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!

Homemade for the Holidays: Sales!

As I have said before, part of my Creative Business Journey is to share stories of people who have started their own businesses and inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing. With that in mind, this week’s My Creative Business Journey post is interrupted by a listing of all the small businesses I know that will be hosting sales online this weekend! I know that sometimes buying from handmade/small businesses can be tough because it usually means spending a little more, so this list might help lighten the load a little.

The Petit Cadeau – Free shipping on everything | Code: HOLIDAY

Photo from Alison Butler

Photo from Alison Butler

I recently wrote about Alison for my Yo Momma Monday series and have felt so inspired by her slow gifting manifesto. She sells handmade heirloom celebration countdowns, all made in her home studio. She sources most of her items and packaging from independent/local businesses.

Ink and Dirt Designs – 20% off everything | Code: OHMYHOLIDAY

Photo from Ink and Dirt Designs

Photo from Ink and Dirt Designs

Karen Jansen is a crafty mama who creates typography art, subway art, word art, original and custom designs. She came up with the name Ink and Dirt because she not only makes beautiful prints, she also likes to work on landscape design projects!

Lix Hewett Photography/ Design – 20% off everything | HANGIT/ BRANDIT

Photo from Lix Hewitt

Photo from Lix Hewitt

Not only is Lix a wonderful photographer, she recently opened her graphic design shop on Etsy! She offers not only beautiful prints, but iphone cases and custom branding as well. Spoil yourself with a custom branding package and get a print for your friend. Done and done!

Sam Osborne – 25% off all orders over £5 | Code: HOHOHO13

Photo from Sam Osborn

Photo from Sam Osborne

As an aspiring illustrator and graphic designer, Sam is such an inspiration. I love her work and how seamlessly it goes from print to products. The moment you see something of hers, you know who it belongs to and all of her work is so bright and fun, it immediately puts me in a good mood.

Lu & Ed – 30% off everything except Team Lu & Ed merch | Code: StorenvyFlash30

Photo from Sam Osborn

Photo from Lu & Ed

I wrote about the wonderful Cody for Yo Momma Monday last week and shared all the awesome stuff she does with her business. She organized a 50-store Store Evny sale and you can view all the stores here. Sale is on Cyber Monday only.

Kitty’s Curiosity – 25% everything in store, including sale items (BONUS!) | Code: HOORAY13

Photo from Kitty's Curiosity

Photo from Kitty’s Curiosity

Genevieve makes both reclaimed and hand-dyed yarn in a smoke, pet and allergen free home. I virtually met in her the Oh My Handmade forums and she is always so very welcoming and helpful! Her yarn is absolutely beautiful and if I ever get into knitting again – I know where I’m headed!

Print Therapy – 20% off everything | Code: GetYoShopOn

Photo from Print Therapy

Photo from Print Therapy

Let me just say, best coupon code I have ever seen. Ever. Melissa and Nicholas discovered a mutual love for handmade paper items after planning their wedding. How freaking cute is that? They have a lot of meaningful cards for all the occasions, like this sweet anniversary card. I can’t wait to share their full story in my Meet the Maker series soon!

dylbug – Free shipping

Photo from dylbug

Photo from dylbug

Leslie started this company after her first son was born and she wanted some hip clothes for him with a personal touch. Now a mama of three, she is always working on adorable new graphics. I was just introduced to this shop through Facebook, and I think I might be in love.

Home Grown Books20% off entire site | Code: shopsmall

Photo from Home Grown Books

Photo from Home Grown Books

My little one loves books. She likes to flip through them, and mostly to eat them. Home Grown Books are all art-based and eco-friendly books, made through an entirely green process. The paper is recycled and sturdy (good for those inquisitive mouths) and the books are 5.5″ by 6.25″ – perfect for little ones! There are seven books in a set, and the artist of each set is spotlighted on the website – which I think is amazing, and unfortunately isn’t done enough.

