makers

Meet the Maker: Laura of White Willow Wearables – Fashionable Geeky Goodness!

I am so excited to introduce my amazing readers to creative fiber artist Laura Clark! She creates knitwear for fandom lovers – a way for you to stay stylish while flying your geek flag high! So let’s dig in and get to know the maker and mother behind White Willow Wearables!

The Baby Buddy Nursing Pillow

Photo Credit: Michelle Wells Photography

 

Tell us a bit about yourself!

I live in Calgary (Alberta Canada), I have one daughter who turned 7 months September 1st. My hobbies include knitting, reading and going for walks with my husband. This is kind of my side gig, I’m a graphic designer by trade and have a small business for that as well since I don’t plan on going back to work outside the home once my mat leave is up in December. I would love to be in a place where I’ve got enough patterns designed that it’s a passive income I don’t have to worry/think about as well as doing the occasional custom/made to order piece. I enjoy working but not going to work if that makes sense haha. I like having control over my time.

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Photo Credit: Logee Photo
A lot of your creations are fandom inspired, and I love that! Do you find that it helps set you apart from other knitwear designers, or that your audience is significantly different from other knitwear designers?

Haha, fun fact about being fandom inspired in my work: I thought it was a great niche to get into but it turns out that for markets it’s actually too niche. I haven’t had much luck at markets the past couple years which is partly why I expanded to more “generic” looking pieces that are named for things. So while yes it does set me apart I don’t think my audience differs too much from other knitwear designers. People have varied interests and we’re in a time when I’m on the older end (32) of the Harry Potter Fandom and we’re having kids that we want to pass on our love of things pop culture on to.
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Since you take a lot of inspiration from fandoms, I assume you have a love for geekery! What are your favorite TV shows/games/genres?

I do have a love of geekery, and it’s expansive. Favorite TV shows (some that I have watched multiple times) would be Buffy/Angel, Brooklyn 99, The Office (I have plans to re-create one of Pam’s cardigans), Gilmore Girls, Supernatural, Doctor Who and Firefly (and therefore Serenity). Games…I enjoy Sushi Go, Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan and the occasional game of Risk. Genres would be fantasy/sci fi mostly, but comedy, and pretty much anything that’s not horror.

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As a mother and a maker, how do you balance running a creative business without getting burned out or overwhelmed? 

Well I think not being too busy in my business helps. Like not doing markets this year and any deadlines I have are my own so I’m not having to get stuff out for other people. As much as it would be great to have yarn support, I watch one of my close friends deal with the deadlines she has and for me with a baby that would be more pressure then I would want. Also, my daughter is a very easy baby. She has been sleeping well since the get go and wasn’t ever prone to colic or anything like that. So I’m well rested and can get stuff done while she naps. My husband is a great support system for me as well.

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What is your best organizational tips for keeping your yarn intact with a small child around? 
Ah yes, yarn and the small child. We’ve got some of those 2×4 cubby cabinet things from Ikea and my yarn is separated between stock (stuff I sell on my Etsy site) and non-stock (personal projects/stuff for patterns I want to design). When she wasn’t standing it was perfect but she’s starting to pull herself up now so yesterday I bought a couple of the boxes that fit into the cubbies for the lower shelves so she can’t pull individual strands or balls out. Once my stash goes down a bit it will be easier as I won’t have to fill as many of them with yarn.

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What is your favorite self care habits to keep your identity as a woman now that you are also a mother?


 I shower regularly, cause when my hair gets greasy I feel like crap so I make sure to shower when she’s napping. That way I can also guarantee some time to myself. I wear makeup almost daily too, and since it’s  because I want to and it’s not that I feel like I have to, I feel more like myself. Also I go to a knit night once a week. I used to bring her so the ladies would get some baby time, but now that she’s mobile it would be more difficult plus my husband likes his daddy daughter time and I get my own time with adults without having to worry about her.

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What does a work day look like for you, with a small babe? 

