Joan Vorderbruggen: 100 Creatives


Number 60: Joan Vorderbruggen


City: Whittier, Minneapolis


Years spent living in MN:  27 of 36

As the founder and creative brain behind Lollycopter, designer Joan Vorderbruggen manages to create pieces that are both bold and green. Her unique, handmade pieces are constructed from vintage slip dresses, repurposed embellishments, and earth-friendly fabrics. However, the resulting threads are far from anything that would be described as twee or crunchy granola. Instead, think crime-fighting superheroes crossed with a burlesque carnival and a dash of heartfelt Valentine's Day romanticism. In addition to Lollycopter, Vorderbruggen has also had her hand in creative window dressings for Smitten Kitten, a feminist- and LGBT-friendly sex toy shop.


[jump] Name three things inspiring your work right now:

  1. Vintage circus images.

  2. Insanely bright, loud, vibrating colors.

  3. The place in-between dreaming and sleep. It's a treasure trove of neat (and horrifying) ideas.

Name three things that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:

  1. Surrounding myself with ridiculously creative, beautiful people, friends, family, and coworkers.

  2. THRIFTING! If I find even one thing that dazzles me at a thrift store, before you know it I'm racing home tearing my closet apart and trying on a trillion things to get the perfect look to surround that one special thing I fell in love with that day. It's a totally obsessive game that gives me tons of ideas.

  3. My humble upbringing. If you want to have a great life on a low budget, the only path that will get you there is to use what you have to create what you want.  

    What was your last big project? 

The Smitten Kitten helped me immensely to realize some very big dreams this past winter. I received an award for a holiday window display in their storefront, produced my first fine arts exhibit within their walls, and held a solo runway event for my line of upcycled slip dresses during MN Spring Fashion Week, where I transformed the entire store into a catwalk/variety show. 

Although it is my wish to expand and create storefront designs for other small businesses in the area, I definitely consider the Smitten Kitten my creative home. I am endlessly grateful.

What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?

I will be hosting a Lollycopter Grand Opening in my new studio and micro boutique on the second floor of the Garland Building during Art-A-Whirl (noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 22). Some friends and I will transform the lovely former hotel into a designer marketplace including open studios with visual artists, chair massages, live music, and refreshments. This will be the Garland Building's very first time participating in Art-A-Whirl, so we are super excited to put it on the map!

Creative/career high point (so far)? 

That would certainly be my wedding last September. Over 40 local artists and musicians contributed to the event, as well as writers and poets from our beloved New York. It was such a surreal experience to see all of the unique gifts each talented person brought to the event as it all came together. It was very bombastic. I'm still daydreaming about it all the time.


What has been your biggest challenge as an designer and artist?

I dropped out of school at a very young age amidst a really bad family tragedy, but I did really well at a technical college in my 20s, obtaining my nursing license which has helped me to survive. I have always fantasized about pursuing a fine arts degree but can't justify the horrific expense. Still, it eats at me. So I work especially hard and learn as much as I can on my own and with mentoring. I simply hope that wishing for that level of education will pester me less and less with each new success.

How has the local scene changed since you began your career? 

I left the Twin Cities when I was 26, and before that I was a party girl more obsessed with getting down than anything--although I often accomplished that in the wild costumes I'd make.

Right after 9-11 I ran off to New York on a whim with a cabaret act. I had one suitcase and $600. When I returned eight years later, the time, space, quality of life, and success I saw working artists achieve here in the Twin Cities, in contrast to how hard it had been in New York, had this firecracker effect on me creatively. I was astounded by how much amazing work was happening here in every niche of arts and culture. Everyone is so incredibly supportive and willing to collaborate. This has been the most inspired time of my life, and being a part of such a vibrant community is largely responsible for that.

You are stuck on a desert island. However, for reasons too complicated to explain, you are allowed to pack a suitcase first. What clothing items do you pack? 

I would pack a hand puppet to keep me company. Maybe that isn't clothing but I definitely incorporate puppets into costumes, so I say it counts. I'd also bring a soft, cotton, sequined sari that I could wear as a dress, skirt, or as a shimmering headdress as I run naked in the night; a burqa to keep me cool and prevent my skin from burning; and a USA flag string bikini for when I'm feeling downright nasty!

If you could work as a costume designer on any movie or television show made during any era, which one would you choose, and why? 


The Carol Burnett Show, of course! I am so inspired by the role Bob Mackie held and perfected as lead costume designer for her show, from his lavish, gorgeous evening gowns that Carol would wear as she introduced the episode, to his ridiculous costume pieces that played an important role in the many hilarious sketches. He invented the best television site gag of all time, and he designed upwards of 50 garments per week. Bob Mackie is the shit!

Do you have a suggestion for someone whose work we should be checking out? Feel free to leave your top picks in the comments.

Past creatives, so far:

100. Jennifer Davis

99. Sean Smuda

98. Chuck U


96. Amy Rice


95. Kara Hendershot

70. Tim Sievert

67. Dessa

66. Heidi Arneson

65. Erin Currie

64. Jayme Halbritter

63. Amy Buchanan

62. Kimberly Jurek

61. Kenna-Camara Cottman