Clay Buddies: Lindsey Zinno
Apr 01, 2021 • Shannon Doyne
Lindsey Zinno is East Fork’s e-commerce manager. The way she writes about her outside-of-work passions will get you fired up about your own.
Hey, Lindsey, what do you do here at East Fork?
Hi! I work as our eCommerce Manager, which basically means I do a lot of stuff on the website. I build pages (like this blog), homepages, product pages, execute launches, work with developers, make UX improvements, the list goes on. But the most important thing about my job is making sure our customers have a pleasant and efficient experience purchasing our products, all while introducing them to new items that pair well with what they’re buying, such as items from our tabletop and kitchen collections. I work very closely with our marketing and creative teams as well, so I collaborate on all sorts of projects along the way as they relate to the digital world.
What did you do before this? How did you find out about East Fork?
I came to East Fork just a year after I graduated from college. I have a degree in environmental science focusing on food sustainability. I had a very different college experience than most because I was spending most of my time running my small business. I found out about East Fork from Jessie, mold shop manager. We knew each other through doing maker markets around Cincinnati and occasionally trading baskets for pottery and vice versa. Jessie told me she was moving to Asheville to work for East Fork. I started following the IG account in 2016, I believe. Then I was rock climbing in Rumbling Bald over New Years and stopped by the storefront, fell in love with the brand, the product, etc. I waited for an opening to come up that I could apply for, and well, the rest is history, I suppose!
You started a business called The Northern Market when you were in high school. East Fork sells a selection of your beautiful baskets, trivets and now cat beds. Can you please tell us everything?
Ah! Where do I even begin? I started making baskets out of cotton rope when I was 15 or so, my aunt taught me when I was visiting her in New Jersey one summer (photo of said basket below), and knew immediately that I wanted to sell them—but I was very bad at making them at the time. I knew how to sew, but I was not very strong within the technicalities of it. I told myself that I needed to sew baskets for a year or two consistently before I could even think of selling them (people really rush that process of learning a new skill these days IMO, now it’s so easy to sell online).
Lindsey's first basket
Anyway, I started an Etsy shop and slowly got a couple sales going. I did my first maker market when I was 18 and sold every last thing at my booth. I was shook! Then I went to college and felt that having a sewing machine in my shoebox-sized dorm was not very polite of my roommate and neighbors, so I ended up sewing on the weekends and when I went home to see my parents.
The summer after my first year, I did more markets, and came sophomore year, I dove in full-force. I got some business cards from Vistaprint (as one does lol) and walked around Findlay Market and OTR giving shops my business cards. I sold on consignment in a few local shops around town before getting into selling wholesale. As things started to ramp up, I got a studio, bought more sewing machines, had some friends help out. When I created an account on Etsy Wholesale (no longer exists now), I got about 40 wholesale accounts all in the first week of my account being live, with the holiday season around the corner, with a 2 week lead time (silly me), and I went to work. During that time, I used to wake up at 5am and go to my studio before the sunrise and sew baskets before class, in between classes and after class—I remember using the Quizlet app on my phone and swipe through flashcards whilst sewing. Pretty sure I shipped all the orders out on time, too.
Lindsey at 18 in her first sewing studio. Photo by Hannah Breidinger.
Then later that winter, I was approached by Nancy Zieman to record two episodes on her PBS show Sewing with Nancy and write an instructional book to pair with the episodes—and before you go looking for the book, they’re all sold out and I’m not sure when they’ll be back in print. I actually don’t even own one for myself anymore, I accidently sold my last one. I went to Wisconsin Public Television and recorded the episodes, and they still air nationally!
After my momentary TV debut, I opened a pop-up shop with a friend who owns a clothing store. It was a chance for both of us to get regular interactions with our local customers beyond ecommerce. During that time with the store, I was finishing my third and final year of school—I thought it would be a good idea to graduate a year early during all of this (and I did it!).
The pop-up ended and I moved to a sewing studio at Sew Valley, a non-profit that holds sewing, mending, and idea-to-product workshops and also produces small batch garments for independent labels, where I sewed full-time. It was a buzzing, fun environment to be a part of! But after a while, I realized that scaling NM didn’t make me feel fulfilled and was very difficult, with lots of room for error in what I make, and there were so many more things that I was skilled in than just the thing I've been doing since high school. I took some shifts to reel NM back to its roots, and that’s where we are now. Today, I quietly and humblingly make baskets on the side while working a job I really enjoy. <3
Let’s talk trivets. Why does a trivet beat a pot holder or a towel flattened out on the counter or table? And how do you make your beautiful trivets?