I start my day with yoga, I’m doing the 30 days of yoga with Adrienne right now, then it’s breakfast for my daughter and coffee for me. Then while she takes a small nap I have my breakfast and go through emails/notifications. I do my household stuff the rest of the morning while she just hangs out/plays/tries to get into everything. After lunch it is another (longer) nap for her and I do some design work/work on my Pinterest board for my knitting or work on the pattern I’m designing at the moment. Once she wakes up from her nap I feed her a snack and we go for a walk around the neighborhood (which will be coming to and end soon since winter is coming and people don’t shovel their sidewalks) to get some exercise and fresh air. She plays for a bit after we’re back then it’s either snack time or dinner for her and while she’s playing I’m usually knitting while watching her. She might have another nap, nap quantity is very much a day to day thing, but my husband will come home from work and make our dinner (I’m lucky I know) and we’ll eat then not too long after it’s bedtime for her. I’ll knit the rest of the evening usually while we watch TV or a movie together.

Go visit Laura on Facebook and Instagram & be sure to check out her shop!

makers

Meet the Maker: Candy of Bones and Guts

Today, we’re getting to know the creative maker and new mama behind the gothic inspired shop Bones and Guts! So excited to introduce all of you to Candy & her vibrant shop!

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First off, let’s get to know you a little! Tell us a bit about YOU!

I am still that goth girl sporting black lipstick, and having a love for things that people might find “too dark” or a bit strange. Don’t let my exterior fool you, though! I am a huge hippie at heart, and also a pretty big weirdo (okay, a dork!). Life is an adventure for me, and I try to make the most of it at all times. However, a big part of me that I have worked in my 28 years to overcome is my anxiety disorder and depression. I can honestly say, I am very proud of how hard I have worked to be fully functioning and able to pull myself out of dark times. When I was a child, I had panic attacks quite regularly, and now I still have them, but quite random and far in between. If you’re reading this and struggle with mental illness, I hope you find what works for you, and don’t let it define you.

When I was 22 I met the man of my dreams who happened to be my new next door neighbor. At that time I was in college working on my second degree in Entrepreneurship (my first degree was in Merchandised Project Development from FIDM), and I was a bit lost with where my life would go. My now husband became my best friend instantly, and we were married two years later.

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Our wedding was a fairy tale literally! I had rainbow hair and fairy wings! It was a wonderful day, and two years after that we had a baby boy. I absolutely love being a mother, and can’t imagine my life without him. It is wonderful seeing him grow and seeing my husband become a wonderful father. I am definitely not your typical mom. Being naturally weird has its benefits to parenting. For one, children do some strange things, and I am all for encouraging them or participating. With my tattoos, and when my hair is dyed, I guess I don’t fit the mold of what a mother is expected to look like, or at least what it used to look like.

Where are you located?

I have always lived in Southern California until this year – I will be an Oregonian! The hubby and I will be packing up our three dogs (our first children!), and our son to a new home!

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How long have you been painting? How long have you sold your painted creations?

I have been painting for as long as I can remember. Around six years ago, I wanted to start selling my art, and see if anyone would buy it. I used to only paint on canvas then, and still do occasionally. I wouldn’t say that right away it was a business. it definitely took some time for me to decide that I wanted it to be a serious venture. My love for art led me to want to build my business around what I could create and it is a full-time business (besides my other full-time career as a mother). It has been my dream come true to be able to work from home on what I love and see other people ecstatic with what I make.

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What inspires your art?

My aesthetic is quite eclectic, so it’s no surprise that my inspirations are surrounded by many different things. My fondness for nature is more than just a passing appreciation, and by the many art pieces I have created it is pretty apparent. I sort of stem the majority of inspiration around it and put my own perspective on it. For instance, I love mythical creatures and adding whimsical nature elements into it. Some other things that inspire me include gothic art and literature, bohemian styles, other cultures, and many different works of literature.

 
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Your shop was open before you became a mother. Did becoming a mother affect how you ran your business, or alter your art style in any way?
Becoming a mother has certainly changed a lot. My first concern was for his safety, and since my shop made a lot of beaded jewelry that I made myself, I decided to stop making necklaces with them. It is much simpler now but works out because the main focus is more on the painting. Selling my art was considered to be my full-time gig, and now as a mother of a one-year-old, I definitely feel like I am a mother first. Don’t get me wrong I am never late on orders or responding to customers, but he needs me more. He does occasionally try to help me paint, and I hand him a paintbrush to play with. I’m still trying to find the work-life balance everyone keeps talking about, and I’m sure it will come soon where I have more of a harmonious flow, but for now, I am okay with it being a bit muddled.
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Who has been your biggest cheerleader since embarking on your creative journey?

My husband has always been my biggest cheerleader. He pushed me to start the business, and that he would be there with me to help. He has stood by his promise, and always encourages me to push more. He is an amazing man and best friend.

