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Meet the Maker – Erin of Create Custom Critters

Today, I’m interviewing Erin of Create Custom Critters. She designs & sews sustainably made bedding children using fabric that is designs and printed in America with non-toxic, biodegradable inks & organic materials, as well as a line of baby clothes! I’m so excited to show off her amazing products & help you get to know her.

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First, tell us about yourself!

Most of my time and energy goes to my three kiddos. I have a 2 and half year old daughter and 8 month old twin boys. I live with my family in New York State and thrive on the fast pace that is associated with the area. I love hiking, DIY projects and continually learning and exploring.

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When did you first begin to create?

I have always loved trying different crafts and projects. It is so fun to explore different colors and textures. In the past I have tried painting, knitting and other needlework crafts before falling in love with sewing.
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Have you always worked in textiles?

Before starting CreateCustomCritters I spent 4 years working in a fabric shop. This gave me a lot of insight into different color and style trends. I also learned how quality of fabrics and manufacturing processes can greatly differ. That is why it is so important to me that I create an exceptional eco-friendly product.

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You create beautiful bedding sets for children – How did you discover that niche market?

Once I started sewing I quickly fell in love with making baby blankets. I find that they make such an adorably useful gift. It warms my heart to know my gift will provide years of comfort and warmth. It wasn’t too long before I had given a bunch blankets away as gifts to my friends and family. I soon decided to start selling baby blankets on Etsy and have grown greater than I ever first imagined! I have made a great effort to listen to my customers wants and needs. Almost every new item I have developed began with the desire to help a give a customer what they were look for. .

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What is your favorite thing to sew?

Hearts of Hope! I started Hearts of Hope Program after my own painfully emotional NICU experience. I decided I wanted to help and offer a free pair of fabric hearts to those parents enduring the NICU experience. Parents are able tuck the hearts against their skin to transfer their scent to the heart. The hearts are then placed alongside their baby leaving the familiar scent of mom or dad with their baby. My HOPE is that these hearts will bring comfort and healing to those enduring the NICU experience.

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Tell us about your tee shirt line – what inspired the venture into apparel from your traditional home decor item?

As a maker, I love to test and try new processes. Starting an apparel line has given my the opportunity to explore different design elements. I love pushing my abilities to new limits. I am now working to expand my apparel offerings to more products.

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You have small children at home and run a booming nursery bedding & apparel business – what is your best advice for maker moms trying to balance mothering toddlers & running a business? 

It takes a whole lot of structure,flexibility and grace. A clear plan allows me to dig deep and get quality work done in small increments of time. When my kids are sleeping that is my time to hustle and get the work done.

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How many quilts that you have made that you use in your own home?

None! As a maker, there are often too many creations to keep. Many of the things I make I either sell, give as customer gifts or baby shower gifts for friends and family. Though I have made blankets, curtains, upholstered furniture for our home.

What is your favorite sewing tool you just could not create without?

My sewing machine! I would be lost without it.

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What is your favorite kind of music to listen to while you create?

I get most of my work done while my kids sleep. It sounds lame, but most of the time I just enjoy the silence since my days are filled with chaotic noisy little ones. However, if I am in a singing mood my favorite playlist is energetic alternative 90 hits.

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As a mama maker, tell us what a work day looks like for you: 

My workflow is constantly adjusting as my kids grow and change. There’s a fluidity between work and home life and the two are often blended together.

 

It is so cool to meet & learn about fellow makers & mothers, and especially sustainably minded makers like myself! If you want to follow more of Erin’s adventures balancing motherhood with twins & being a maker, be sure to follow her on Instagram & Facebook! And don’t forget to pop over to her shop & check out all of her amazing work!

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Back to School GIVEAWAY – Winners Announced!

Happy September! Most everywhere in America is deep in the back to school trenches & settling into early morning routines, so I wanted to brighten up the season for everyone with a fun giveaway! Me and FOURTEEN other makers came together with fun prizes for this giveaway, perfect to surprise your kiddo with after school to brighten their day! This is one of the best prize line ups to date, so I am super excited for this giveaway and the joy it will bring 15 lucky mamas & kiddos, as there is one winner per prize!