They’re functional yet nice enough to put on your dinner table under a hot bowl of something delicious. Not that a towel folder under your pot is not technically functional, but the trivets last longer than a ratty dish towel for sure. I make them to match our glazes (or complement them). Think placing an Amaro Weeknight Serving Bowl filled with the food you and your family are about to enjoy and placing it on a matching Amaro Trivet. Then after clearing the table, you get to just hang it back up on the wall or fridge. Cute!
You follow a vegan diet and I know you’re an avid cook and that you also like to develop your own recipes. What have been some of your best experiences? Any dishes that you’re especially proud to have created?
I’ve been vegan for about 5 or 6 years now, and it can be a touchy subject because so much lies within food: traditions, emotions, memories. I never want anyone to think I’m judging them for the way they eat. The bottomline for me is eating (and living) this way works for me and makes me happy. I find that having animal-derived ingredients off limits fun to explore plant-based alternatives to achieve similar texture and flavor. It’s challenging and fun! Though I eat this way for many reasons, a shift to a vegan diet was one of the easiest things for me to do to lessen my environmental impact—that’s not the same for everyone!
With that disclaimer, my best experiences take me to restaurants that not only are vegan friendly, but go above and beyond for vegans. I don’t eat at restaurants very often because of how much I love to cook myself but Please in Cincinnati is my #1 choice (and they serve fresh bread in my baskets there), with abcV in NYC, Plant in Asheville as my follow-ups. I get really excited when I can eat more than one course somewhere, and I’ve experienced some delicious courses at those restaurants!
As for any dishes that I’m personally proud of, hmm, I feel like anything in the baking world that is vegan is something to be proud of. I must name drop my best friend Sam who got me into sourdough baking. We post our baking endeavors on this Instagram account. So you can see our accomplishments and recipe developments there. ;)
You have an enviable number of passions, Lindsey! I know that another is climbing. What does climbing give you? And how do you find time for it?
Yes, I totally do. I’m quite the hobbyist of sorts. The best part about climbing is climbing outside, because you get to experience areas and views that hikers can’t get to easily or wouldn’t normally go to. I am much more into bouldering than I am sport climbing right now, but living near the Red River Gorge keeps me dabbling in rope climbing. Places like Rocktown in Georgia, Rumbling Bald outside of Asheville (of course!) and the New River Gorge are some of my favorite places to boulder. Climbing is much different than other hobbies I’m into because you can’t rush the process of becoming the best as easily. I’ve grown to become really aware that I am not always physically as strong at the person next to me at the gym, and there’s something really powerful about allowing yourself to let go of that. It took me a long time to stop comparing myself to others in climbing. I experience similar emotions to playing piano as well—yes, another hobby of mine. Ha.
What are the five objects that you chose to share with us and what do they mean to you?
I chose my cat Penny, a vicuña pin, a bracelet from my grandmother, sheet music of Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2 by Chopin, and a basket I made.
The sweetest lil cat, but I’m biased, of course. My partner Michael and I adopted her in the summer mid-pandemic and it was the best thing we did. My work-from-home companion!
This was the first gift Michael gave to me, and I really cherish it. The vicuña is a wild relative to the llama and alpaca, his family is from Ecuador, and the pin is made of silver that was mined in Ecuador, close to their ancestral home in the town of Zaruma.
About six months after my grandmother passed away, my aunt handed me a silk drawstring bag and said she had something for me that she found in an old safety deposit box. Inside was a folded up paper that said, “Belong to Lindsey” and a bracelet inside. It was such a special gift to receive, especially after months have gone since her passing. I only wear it on special occasions, but it fits me perfectly.
Red and White Basket
This is probably my favorite basket I’ve ever made. I just love it. It’s perfect! I use it as a handbag/basket in a garden or just on my dresser at home. I don’t really sell anything like this, since most people gravitate toward muted, unsaturated colors for the baskets I make. When I sew things for myself, I usually make them red because I love the contrast of the white rope and red thread.
Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2 by Chopin
I could have included my whole piano bench filled with music, but this piece holds closest to my heart. I decided to take private piano lessons during my first year of college at the conservatory and grew so much that semester learning, memorizing and performing this Chopin piece. I have been playing classical piano for over 15 years, I don’t even know at this point, but taking lessons at the conservatory was a huge transformation in my ability to play. I loved (and miss) having access to the practice hall there, where a Steinway grand or upright was in every room. I love the way playing this piece reminds me of that moment in time.