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Meet the Maker: Anne of Lolli and Grace

Happy Monday, friends! Today in my Meet the Maker series, I am SO excited to introduce you to Anne Oliver of Lolli and Grace. She is a fine embroidery artist that got her start in doll making, fell in love with the art of needle work, and decided to create unique, easy to follow patterns for creatives of all skill sets so they can create their own beautiful embroidered dolls, hoop art & more.
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Hi Anne! Before we dive into the crafty questions, tell everyone a bit about yourself!
Hello! My name is Anne Oliver, and I’m the artist/designer/pattern-maker/dreamer behind Lolli and Grace. I live in Texas, where it’s HOT in the summer, but we make up for it with LOTS of air conditioning, lol. I just celebrated my 30th anniversary with my wonderful husband, and we have an amazing, smart, funny and beautiful 14 year-old daughter. I’ve been drawing, painting, stitching, sewing and creating since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed teaching myself new creative skills, even before the internet existed, when the only way to teach yourself anything was to go to the library/bookstore or find a class or a teacher. THANK GOODNESS for the internet – the wealth and breadth of available knowledge now is the best thing ever for an endlessly-curious, creative person! Before I picked up embroidery again, I was a photographer. I’m so grateful for everything I learned in that medium, because I use those skills every day as a maker. 
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Embroidery is such a beautiful artform – when did you first find your love for it? 
I did needlepoint in Junior High and cross-stitch in college, but I was in my 30’s before I made the switch to embroidery. I love how embroidery can either be very rigid (following the lines exactly) or it can be very free-flowing (you can literally stitch outside the lines if you want to). 
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How long have you been selling embroidery patterns? 
Well, I’ve been selling embroidery patterns for about a year and half. But my “gateway craft” to embroidery was dolls. Almost out of the blue one day a thought struck me – “Hmmm, I’d like to do something with wool felt and embroidery.” Little did I know what a life-changing thought that would be! So I began creating doll patterns (some out of wool and some not, but usually incorporating some sort of embroidery) and LOVED it. I gradually transitioned to more straight-up embroidery patterns because dolls/doll patterns take a long time to go from idea to reality. I truly love designing dolls. But the shorter amount of time for embroidery designs and patterns is really appealing to me. 
 
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You sell beautiful doll patterns in addition to your hoop art patterns – was there ever a point where you sold the finished dolls? Is it an option you offer for people who are unable to create at such a skill level? 
Well, first of all, thank you! I have sold some finished dolls. It’s a bit tricky to do so, because you have to weigh the increased amount of time it takes to make one vs. what you can charge for it. (I’m a strong believer in charging what you’re worth..admittedly, that’s hard to do sometimes, but it’s really important.) But even though I’m mostly creating embroidery designs now, I still have the urge to design dolls. In fact, there are at least 3 ideas for dolls itching to come to life as I type this, lol. 
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How does offering patterns instead of finished works of art set you apart in the maker community?
I enjoy being able to provide items for two related but perhaps different markets when it comes to patterns vs. finished art. Some people have the skills to make something but just don’t have the time or the inclination to make it – so finished pieces are great for them. Some people don’t have the skills, so finished pieces are ideal for them, too. But I love providing patterns for all the creative makers out there, too. I’ve been on the other side – having the urge to make something fun and colorful and challenging and searching for a pattern that makes my little creative heart say, “Yes! That one! That’s what I want to create!
As far as it setting me apart – perhaps. Creating patterns is a whole separate skill set from simply drawing/stitching a design. Hopefully it’s the quality of my patterns that sets me apart. It’s really important to me to provide patterns that are clearly written, easily understood, and simple to follow, with great photos and all the information someone needs so the experience of making my design is rewarding, not frustrating. 
 