Simply Mad Jewelry15% off entire order | Code: SPARKLE15

Photo from Simply Mad Jewelry

Photo from Simply Mad Jewelry

I have come to the realization that I won’t be wearing jewelry for a long time. At least until my daughter stops pulling at literally everything I wear. Not that I wore too much jewelry in the first place, but I do have a special place in my heart for fabric rings like the one above! Madeline makes all of her jewelry by hand, and she takes custom orders. 

You can also find a listing of shops with holiday sales on Omiyage – a crafty blog featuring the amazing Washi tape. I actually went on to Oh My Handmade to announce I was going to compile this list so people could promote their sales, when I found out that she was doing the same thing! A lot of these lovely people are from that community so there may be the same shops on her list. I’m going to head over there as well, to see if there are any sales I missed out on!

If you are hosting a sale this weekend, or you know an awesome shop that is and I didn’t know about it, please leave a link in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #shopsmallsales. You can also find more holiday sales on my Pinterest. If anything, I hope this inspires you to shop small and handmade this holiday season.

Yo Momma Monday: Cody from Lu & Ed

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Meet Cody, a work-at-home mama in her mid-twenties from Kansas City, MO, who runs an eco-friendly monster toy line called Lu & Ed. Before starting her own business, Cody was the head of marketing in a retail store, and before that, she was in line to become a store manager at a local restaurant. Not looking back, Cody says that making mon-stors “is the best job I have ever had!”

She came up with the idea of Mon-stors when she moved from South Carolina to Missouri with her son and lived in the basement of her fiance’s mom’s house. With little room to move around, Cody thought of a storage solution where her son could literally feed toys to a stuffed monster.

Once I posted photos online, I got dozens of requests and soon after, dropped my day job to pursue it full time!

Cody is not only a mama to her son, she is also a mama to seven rescue pets and has another job recording sales for an author. Being a mom has made her more motivated because she has more flexibility as an independent business owner than she would in the workforce, and she is setting a good example for her son to pursue his dreams.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“My son loves what I do and I love that it enables me to stay home with him, that I can be here for him all the time. I am so thankful for everyone who supports my indie business and allows me this opportunity.”

Although it’s hard for Cody to pinpoint her favorite thing about running her own business, she did say that the scariest thing is straightening out her taxes and licenses.

“You always want to make sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s and it can be scary filing taxes for your first time or applying for a new license when you relocate. There are so many great resources out there now for handmade businesses to help them get their affairs in order, and for that I am thankful!”

Right now, she is a one-mama shop and works in the extra bedroom in the back of her house. Cody says that she is casually looking for an intern to help out with sewing during her busy times – before big events and during the holiday season – but in the meantime, her son has turned out to be quite the helper.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“On take your child to work day last year he worked in the studio with me all day and made two stuffed monsters, and had so much fun doing so! He also loves to make jewelry, sculpt, paint, make soap and draw. ♥”

She describes her workspace as “messy, colorful, fun, full of inspiring quotes, monsters and a huge over flowing closet of fabric.” Speaking of fabric, Cody uses all eco-friendly materials to make Mon-stors and assures that there is absolutely no waste going into landfills. She uses large cuts of fabric to make Mon-stors, then from that, she cuts use the remnants to make small Mon-stors, totes, stuffed monsters, gadget Mon-stors and other productsWhatever is left from that is used for stuffing or to make dog beds that she donates to animal shelters.

“They are all little steps that make a big impact in the environment.”

Cody has always been eco-aware but admits that she didn’t know the impact buying new fabric had on the environment until she took a part-time job at a fabric store to help cover the costs of some dental work she needed. After she witnessed all the waste firsthand, she decided that she could no longer support big-box fabric stores.