Here’s all the official rules:

  • Giveaway is open from 12am 9/1 to 12:59pm 9/7
  • Winners will be drawn & posted 9/8
  • Winners are selected at random by Rafflecopter!
  • Giveaway is open world wide, where allowed, to entrants over the age of 18. Non-domestic winners must pay postage prior to their item being shipped

Like previous giveaways, you will earn entries by following these awesome makers on social media, visiting/following their shops, and you can even earn entries by sharing products from the stores to social media – you can do one blog post a day with products from each shop, share an item on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or even pin some items to Pinterest! Then just post the URL of your share into the giveaway widget for the entry to count!

Here is the prize line up and winners first names & last initial (where provided) – if you were a winner, keep an eye on your inbox for an email from the maker you won an item from to collect shipping info!

Surprise Medium Stuffed Monster by Lu & Ed – Tara P.

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Monster Mask by Opposite of Far – Heidi P

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One of a Kind Pair of Pants by Joyaltee – Jennifer D

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Plaid Ear Bear Beanie by Happy Creature Hats – Cari Simage1 (6)

4 Pack Hair Flowers by Bownanza Utah – Christine

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Pizza Cat Backpack Pin by Pretty Candy Pin Co – Rachael H

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4 Pack Rollerskate Crayons by Krazy Kool Krayons Beth H

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Wooden USA Art by Haven’s Place – Carmen M

teal map - Mandy Burch

Rainbow Bubble Gum Necklace by Viv & Olive – Deanna H

WHA1549 - Jodi Weil

Mermaid Lamp by Sandra G Designs – Anji M

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Fabric Doll by Practically Penelope – PJ H.

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Hungry Man Breakfast Set by Teela Sprinkles – Catherine B

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Trio of Back to School Cards by Big Hugs, Little Envelopes – Megh R

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Pair of Child Size Custom Painted Canvas Shoes by Heart & Soles – Katy C

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Forest Green Velvet Bow by Elle Bee Accessories – Michelle C

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How to set up product collections on the homepage of your custom Storenvy shop

One of the greatest things about Storenvy (besides being free!) is the insane amount of customization you can do to make your website look amazing with no HTML knowledge. And if you do have HTML or CSS knowledge, the possibilities are endless, because Storenvy gives you free range with it’s custom website builder!

Today, I’m doing a quick tutorial about turning on Collections, which turns your home page into a photo gallery, and buyers can just click over to each product category to shop! This is super easy peasy to do if all of your products are already sorted into collections by type of product or theme.

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Example of my shop with Collections feature turned on

First, you will need to create images sized appropriately for the collection images. They will need to be 210×315. This is the most time intensive part of the entire process. You want to make sure the images you select best represent your brand and that product line, fit in with the branding & colors of your website & display the products fully.

Then, you will go to Admin > Products >Collections, and upload each image to the appropriate collection, like so.

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Then, you will go to Admin > Storefront > Theme and scroll down towards the bottom of quick customization options, until you see “Featured Collection”. Select “None”, hit save & ta-da – you’ve done it!

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Pop over to your custom website through Storenvy & check it out. You may find you need to tweak some images for sizing.

 

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Meet the Maker: Marie of Feeding Pickles

Today, I’m smiling ear to ear as I introduce you guys to Marie of Feeding Pickle! She makes the most innovative fabric postcards & other mixed medium sewn goodies, and as I was interviewing her I fell in love with her whimsical, wild soul personality & kind heart with a deep love of family and creativity. I hope you enjoy getting to know Marie as much a I did!
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Hi Marie! First, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
I was the kid who always said I would be an artist when I grew up.  I devoured art classes at our local art center, and my parents provided opportunities to take classes, inhale art museums, enter contests, supply me with all the paints, pastels, paper, glue, scissors, needles, fabric, yarn, books, and patterns and the freedom to create.  Weirdly enough, I ended up spending more time practicing violin in my formative years, even pursuing music in college.  But as much as I found my voice in music, I still couldn’t put down the knitting needles or the thrill of creating whatever I dreamt up with the next bolt of tantalizing fabric calling my name.
 
Fast forward to marriage and our first child.  With a nickname of “Pickle,” feeding her creativity was something I could hard wait to begin when she was born.  I had paintbrushes in her little chubby hands as soon as she could swipe them across Christmas ornaments for the grandparents.  Now, six children later, we still “do and make things that feed creativity” in each of the Pickles’ own unique way every day.
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How long ago were you bit by the creative bug?
Growing up where creative supplies and tools and pieces were always at my disposal, I don’t remember life before that bite!  Something was always calling to be created!  Even from early on, I had a strong innate drive to make things that were useful, but with an extra artistic flair.  If it could be made, it could be made creatively, I believed.  Little me, in my mussed-up hair and mismatched shirt and knitted vest, proudly proved this one day with a loaf of bread, baked in the shape of a turtle.  That was where I started.
 