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I see in a lot of craft groups that buyers purchase patterns thinking they are finished items a lot, and want a refund. What advice do you have to makers to prevent this from happening, or to rectify the situation if it should arise? 
I’ve been very fortunate because that scenario has only happened to me twice. Both times I just quickly and politely messaged the buyer to tell them it was a pattern as opposed to a finished piece and I was refunding their money, and they were very gracious about it. I try to state very clearly, “This listing is for the PDF pattern only. It does NOT include the finished hoop/doll/whatever.” Also having “PATTERN” primary in your title is very important.
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What do you do with finished pieces you create to photograph for pattern listings? 
Well, currently they are cluttering up my house! But recently I finally made my own embroidery wall, which makes me happy every time I look at it. It includes my own embroidery, but the most precious things to me up there are the simple embroidery my daughter completed when she was 5 years old (of her favorite stuffed animal), and the set of dolls she made for us as a surprise one Christmas using patterns I had just recently designed at the time. They are of me, my husband and our two dogs. Best. Present. Ever. 
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Do you ever teach in-person embroidery lessons to groups like Girl Scouts or home school co-ops? 
I haven’t yet. But I LOVE chatting with people about handwork, stitching, sewing, etc. That’s just one reason I love Instagram so much – discovering and “meeting” so many talented people and striking up a friendship with them while talking about all matters creative is such a source of pleasure for me.
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What is your favorite thing to embroidery? Flowers, lettering, etc
I never, ever tire of flowers – colorful flowers, bunches of flowers, single flowers, big flowers or small flowers. But because I do so many flowers, it’s always refreshing to do something different. It’s good to force myself to go against my first instincts sometimes. 
Embroidery is a mobile skill – where do you usually get your stitch on? 
Usually I stitch at my work desk with a very bright light. The older I get, the brighter the light needs to be. (Let’s don’t even talk about the plethora of reading glasses that are scattered all over my house, OK?) But if I’m ever traveling when I know I will have some uninterrupted time in a hotel room, I love to take my stitching with me. Hotel light is usually FABULOUS, especially if you’re on an upper floor with a big window. 
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Your instagram feed is so colorful! Is you home equally as colorful? 
Oh, it’s colorful, as long as you also call it cluttered. Gah! I hold very firmly to the adage that the messier your house is, the more creative you are, LOL. However, having said that, I love cleaning off my work desk at the end of a project and starting with a nice, clean space to start the next project. 
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Tell me about a day in the life of a pattern maker – what does the “average work day” look like for you? 
One of the best things about being a pattern maker is that you get to do so many different things, all related to your craft but requiring a variety of skills. I start out by sketching my design, then scanning it and taking it into Illustrator. There, I turn it into a clear, precise drawing. I use that to transfer the design onto fabric, then I stitch it, photographing each step as I go. (This is a time-consuming process, since I like my patterns to include photos for pretty much every step of the project.) Once I’m finished stitching, then I photograph the finished piece in a variety of ways. Some photos are for Etsy and some are for Instagram. I edit/crop all the photos and write the instructions. Then I can turn it into a PDF. 
If I’m making a supply kit for a pattern, there’s even more work to do to get the pattern printed, then gather/cut/package all of the supplies. 
Of course, all of this is wedged in between being a wife (kudos to the aforementioned patient husband), mom to an active teenager, and daughter to my own wonderful mother that was diagnosed with Alzheimers last year. 
What drink do you order at Starbucks? 
Well, since I’m not a coffee drinker, I don’t often go to Starbucks. Hard to believe, I know! But give me a glass of good, strong iced tea (lots of ice!) and I’m a happy camper.
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Last but not least – pick a colorway: Rainbow, candy colors, or citrus shades?
Color…happy, happy color. Colors are what drive me, regardless of what medium I’m using. I tend to use similar…OK, the same…colors most of the time. But when I get a chance to design something in totally different colors, it’s a breath of fresh air for my brain. But candy colors….yeah, gotta love candy, right?
It was so cool getting to know Anne and explore her creative mind. You can follow her on Instagram & Like her page on Facebook to keep up with all her beautiful new designs (plus her feed is just so insanely colorful and pretty, you’ll want to follow it anyway!) and be sure to visit her shop to snag a beautiful pattern to stitch on this fall!
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Meet the Maker – Kelly of Freak + Pocky

