Gift Guides, life, Parenting, Uncategorized

Hey Mama: 8 Great Gifts to Give Yourself This Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to put together a little self love gift guide for my fellow mamas with some of my favorite “treat yo’self” goodies to indulge in this month – though, personally, I indulge myself at least once a month. Because motherhood can be difficult, and self care & appreciation for yourself is so important as a mother – we have to be at our best to be our best for our children! So feel free to bookmark this post to come back to through the year for self love inspiration & spur of the moment self care shopping sprees!

Hair dye (or a hair cut!)

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Does anything make you feel as good about yourself as freshening up your look!? It is always a huge boost to my self esteem when I touch up my hair, get a hair cut or get my eyebrows done. Been dreaming of #mermaidhair for months but afraid to take the plunge? Mama, treat yo’self! I personally use Manic Panic or Arctic Fox hair dye. Both are vegan, and deeply conditioning so they don’t damage your hair.

A New Mug

I drink a lot of coffee & cocoa, as well as use mugs all around my house & studio to hold pencils, pens, markers, mail, nail clippers & baby combs – basically everything I don’t have stuffed in my own Mon-stors, haha! A ton of my mugs come from thrift stores, but I also have a huge collection of mugs from makers & artists. This Strong as a Mother mug by Callie Garp is on my treat yo’self wishlist!

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Bath Bomb & A New Book

I love bath time. I always have. It is like pressing a reset button on the week, a simple escape. Wouldn’t it be dreamy to sink into a steamy, rose scented bath with this sultry Roses are Red Bath Bomb from Sun Basil Soap, a good book & your favorite beverage (whether it is a glass of wine, chocolate milk or a beer – you do you, mama). Be sure to post the submergence of the bath bomb on Instagram, or it doesn’t count, though.

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Decadent Handmade Soaps

I love supporting other makers, but honestly, I buy handmade soap because it is so decadent, moisturizing & typically smells sooo much better than generic brand soaps. Thumbprint Soap has some amazing scents, like this Pink Sugar soap, but the reason I especially love buying Katie’s soaps is because she donates a portion of all proceeds to animal rescues! That keeps me coming back, time and again. Additionally, Katie has offered an exclusive discount to Lu & Ed fans so they can treat themselves to something special this season: MOMMY18 – 18% off any order of $15 or more through the end of 2018. How rad is that?! Go on, mamas, treat yourself to some amazing handmade soap, lotions, lip balms & more from Katie’s shop!

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New Jewelry

I have a huge collection of handmade earrings and necklaces, and my latest obsession is basically everything Lin of Turquoise T-rex makes. I have two necklaces from her that I wear pretty much all the time!

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A New Shirt

I recently treated myself to a “Support Your Local Mama Gang” shirt from Punky Moms and I feel like an ultimate bad booty mama rocking it! Adding a new item to my wardrobe is always a thoughtful process, because I don’t often buy myself clothing, so it is a slow process picking which item to add!

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Their “Kicking Motherhood in the A**” shirt is another one on my wishlist, and a perfect one to treat yourself to during this season of self love, because that is just what you are doing, mama!

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A Custom Baby Wearing Portrait

I am so in love with these custom baby wearing portraits by Taynee of Grrl Gang Art. If your baby wearing or breastfeeding journey was exceptionally special to you, you can message Taynee about a custom portrait of you to commemorate that beautiful bond! Nothing makes me feel more beautiful, strong & confident as a mother than looking through my images of me baby wearing or breastfeeding, and I just think this is such a beautiful way to reward yourself for the hard work, sleepless nights, and special moments of motherhood!

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Artisanal Coffee or Tea

For a lot of mamas, that first cuppa coffee or tea is our greatest form of self care every day, so the occasional brew of the finer variety is it’s own form of self lovin’! For the coffee drinkers, Burial Grounds Coffee has a wide flavor variety of small batch roasted artisan coffee with fun fandom themes & Angie (the mama & brains behind the beans) offers a subscription service – so you don’t need to remember to reorder your favorite blends!

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If tea is more your jam, Albion Tea Company also has a fun fandom themes for their small batch, loose leaf teas, like their Magical Collection which is based on Harry Potter or their Sherlock collection!

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I could go on & on with goodies I indulge in for self love, but I want to turn the handles over to the readers:

What is your favorite self care goodies & go-to habits? Share your self love advice in the comments & let’s chat about how we, as women, can take better care of ourselves so we can take better care of our loved ones!

