Yo Momma Monday: Karen LePage

yo momma mondayMeet Karen LePage, 42, a sewin’ mama from Michigan. I met her through Oh My! Handmade and I instantly swooned over all of her work. She not only sews up a storm, but she also creates patterns, sells custom-made garments and shares tutorials on her website at One Girl Circus! Oh, and she also co-wrote a sewing book for boys, appropriately named Sewing for Boys.

Before she started working for herself, she sang at weddings, sold cars, managed a coffee shop, taught German and worked in Strategic Planning. To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement.

Karen started a blog after she read and loved blogs from other people. Initially, it started as a means for documenting her children’s special moments.

“I guess it’s not surprising that I’m not very consistent with it, however, because I was never a child who could keep a journal beyond “dear diary” for more than a few weeks.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

After her mother bought a sewing machine when Karen was five, she started experimenting and made every project in the booklet that came with the machine. From there, she spent several years making wardrobes for all of her dolls. As a kid, she started watching Sewing with Nancy when it came on PBS, a show she still watches to this day.

I always say Nancy Zieman taught me to sew…I still watch it.  I still love it.”

Karen still remembers her first sewing project – a drawstring bag – and she says there have been plenty of disasters along the way. When she first got started, she would wear her disasters; now, she tucks them away until she’s ready to try again. Her latest creation was a Japanese double-gauze newborn outfit that was in a box for six years because she couldn’t stand to look at it.

“I’m so happy I could rescue it!”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

As a mom, Karen says that her children not only inspire her work, but also keep her balanced and admits that if she didn’t have her kids, she would probably just work all the time.

“I love making things, and having humans relying on me for comfort, food, and shelter ensures that I nourish myself with their companionship while meeting their needs, too.”

The creativity bug has definitely hit both of her kids, as her son likes to design the garments she makes for him, and her daughter is a quilter. Her son also shops at thrift and vintage stores, so he has become quite the master at button replacing, and he already has an eye for what can be fixed, and what cannot. Her daughter will often work up a patchwork when she’s in the sewing space.

“She has an amazing eye for color and pattern.”

Karen describes her workspace as chaotic yet comforting. While she is always moving things around in there, she still keeps an open space for her kids to visit while she’s working. She does like to take some time tidying up in between projects.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“But as soon as I have a clean space I’m inspired to start making again – immediately.

Although there’s no such thing as a normal day, there is one consistency in her morning routine – coffee (ain’t that the truth). Her daily activities are determined by deadlines, inspiration and commitments – and she does try to get some sewing in every day.

“I start to get twitchy when I’m away from my sewing machine for too long.”

Karen says that the best and scariest thing about running her own business is that everything – from what get made to what gets published – is all her.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s wonderfully terrifying.”

She started teaching classes after someone asked her to do it, and that is one of her favorite things about what she does.

“There’s something super-satisfying about nudging my students toward sewing confidence.  I love that it’s a skill they can use forever. I love holding their hands through the tough part and saying “Look how awesome you are!” when they make it through and realize they can make something they didn’t think they could make.”

When Karen is not teaching classes and making clothes –  or thinking about new classes and new projects – she loves reading, hiking with her daughter, yoga and cooking.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“Actually, strike that, I like reading cookbooks.”

And of course, she loves all forms of crafting. There isn’t a craft she hasn’t stopped, and thanks to Creative Bug and the craft section in her local bookstore, that won’t be ending anytime soon. She loves making anything from  baby clothes to formal gowns – all of it.

“If it goes on a body, someone will wear it and love it, and that’s something that makes me happy and keeps me going.  There’s always something new I want to try, whether it’s a technique or material I haven’t yet attempted; I incorporate my latest learning into each new project.”

She gets the majority of her fabric from local fabric stores and loves visiting new stores in any town she visits. When she cannot find a fabric she wants locally, she will shop online.

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

“I spend my dollars locally whenever possible.”

