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As a child, Johanna De Santis, founder of Atelier Spatz, watched her grandmother and mother sew costumes for the children in the family. There was an old leather trunk in the attic filled to the brim with dress-up clothes. She loved rifling through it, to find the piece of fabric that would transform her into something else. “Every child goes through a phase where they love to dress up. In a costume, you become someone else. It’s magical,” Jo explains with a smile.
When she became a mother herself, she was horrified by the costumes available that were “often made of plastic,” so she decided to take things into her own hands. Her first creation was a bird cape with multiple layers of different fabrics and feathers. Over the years, the trunk in her own attic has filled up. Living in London, Jo gave up her job as an economist to become a full-time freelance artisan. “I really missed working with my hands. I also wanted to find a better balance between motherhood and my career”. And thus, Atelier Spatz (meaning sparrow, a nod to her very first creation) was born, ready to stand on its own two feet.
Jo is purely self-taught. “I took a few online courses to learn how to create the patterns and a few other (physical) courses ‒ one in Munich for example,” she says. But after ten years of sewing, Jo confesses that practice and experience is where she has learnt the most: “It still rings true today! That’s what I love about this job… I’m learning every day.”
When Jo is commissioned to make a costume, it starts with a long research process. The materials, fabrics and shape of the costume are thought through beforehand to make sure it can be made as she envisions it. “I often have a lot of ideas that spring to mind immediately, but it is only when I start drawing the pattern with the shape, the volume and the colours, that I know if it will be feasible in practice, and which fabrics will work best,” she explains. Jo prefers natural materials to achieve the most comfortable result for children. Today, in her Luxembourg workshop, she creates made-to-measure costumes ordered by clients from around the world (from the USA to the UK).
Since moving to Luxembourg City a year ago, some local projects are also starting to trickle in. In addition to custom orders, Jo also has a small amount of stock on her website where you can find pirate, Peter Pan, astronaut and clown costumes. Besides making costumes, she shares her passion with other creatives to inspire them to pursue the path of crafting. By choosing this path herself, she makes children’s dreams come true — what a wonderful superpower.
More information: www.atelierspatz.com