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

Business, marketing, Tutorials

The Power of Polyvore – Why Makers Should be Collaborating with One Another + Other Tips

For today’s tip post, Beth of Wilde Designs is sharing how important collaboration with other makers & brands is, and how simple it is to increase your range & traffic to your shop by using Polyvore!

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We all love pretty things. Shiny things. We like to imagine that whatever we make will be part of a stunning collection of goods in a magazine someday. alongside larger known brands. 

The beauty of the internet is that we don’t have to wait and wonder what these beautiful collections might look like! There are so many ways to do gorgeous product collages, also known as “flatlays”, on the internet on our own, and so many ways to collaborate with other makers, designers & brands to make these collections go viral!

Why create a product collage? Not only do they allow our audience to see what our products might look like as part of a cute outfit or in a trendy room, it also lets us put ourselves alongside other larger known brands & makers that compliment our own products. Want your bohemian necklaces to be associated with Anthropolgie styles? Pair them with products from Anthro, headbands from your favorite hair accessory maker, a succulent planter from your favorite sculptor, and so on. Make sense? 

Why collaborate with other small shops? Small shops need each other. We can work together to get extra social reach, to find new customers, and to build each other’s brands and communities! Most importantly, the more brands you collaborate with, the greater possibility of your products going viral! Product collages are a fantastic way to encourage this! Not only do you build up other small shops, when you select items from big companies, you get extra exposure by tagging them in your posts and helping their audience find you & associate your products with that brand as well.

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My favorite avenue for creating quick, attractive product collages is Polyvore. Setting up an account is free, and you can add your products quickly and easily by installing the Polyvore Clipper button onto your browser. Navigate to the page of the item you want to add, click the button, and input the details.

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While you’re at it, add items from some of your favorite shops. You can even create a team of shops to create & share products from one another in various product collages, saving you a lot of work! For instance, if you sell necklaces, maybe you know someone who makes fantastic handbags or designs shirts that compliment your jewelry. Find a way to involve other sellers, and you both end up benefiting from the collection. When you’re building your product collage, you can search the items you’ve added or search all of Polyvore to find new things that match your brand’s style.

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Once you have selected your shops you want to work with & big brands you want people to associate your goods with, start building your collection and making it lovely. Polyvore lets you add text, borders, and other flourishes to spice things up. Even better? It works fabulously on desktop or mobile. Once you’ve created a flatlay, you can publish the set. You get the option to share it simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger, and a lot of other platforms. Instant reach with minimal effort!

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Do yourself – and your brand – a favor and go play. You’ll never look back once you see how easily you can boost the visibility of your productss and collaborate with both the small and big box shops you’ve always wanted to work with!

makers, Uncategorized

Meet the Maker: Dani of Big Hugs, Little Envelopes – a maker every maker should know!

You guys, this Monday, you can thank me for starting off your week introducing you to a maker who creates supplies that makes running your business so much more fun & colorful, and soon, SO much easier! Get to know Dani & all the services & products she offers makers below, and be sure to visit her shop Big Hugs, Little Envelopes to view the full range of products as well – she is offering 20% off with code SAVE20 to all Lu & Ed readers through December 31st, 2017! Thanks, Dani!
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Heeeey Dani! Welcome to my blog! Let’s get started – why don’t you tell the readers all about yourself?

Hey, guys! I’m Dani, a life-long Colorado girl, mama of two rad boys, and wife to one totally amazing dude! I am a teacher by trade and actually taught elementary school for 12 years before deciding to take a break and stay home with my kiddos! I have taught every grade K-5 and loved them all, but 5th grade will always have a very special place in my heart! My schooling has all been centered around teaching, of course! I am certified to teach K-6 and, am endorsed in gifted education. With my Masters in literacy, I am also endorsed to teach reading K-12 (though I haven’t yet ventured into the land of middle or high school!). I also have a minor in French, but I tell ya what… that is definitely a “use it or lose it” skill. I’m bummed that I don’t get to use my French more often, and I fear I am forgetting it quickly! In my free time (wait… what’s that???), I love movies with my family, dance parties in the kitchen, scrapbooking, writing, reading, running (slow as a turtle!), and enjoying the gorgeous outdoors of Colorful Colorado. I couldn’t ask to live in a more beautiful place!!! I almost never watch live TV, but I love to pop on a show while I work, and my current Netflix/Hulu/HBO streaming addictions include America’s Got Talent, Shark Tank, Grey’s Anatomy, Big Little Lies, and This is Us!
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Have you always been such a wildly creative person?

