Fiona Ryan (b. Ireland 1981) is a designer, maker and small business owner working in Red Hook, Brooklyn, NY. Back in her home country, she grew up surrounded by a love and respect for natural materials and traditional crafts, the two ingredients that kept Ireland alive during the British occupation. Even though fast changes were happening, and the once thriving Cottage Industry, proudly producing expertly crafted woolens, furniture, linens, embroidery and lace, was progressively being replaced by the mass-produced and import-based industry that rules today, making clothing at home was not so unusual for Irish families. Therefore, Fiona learned sewing and knitting from her mother at age 4 and by the time she was 10 was making her own patterns. She assisted her mother making clothes for her and her siblings and curtains for relatives, all on a hand-cranked Singer sewing machine.
As the cultural values shifted from handcraft into technology, Fiona understood the need to upgrade her skills to make them competent with the new requirements, and in 1999 she moved to Dublin to study a BSc. in Multimedia at Dublin City University. Soon after finishing and still figuring out her broad arrange of options she applied for the US Diversity Visa Lottery program with the scant hope of winning a green card to the United States. As luck would have it, her name came out of the hat and in 2004 she packed her bags and booked a one-way ticket to New York to begin a new adventure.
Fiona immediately began exploring new skills and as is customary for most transplants to New York, working in a variety of trades from 2D animator to textile print developer and studying Drapery and Pattern Development at FIT, this last one helped her rejuvenating her relationship with the crafts she had learned growing up, which she started applying to make garments and accessories to cover her new daily needs and challenges. Bicycles being one of her passions -as well as her daily transportation method-, Fiona had to keep cycling in mind, and that’s how Fifo Cycle was born. After some experimenting with her sewing machine, she started making small runs of cycling hats to sell at a few stores. By 2007 she was shipping them to Europe and Japan and since then she has been collaborating with cycling giants such as Cinelli and the Red Hook Crit to develop unique accessories for cycling that have become collectors’ items.
As well a running Fifo Cycle Fiona also freelances as a graphic and textile designer and lace developer, and has recently been exploring Paper Marbling and teaching workshops at Pioneer Works center for Art an Innovation in Red Hook with Maker’s Circle founder Marta Pia. Having the work of other artists all around gives her a lot of hope and inspiration, and even if she considers the city as a great burst of energy, she acknowledges the importance of staying true to the small community feeling as part of her lifestyle and work method. She lives in Red hook and feels inspired by many levels of creative communities, from her local scene to the remote unthinkable ways people around the world find to improve their daily quality through their creativity.
“It’s just amazing what’s happening in small pockets around the world today with all sorts of people reviving traditional crafts and bringing beautiful objects into peoples lives” says Fiona. ”I never dreamed that I would be part of an industry that keeps me connected to where I came from. The idea that families can be supported by a cottage industry and in turn support their local community is not such a distant memory anymore. This intimate relationship between us and the clothes we wear and the hands and tools that made them is being re-established by makers and designers who are inviting people to be a part of the things that they own, and that makes for a satisfying day’s work!”