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Meet Artist Sarah Mandell of Once Again Sam

Amy Holtcamp Amy Holtcamp
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.
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Sarah Mandell lives something of a double life. By day she works at her dream job; she's an interior designer for a commercial architecture firm. By night (and weekends) she is the brains and busy hands behind her crafting business, "Once Again Sam."

Through Once Again Sam, Mandell sells her wonderful, whimsical felt creations and her edgy-yet-feminine leather jewelry.

Q: If I understand correctly, you are an interior designer for an architectural firm by day, Etsy crafter by night. That's a full plate - what do you get out of crafting that makes it worth all that time and effort?
It's a full plate for sure, but it's a plate full of things I truly enjoy. I balance my time between interior design, handmade jewelry, needle felting, writing fiction, serving Renewal Church and being a wife, because I love doing all of these things for different reasons and can't imagine my plate being any less full. When it comes to crafting, the effort is always worthwhile because when I'm done, I'm holding something I dreamed up, created with my own two hands, and sold to someone who appreciates it. Doesn't get any more rewarding than that!

Q: You have a degree in Environmental Design - how does that play into your philosophy at Once Again Sam?
I studied Environmental Design at the Maryland Institute College of Art, which focused on the human environment and how it's experienced on all levels. That gave me an overview of urban planning, architecture, landscape design, interior design, furniture design and textiles, as well as a fine art background. Going from macro to micro really taught me to see material and form differently, and I hope that comes through in my creations even though they're seemingly unrelated.

Q: Where do you find your materials?
For the wool, I purchase that online or at fiber festivals. For the leather and suede, I frequent local thrift shops, and I'm getting to the point where generous people I know are donating old garments for my reworking. I've also been at the right place at the right time, specifically when it comes to the leather upholstery scraps. Over the last few years, when interior design libraries got cleaned out or updated (at school and past firms), I'm the first one, perhaps the only one picking through the trash and reclaiming discontinued samples. I'm mildly ashamed of my trash-browsing tendencies, but hey, there's good stuff in there!

Q: "Once Again Sam" - is that a Casablanca reference? What's the story behind the name of your shop?
When I got married, my initials became SAM. I thought having a name within a name was kind of novel so I started using that as my online alias. The "Once Again" refers to the repurposed materials I use, like the leather and suede. I'm a big fan of gathering stuff and giving it new life, once again, in a whole new way.

Q: I love the section on your online shop entitled "Felted Curiosities." What is the most curious of the curiosities?
The felt owls and cacti are cute, the monsters and sea critters are quirky, but the most curious of the curiosities would have to be my anatomical hearts. The wool fibers do a great job of getting a believable texture and I've been pleasantly surprised with how popular the felt hearts have been. Sure, there's a few people that give me disapproving looks for making body parts, but I can usually get them to crack by saying it's "heart felt."

Q: Where can people find your work?
My hobby turned small business can be found on Etsy at I also have work in Art & Light Gallery (Greenville), Liz Daly Designs (Greenville), The Art Lounge (Spartanburg), and Brew & Ewe Coffee Shop (Greenville). Last year I was lucky enough to be a part of two juried craft shows (Indie Craft Parade in September and Holiday Handmade Hoopla in December) and I'm crossing my fingers in hopes of doing that again in 2012.

Q: Given that you are in the field of interior design and architecture, is there a space, building, home, etc. in South Carolina that you find particularly beautiful?
This may seem like an odd pick for someone who's involved in commercial interior design (creating newspaces) but my absolute favorite building around Greenville is the old flatiron building in the Pendleton Art District (Flatiron Studios and Art & Light Gallery are located here.) Not only is the impressive body of work within constantly evolving, but the aging building itself is incredibly appealing to me. There's something magical about naturally distressed finishes and exposed structure. This oddly shaped building is a great example of the revitalization of downtown Greenville

Amy Holtcamp
Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.