December 6, 2019
A4A recently announced its 2020 North Adams Project artists, one of which is WallaSauce, an upcycled clothing company created by 2018 MCLA graduates Andrew “Kirby” Casteel and Sarah DeFusco.
A fashion label founded at MCLA is now poised to take its next big step thanks to Assets for Artists (A4A), a program of MASS MoCA, ArtBuilt, and the Midas Collaborative.
A4A recently announced its 2020 North Adams Project artists, one of which is WallaSauce, an upcycled clothing company created by 2018 MCLA graduates Andrew “Kirby” Casteel and Sarah DeFusco. Next year, the pair will have access to the program’s professional development workshops and will receive a matched savings grant to purchase an industrial home embroidery machine.
DeFusco, who hails from Rhode Island and majored in English, and Casteel, a business management major from Fairhaven, Mass., met at MCLA and currently run their business out of their North Adams apartment. “WallaSauce started as a BBQ sauce in 2014,” said Casteel. “In 2016 we started making pins, stickers, and patches. Sarah got more involved in 2017, taught herself how to sew, then taught me, and we started making pocket tees and sweatshirts.”
The pair reuse clothing and fabrics, giving them a second life through sewing, screen printing, embroidery, and heat-press alterations. “We use upcycled materials to try to combat fast fashion,” said DeFusco. “The textile industry is one of the largest polluters, and so much of the material is made of polyester, which is plastic, and it breaks down and gets into the water. Clothing is now often worn for one season, the harmful materials begin breaking down, and the cycle keeps going.”
She said the pair didn’t understand the huge environmental effect of the industry until they did some research. “We were buying new fabric and plain t-shirts,” she said, “but less than a year in, we made the effort to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as we can be.” She said it’s a challenge to use every piece of fabric, but they rely on their creativity to find ways to reuse scraps, even making them into toys for their cat.
The two work day jobs at A to Z Lettering in Pittsfield, Mass., Casteel as an embroiderer and DeFusco as a screen printer. Their boss, Jeff Reynolds, is an MCLA graduate and a fellow creative, working in photography and glassblowing. Casteel and DeFusco often have the chance to work on WallaSauce projects off the clock, using A to Z’s printing press and 10 embroidery machines.
WallaSauce has been growing quickly, collaborating with and selling their creations at The Spot in Pittsfield, and in North Adams at Region and the Common Folk shop. They also sell items in person and via Instagram using the Venmo app.
Casteel said one of the best things about attending MCLA was the personal connections he made with other students, the faculty, and the greater North Adams community. “There are so many people who support us and who learned about what we do through MCLA because it’s such a tightknit community,” he said.
DeFusco said a lot of their art-driven friends from MCLA chose to stay in North Adams after college because it’s such a creative and affordable place to live. She and Casteel are excited to take the next step with A4A and said their five-year plan is to open a retail/workspace in--where else--downtown North Adams.
MCLA is also proud to announce that MCLA Creative and Brand Strategy Manager Francesca Olsen was also chosen as a 2020 North Adams Project Artist for her textile work.
Are you an MCLA student, alum, or faculty member? Do you want MCLA to share your story? Please email Creative and Brand Strategy Manager Francesca Olsen at Francesca.Olsen@mcla.edu.