Photo from Lu & Ed

Photo from Lu & Ed

“Fabric arrives in a big, plastic wrapped box. The box and plastic wrap are thrown in the trash (not recycled), then each bolt is wrapped in plastic wrap, which is then throw away. All uneven edges are trimmed and just thrown away, as are tiny remnants & the cardboard sleeves the fabric is wrapped around.”

She started buying fabric at thrift stores and after a few months, people were offering her old fabric, sheets, clothing and blankets that they were no longer using. Wanting to do more, she searched for more eco-friendly ways to run her business. She started flipping food boxes inside out and once her family and friends heard she was doing this, they started giving her their old boxes.

“I haven’t had to buy or pick up a box from the post office in over two years! I also found Eco Enclose, a company that makes biodegradable tape from renewable resources, Fabric Recycles, a fabric and crafting notion thrift store where I can buy thread spools second hand at a fraction of the cost (and pollution of production) of new thread, and Moo‘s amazing recycled, biodegradable business cards!”

Cody has witnessed her eco-efforts sparking a revolution among artisans within her community. Business owners are realizing that being eco-friendly in your supplies and packaging actually results in major savings for your business, and more and more people are coming to her for advice on how to make their businesses more sustainable.

Cody's car after a thrifting haul

Cody’s car after a thrifting haul. Photo from Lu & Ed

“Several people I know have stopped purchasing boxes and bubble mailers and started recycling packaging or making their own mailers from reclaimed materials to reduce landfill waste and environmental pollution. I think that it is creating a bit of a ripple effect – as more people close to me make small changes, people close to them will as well, and so on. ♥ If we all make small changes they will have a huge impact on the Earth!”

She says that her eco-conscious efforts are also creating a ripple effect with her son. They pick up litter together all the time, often talk about sustainability and she takes him on all of her thrift store adventures. “My son is a total green-freak,” she says.

“He will grab a robe and say “Wow, this would be a great monster!” We buy all of our clothing, dishes, and home goods like lamps and decor from thrift stores, and my son is aware of the ecological impact factory produced goods creates on the world. My son has a hawk eye for organic products at the grocery store, too. Haha! I hope he will maintain his love for nature and making good choices through adulthood.”

Cody started Team Lu & Ed at the beginning of this year to collaborate with other artists and fulfill customer demands for products she doesn’t offer. It slowly grew into a charitable endeavor, with up to 50% from the sale of each product going to charity. Recently, she partnered with The Mollie Shop to sell super cute bows, and half of the profit will be donated to Drumm Farm Center for Children.

Cody's collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

Cody’s collaboration with The Mollie Shop. Her first donation was $148. Photo from Lu & Ed

“It has been a huge success and I have loved helping emerging artists become discovered through our collaborations, and I love bring art & toys together to create change in my local community!”

She says that her favorite thing about what she does is “how happy my products make children. It just makes my heart so happy to see photos of children lovingly playing with their monsters.” She is adding a few new lines to her shop and is working on a few new collaborations. Cody hopes that her green business will continue to inspire her community.

“I am hoping that my eco-mission will inspire other handmade business owners make more conscious decisions about where they source their supplies, and inspire consumers to make slower purchases, really thinking about the product, how it makes them feel and the impact it has on the Earth before buying. ♥”

You can find out more about Cody, Lu & Ed and her mission by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. If you would like to participate in Yo Momma Monday, please post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #yomommamonday. You can find more awesome mama inspiration on my Pinterest!

Meet the Maker: Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

As part of my creative business journey, I have included another series on my blog. It’s called Meet the Maker and it’s where I share awesome stories from some of my favorite makers. This is to help inspire and motivate, but to also help promote the handmade community. I believe that if we all come together to support and promote each other, amazing things can happen.

And just by happenstance, the very first maker in my Meet the Maker series is the lovely Amanda Wright from Wit & Whistle. Not only does she have the best name in the world, she also prints on anything from pillowcases, hand towels, greeting cards, journals and more.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Amanda, 29, graduated from the North Carolina State College of Design in 2006. There, she learned a valuable lesson: don’t give up if something doesn’t turn out right the first time.

