Kjersti Faret of Cat Coven is a real feminist power witch; her creations have inspired fellow witches and lovers of dark fashion from around the world since 2013, when she started selling her art on Etsy. She now runs a one-woman operation out of her headquarters in Brooklyn. Last week she released her highly anticipated Enchanted Armor collection. Dear Darkling had the opportunity to talk to her about her work, her inspiration, and all the exciting things that are forthcoming.
Dear Darkling: Can you tell us a little about what Cat Coven is all about and how it came to be?
Kjersti: Cat Coven is a lifestyle brand for the weirdos, the magical and the feminists. It started when I was in college, around 2013, when I kept making little projects (hand embroideries, clay figures, etc). I was very against digital art (which is ironic because now the majority of my work is drawn digitally before I screen-print it) so I did a lot of handmade one-of-a-kind items.
I’ve always really loved touching and interacting with art, which is why paper prints never 100% satisfied me unless they’re part of a book or something. That’s what drove me to create products and items people could use everyday, like clothing. I started out with sillier designs of cat butts and “give me coffee or give me death” and while I still love to be silly, my designs are informed by more serious ideas like protection, power, strength and my spirituality.
What was your main inspiration for your new collection, Enchanted Armor?
By the end of 2016 I was feeling (along with a lot of the world) a bit hopeless, overwhelmed and powerless. I felt myself being drawn to medieval armor (I think my subconscious was telling me a bit of what I needed). So I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and looked at their armor collection and thought, “Yes, this is what I need.” If you haven’t been I highly recommend it. They’ve got big halls filled with swords, breastplates, horse armor, shields, etc. from all over the world. It’s incredible to be surrounded by and everything is covered in tiny, intricate details, which is my favorite, so you can spend hours just looking at a few pieces.
“It’s really cool how a simple ritual like getting dressed in the morning can set the mood for the rest of your day.”
A lot of the armor in the museums is just decorative armor, so not used in physical fighting, but it’s really inspiring for creating psychic armor. Of course wearing literal armor isn’t practical, so I wanted the next best thing, which was to draw armor onto everyday clothing.
It’s really cool how a simple ritual like getting dressed in the morning can set the mood for the rest of your day. Like when you’re feeling particularly shitty, just slip on your armor t-shirt to channel your inner strength. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression I need all the help I can get and it’s almost impossible to not feel like a badass when your shirt is a breastplate.
What does “Enchanted Armor” mean to you? Your work seems to be a lot about empowerment, is there a link between the magick and the activism in your work?
It’s very literal. It’s armor that’s been “enchanted” with the meaning of each symbol in the designs. It’s armor that’s covered with motifs of strength and protection so when you wear it and recognize those symbols, you channel that strength.
“It’s almost impossible to not feel like a badass when your shirt is a breastplate.”
What is your take on the use of magick for activism?
My artwork is my magick work. I think magick is a tool an activist can use, but magick is not activism on its own. Just like in spell work you use magick and ritual to set the intent but you can’t cast the spell, sit back, and wait for the universe to hand things to you. You have to also go out and be in certain circumstances and doing things to help that magick flow.
I never feel like I’m doing enough, but I think I’m good at sharing ideas. Like during the Womens’ March a few months ago I was tagged in so many photos of people wearing my “Feminism means Equality” shirt. Yes, it’s just a shirt, but it’s got a message and it was being spread across the world at one of the most iconic events this year.
You are also working on collaborations with other witchy artists like Nyxturna. What is the best part of combining forces?
I really haven’t done any collabs until this year! It makes me extremely nervous, actually. But I also really enjoy it. I’ve heard horror stories of friends who work with each other because mixing friendship and business can be a hard task. But everything went very smooth and easy with Fay of Nyxturna. We worked really well together and it got me out of my comfort zone drawing-wise. I also worked with Courtney Hall (Light Witch) for the look book for this collection. My team and I went up to her house (we’re in New York and she’s in Massachusetts) because she had the exact aesthetic I was looking for. It was a really nice opportunity to get to know her and also make some art together.
Can you tell us more about the process of creating a new line and how it changes when other artists are involved?
I do 90% of everything for Cat Coven so it gets very stressful sometimes and the process can go very slowly; I am a control freak. I basically worked on the “Enchanted Armor” drawings since January (so 6 months). The goal was to have a cohesive new line of 6 designs. Deadlines are very important especially when working with other people. When working for yourself procrastination can be very tempting but setting deadlines keeps you on track. I estimated I could be done drawing by the first week of June to shoot with Courtney and I had to rush a bit at the end, but it was good to have that set or I might not have finished.
I’m very bad at letting go of control but because I was familiar with Courtney’s work, I knew I could trust her with my collection. I also am terrible at styling and fashion beyond printing on a shirt so I needed someone else’s expertise. Courtney also had all the perfect props. I really couldn’t have picked a better person to shoot and style for this.
Do you have any plans or projects coming up that you want to tell us about?
Yes and no. I’m ready for a break! I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing this collection for 6 months so I never want to look at another t-shirt again (at least for a few days). I’m getting a t-shirt break but not a work break. I’m heading to Iceland to visit a friend, but also specifically to visit the Witchcraft Museum. I have a long term project planned that involves witchcraft and prosecution while combining old hand craft techniques with new ones. Then I’m doing a two week residency in the south of France to dive back into painting and experiment with color. (The shop will remain open in my absence, with my lovely assistant shipping once a week). Shortly after my return in August I’ll be releasing some Halloween things.