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Hey guys! I am excited to share this interview showcase of Kelly, one half of the new online shop of handmade fandom fun & geeky cuteness, Freak + Pocky, with you! On my vacation, I was able to stop in Lexington, KY and spend the night with Kelly & Josh. They are SO cool and I am so eager to introduce you guys to such a fun maker, creative spirit and geek girl soul sister. I think you guys will love her just as much as I do! Without further ado, let’s get to know Kelly!
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Kelly, Me & Zoey!
Hi Kelly! Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’m Kelly – or better known to my gaming friends as Pocky, the pocket-sized healer.
I’m a 30-something crafty nerd living in Kentucky with the geek of my life, who I married 6 years ago, and our 14 year old rescue mutt Skylar. I have some nerdy degrees (B.S. in Electrical Engineering & M.B.A.) and work at a zombie job, but would rather spend my days making things + playing games.
When I’m not slaying the zombie job or being the poppet master, I can usually be found gaming with my friends or curled up with Freak and the pup catching up on anime or binge watching tv shows we are seasons behind on.
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When/how did you learn to crochet?
I learned to knit + crochet when I was 11 years old.
My mom was learning to knit and crochet in some group that was meeting at our church. When she came home to work on her project I was mesmerized at how you could tangle up yarn to make a sweater. So I did what I always did…bugged her to teach me because I wanted to learn to do whatever craft my mom was doing.
That was over 20 years ago and I’ve seldom put down the yarn since.
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What got you started as a geek? What was your first video game or geeky obsession?
 
I like to say that I was raised to be a geek. The first movie my parents took me to see – I was just a wee nerdling at the time – was The Empire Strikes Back. I don’t remember it, of course, but I’ve always loved the original Star Wars Triology.
But what really got me started was gaming. I started out on Atari, but Nintendo is where my true gaming love really started. In our house, as an only child, I had to fight my parents for a turn to play. And my dad would organize Nintendo tournaments for my friends and I, which I kinda threw when I picked a game I knew this one boy was better at than me. And yes, I’m still a Nintendo fangirl.
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How did you first intertwine crafting & fandoms? How did you first bring your love of fandoms & craft together?
 
The first project I designed that brought my love of yarn and fandoms together was a surprise birthday gift I was making for my husband, when we just started dating. I designed a stocking hat after Link from Zelda, and a matching Triforce scarf.
It wasn’t until I first came across amigurumi, specifically Creepy Cute Crochet by Christen Haden, that I started finding new ways to make nerdy things. And now I just can’t stop!
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What is your favorite fandom?
 
Ummmm…I honestly can’t decide. I love Doctor Who. Sherlock. Supernatural. Firefly. Star Wars. Sword Art Online. Invader Zim…I could seriously go on all day.
What are you thoughts on a female Doctor?
 
I think it’s great and can’t wait to see where they take the story with her!
Secretly I would love to see Simon Pegg be the Doctor, but I know that really wouldn’t make sense since he’s been a villain.
Zombies, werewolves or vampires?
 
Zombies, no question! I’m a huge Walking Dead fan!
In your honest opinion, should they reboot Firefly?
 
The answer is always YES! The world needs more Captain Mal!
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What Poppets are next on your to-make list that fans can look forward to?
 
Well, my list is longer than I am tall, but a few that I’ve been brainstorming recently are: some Star Wars characters, Leela from Futurama and Shaun from Shaun of the Dead.
How do fans submit suggestions for Poppets or place custom orders?
 
Right now the best way to reach out is by emailing hello@freakandpocky.com.
Since each poppet is handcrafted, we do have a limited number of custom orders we can take at a time. If we’ve reached our limit at that time, you can be added to a wait list and contacted once we’ve caught back up.
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Can people order poppets of their favorite actors to gift at Cons?
Absolutely! Right now these are done as custom orders, so just send an email to hello@freakandpocky.com with the request and we can hash out the details.
Thanks for taking the time for the interview, Kelly! Happy launch day – and happy birthday! ♥
Head over to visit Kelly’s shop, follow their adventures on Instagram and be sure to give them a “like” on Facebook, too!
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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway Winner’s Announced!

Happy Sunny-day friends! I hope you all have had a great week and a restful weekend so fine. First thing this morning, I dove into drawing names for the huge, awesome, rainbow giveaway – hooray! I was so excited to draw names and see who won!! This giveaway has been my favorite yet and I loved all the prizes so much, so I know all the contestants must be just as excited to see who won what!