Every project goes through many drafts before completion. Design is a process with many steps, and not all of those steps are nice to look at!

Ain’t that the truth.

After graduation, she got a job at a design firm and while she loved where she worked, she wasn’t allowed very much creative freedom. While she had a few clients that were more open-minded, others weren’t as cooperative, which is something she admits she didn’t learn about in design school.

They’ll slap a big ugly logo onto your beautiful design and ask you to rearrange your masterpiece until it’s unrecognizable. Each time that happened it was a painful stab to my creative spirit.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

She started designing cards in her free time, under the name Spawn Studio. To her surprise, her card sales took off, and her husband Daniel encouraged her to quit the design firm and work on her greeting card business from home. It took a few months of him pushing her, but she finally made the leap in 2009.

While she’s not a fan of all the math involved with running your own business, she does appreciate the flexible hours.

I relish the freedom to work on what I want to, when I want to. After all, the creative urge doesn’t always strike between the hours of 9 and 5!

With more time to create when and what she wants, she keeps a running list of ideas in her head. Then when she is in a creative mood, she will pick from the list.

I do most designing in my sketchbook. Then, I scan my drawings into the computer and add color digitally. I started out printing, folding, and cutting all my products myself, but now I work with a local printer to produce most of my goods. That way I have more time to create!

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Making her own schedule allows her a few creative brain farts from time to time.

Sometimes there will be a multiple week stretch in which I wonder if there’s even a speck of creativity left in my body. Usually the cure is to step away and do something else for a while. I might repaint a room of the house, bake something, snap some photos, or come up with a DIY project for my blog. When I get back to designing, my brain fart has usually dissipated.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Brain fart or not, Amanda is motivated by her desire to constantly improve. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she is never completely satisfied with her work, which drives her to keep practicing.

It’s cliche, but I want to be the best I can possibly be. I want to make the most of this amazing opportunity to pursue my dreams.

A Regina Spektor fan, Amanda will sometimes listen to music while she is designing, but her studio time is usually spent listening to podcasts, like Relic Radio‘s rebroadcast of science fiction radio shows from the mid 1900s.

They’re cheesy in an endearing way. They always make predictions about the distant future (1997), and they’re always way off. (We are supposed to be living on Mars with robot slaves by now.)

Amanda would describe her work as “pretty with an unexpected touch of crassness,” and sometimes, the crass can be a little too unexpected, like she learned with her biggest card flop – a Mother’s Day card for new moms.

The front said something like “POP, CRACK, GROAN, SNAP, RIIIPPPP…” and the inside said “It’s a good thing you have nice birthing hips.”

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Always wanting to improve, Amanda is taking a crash course in Calligraphy with Molly Jacques on Skillshare. She is also working on spiral notebooks, her 2013 holiday line, notepad designs and even her Valentine’s Day cards. With all this going on, she admits she has a hard time relaxing.

Even when I’m watching TV I have my sketchbook in hand. My husband and I try to go on a big trip every year or so—preferably to someplace where I can get a new stamp in my passport. It’s nice to force myself out of my comfort zone and experience something totally new.

Amanda says that being a small business owner has taught her not to over-think it. She didn’t follow the normal process of writing up a business plan and getting everything figured out before setting up shop. She slowly started putting her work out there, and it has continued growing.

Maybe that’s not the smartest business advice, but it has worked pretty well for me. If I had tried to figure everything out in the beginning, I would’ve been overwhelmed and given up!

As if sharing her story was not enough, Amanda is also offering a 15% off your purchase at her store. Just click on the coupon below! If you want to learn more about her, you can connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

Image belongs to Amanda Wright

If you have an idea for a good Meet the Maker profile, please post in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #meethtemaker or simply tag me in your post! And you can find more inspiration for my Meet the Makers series and creative business journey on Pinterest!