Well, that is certainly a lovely compliment – THANK YOU! Yes, I have always thrived on creativity. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been making and writing and doing… It’s in my blood, as I think is the case for all creatives! I can remember making little dresses for my dolls when I was very young out of random things like toilet paper and yarn. Over the years, I have experimented with MANY creative outlets, including drawing, painting, clay work, sewing, cake decorating, jewelry making, embroidery, crochet… You name it! If it involves the creative process, I’ve probably tried it!
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How did you get started in digital design & print services?

It’s a funny story, really! Let me back up a bit… I’m super big on the idea of Happy Mail. It’s always been very important to me to send thank you cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, etc. As a kid, I even had several pen pals around the world. I just truly believe that a simple card in the mail with a handwritten heartfelt note has so much power to make someone smile. So often, the mailbox is filled with bills and ads and other junk. Personally, I love getting a note in the mail, and I know other people do, too! It’s such a sweet way to brighten someone’s day, and the ripple effect of kindness is fascinating to me. I LOVE the idea that I can literally send a smile through the mail, which has the power to turn someone’s day around, and in turn, they could smile at someone else who needs it, and on and on… You just never know how far it’ll reach!
Fast forward to about 3 years ago. With the pause in my teaching career, I had more time to embrace some of my hobbies again. I’ve been obsessed with scrapbooking and paper crafts since before my first son was born 10 years ago, and with my newly found freedom, I picked up card making, which quickly became another obsession! I bought up a TON of stamps, inks, card stock, patterned paper… Oooooh boy! You already know how I feel about mail, so I found myself making cards for anyone and everyone! Eventually, people started telling me I should sell my cards. I thought they were CRAZY! Who in their right mind would pay actual money for them??? But, with some AMAZING cheerleaders behind me, I decided I had nothing to lose! I started up my Etsy shop, Big Hugs Little Envelopes, keeping in line with the idea that, although it may be a small envelope, it contains a big dose of love and kindness! Sure enough, my biggest cheerleaders became my first customers, and my little shop was up and running! Before long, people were asking me if I could make signs and shirts and other items. I’ve never been one to turn down a creative challenge, so I embraced all of the requests! One thing led to another, and before I knew it, most everything I was doing was digital. I now have a whole crew of machines here in my crafty space that help me do what I do! If you had told me three years ago that I’d be where I am today, I would have called you crazy! I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be running a successful business doing digital and print work, but I wouldn’t change a single thing!
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What is your favorite products to design?

Oooooh…. That’s a toughie. I am completely fascinated by the sublimation process, so one of the most satisfying things for me to create is mugs. It’s so wild to me that I can design something on my computer, print it out using special ink and paper, and then permanently transfer it to a mug that then is dishwasher and microwave safe! Even though I’ve done it hundreds of times now, it still feels like magic to me every time I take the mug out of the press! On more than one occasion, I’ve found myself saying aloud, “That is so stinkin’ COOL!!!”
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Making for makers must be so inspiring – how many different shops do you work with in a month, usually?

Ohmygosh, it REALLY is! When I started this gig, I had NO idea there was such an amazing maker community out there, but I am so incredibly honored to have found it and become part of it! At this point, over half of what I do is for other makers! I would say in any given month, I work with 20-30 shops, which blows my mind! It gives me so much satisfaction knowing that my small business is, in turn, helping their small businesses! My philosophy is that we are all in this together, and that there is plenty of love to go around. It’s that whole “Community Over Competition” idea, and I embrace that wholeheartedly. I seriously love promoting other makers, as you’ll easily see on my social media platforms! My wish is for all of us to be successful, and if what I do can have a hand in that, I’m thrilled! I’ve also become amazing friends with so many other makers throughout the process, and have gotten to know some super sweet, highly talented people (like YOU!!!)! Sometimes I even get to meet them in person, and that is AWESOME! (This summer, I got to meet the lovely Sue from Glass and Stone – my heart was SO happy!!!)
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You are one of my favorite people to follow on social media – you are so positive! What sort of daily routines do you have in place to keep the happy flowing?

Oh wow, thank you! That is so kind! It involves a lot of coffee! Haha! But truly, I really just try to live in the moment. I have come to realize that life is so short and so precious and that we are all on this planet together. I personally have felt the effects of kindness and love, and I know first hand how powerful that can be, so I just want to do my part every single day to pass that along to others. I genuinely believe in the magic of a kind word, a hug, a smile… My home is filled with inspiring quotes, which I look at daily, to remind me of how lucky we are to be part of this amazing thing called humanity.
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You specialize in custom branded goodies for makers, so I have to ask. What are three MUST HAVES for makers when it comes to branding materials?

