This week I was honored to be paid a studio visit by the awesome crew at Modern Mouse in Alameda, California. They have featured my studio in their "Show Your Studio" segment on the Modern Mouse website.
Ironically I had been planning to do a blog post about that very thing - my studio. I know I am always interested in seeing where creative people do their creating and thought maybe some of my fabulous cyberspace and IRL friends might like to see where the Wee Ones , et al, come to life! :)
So, lucky me, Modern Mouse saved me some time. If you would like to take a tour of my studio ~ and meet my creative assistants ~ pop on over here and I'll see you there! :) Cupcakes and milkshakes all around!
With the countdown to Halloween on ~ in my head, it has already happened! ha! That's what happens in retail, I guess. When you have a product to sell, you have to stay ahead of the game, so to speak. On a personal level it takes some of the surprise of out holidays for me; but believe me, I still enjoy them!
So always looking ahead I turn then to my sketches I so roughly drew (believe me, I'm no sketch artist) for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas it got me thinking that maybe my fabulous friends out there in cyberspace might enjoy knowing how my Wee Ones and Liten Venns come to be. I know I love learning how artisans, musicians, artists - any creative person - go about their craft; maybe you do, too.
My process is pretty simple actually. First and probably most important, I find inspiration everywhere - in movies, in cartoons, books, magazines or just people-watching. I often sort thru these inspirations in my head and something solid begins to take form ~ more often than not ~ on my morning walks with my dog.
Then I turn to my cheap little sketch book (it is a kid's drawing pad from Target). Almost all of my holiday sketches - 40+ total - this year were dreamt up and drawn while on a road trip to and from the Midwest (my Mom turned 92 recently). It gave me something to do rather than remind my husband of the speed limit. :) When I'm home, I keep a notepad with me at all times, especially on my bedside table for ideas that come in the night - they are quite often some of my favorites! (Think zombies.)
I then take the sketches and marry them with my basic template of a pattern and tweak the pattern to match the sketch (which becomes easier over time). I head to my fabric remnants first and use every bit of remnant I can to cut the pattern.
And from there the Wee One or Liten Venn is born. And I have to admit, the thing I enjoy most is creating a new character and seeing it come to life for the first time.
I absolutely love what I do. I posted on my Facebook page one day that I am so lucky to do something every day that makes me laugh ~ because almost every time I look at a completed Wee One or Liten Venn ~ I laugh.
Creating my new logo actually turned out to be easier than I had expected. I went in knowing pretty much what I wanted. I knew which image I wanted to use (see previous post) so that was half the battle.
Then it helped that I am blessed to have savvy geeks in my family. One son works for an interactive advertising agency and the other owns his own IT business. They provided techy and artistic advice.
I knew I wanted a simple image, clean lines and something that would be easily recognizable and memorable; and yet, something whimsical that would represent what I do. (I learned the importance of branding when I worked in the cable television biz.)
Something I hadn't considered, however, was creating versions in different colors for different venues (thank you my Mad Men son) ~ or as I have chosen to use them, for different causes or holidays. The images here depict pink - for Breast Cancer Awareness; teal - just because that is my favorite so far and may be the standard image; and purple for "Stop the Bullying."
I'm already envisioning something for Christmas... :)
I find projects like this incredibly fun. But there definitely is a serious side to it as well ~ branding your business is important. And once you find something that works, stick with it. People begin to relate to you ~ they feel comfortable with you and feel like they are your friend.
Once it's working, don't change it. Just ask GAP. *wink*
This dog - recently renamed Coco - is an image I have often used to represent cmh design. He was one of my first Wee Ones and there is just something about him that I love. I am sentimental about him, of course, being one of the first; but there is something else... I think it's his eyes.
Many of my first Wee Ones were made with felt eyes to insure that they were baby-safe. (I still offer that option, by the way, in place of plastic safety eyes.) Beyond the safety factor there is just something that is so soulful in his eyes. He looks like he really needs a hug ~ and is ready to give one back. :)
I have made many incarnations of Coco (clones actually) but I am working on a totally new version. I'm designing a new logo (it is time to brand) and Coco is playing an integral part.
Today, just out of curiosity, I thought I would tally up my productivity for the last six weeks. Probably something I should be doing on a regular basis anyway ~ you know from a time management perspective, etc. Anyhoo ~ I've been pretty busy lately and was curious to see how productive I've been.