 
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What has been the most difficult hurdle you faced since launching your small business?
If you have ever run a business, you know how many ups and downs it can have. It can be quite heartbreaking at times because you put so much effort, late nights, and being all consumed in it, and there is no guarantee that it will be enough. My main hurdles in trying to grow my business have definitely revolved around getting my business out there to the right customers. As I spoke of before, my anxiety can be a real b*tch (hope that’s okay for me to say). Sometimes it seems like a business now is a popularity contest, and if you don’t have plenty of friends who will share or comment on your products all you get is crickets. It’s hard for me to be vulnerable with what I’ve created and pushed it in other people’s face that they need it. I know it is something I will always be working on, or at least networking to get support from fellow artists.
 
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What does success mean for you?

Success to me is really two concepts. Stability, and passion. If I can pay my bills, and have enough to still travel, or have some fun with my family that is amazing! Now if I can keep my passion for it and have that stability, that is success to me.

 
You have a really interesting shop name, tell me more about it!
A lot of people ask me about my shop name. Since I was a kid I always knew I wanted to run a business, but not until high school did I think of the name. Bones & Guts comes from a phrase I would say to people I loved. I would say, “I love your bones and guts.” See, it’s not that scary, right? I wanted to use it as a shop name since a business is a labor of love, and a way to tell my customers and supporters the love I have for them for helping me make my dreams come true.
 
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While we’re talking about names, how did you choose your child’s name?
My son is a little over a year and is the perfect unicorn, faery Prince, and sometimes a monster that anyone could have hoped for. My husband and I went to Ireland back in 2016. It was an amazing trip, and when we returned I realized that the trip was so much fun that I came back pregnant. Our son’s name is inspired by Irish names and my love for rain, which is why we named him Rainn.
 
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What kind of music do you listen to?
I am really into metal, alternative rock, punk, folk music, some dubstep, and random songs in other genres as well. Some of my favorite bands are Avenged Sevenfold, Atreyu, Awolnation, 21 Pilots, Meg Myers, and Mumford and Sons. I’m sure I have a ton more that at this moment I can’t think of.
 
What are your favorite ways to unwind & keep your identity as a mother?

Let’s be honest being a parent, a wife, and a business owner can sometimes feel overwhelming. I’m glad I have several hobbies. Some I like to share with others, and some I need some me time for. If you can imagine the one thing that makes you want to do a happy dance when you get to do it, well, reading books would be mine. Reading is a huge passion of mine, and writing is as well. I suppose my love for reading caused me to want to write at an early age. I started writing poetry first, and now I hope to have a second career of being an author one day. I have self published one book, but I hope to get published by a company in the future. I also love nature, and hiking to be close to it! It calms my very being and is one reason why we are leaving California. I need trees around me and not just palm trees! Of course, art, more specifically painting, is a love of mine. It’s more than a hobby for me especially now that my business is just that. My love for art led me to want to build my business around what I could create and it is a full-time business (besides my other full-time career as a mother). It has been my dream come true to be able to work from home on what I love and see other people ecstatic with what I make.

Be sure to check out Candy’s store Bones and Guts, and give her a follow on Facebook & Instagram!

 

Business, marketing

Community over Competition – Low Cost, Effective Marketing for Makers – Lu & Ed Swag Bags

If you are interested in applying to be a part of Lu & Ed Swag Bags, hop over here and fill out this short form! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at cody@luanded.com.

As an owner of handmade business, I am always looking for creative ways to reward my customers for supporting my dream and allowing me to stay home with my young children. As an advocate for the handmade community, I’m always looking for ways to introduce people to shops I love. So, several years ago, the Lu & Ed Swag Bag program was born! If you have ordered from my shop in the last 6 years or so, you probably received a sweet little swag bag with your order, full of coupons & samples from other small shops, like the ones shown below.

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I’m always looking for new shops to collaborate with, and so I wanted to talk about the program’s benefits, effectiveness & perks of sponsoring the Lu & Ed Swag Bag program.

If you’re just discovering Lu & Ed and aren’t sure about my reputation – hi! My business has been featured in Parents Magazine, on Buzzfeed, in top parenting blogs around the world including Hello Wonderful, Mindful Mavericks, Destination Nursery, Punky Moms  and more! I’ve been making monsters for almost 9 years and have a highly engaged audience that frequently makes purchases from the swag bags!

