Creative Business Journey: Project 2014

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

Image from Oh My! Handmade Goodness

I was moved by a quote that Susan Petersen from Freshly Picked shared yesterday.

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

It’s from Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and it expressed how I have been feeling lately to a tee. Every time I e-mail someone to see if they want to be featured in my series, there is a fear. My hands get sweaty and my heart races. What if that person hates the idea, or worse, hates my blog? What if they don’t want to bother with something so trivial and small? Luckily, most of the people I have asked have been nothing but wonderful, and if they do pass, they do so with care.

But none of that would have happened if fear consumed me. There wouldn’t be a Yo Momma Monday or a Meet the Maker series if I let the fear dictate me. And I would have never gotten to know the incredible people I have, or would have been able to share their stories.

I have been making a lot of changes – some natural, and some terrifying. In January, when I was thinking about what needed to happen, I knew that I needed to be fearless. To not become consumed by my fear or to doubt myself, but to embrace my fear as a call to action. Project 2014 was the perfect challenge for me, and I love having someone to check in on me to make sure I’m taking care of my business.

be fearless

Now that my blog redesign is pretty much good to go, I’m focusing my energy on how I want to see my blog in the future. I’m going to explore the world of sponsorships and partnerships and get more people involved in my blog – expand the community more. Because I know, deep down in my heart, that this blog can be everything I want it to be. It just takes some work, and more than that – it takes confidence.

As for Sweet Mariposa, I need to get to work on creating new stuff! I have made a plan in the past to do all of my creating on Saturdays, but as with anything else, you can’t plan when you create. And you certainly can’t plan it on a day that is usually reserved for family time. I need to go through all of my stuff, and see what I want to build on.

There’s also an insane amount of fear that comes with showing your art to the world. Because once someone makes one negative comment about it, you immediately want to take it down and protect it from the cruel world. But, depending on the comment, there is a lot you could learn from it.

Is there a flaw in your work, or is it just that person’s opinion? Do you hear the same comment from different people? Maybe the message you’re trying to convey isn’t clear, and you need to change some things up. Or maybe…you just need to accept the fact that not everybody will love your work like you do, and move on.

How do you handle your fear? Is there anything you have been wanting to pursue but haven’t out of fear? If you want to share, please feel free to do so in the comments and on my Facebook, Twitter and Google +. When you share, you give others the chance to support you, and possibly even learn from you. You can find more of my creative business inspiration on my Pinterest.

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!

Meet the Maker: Print Therapy

meet the maker

Meet Melissa, 30, and Nicholas Wert, 32 from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. They are the adorable and creative couple behind Print Therapy, a handcrafted paper expression company, and I am honored to have them as my guests today. And how perfect (and not planned at all) is it that Valentines Day is officially less than a month away.

Melissa and Nick decided to start Print Therapy while Melissa was in a hotel room during a business trip. She still works full time as a project manager and has one foot in the creative world, one foot in corporate America, as she would put it.

“After several weeks of travel (for work, not for pleasure!) and too many moments of not feeling like my best was good enough and not being able to truly stand behind my work, I called Nick and said “Dang it! We’re starting Print Therapy. For real!” A few hours later, we registered the name and had filled out all of the legal paperwork.”

Melissa has both a Bachelors in Business Management and a Masters in Communication and Information Management. She and Nick started Print Therapy a year after she got her Masters. She admits that at first it felt like a waste – paying off a whole bunch of student loans after realizing that she wasn’t all about corporate America.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“But when I stepped back, I realized how much they would help me run my own business and handle the non-creative portion of my work, which I love almost as much as the creating!”

Melissa says that she wouldn’t rather work with anyone else, and that the secret to their success is working in separate offices. She adds that having her husband as her business partner gives them both an understanding of all the work they put into it.

” If one of us needs to take a break or step away from it for a while, then it’s totally okay. We both know that we each love this business and want it to grow, and that we’re 100% committed to that. Nick doesn’t get on my case if I devote an entire Saturday to Print Therapy or if I fall asleep on the couch at 8pm after a long day of work. We appreciate each other for the work we’re putting in – and make sacrifices together to keep it all going!”

Since Melissa is an early riser, she is able to get a huge chunk of her work done before anyone else gets up and the neighborhood is still quiet. She makes a cup of coffee, checks her email and visits the blogs and social media sites of her favorite creative people. Then, it’s time to handle business. Some days, she works on all the of business aspects and other days, she’s creating a new design.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I am a methodical planner (hence my project management background), and have had to learn that you cannot plan creativity. It’s not something you can schedule on the calendar (yes, I’ve tried), or slot in a certain time of the day. When it happens, it happens.”

The upstairs spare bedroom of their 52 Cape doubles as her office, where she says all of the white space inspires her; yet the beautiful charm and character are her favorite. She has a desk, some storage racks, a Print Therapy design board and a Yoga Dogs calendar. Her only office mate is her dog, Sawyer, who is always hard at work on his comfy bed under the window.

“The bones of the room give me  a warm and fuzzy feeling…being surrounded by color would limit my design sense.”