After calculating spreadsheets and invoices, etc. here's I came up with. In the last 6 weeks I have produced:
Halloween Ghoulies (Wee Ones and Liten Venns): 87
BC Buddies (Wee Ones supporting Susan G. Komen): 30
Assorted Other Items - Etsy and Special Orders (Wee Ones, Liten Venns, Plush Pillows, Zen Baby Bibs, Knit Hats): 43
Grand Total ***Drum roll*** : 160items
I thought I was busy. ;-) Christmas and Hanukkah? Bring it! :)
They say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Hmmm... apple; tree.
If you've followed my blog you know my affection for my 92 year young Mom ~ and how much I have learned from her. One thing that has become more apparent to me as I age (ahem... not that I'm old or anything) is that I enjoy being productive. Productive almost every waking hour. Omg. I am my Mom. ;-)
So sitting in front of the television at night has always seemed like a waste of time if all I'm doing is looking at the television. I have many hobbies that have kept me busy over the years whilst TV watching; but about a year ago I discovered knitting looms. And oh boy, a faux knitter was born!
I am in awe of people who really knit - you know, with needles and patterns and such. I think the looms are not quite "knitting." But they are fun and fairly easy and produce a consistently nice product! There are ways, too, to make many, more complicated projects using them.
So something I really enjoy in the evenings (particularly those long winter evenings where the sun sets at 4:30 pm!) or on a long car trip ~ is knitting on my knitting looms.
And 'tis the season ~ soon. Time to get ready for those snowy mornings walking the dog or hitting the ski slope and the need to bundle up! I have a few beanies/toques/hats in my Etsy shop with more appearing as the snowflakes begin to fall!
Last night I finished up my work for the day, sat back, put my feet up and sighed. Barely able to keep my eyes open, I reflected on my last few days. For nine days straight my work days have averaged 12-14 hours. And the next week looks to be the same.
Who says working for yourself is easy? *wink* Those of you who do, know it is not. But it is a labor of love.
Mind you, I am not complaining. I love what I do. The freedom to let my wild imagination take me wherever I want to go each day is a gift! I tell everyone being this busy is a good problem to have! I’m tired; but it is a hard-earned, feel-good, happy tired.
In my reflection, I thought about something that has been popping onto my onto my radar lately. I hear comments now and then from people wondering why handmade items are so expensive. They say, “Why pay a higher price for something handmade when you can buy ‘the same thing’ at Wal-Mart for half the price?” Well, that’s certainly a personal choice and in these tough economic times, understandable.
But if that someone who wonders would really like to know why a handmade item is “expensive” ~~ hold my hand and I will walk you thru what it takes to create one of my Whee Ones from inception to putting it in one of my awesome customer’s hands.
I begin with:
1. Sketch an original idea (this requires dreaming one up)
2. Translate the sketch into a pattern
3. Choose fabric
4. Lay the pattern on fabric and cut out the pattern
5. Sew the pattern together to create the Wee One
6. Name the Whee One and write a story about it
7. Photograph the Whee One
8. Edit images to get at least five good ones for posting
9. Post story and images to Etsy
10. Contact my consignment shops (three of them) and see if they would like the Whee One in their shop
11. Design the “hang tag” containing the story of the animal and my contact information
12. Print and cut the “hang tag”
13. Tie the “hang tag” on the Whee One with a coordinating ribbon
14. If shipping to a store, create and print an inventory sheet
15. If shipping directly to a customer, hand-write a thank you note on stationery I have designed and printed; make a fleece stuffed “thank you heart”; add business card and put all in a plastic Ziploc
16. If shipping directly to a customer, wrap Whee One in tissue paper and package in either a padded envelope or box; print a label for envelope/box
17. If shipping to a shop, inventory all and gently wrap in a plastic bag and pack in box; print label
18. Drive to the Post Office or FedEx to ship; secure delivery confirmation/tracking number
19. Send a follow up email to the customer or shop to notify of shipment and provide the tracking number to track package so they know when to expect it
20. Start all over again. :)
That is for one Whee One. I also have lines of Liten Venns (Norwegian for Small Friend), plush pillows, knit hats and baby bibs. When I have time I also have administrative duties – general paperwork, filing, etc.; keeping track of the budget and finances; frequent trips to local fabric store to purchase fabric and supplies; ordering supplies online; stocking supplies in my studio and organizing studio. And then, of course, there is time spent marketing - online promotions as well as snail mail brochures, flyers, business cards ~~ and the occasional craft fairs.
So if a handmade item seems expensive ~ well, chances are it is not. Chances are it is a bargain.
It is one of a kind – no other like it. Made with loving hands and attention to detail. It is a little piece of someone’s heart…