For me, my business is all about the human connection. So, while a true marketing professional might disagree, my must haves involve things that help people connect on a personal level. I love, love, love creating stickers for makers to use on their packaging as a fun way to say thank you to their customers.
I also believe in a handwritten thank you note with each order, so custom logo cards with a space to write are always a favorite of mine!
And of course, I think a key aspect of any business is the ability to be easily recognized, so anything that includes an identifiable logo is huge! I love creating logo stickers, notecards, mugs… you name it! 🙂 If people see your logo and immediately associate it with your high-quality products, I think you’re doing something right! 🙂
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Tea, cocoa or coffee?

Oh girl, why do you have to give me the hard questions??? Is “Yes, please!” an acceptable response? 🙂
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What is your favorite color?

Again with the hard questions!!! I love all things rainbow, and any color that is bright and happy is good with me! Current faves are any and all shades of teal/turquoise/mint/pool, pinks, purples, and sunshiny colors like yellows and oranges. I’m gearing up for fall, though, so I’m sure I’ll soon be surrounding myself with warm, calming browns, deep oranges, and dark greens.

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Is your home as colorful as your products & social media feed?!

Haha! Yes. Yes it is! Like I said, color makes me so happy, and I love surrounding myself with it. It really does have an effect on my mood! When I want to be calm and peaceful, I find myself retreating to my bedroom, which is done in pale blues, gentle browns, and soft greys. When I’m feeling energetic and productive, I’m most often found in my maker space, which is full of all things bright and cheery and motivating! A good bit of my decor in there is actually handmade goodies from other makers! My kitchen and family room are warm and inviting, with the reds and yellows and browns that make me feel comforted and safe at home. It’s all about color around here! And of course a good bouquet of colorful flowers in any room makes me smile, too!
It was so fun getting to interview Dani & introduce you all to her amazing shop. She has something very, very exciting in the works and you NEED to follow her on Facebook & Instagram so you don’t miss out when this project launches!
makers

Meet the Maker – Beth of Wilde Designs: geeky greatness & fandom fun!

I am excited to kick off the week showcasing one of my favorite geeky girls & fandom makers, Beth of Wilde Designs! On top of creating a huge variety of goodies for all sorts of fandoms, Beth also have a really cool blog that geeks of all genres will enjoy, from cosplay galleries to fandom facts, her blog is one of my favorites to read!

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First up, tell readers all about yourself! Hobbies, location, interests, any degrees or job history that may help them relate to you if you want.

I’m a graphic designer both by education (I have a BFA from Texas Woman’s University) and by profession since that’s my day job. It also figures heavily into the things I make in my shop since I love to have a healthy dose of shirts and posters and other hand-designed goods along with the handmade. It’s all visual art to me, and it’s all fun in different ways.

I’m also a through and through Texan. I’ve lived her all my life except for a couple of years in Ohio. It’s a strange dichotomy in some ways because I’m pretty liberal, but I still really love my home state. I’m glad that I grew up here and that I’m getting to raise my son Pike (he’s six now!) here as well. We live in Denton, so we’ve got great local businesses and a lot of people interested in moving the community forward. It’s a beautiful thing.

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dragon scale earrings for GoT fans

When did you first begin creating jewelry and art?

I was too young when I started drawing and stringing beads onto whatever I could get my hands on to be entirely sure. I’ve always had a bit of the entrepreneurial bug. When I was around nine, I started calling my “company” Liz (short for my full name, Elizabeth) and selling super random items to my family. By high school I had refined things a little, and I sold stretchy bracelets in our team colors – under the table, of course, since we weren’t allowed to do that in school. I even made jewelry and buttons for Los Bastardos, the Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast my husband was on when we met. Eventually I realized that  not only was making and selling things something I could do but that I had already been doing it. That took some of the terror out of starting Wilde Designs.

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What initiated your interest in fandoms?

Part nature, part nurture. I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek, and I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up. When my best friend and I played, we pretended. Basically, I’ve always been an imaginative geek who loves enthusing about her geeky stuff with others. The advent of the internet in our household (we got our first taste of that as I was starting high school) opened up whole new worlds for me.

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You make a wide range of geeky goods – when did you first begin to combine your love of fandoms and your creativity?