Without further ado, here is the prizes & their winners! I have contacted all sponsors, so if you are a winner, be sure to keep an eye on your email inbox for an email from the maker of your prize to collect shipping info! 🙂

Erika Watkins

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Rainbow Mega Monster by Lu & Ed 

Tara Peterson

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Leprechaun Hair Clip or Headband (winner’s choice!) by Elle Bee Accessories

April Proveaux

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Green Baby Shoes by By Mindy

Tiffany

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Child Size Rainbow Clouche Hat by Knits for Love

Kashmir Campbell

Do something AWESOME today mug & 4 pack of cards by Big Hugs, Little Envelopes

Valerie Moore

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Monster Garland by Lisa’s Little Monsters

Heather Kallinger

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Custom Family Names Rainbow Heart by Selena Ashley Design

Holly Cothran

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St. Patrick’s Day Hair Clips by Three Little Snowflakes

Sarah Piccari

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Rainbow Adult Hat by Melli’s Yarn Works

Jessica McIlvenny

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Unicorn Pretend Play Mask by De Boop Shop 

PJ Halliwill

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Majestic AF mug by Rainy Day Geekery

Reina Trumpet

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Green St Patrick’s Day Monster by Pink Sprinkles Plush

Elizabeth Bloomquist

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Rainbow Stacking Toy by Outside Everywhere

Woohoo! Congratulations to all the winners! Yay! You guys are some lucky duckies and won some amazing prizes!

If you didn’t win this round – no worries!

You can still shop the sponsor’s online stores (all are linked under their pictures!) & I have another big giveaway (AND sale!!!!) coming up for my 7 year Envyversary in April! Can you believe it has been SEVEN years since I launched my online shop? It’s been a crazy, amazing, wildly wonderful ride, and I couldn’t have done it without you guys! So stay tuned for the huge 7 year celebration! Mucho smoocho!

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Handmade finds from around the web

Today, I’m bringing you a random assortment of cute handmade finds from around the web that I’m loving this week! These finds were just too fun to not share with the world!

Crochet Starfish by The Craft Penguin

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Dream Art Tree by True Image Jewelry

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Cascading Rainbow Heart Mobile by Baby Jives

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Angel Aura Crystal Pendant by Almond Eye Creations

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Time Flies Clock by Clay By Laura

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What is your latest favorite handmade goodies on the web? Share them with me in the comments!

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Teaching our kids to embrace their inner geek

IMG_8661 copy.JPGI have always been a weirdo.

From an early age, I have loved horror & sci-fi movies, monsters, magic, and make believe. I loved super heroes and villains, and fell in love with characters from books & TV shows.

And that is why I love any brand that encourages children to embrace their inner geek & explore their interests, and Deboop Shop is a favorite of mine! My son was playing with his masks earlier this week & I decided I needed to write up a post showcasing this brand’s radness! Ran by Kelly & Nell, a mother daughter team, they make play masks and more to encourage young children to pretend play as their favorite characters – from Doctor Who to Wonder Woman, from Minions to Hello Kitty inspired masks, they have something for every young (and young at heart!) geek to wear to their next Comic Con they attend.

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They also take custom requests and can design masks specific to your kiddo’s tastes – like my Mon-stor masks they designed, shown above! You can follow them on Facebook & Instagram to see more, or browse their shop, too. My son is a huge Doctor Who nerd, and I ordered him the Cyberman & 10th Doctor masks for Christmas when he was younger. Still a huge favorite toy & he and his bestie wore them to the KC Comic Con a few years ago! Having a collection of masks of characters he loves helped my son feel confident in his interests & share them with his friends – these masks inspired many hours of pretend play, dress up & role playing when my son was younger!

I think allowing dress up & pretend play at all ages teaches kids to embrace their interests, and to be confident in sharing their passions with others. ♥

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My son has quite a few in addition to his Doctor Who set & at 11 years old, actually still enjoys them! He & his friends still dress up in his Deboop Shop masks & capes from Halloween costumes of the past before Nerf wars & hide and seek championships. So whether you have toddlers or pre-teens, Kelly & Nell have masks for every age & stage of pretend play. I can’t wait until Zoey is a little older and I can order her all kinds of masks for dress up! ♥ I think I am definitely going to add this one to her dress up box:

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This post is in no way sponsored – just sharing some products I love from one parent to another! Pop over to their shop and check it out, and tell me your favorite mask in the comments!