Karen loves being a part of the handmade community because she has always been just one of a handful of people she knows that love sewing. Of the four high schools she attended, she only found one friend who could sew. ONE! Now that she has a whole community of friends who also love the same kind of things, she counts it as a blessing.

“I feel so energized and inspired when working collaboratively; even when working on my own thing amongst fellow makers.  The handmade community is what has made my 30s and 40s the best years of my life.”

She currently has two patterns in the Stitch Magazine Spring issue and there will be another one in the Summer issue. She is also working on a handmade garment line and is hoping to hire some local people to help with the sewing and sales of her products.

“I’m really excited about it, but I’m also thrilled to have a steady stream of consultancy projects.”

Photo from Karen LePage

Photo from Karen LePage

Karen hopes to inspire people by being an advocate of all things handmade – whether its making, buying, spreading the word, or all of the above.

“I also hope I can inspire people to try something new every once in a while, and to really enjoy the process of making.”

Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Karen for participating in this series! You can find her blog here, buy her stuff here and read the book she co-wrote here.

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Jane Skoch from Maiden Jane!

Yo Momma Monday: Emmaline Lamond

yo momma mondayMeet Emmaline Lamond, 36, from Mornington, Victoria, Australia. She is the beautifully creative mind behind Coco Press and is mama to her beautiful one-year-old daughter, Amelie. I met Emmaline through a Giveaway she was hosting and I was lucky enough to win her amazing hand-printed cards! Today, I’m honored to share her story with you.

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Emmaline was first introduced to lincout printing in her high-school art class. After school, she had to put her creative ventures aside and as she says, “get on with life,” but decided to take them back up again after she found her old art supplies in a box during a recent move.

“I found my printing gear and fell in love, again. At the time I was working in a stressful corporate job, I found that carving a lino block in preparation for printing was incredibly stress relieving. I was hooked and my obsession has continued to grow over the last few years to a point where I now have a studio over flowing with ink, printing gear and most importantly, three beautiful presses.”

So, what exactly is linocut printing, you ask? I know, I had the same question and Emmaline filled me in a little of the process.

“Lino cutting is a method of relief printing. Its lots of fun, well at least I think so. You basically start with a sheet of lino, I use a softer vinyl product and carve into it with special tools that allow you to cut away the negative space, this leaves only the positive space (the actual parts that print).”

“Think of it as a great big hand carved stamp that you then ink up with a roller (brayer) and then stamp onto paper, with the help of a printing press. I love the tactile nature of printing, I love the problem solving involved, the subtle tweaking you have to do to get it just right.”

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Emmaline works with a press from the ’70s as newer machines are not really being manufactured right now, but to my surprise, she informed me that there are people who use reconditioned machines that date back to the 1900’s! She says that she would love an older press, but they are harder to find – and more expensive – in Australia than in America.

“I do love that they each have their own history, where have they come from who has worked and created on them in the past? For the time being, I am content to work with my lovely Chandler and Price table top and my smaller bright red Adana table top press.”

While Emmaline had been involved in craft fairs for a few years, she did not decide to make this a full-time business until September 2012, when she was put on maternity leave.

“I have been working very hard for the last 12 months or so to build up my business, create a larger range of cards and prints, find the right craft markets for my work (we moved interstate at the same time I started my business), learn the finer points of letterpress printing all while learning to be a mum for the first time!”

She recently launched the invitation side of her business, and she also launched her wedding stationary at a local Bridal Expo. Since she is still building that part, she says that most of her sales come from her letterpress cards rather than her wedding stationary.

Amelie is already a big helper! Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Amelie is already a big helper! Photo from Emmaline Lamond

“I LOVE working with couples to create their perfect wedding stationery. I adore hearing all about their big dreams for their big day, the dress, the location the colour scheme, all of it. It really inspires me to create something unique and beautiful just for them, something that will remain a treasured keepsake they can pull out as the years pass and they celebrate many anniversaries together.”

Like many of us new moms (ok, probably all of us), Emmaline hasn’t had a normal work day since having her little girl last year, and she says her work style has definitely changed.