While Melissa does get a lot of her home inspiration from Pinterest and creative inspiration from Instagram, she is most inspired by things that are not related to stationary at all, a nod to a subject she studied in College.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I studied architecture in college before switching to business, and I tend to find a lot of inspiration in different architectural pieces and in interior design.”

Before Adobe introduced the Creative Cloud, Melissa and Nick were creating all of their cards on Microsoft Word (yowza!). After watching all the Adobe TV tutorials they could handle, they now use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign for all of their designs.

“It’s opened up a new level of creativity and confidence for me. We print most of our items at home, but are slowly beginning to work with a great printing company that prints out of California. They will greatly expand what we can offer, and can help keep our prices reasonable for bigger orders.  It’s hard to let a big piece of the business go like that, but we’ve found someone we trust and really enjoy working with, so … baby steps!”

Since both Melissa and Nick work full-time aside from running Print Therapy, they don’t get a whole lot of downtime. So when they do get a chance to unwind, they will get burgers or Chinese take-out and snuggle with Sawyer on the couch and watch a movie or catch-up on their favorite shows.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“As much as we love working together, getting to unwind together is even better! Both of our families are about 10 minutes away, so we love getting to spend time with them, too. We also treasure dinner dates with our closest friends – whether they be out to a restaurant or home cooked at someone’s home. Quality time together is where it’s at!”

For Melissa, being responsible for it all is both the best and scariest thing about running her own business. She loves having control over every aspect of her company, but also admits that it can get a little hairy when there’s not an IT Department or a paycheck, for that matter.

“You get to know yourself pretty well when you’re the one behind it all, and you have to learn to work within your strengths and weaknesses, and to push yourself farther than you thought you could go.”

When they need to buckle down and get to work, Melissa and Nick have different ways to get in the creative mood. Melissa will turn her workspace into what she calls a “safe space” and shuts the door, turns up the heat, lights a candle and turns up the emotional music. Nick, on the other hand, revisits the 90s with his musical choices. “Method Man, Wu Tang, all of it”

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Nick often jokes how much I love sad music – it’s true! I feel most creative when I deeply, deeply feel something. To me, that’s the point of stationery – to put feelings into text and images that can be shared with someone else.”

And when there are simply no creative juices flowing? Melissa doesn’t force it, and just stops trying. She will start cleaning and organizing and comes back to it later. If there is still nothing, she will just start designing something and eventually the creativity will reemerge.

“Sometimes walking away is the best option though – becoming frustrated with the process certainly isn’t going to help that creativity to start flowing.”

And when there are design flops, Melissa has learned to not rush the process and to work on a design until it feels right. And if she doesn’t love it, she will not have that innate urge to sell it. And when she’s not jumping up and down to promote it…then maybe it shouldn’t be up for sale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the trends and to try to make something because you think it will sell. But, if it doesn’t fit you and your brand, good luck”

Melissa loves the familiarity of the handmade movement and community, and loves how it feels like “we’re all in this together.” She has a lot of friends who run their own small businesses, and she feels inspired being able able to purchase items that help people support families, fund an adoption and give back to their communities.

“You just don’t get that feeling from a Wal-Mart. There’s nothing better than purchasing a product you love and knowing that that maker is excited by and appreciative of every purchase coming his or her way, and is using that money to live their life. Double whammy goodness.”

She discovered Oh My Handmade! while on Twitter when she was starting Print Therapy. She checked out the website, and ultimately decided that the small monthly fee was worth all of the support she would get from the online community.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“Through my OMHG membership, I’ve learned that I’m not alone and that everyone struggles. Everyone has off days. No one feels like a creative successful genius 365 days a year. It’s been eye opening for me, in the best way, and has helped me better accept myself as a maker.”

While Melissa agrees that starting your own business is incredibly tiring, she also knows how exhausting it can be to work at a job that you don’t love. So, she knows this is the right path for her, and if she does have children, she hopes it will be an inspiration to them.

“Every day that I look at Nick, and the family we’re building, I am inspired to go down this path, because it makes me the happiest person I can be. That’s good for me.”

Now that they finally have their website launched (yay!), Melissa hopes to work on a Wedding collection and add more “just because” cards to their shop. “Those are my favorite to send, and to receive, so I want to offer more of those as well.” Next year, they hope to move into wholesale.

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

“I hope to inspire people to do what they love, and to not feel constrained by what they think they should be doing or by what someone else thinks they should be doing. I hope to inspire people to find a partner to share their life with that fully supports their dreams and visions.

I hope to inspire people to rescue their next pet versus buying from a breeder, because man, rescue pets are the best. But mostly, I hope to just inspire people to tell someone else how they feel about them in a way that will always be treasured. Leave a love note, send a card. However they choose, I want to inspire people to tell those they love, that they love them. I want to inspire people to send happiness; from their mailbox forward.”

You can find Melissa and Nick on their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and you can order Valentines cards (like I did) and any other cards you like from their Etsy shop. If you would like to participate in this series – or know somebody who should – leave a note in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you want to be all private, you can e-mail me too!

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.

celebration-bags-2

“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!