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Monster Mash! Easy Peasy Monster Halloween Costumes & Accessories

This year, I had the honor of collaborating with Opposite of Far for a monster themed Halloween photo shoot done by the lovely Qiana K! Opposite of Far launched her Monster Masks, which are fun, colorful, and when paired with basics from Primary.com & monster trick or treat totes or stuffies from my shop – make the cutest simplistic monster costumes ever!

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Aren’t these little monsters the cutest you ever did see?! Hurry to place your monstrously awesome Halloween orders – it’s spooky how soon it will be here!

 

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Home schooling as a maker mama – it’s not easy, but I love it.

In years past, back to school was always a little hectic, but as a work from home monster making mom, it made it a little easier to get out the door in the mornings. We had our system – clothes laid out the night before, breakfast items on the counter, lunches packed & in the fridge ready to be grabbed on the way out the door.

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This year, like all other routines & just life in general since our move, is totally different. My son hated the public school he went to here in WNC last winter/spring. Here’s a quick example of just one of DOZENS of examples of my son’s horrendous short time in Haywood County schools last year: during a science discussion, the teacher told the class the Milky Way is NOT a galaxy, galaxies don’t exist. She told them there’s just one universe, and that’s the Milky Way. When my son tried to correct her by telling her, actually the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, one of at least one hundred billion of potential galaxies in outer space, he was reprimanded and given a silent lunch for “lying” & I received a note about how disrespectful he was. Oh, and first week of school, when I tried to ask for more challenging work for him because he had already learned what they were covering in first grade, she told me right in front of Gauge that he wasn’t as smart as I think he is, even though right before we moved from Missouri he was testing at 8-9th grade level in almost every subject in 4th grade… so it didn’t take much convincing when he asked me if he could be home schooled this year rather than go back to school in this district.

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So, we officially “started” home schooling July 1st. We started in the middle of summer because when the new baby gets here, we’ll be taking a week or two off to bond & adjust as a family. A little over two months “into” home schooling, we are finally starting to find a little balance & normalcy – though with this pregnancy nearing it’s end, it’s been a lot more difficult to balance this new life style, home schooling, running Lu & Ed, and growing a tiny human all at once. But we have found a few things that work really well and for any other maker mamas out there considering home schooling while running their biz,  cheers! You can do it! Here’s what has helped me balance lessons & making monsters!

wake up before the kid(s)

Usually way, way easier said that done. But thanks to baby brewing in my belly, most mornings I am up between 4-5am. It’s rough. And I won’t lie, a lot of times in the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to muster the energy  to get out of bed and do productive things. But some mornings I somehow find the spunk to roll out of bed, brew some coffee, soak up a few minutes of me time while I set intentions for the day, and then get some work done before Gauge wakes up (like right now! 6am & I’m up blogging! Go me!!!). You can read my previous post about making the most of summer mornings as a maker mama here – a lot of it is still applicable as a home schooling mom, too!

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create lots of opportunity for independent studies

This will vary based on the age of your child, but for us, after we work together through math, vocabulary words & science, my son has the rest of the day to work on reading, creative writing or studying history/social studies independently (right now we are covering Early American History, from the discovery of America to the Industrial Age, and I let him pick which time period to study in the evenings that week – right now he’s obsessed with the Revolutionary War!), which is usually done through reading historical stories/biographies, work books, or watching documentaries. While he is doing his independent studies, I get in some sewing! If he finishes up daily lessons while I’m still working, or before his dad gets home/dinner time, his options are educational programs, reading, art projects or outside play. This gives me about 4-6 hours a day to dedicate directly to my business. There’s a ton of ways to provide resources for independent study that allows you time to balance your handmade business – from work sheets to iPad apps, nature documentaries to free play with creative toys (Legos, blocks, fort building, marble mazes, obstacle courses, creating Rube Goldberg contraptions) or “recess” outside if you can work from a place where you can supervise your children!

make your creative business a priority

Home schooling while running a creative business from home means your kids are around you 24/7. It can be a little overwhelming at first adjusting to the new schedule and constant contact if in previous years, you’re child went to school outside the home. This is why it’s so important to set boundaries for you, your partner, and your child(ren). I made sure before we started my son knew that just because he was going to be home, didn’t mean he would 1) play video games all day & 2) have my undivided attention all day long, because I do have a business to run. So he knows during independent study time, to work through problems on his own, research & try to find the answers himself & we’ll review materials/lessons the next morning – so there’s no need to bust into my room while I’m sewing eleventy billion times to ask me questions about his current lessons. (Note: providing age appropriate study material with clear directions is essential to making independent study time, and therefore time for mama to make things, a success!)

get creative: utilize activities & classes

As moms, and makers, and creative business owners, we often feel as we have to do it all alone. You don’t! There’s so many amazing resources, both conventional and more creative, to utilize to make home schooling easier & more enjoyable.