What got you into sewing and experimenting with textiles?
I don’t remember a moment in my life without a humming sewing machine in the background.  My mom sewed the majority of my clothes, doll clothes, and so many toys and home items when I was young.  My grandmother and great-grandfather were fiber artists as well in the knitting and crocheting realm.  I sewed my first skirt when I was about seven.  Knitting was what kept my hands busy while reading my high-school textbooks.  In college, I fell in love with a high tenor and we married.  As he directed choirs and led music in several churches, I became the costume lady and took on the challenge of creating my own patterns for whatever the children’s choir drama needed.  A full lobster costume?  Bring on that layered tail design!  Full body sunshine or flowers?  Plant the seed, and I’ll make it grow!  Acorns?  Oh!  The adorable little caps!  I couldn’t wait to get out my tracing paper and begin!  (And by tracing paper, I mean recycled music copy paper.)  Most of my pattern designing experience happened during this time and further honed my sewing skills.  I love to feel the line of stitching on fabric and see the colors combine.  I love the longevity of a well-made fabric item.  I love creating practical items from scratch, making them over from a new perspective, and infusing them with originality.
 
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Your fabric postcards are so unique!  How did this idea come about?
I love mail.  It’s that plain and simple.  My husband and I wrote letters during our long-distance dating phase post-college.  My great-grandfather, even though he lived nearby, took the time to mail thank you notes to me for the tiniest little gifts I gave him, and my grandmother would send postcards from her travels all over the United States.  For reasons like these, mail has always been dear to my heart.  I just adore knowing someone will get to open their mailbox and find a tiny piece of my heart for them in there.
 
When I found an old crafting book with the idea of scrap fabrics being crazy quilted into a postcard, I was smitten with the concept!  The seed has always been there for mail–special mail that would stand out and convey the heart of the sender.  It took me a few years before I actually wrapped my brain around where I wanted to go with the idea, but the challenge was accepted.  I wanted to make fabric postcards that would embrace the endearing heritage of classic postal mail, with a breath of fresh, new contemporary life.  Like I said before, if it can be made, it can be made creatively!  That idea thrived on the idea of fabric postcards!
 
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I love the idea of fabric postcards traveling through the mail—what sort of research went into this design to figure out how to mail them?
I love when people ask this!  Fabric with a stamp on it masquerading as regular mail sounds so….intriguing!  It stops us in the tracks of normality:  “For real?!”  (I hear it a lot.)  “I can MAIL this?!”  I had seen beach balls and flip flops and other crazy things get delivered by the postal service.  I knew that what could be mailed was pretty broad, and suddenly, a card made out of fabric instead of paper didn’t sound nearly so far fetched.
 
Beginning with the USPS website, I researched size and weight requirements.  I brought in samples and discussed with the postal clerk about the use of the clear plastic envelopes to mail the postcards (I loved that the clear envelopes allow all who see them on their mail journey to also enjoy art in unexpected places!) and discussed the need for hand stamping them there.  The final step, of course, was the maiden voyage to test mail some postcards to friends.  And them some more.  And more!   The response is always the same delight.  It was a winner.
 
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Do you have a ton of mixed media textile art throughout your house?
Do all the projects in process count?!  Ha! I think I could be described as “mostly minimalist” (as minimalist as I can be with eight people and all of our basic necessities under one roof), and so my home décor is minimal.  But when I stop and take a look around there’s…
–an antique tennis racquet woven through with ribbon bits and hung on the wall
–a fabric “family portrait” of sorts, of a birds on a branch made from our life’s fabric scraps
–the handknitted throw blanket that gets drug around and used for making tents as much as for making us warm
–Oh yeah, the crocheted basket I made out of t-shirts, and ironically holding more t-shirts waiting for a re-vamp in life
–my knitted bag by the door, of wool yarn dyed with Kool-Aid by all the Pickles
–and, of course, the Pickles’ artwork dispersed throughout our home.
 