It sounds a little strange, right? Send me your products to send to my customers? I was worried it might, but I know for a fact putting products right into the hands of your target audience works. Here are a few real life examples:

  • I won a giveaway The Gnarly Whale Shop had 6 years ago, and after trying their lip balm from that giveaway, I became a loyal customer. I exclusively used their vegan lip balms and shampoos for years, thanks to that one sample lip balm!
  • I recently got a swag bag from Mommy Con, which had a sample of a face wash & lotion in it. We now use that brand exclusively for my son, because it is the only face wash that helps with his break outs!
  • I was recently drawn to test a product for Mandelin Naturals. Long story short, I just spent $40 in her shop & my mom now exclusively uses their soap, rollers and lip balms as well.

For further testimony directly regarding working with Lu & Ed, I have heard from people who won prizes in my multi-vendor giveaways I’ve held on my blog over the years who have emailed me to tell me that they purchased from the vendors many times after receiving a prize from them.

A lot of Lu & Ed Swag Bag participants receive multiple sales from the bags + some makers have gotten up to $1000 total combined first wholesale orders with repeat orders from participating in the bags over the years! Most makers participate in 2-5 rounds of the swag bags because the ROI is so high. Yay!

In addition to purchases through the bags, a lot of buyers show off their swag on social media, tagging the sponsors, which in turn offers even more exposure from the bags!

Participating in the swag bags is low cost, direct, effective marketing that isn’t costly and uncertain, like online ads, and has a much higher ROI (return on investment).

How are they so effective? Being a maker with a tiny budget for marketing services myself, I knew from the start that I wanted to make this program truly beneficial to swag bag sponsors as possible, and in doing so, I only accept swag sponsors that I know my customers would adore so that everyone will benefit greatly from it. Our target audiences need to be similar in order for the samples to convert into purchases. I have spent almost a decade getting to know my amazing customers & what they like, so I only accept swag for kids,  parents & women that fall in line with sustainable, alternative brand.

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For my first initial bags, I received items from hair clips made with upcycled fabrics, eco-friendly greeting cards and bookmarks to coupons for 30% off for over ten brands for the trial bags. As the first few swag bags went out, I remember that I was a so nervous – I really wanted my customers to enjoy this extra reward and I hoped that each artist involved would benefit immensely from it. As the first bags arrived to my customers, I received instant feedback – people loved them and adored the products from the sponsors! Armed with newly inflated confidence, I set about collecting applications for round two of the swag bags – and I have now sent out swag bags with samples and coupons from over 250 different makers!

I *wish* I could do the service for free but the bags add about a half pound to every order, which greatly increases shipping costs, so I charge $5 per 25 items (or $5 per 50 art prints, as they are much lighter) though I do not make money & still lose quite a bit of profit in shipping fees, assembling the bags & in time spent communicating with sponsors, promoting the makers on social media, etc. but it is a labor of love and I adore using my established small business to help other makers grow their business!

As I have developed and refined this program, I have learned a lot about the handmade community and it’s unique needs – especially that it can be really difficult for niche shops to find effective ways to get their products in front of new consumers, and I want to bridge that gap. I want to help make it easier for like-minded businesses to be discovered and loved the way they should be for their unique offerings! I am excited to see where this swag bag program goes and how people benefit from it!

If you are interested in applying to be a part of Lu & Ed Swag Bags, hop over here and fill out this short form! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at cody@luanded.com.

makers, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker: Mindy of Milkweed Baby – Creator of the cutest high fashion baby shoes & teething accessories!

As a mother to a preteen AND a baby, I can honestly say it is super exciting to see how much the children’s fashion industry has evolved since my son was a baby/toddler! There is still a huge fast fashion market, but you can also build a lasting wardrobe for your child that is fun, fashionable & ethical through independent designers, makers & creatives! Today, I am so excited to introduce Mindy of Milkweed Baby & share her shop (plus a sweet discount code!) with you! She makes the most adorable, high quality and durable baby shoes I have encountered – Milkweed Baby are the only baby shoes we have ever bought for Zoey Rose, and the only ones Zoey will actually keep on her tootsies! Mindy is mama maker driven by quality & great design, and below, you can get to know her & see a sampling of her work!
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Tell us about yourself:
Born & raised KC… and still here. But I think it’s great here! The only thing that would get me to move is a beach on the west coast! I had planned to be a golfer, I played in high school until an injury stopped all that. So instead of a golf scholarship I went to art school. I majored in painting at KU and dropped out with 3 semesters left because I was afraid of a “do you want fries with that?” degree. I worked a variety of jobs after that. The last was 9 years as a marketing coordinator for a seminar company. While working there I started my first business, by Mindy. I was laid off while on maternity leave 2 years ago and it was during that time that Milkweed Baby was born.
 