Find your tribe. This was hard for me, because we couldn’t afford a co-op this year, but even if it’s just one other home schooling parent you can meet to have coffee with, chat about your day, share lesson time with or swap kids with for a day for a few hours to get some work done, find those people, love them, give them coffee and chocolate, and schedule a bunch of play dates! Finding a few great home schooling buddies (for both my son & I!) has proven to be the greatest home school aid. Taking time for social gatherings is essential for mental health, plus getting out of the house regularly keeps the creative juices flowing.

Consider outside specialized classes & use community resources. Not only does this take a load off of you if say, you aren’t feeling on par with current math or science standards, or your child wants to learn something you have no clue how to teach (like coding, sign language, Spanish or theater), there are many community resources that offer once a week classes for 1-6 hours a day that your child can participate in – which gives you a little more time to invest in your creative business! If you are in the WNC area near me, check out Elevate’s class list – they have a huge list of interests and subjects, from history & science to dance & parkour! Local zoos, museums & nature centers often have programs for home school students as well. And don’t forget to check your local library’s list of activities – most libraries have “after school” clubs for 1-3 hours a day, once a week. Ours has a Lego club that meets every Tuesday from 4-5:30, a Minecraft club, and a few other specialized interests clubs. Not only does specialized classes & community resources like these give your child a chance to socialize & explore new interests, you can bring your laptop & get some computer work done, or bring along your current hand sewing/crocheting/knitting projects to work on, while your kid enjoys their classes/clubs! This winter, my son is taking coding & Spanish classes. 🙂

teach your child(ren) about entrepreneurship

Having your kids home with you while you run a creative business is a great opportunity to teach them about commerce, budgeting, consumer math, graphs & charts, conversion rates, scheduling, money management, ROI (return on investment, AKA measurable data for an action & it’s corresponding reactions, like purchasing an ad on a blog & tracking traffic/sales that it generates to gauge how much value that action garnered) and most importantly – the value in hard work & dedication to making your dreams come true! Involve them in the process. Give them simple, age appropriate tasks to do to help make the functions of your creative business run more smoothly – my son helps me a bit each day with things like stuffing monster bits, pairing fabrics, sewing, cutting things out, packing orders, and doing postal runs. He also has learned a lot about conversion rates, profit/loss charts, income projections, marketing, photography, public relations & more. He’s always been an active part of my business, but this year I’m really showing him more of the functionalities & processes that go into running an ecommerce business & how he can apply those skills to other parts of his life.

accept that some days, you aren’t going to get it all done

At first I was completely, totally overwhelmed, and between trying to find a good rhythm for lessons & try to find time to sew while dealing with third trimester exhaustion, there was a lot of bad days. For instance, I like to sew first thing in the mornings – Gauge does better with his math first thing in the mornings, and it’s one subject he does need more supervision & guidance on. So I have had to sacrifice my most creative time to do my least favorite thing ever (ugh, math), which sometimes ruined an entire day for me creatively because it just saps my juju; but after a few weeks of this, settling into a new routine of sewing after lunch (while not as creatively charged) is still a routine capable of productivity. It just requires a bit more effort!

I know here in a few weeks when Baby Z gets here, that’s going to throw our entire system out the window and we’ll be starting from scratch again. And that’s okay, because I also know we’ll find our rhythm again (eventually). If you are considering embarking on a home school journey as a maker mama, stay flexible, don’t be afraid of adjusting your schedule time & again, and know that once you find what works for you & your child(ren), it gets easier to balance productivity for your business & lessons for your kids!

Any other maker mamas out there home schooling their kids?

I would love to hear your advice, opinions & thoughts on balancing it all, what works for you, and what concerns you may have about running a creative business while educating your child. Let’s discuss in the comments!