I always have in art. If you look at my sketches and projects from high school, Xena pops up quite a few times. Then I started writing fan fiction, and it was officially part of my writing. I realized eventually that I could do the same thing with the jewelry I made. It seems incredibly obvious in retrospect, but the idea of sharing my passions in that way didn’t strike me for years. I never really stopped to consider how many other people were just as excited about all my dorky passions as me.

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What is your favorite fandom/video game?

While I love gaming, I’m not a hardcore gamer girl. My sister probably takes the cake for gaming in our family. That said? When I have the time, I love to play World of Warcraft, Sims, and my friends recently talked me into purchasing Dream Daddy. Yes, I know, but it really is adorable. As for fandoms in general, I remain forever loyal to Star Wars and Xena, plus I’m adding new things all the time like Doctor Who (I didn’t start watching until “new” Who, though I’ve since watched a lot of the classics), Marvel (especially the cinematic universe, and especially Avengers and X-Men), and horror of many flavors and types, plus a healthy dose of fantasy and scifi in general.

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What are your thoughts on the new female Doctor?

I’ve put some real thought into it. Part of me is a purist and wonders if it’s being done arbitrarily just to do it. Most of me hopes that it really has been done because they cast for the very best person in the world for the job (which is how I think EVERYTHING should be hired for) and she’s it. I honestly won’t know how I feel about it or her until I see her on screen. I judge the Doctors as I get to know them not by their age or gender, so time will tell. Hearing all the hate that is based not on her ability or performance and only on her gender makes me really, really want her to be amazing.

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There is a huge community around geeky goodness – as a maker, how do you tap into that & build connections? (maybe use this as an opportunity to plug the geek girl pen pals or comic cons?)

Conventions are my absolute favorite way to grow my connections – admittedly, not just as a seller, but as a person. I love cons. I attended my first one for X-Files when I was around 11, and I’ve been going as often as I’m able ever since. Now when I go, I’m often selling, which is a whole new world. Talking to customers in person has been, even for an introvert like me, a really great experience overall. We chat, we geek out over things, and sometimes they buy something. I also get the chance to meet new sellers who are into the same things. Getting advice from other people in the con circuit has been an invaluable help to me not just for convention selling but for my business in general. I have a truly fantastic network of people behind me – and a lot of them are total geeks! Through one of my oldest geeky friends, Halo, I even ended up being on the planning committee for the Women of Wonder Con, which has been challenging and rewarding and a totally new thing for me.

​Do you make all your own cosplay costumes?​

No. I’m a gatherer. I thrive on finding the pieces I need on Amazon or in thrift shops or finding a great deal on a pre-made piece that will work perfectly. I often create the accessories from scratch, however. I have a particular fondness for making things out of foam and duct tape.

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​What/who has been your favorite thing to cosplay as? ​

Black Widow was my first “big” cosplay. I had done Dr. Horrible before, but I didn’t sweat the details quite as much as I did for Black Widow. I went all out for that one, and I even lost weight to feel more comfortable in the costume. Even though I’ve put together some fabulous new cosplays since then, I think she’ll always have the biggest place in my heart both because it was such a big undertaking for me to get the confidence to portray her and because the reception I got was overall so positive.

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Do you have any advice or tips for makers who want to begin selling at cons?

While we all want to hide behind our booths and not look up sometimes, it’s important to connect with people. Say hi, chat with them, and make a connection. Even if it doesn’t lead to a sale immediately, it might long-term, and it will definitely make you and the customer happier. The second thing that’s key is making use of the people around you. Talk to other sellers, look at their goods. If you love their display, say so. Ask questions and exchange cards. When you need a quick break to go to the bathroom later in the day and you’ve already been talking comics with the person next to you, it’s a lot easier to ask them to keep an eye on your goods.

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​Your entire family is in on the geeky-love – what is your son’s favorite video games/TV shows?

My son can’t get enough Overwatch and World of Warcraft right now. He’s also a big Minecraft fan. Our whole family watches Steven Universe and Adventure Time together – we even cosplayed as Rose Quartz, Greg Universe, and Stevonnie earlier this year. I’m so glad he’s got the geek bug too so we can all have fun with it together!

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​And a serious question to wrap up this interview – Star Trek or Star Wars?

Both. Star Trek (the original series) came first for me, but in the end I probably have a deeper obsession with Star Wars.

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Isn’t Beth & her geeky gang so fun?! You can visit Beth’s shop here, and be sure to follow her on Instagram & Facebook because she is constantly posting fun geeky games, conversation starters and of course peeks at new products!

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!