When did you first find your love of creating?
I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love creating.
 
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Have you always been a textile sewist?
NOPE! I learned to sew when I was 27. I wanted to make a gift for each of my bridesmaids, so my mom helped me sew them each a bag. And that was that! I was hooked!!!
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When did you begin to create baby products/How did this become your central
focus?
I started making baby shoes in 2010. I’d been making a variety of things, coffee cup sleeves, totes, bow ties, knit ties, clutches, aprons and so on. Nothing felt right.
I was at a pop up and saw how people couldn’t control themselves with baby items. They are just so cute! So I decided it was the market I wanted to get into.
I did a bunch of research and found the soft soled shoes that I thought looked cool were really hard to find. So that’s what I was going to make. And through a bunch of trial and error, I worked it out.
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What sets your baby shoes apart from the rest?
1. My style (I don’t do ugly). 2. My quality (read attention to detail & perfectionist nature).
 
The baby & children’s market is heavily saturated and highly competitive –
what is your advice for makers in this industry to help them stand out &
grow their client base? Find your style identity and stay true to it. It’s really easy to pander to the audience, but it’s not satisfying. “YOU DO YOU”. Get your product in front of as many people as you can. If you are passionate and make a good quality product, people will buy.
 
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How did having your first baby impact running your small business?
This is complicated. Having my first baby almost killed my business and made my business my full time gig. I basically took a year off when I had my daughter, and during this time a local gal hard core ripped off my designs, undercut my price by a mile (she uses lesser quality materials) and moved in on all the local shows. Also during this time, I was laid off from my full time job of 9 years… so this became my full time job. I have to say, I thought it would be easy to work and take care of a kid! HA!!! Only someone without a kid would make that assumption!
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What can makers & small business owners expecting a baby do to prepare
their business – and themselves! – for such a big change?
You know, so much depends on what kind of kid you have. Mine rolled over at 6 days old, so she could never be left alone. My best advice is to prepare your finances to have some down time. Amp up as much stock as you can before baby comes so you can still keep up with shows and online without needing to make much (prevent people from moving in on your “turf”).
Expect the unexpected.
 
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What is your favorite method of self-care as a mama & a maker?  
Walks, Sleep, Wine, meal planning (it’s the only way we eat healthy), and every 3 weeks I get my eyebrows waxed
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Do you bring your baby to events you vend at? If so, how do you balance motherhood & face-to-face business transactions with customers?
Mostly we have my mother-in-law watch my daughter while my husband & I run my booth at shows. However, we are about to do 2 big ones where childcare is not going to be an option. So we will see. I think the plan is to get a cheap tablet and load Daniel Tiger on it. And coloring books and crayons. Probably, my husband and I will take turns chasing after my daughter and making sure she doesn’t break any ceramics or topple any displays. And my husband will have to leave me for a couple hours each day to handle her naps.
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Mindy’s daughter rocking some Milkweed Baby shoes!
How many pairs of your handmade baby shoes does your own sweet little baby
have? 
She has 1. I know, I know. Everyone always gasps when I tell them that. Here’s the deal…
I love all of my fabrics, so choosing is impossible. So I just pick 1 or let her pick 1. I make a pair & that’s it. I need to be making these shoes to sell because I need the income.
I recall something about the cobbler’s child has no shoes?
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What is your favorite color?
Green (many shades of green… aqua, seaglass, olive, mint, kelly, emerald… just not hunter)
What is your drink of choice while you sew?
6am-5pm COFFEE
5pm —> WINE (shiraz or rose)
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Television or music while you work?
Music (TV is too distracting and I really need to be looking at the sewing machine)
 
Lastly – Have you ever made yourself an adult size pair of slippers?
No. Maybe next year!

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Mindy of Milkweed Baby! Be sure to visit her on Facebook & Instagram, and you can use code LUANDED to save 20% of baby shoes in her online store!

code valid 2/1 through 2/28/18

makers

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!

makers

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!
makers

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!