“I try to keep a to-do list at hand and do my best to work my way through it in 10-minute chunks, as this is usually the longest my little girl will play independently. There is always something to do, drawing, refining my designs in Photoshop, cutting paper, printing, packaging, photographing my products, listing my products… the list goes on and on!”

All of the designs on Emmaline’s cards, invitations and linocut prints are created by her. She says she is drawn to Art Nouveau and whimsical images, and also loves creating her own quirky designs for cards and invites. As for the wedding side, she opts out of the traditional wedding designs, as she says there are plenty of people who “do traditional designs way better than me.”

“But no one else can create my designs exactly like I do. All my designs start with an idea, an inkling, a whimsical daydream that I turn into a drawing and the drawings I like the most are converted into digital images with the help of a scanner, Photoshop and my trusty Wacom tablet. These digital images are then made into photopolymer plates that are used for the actual printing.”

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

While Emmaline admits that being a new mom and starting her creative business can be a little tough, she says that she loves every minute of it.

“I feel so privileged to be in a position to make my small dream of entrepreneurship come true. I am totally motivated by my daughter I want to be able to show her that it is possible to live the life you dream of, for me that means building a sustainable business that will allow me to contribute to our household whilst building a loving and nurturing home for my little family.”

Although Emmaline works alone, her partner helps with the little one on the weekends so she can spend a few hours printing on the weekend. She waited until her daughter was a little older to return to the craft fair scene, and now her daughter gets more compliments than her art does!

I love everything about being a mum. I adore my little girl. I could complain about lack of sleep and those downsides you hear other people talk of but I don’t really mind, she’s only this little for such a short time that I just want to enjoy it all.”

She is focusing on craft shows that are close to her home, and fortunately she lives in a beautiful beachside area which is popular for tourists, and therefore also popular for craft shows. She says that the best and worst part about running her own business is that you live and breathe it.

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

“I love that I have so much passion and drive to make this a success but I also know that I should step away from it more often to live in the moment with my baby and my partner.

While Emmaline has a hard time picking her favorite thing about the entire creative process, she can easily pinpoint her favorite part of the printing process.

“That first time you get to see a new print, peeling the paper back off the printing plate to see the image revealed for the first time- its just magic!”

Emmaline describes her personal style as quirky, whimsical and fun, and she wants people to be able to recognize her work the moment they see it.

“I think it’s also important to have a bit of a sense of humour about your work and to realise that what you create isn’t going to appeal to everyone.”

She recently started creating her own tote bags, and said that they are now on the sidelines while she perfects them, but that won’t last long. And as for the future of her creative business as a whole, well – you will just have to wait and see!

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

Photo from Emmaline Lamond

I have huge plans for the future, I’m working on a top secret kick arse idea a the moment, one that will take lots of hard work and maybe more risk than I am used to but one that I am determined to bring to fruition, I am hoping to unveil it all next summer! So stay tuned for more exciting news as I bring the project together.”

Yo Momma Monday: Alison Butler

yo momma monday

IMG_0509Meet Alison Butler, 31, from Newfoundland, Canada. She is a beautiful mama who recently launched her shop The Petit Cadeau, which is centered around celebrating and creating traditions. She creates handmade heirloom celebration countdown calendars for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries and other special occasions. She loves to create and support handmade, and is usually happiest with a cup of tea and a book.

Alison cultivated her love for creating thoughtful gifts since she was a child and made homemade gifts or cards for her family, something that she says was fostered and encouraged by her mom. She took creative extra-curricular classes, such as art, pottery and cartooning but never took art in high school, something she still regrets.

“As an adult, it’s my “escape” – I love to make things, it calms my mind and body.”

As a mother to a  2 1/2 year old who works a full-time job aside from creating, she admits that she is constantly trying to find a balance, and that nothing ever really feels normal. (I second that notion). She usually spends a few hours each night creating and blogging, after her daughter falls asleep and tries  not to schedule anything on the weekend so her family can enjoy each other.