How often do you mail out your own fabric postcards to friends and family?
Honestly, not enough!!  When a moment strikes when I know someone is especially hurting, when I want to thank them in a super special way, or when I want them to know they were specifically on my mind that day, a postcard gets addressed and taken to the post office!  I still write paper letters, but fabric postcards punctuate those mailings.  There can’t be enough happy mail being shared in the world, of all fibers and textures!
 
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As a textile artist with a stunningly unique product idea, how do you handle copy cats/protect your product’s integrity from mimicry?
Here’s the funny thing about my business:  I genuinely hope to inspire others to also be creative, to dive into all the stuffs, to make something!  Anything!  If making fabric postcards to spread more joy in this world looks like something they want to do, I’m absolutely going to cheer for them!  Just like there are many jewelry designers out there, each with their own flair and level of product quality, there are more fabric postcard designers out there as well, each speaking to a specific style trend and making their people smile.  Obviously, I do love my own personal designs; they’re my signature, and stealing them would not be cool.
 
Fabric postcards are somewhat complicated in their own right—to find the materials that give them huggable softness, yet stability for writing, and of course they require a tough yet tender persona to survive the postal system trek and still deliver a smile.  Like any product, time and practice and research are needed to offer a quality product.
 
At the end of the day, I really love creating together.  The world has more than enough room for more creative people!  Can you imagine how fun it would be to see the whole mail system suddenly become flooded with a vast array of inspiring, encouraging, and absolutely unique mail, with fabric postcards at the helm?!  You better believe that I’d be over here with stickers on my feet cheering them on!  …oh wait, I haven’t gotten to the part about stickers yet have I?  I can explain that in a bit!
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As a mother and a maker, how do you balance your days?
“Doing and making things that feed creativity” is not just the tagline of the business; it is the lifeline of our family.  Blending family into the making process is normal here.  Daily tasks get an ounce of “creative” injected into them.   With Feeding Pickle Ltd, the mommy and the maker get to be one cohesive unit.  While I create products for the business, there is at least one Pickle at my elbow, creating something of their own design.  Most of the business’ “thinking work” gets saved for after Pickle bedtime hours so that I can hone in and focus.
 
From turtle bread to lobster tails to making cards made of fabric, the mom and the maker are not at odds, but rather in harmony.  They are not separate directions, just one teeter-totter I find myself on.  And sure, I have fallen off one end or the other occasionally.  But coming up laughing or having a little cry never hurt, and I get back up and keep going with what I’ve learned and I try again.
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What advice do you have for mothers of young children who want to pursue a creative business?
My Pickles are a constant flow of “What if…?” questions.  And usually I respond, “Well, what if?!”  Meaning, let’s pursue that thought and find out!
 
One Pickle in particular always asks, “How did you get so good at…?”  Now that question is a joke.  She rolls her eyes now when it pops out of her mouth and laughs, “Oh yeah, you’re going to say ‘practice,’ aren’t you?!”  I try to keep all the creative tools available for them to use at their leisure and when inspiration strikes.  The Pickles will practice most what they love.  And in time they will begin to make something that stands above the rest.
 
My take on feeding their entrepreneurship it is this:  Walk the road with them.  Set an example of digging deep and trying things!  Help them steer when needed and be honest about what you learn in your own business.  Help them learn to be honest about their strengths and to recognize areas that can be strengthened.  Help them find sources for more research to further grow them in their interests.  Let them learn along with you.  They learn best by watching how we handle our own businesses, clients, and any hurdles we face and then they build off of what we have learned.  Be an honest example for them, and watch where they go with it.
 
Oh and about all those available creative tools.  Yeah.  Word to the wise—those stickers I mentioned earlier?  Be prepared to find them floating around the bathtub.  I regularly fish them out of the bath water as they come off my feet at the end of the day there.  Because the supplies were available, they played all through the day with them, and assuredly some pieces are left about and pop up again in the most unexpected places.  Embrace the maker lifestyle.
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Tell us about a “work day” in your life
It usually starts and ends and is filled in the middle by the littlest gherkin nursing. And Pickles doing school, and Pickles doing play, and me grabbing moments between checking school books/doing field trips to update the business’ social media or finish paperwork.  Or maybe sewing as many seams as I can while they practice their musical instruments.  Most of the bulk of sewing happens in the evening hours and weekends.  Usually.  Mostly.  Sorta.  Every now and then there’s a sew-a-thon for a big order to fill.  Oh, there’s also an interjection at least twenty times a day of a Pickle asking for a piece of paper (literally just happened as I typed that sentence—I can’t make this stuff up!).  Then a request for a sketch of a dog.  Then a doodle of a cat and mouse.  Then the Pink Panther.  And eventually she returns with a melt-my-heart doodle of her own octopus.
 
