeling down about anything, all I need to do is walk to the end of my street and look into that big green water and I’m reminded why I’m here.

Learn more about Krista and Selvage here, and stay tuned for more #CLEative Groove profiles! You can also follow @CLEativeGroove on Instagram here, or send suggestions for people to profile here.

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.