Tell us your story!
My parents met in a living Colonial history village, my mom-a weaver and spinner, my dad-a woodcarver. After repeatedly fixing her loom (he was also the one sneaking in her shop early and breaking it), they fell in love, got married, and had 3 daughters. (The middle one being the most adorable, of course.)
We lived in Port Republic, a small town in South Jersey where my dad is the mayor and where generations of my family have lived since the early 1600′s. When my sisters and I were 2, 4, and 6, we had a house fire and lost everything we owned.
The town rallied together and bought us everything we needed to begin again- books, toys, winter coats, pots and pans, gift certificates to the grocery store- everything you can imagine. Overwhelmed by the generosity of our town, my parents did the only thing they could think of to give back to the community they loved. When our house was rebuilt, they added a classroom and opened up a folk art school and sheep farm so they could teach their skills to anyone who wanted to learn.
They taught woodcarving, basketry, quilting, candle making, weaving, doll making, and little girls came to our home for Colonial tea parties for their birthdays. My sisters and I were invited to teach the children’s classes along side of my mom when we all turned 12.
It was during these classes that I learned a vital life lesson: If you want to connect with someone, create with them. When people are making something to put in their home, or give away as a gift, they are essentially crafting a new piece of their history- something one-of-a-kind that they have made with their hands that now has a story.
Fast forward MY history…past getting an art degree, marrying my high school sweetheart, moving down the street from my parents’ farm, becoming an art teacher…to having my own little flock- 3 littles 4 and under. I was blessed with the opportunity to stay home with them full time, and I found myself in the daily routine of filling up sippy cups and stepping on Cheerios, and wanting so desperately to do the two fundamental things I was taught: connect with people and create.
I had seen wool felt ball garlands on Pinterest, and thought it was the perfect project for me- simple, free (if you happen to have a never-ending supply of wool being grown down the street), and something I could make for people who wanted to add a bit of color and natural fiber into their homes. I would felt and felt and felt little wool balls when my children napped, and after they went to bed I would string them a few in fun patterns, and then take photos of them the next day while my littles clung to my legs. I listed a few on Etsy….and I could never have imagined the response I would get.
After six months, my “never-ending supply” was not as “never-ending” as I had hoped, and I had a difficult time keeping up with demands doing all the felting myself. I found a supplier to partner with from Nepal who is free-trade, ethical, and uses the most lovely, colorful, wooliest wool from a sheep farm in New Zealand.
I am in absolute love with what I do. Everyday, I get orders from all over the world- Spain, Singapore, Australia, France, the U.S., Italy…. from people who want to bring something I make into their homes. My customers are some of the sweetest people, and I love the conversations I get to have with them. They are getting ready for their son’s first birthday party, or wanting to add a homey touch to their dorm room, or trying to find a garland to match their sofa and love seat, or add a pop of color in their nursery…. I just love hearing all their stories behind their purchases!
My absolute favorite part of the process is wrapping up each purchase with tissue paper, and tucking in a little needle felted sheep ornament handmade from wool from our sheep farm. I know when my customers go to their mail box, it is going to make their day. My job is more than just selling bits of colored wool on string, I am supplying people with a handmade treasure that will become a piece of their home and history.
Tell us 3 things you learned this year about running your creative business.
1. Having boundaries for your home life/business is essential. If you allow the two to bleed into each other, you will end up resenting each one for stealing your time and energy from the other.
2. Evaluate your time/cost ratio. There may be products that I like to make, but if it takes time and energy away from my “bread and butter” product line, it may not be worth it to keep those items stocked.
3. There is no such thing as a balanced life. I can’t be good at every thing, but I can be GREAT at a few things. Deciding to be a great mom, wife, and business woman, and letting a few other things go has given me a sense of freedom and accomplishment.
Why do you create what you create?
I make handmade felt ball garlands from 100% wool.
I create out of wool because I love the whole process of understanding where it comes from. After having grown up on a sheep farm, I know what it takes to raise and care for the animals, shear them once a year to harvest a fleece, and then take that wool to make something beautiful. I was selling so many felt ball garlands from our sheeps’ wool that I finally had to outsource my supplies, but still knowing how those supplies are made is invaluable to me!
And I love connecting to people! There is no better way to connect to others than creating with them and for them. I love when customers send me photos of their finished nurseries, Christmas trees, or birthday parties with my garlands in them! Knowing that I made something that they could use to enhance their home or celebration is so rewarding.