Oh, oops—rabbit trail.  Yes, my days have a lot of those too.  I’m a mom and a maker.  It’s about as random as you might expect it to be.
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How do you take your coffee?
Plain, boring, and black.  Coffee is one thing I don’t feel the need to reinvent!  Unless I can find some cream…
 
And my final question:
Mountains or Beach?
Beach.  The secluded rustic type.  Just my husband, our Pickles, and me soaking up the water and ocean breeze.
Isn’t Marie just the sweetest!? If you loved getting to know this beautiful mama & maker, please be sure to visit her shop & snag a product handmade with love by Marie to support her creative business. You can also follow her on Facebook & Instagram and say hi!
Want to be featured in a Meet the Maker showcase? Email me at cody@luanded.com!
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What Mon-stors are Made From: Stop! It’s Snuggie Time!

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Am I alone in thinking that Snuggies are absolutely fabulous, if quite impractical if you aren’t 6’5″? I think part of the reason I adore them so much is because I frequently get these in donations & find them at salvage centers and I can make sooooo many Mon-stor toy storage bags & stuffed monster toys from them! Today, I’m showing off a few from a recent upcycle of this beautiful blue Snuggie!

To make Mon-stors, I also use things like curtains, sheets, pajama pants, dresses or skirts for the lining. Here, I used this curtain that had a some stains from bleach splashing it.

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I combined those two, to make this huge Mon-stor toy storage bag! (He’s still available in my shop, too!) My big toy storage bags fit a LOT of toys – 9 Build-a-Bear sized stuffed toys, almost an entire load of laundry, 11 pairs of jeans, or a butt load of MegaBlocks, haha! They are ideal toy storage for play rooms or kid’s rooms, or make great hampers for pre-teens! Smaller children especially love “feeding” their Mon-stor toys – it makes cleaning up fun!

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Now, like I mentioned above, I can usually make a LOT from an adult sized Snuggie – here are two other Mon-stors I made! This one is lined with vintage fabric that was donated to me – it was going to get thrown into a box on the curb for the garbage man, and a friend scooped that box up & brought it to me instead!

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This one is also lined with some vintage material – a table cloth another person’s grandmother was going to throw out, but they rescued and put in my hands! This small Mon-stor toy bag is also available in my shop!

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I also made a few stuffed monster toys from this awesome, vibrant blue, but unfortunately it was right before The Big Crafty event I did in July in Asheville, so I sold a  lot of them before I snapped photos because of the pre-show chaos! I did snap this photo on the 4th of July, which has two of the four or five I made in it! I can’t remember exactly how many I was able to squish out of that Snuggie.

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If I were pressed to say, I may say that Snuggies are my favorite textile discard to work with. Unfortunately, they were a “trend” item and a TON of people bought them during the hype… to later throw them into donation bins or worse, just into the trash bin. But due their popularity, I do receive them in donations or find them at salvage centers frequently, often in mostly usable condition. If they are stained or worn out in places, I just cut around the stains and use those bits for dicing into stuffing.

Saving the world – one monster at a time!

 

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3 Ways to Market your Online Shop – Offline

I work directly with a lot of makers, and often they are struggling to get their online shop found. They make Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, start blogs, and even join eleventy million groups for entrepreneurs, buying and selling, and all things crafty – but they still struggle to drive traffic to their online store.

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Some of the most impactful things I have done to grow Lu & Ed online has nothing to do with wi-fi, computers, or social media. Those things were done outside of my home, away from my laptop & face to face with other humans – and I want to share some ways you can leverage offline marketing to grow your online shop, too!

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Vendor Events

Craft shows, exhibitor events, markets, pop up shops, even weekly farmer’s markets – setting up shop for local in-person sales is a HUGE way to grow your brand in an affordable way while generating revenue.

There is typically a cost involved with setting up – the booth fee or vendor fee. Keep in mind, the higher the price, while intimidating, typically means the event is better promoted, in a good venue with lots of traffic, and brings in higher quality wares which means established sellers with wide audiences are most likely the vendors. The better the vendors, the better the event, so a higher cost is typically a really good thing and should not deter you from trying an event.

