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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!