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Alison credits motherhood for her inspiration to create things for children and to give more thought about the way she does things – like keeping celebrations simple and thoughtful. Most importantly, being a mom has taught her to slow down.

“Everywhere I look, I see parents trying to do everything bigger and better. It seems to stress most people out.,” she says. “Why is it really necessary?  It’s not. My message is always – they won’t remember the gift (most of the time) It’s the memories and experiences that are important.  I want my daughter to remember feeling special.”

It was this idea that prompted her thoughtful gifting manifesto, a beautifully and thoughtfully written post about why she buys handmade, and/or from local businesses. Never a last-minute shopper, she keeps a birthday book and starts planning and preparing well in advance, thinking about what that person would really love.

She also started Thoughtful Celebrations, a monthly e-mail newsletter that focuses on just that – planning thoughtful celebrations. Recipients are privy to recipes and tips for throwing parties and different handmade shops to support. They also get special coupons and previews to new projects she’s working on.

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“I think I have a lot of internal drive to keep working at something I love, even when some days don’t involve anything creative and lot’s of the time I feel completely exhausted.  I’m building something that makes me happy and joyful.”

After a Twitter chat with Oh My Handmade – the amazing handmade community that she belongs to – she wanted to do something fun to promote handmade busineeses. Since she also happened to be training for the NYC 2012 Marathon, and decided to name her series The Handmade Marathon. She selected 26 handmade business participants, one for each mile of a marathon. The marathon was subsequently cancelled, but since the series became so popular, she decided to keep it going.

“I feature one handmade business per month, and changed my interview questions to reflect the direction my blog is heading.”

Alison gets a lot of her inspiration from beautiful magazines and all of her favorite blogs. She reads Oh My Handmade daily and also loves Susannah Conway and Alisa Burke. One of her favorite shops is Herriott Grace – a father and daughter team who started selling gorgeous hand-carved wooden objects online five years ago – and Alison is a proud owner for the cloud cookie cutter!

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Image belongs to Alison Butler

The personal touch is Alison’s favorite thing about the handmade community and she loves being able to connect with others through Oh My Handmade and share her interests and passions with like-minded people.

“There is a real THRIVING supportive community around handmade.  It’s wonderful to be a part of that.”

As an only child, Alison says that she embraces quiet and enjoys sitting in coffee shops to sip and read. She unwinds at local yoga classes and is excited about a new studio she just found and she and her husband recently took a chocolate making class. FUN! She also loves to craft in her downtime and loves learning new trades. One craft she hasn’t learned but would love to try is letterpress.

“I haven’t found anywhere locally where I could learn, but it just looks so beautiful and interesting. Knitting is also high up on my “must-learn” list,” she says.  “I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years – most recently bookbinding/making, wool felting and art journaling.  I’ll try almost anything once!”

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Alison says that her favorite thing about running her own business is interacting with new people and collaborating on projects and posts – and she has some great ones in the works in late 2013 and early 2014! She hopes that her blog will inspire people to make small, thoughtful changes. She wants people to feel inspired to make a gift when they might feel like they don’t have the talent and she wants people to start simple family traditions that will last a lifetime.

“Inspired to think about where the money goes and instead of buying five plastic toys, invest in one beautiful  toy – something that’s quality, made by hand.  Most importantly, I want you to feel like my blog is for you, because it is!”

As a mom, Alison works slower on her projects than she did in the past. She’s constantly planning new ideas for the shop and has  several in the works right now and she says she is learning to embrace the newer, slower pace of finishing projects or getting things completed.

Image belongs to Alison Butler

Image belongs to Alison Butler

“My hope for the future is to be able to incorporate creativity more into my everyday life.  I want to continue to slow down, listen, be present and enjoy my family to the fullest.”

You can find more about Alison, her thoughtful gifting manifesto through The Petit Cadeau blog and you can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. If you know of an awesome mama who would be a perfect fit for this series, please leave a comment or share the link on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Meet some more amazing mamas on my Pinterest!