In order for in-person events to be successful, you need to have a visually appealing display, which can also involve costs to get props to properly display your wares, but these are tax deductible and you will use them for DOZENS of events so the ROI is very high on them! But before you head to IKEA and whip out the check book, keep in mind: Most displays for craft shows can be found at thrift stores or garage sales for very cheap, often less than $10, and can be spiffied right up with a coat of paint that matches your brand colors & given a new life as your display. My entire display cost less than $30! My table cloths are colorful sheets I found for less than $1 each, my tables were gifts from family, the shutters and shelves and racks all cost less than $5 total. So I cannot recommend visiting various thrift shops locally to find pieces to tie into your displays!

Ready to learn more about events? Read my article 20 Tips for Craft Shows to get more info on what you can do to make an event a success, including scouting events, building your display and what to take with you on the day of the event!

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Get Involved in your Community

Join your local small business association, join a local moms group, teach a class at your local library or community center, join a yoga class, go to a weekly event a venue near you hosts. Get out of your house, get offline and go meet real people in your area.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being active locally to grow your online business. I’m in no way advocating telling everyone you meet about your business – please, don’t.

I’m advocating creating meaningful connections within your community. Get active. Meet people. Make authentic connections with other humans. Find people you relate to & get to know them – strike up conversations with people at the coffee house, volunteer at the animal shelter, join a class at your local college doing something you love, go to yoga in the park,. Find something you love to do, and connect with other people who love to do that as well.

For instance, I started a moms group here. I am also a member of a local home school group for my son. This has been an invaluable resource for me. Connecting with moms gives me a sense of belonging, helps me decompress when my online shop stuff stress me out – but also, spending time with people who happen to be my target audience has brought me numerous sales & even a wholesale opportunity from play date acquaintances and word of mouth! In any group setting the “what do you do” question comes up – and if you have perfected your elevator pitch, that is when you can create ties within the community that will revibrate points of contact back to you.

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The Spider Web Affect

Think of community involvement like a spiderweb. You are at the center of it, and every connection you make is a string that works to the outer circle. All of the connecting strings are people that they know, that knows someone else, that knows someone else. Every string you create, the bigger your web gets. Every time you pluck a string (initialize discussion about your online shop, products or what you do with a connection) the entire web connected to that string vibrates. It creates a ripple effect, with more and more people learning about your online shop & what you do through word of mouth and referrals.

Word of mouth is still considered one of the most valuable forms of marketing, and you can tap into that goldmine by becoming active in your local community & making authentic connections with other humans. This is not about telling people about your business. This is about creating a real connection, maybe even making friends, referring people to the connections you make, and strengthening community ties! A rising tide lifts all ships, and all that!

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Teach or Volunteer

One of the best ways to get your business out there is to share it! Here are some examples of how to use your trade skills to grow your online business while generating revenue or donating your time:

Jewelry makers: teach a simple workshop teaching Girl Scouts or home school children to make bracelets. Send the finished works home in bags with a coupon for your shop!

Potters: have a thumb print ornament making work shop. Have your other items out on display and let people know that they are available for purchase, or say maybe if they make a purchase they can make a second ornament for free. Get creative!

Toy makers: host an art hour for children at your local library. Put together goodie bags for the moms with your business info & a coupon, perhaps a small sample.

Artists: offer a wine & painting/creating session for women, and have an art print sale going during the event!

Fiber arts: offer basic skill classes at your local community center, and have finished products available for sale. In everyone’s kits, include promotional materials for your shops.

Clothing: put together a “party” at a local venue where people can shop your goods, try them on, and receive a swag bag with jewelry, gift cards, etc in it from local or other handmade businesses. Make it a fancy, exclusive event like those legging parties (you know the ones!) with food, fun & best of all, YOUR clothing! This would be a great way to collaborate with other local businesses to borrow their venue – maybe a jewelry boutique or a winery would be willing to let you host a party at their establishment and market it to their customer base.

Homework: set goals today!

Don’t put it off! Set some goals today – make a list of things you think you would like to do to grow your business offline. Then research ways to make those a reality, and start making some phone calls, turning in show applications or signing up for local events!

I would love to hear from you in the comments – how do you feel about growing your online business offline? Does it make your uncomfortable, or is it something that you are excited to try? If you already are active offline, share how in the comments, too!

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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!