Week 14 Challenge: What were you doing in your maker life one, three, or five years ago?
Prize: Duomo Stitch Marker Set and Autumn Accent Marker Set
How to Enter: Post your challenge photo and tag @hellolavenderdesign + @knitbrooks, using hashtags #CreativeRootsChallenge + #CreativeRootsWeek14. You have until Monday, December 7th @ 1pm EST!
While Instagram is an incredible tool to help makers grow their business and their craft, it also feeds into the common misconception of overnight success and an active, thriving business from day one. It doesn’t show the countless failures along the way. It doesn’t show the ideas that just didn’t land, or the products that never saw the light of day. It doesn’t showcase everything a maker has been through to get to where they are. I wanted to talk about the one, three, and five year journey to highlight the fact that where you begin isn’t where you’ll end. The products you launch your business with could completely change as you grow and evolve, both as a maker and as a person. Your business should showcase your growth, and growth is impossible without mistakes and failures along the way. You by no means need to have everything figured out when you start, and thinking you can is an exercise in futility. There is no magic pill or bulletproof plan that will guide you through the process. You have to put in the hours and the effort. You have to do the research. You have to experiment and stretch yourself. When you do, you’ll look back on the beginning of your maker journey with a sense of pride, because it all has led you to where you are now.
So, where to begin? How about we start with my obsession with the color mustard, because, obviously. These days I live on a steady drip of coffee while chasing around my two daughters with the help of my husband, who I’ve been with since high school. That’s 16 years for anyone keeping track. I know. Gross. On the maker side of things, my journey with yarn started at the age of ten when my mom taught me how to crochet. While I never thought I’d wind up here, my dad always told me I should start my own business, which I always laughed off. Sure showed him, right? I now spend every free moment I have frantically making stitch markers for all of the wonderful members of the knitting and crochet community. If you had told me five years ago that I would be making stitch markers out of polymer clay as the main focus of my business, I would have laughed. Just like I did with my dad, and we all know how that turned out.
Hello Lavender Design Q&A
When you first started your maker journey, what was your goal? How has it changed?
When I launched Hello Lavender in 2016, I had absolutely no idea what the hell I was doing. It was born out of a need to bring in extra money for my family, while still leaving me enough time to spend time with my daughter. From the outset, I knew I wanted to be flexible with the business, even down to the name. Rather than picking a name that tied me to a certain craft, I wanted something a bit more ambiguous that would still fit if the focus of the business ever changed, hence landing on Hello Lavender. Five years later, I’m glad I had the foresight to make that call. When I first started the business, I was making hand painted wooden signs that I would sell at craft fairs and have on displays at local businesses. Getting my work into a local coffee shop was a HUGE deal to me at the time. I quickly introduced crocheted items, which eventually evolved into knitwear a year or two later.
The cycle of craft fairs continued, followed by Spings and Summers filled with me trying to come up with other products to sell during the off season, because who needs a double layer merino wool hat in July? Turns out, no one. That’s who. This continued through the end of 2019, when I only managed to do one craft fair after the birth of my second daughter. I made the product, and my husband took everything to the show and manned the booth for two days. Good times.
Seemingly on a whim, I decided it would be fun to make a few stitch markers out of clay in early 2020. I knocked out a few designs and put them on my site, not knowing if they would get any kind of response. As you might have guessed by now, they did. So I made some more. Those sold too, only faster. The cycle continued, and with every update, I was sure that people were already tired of my designs, and the few people who wanted stitch markers already had them, and sales would inevitably taper off. Except they didn’t, much to my surprise. I then dabbled in earrings with the Lola design, which has become one of my best sellers. So here we are about eight months and a few collaborations later, and I never could have guessed at how this would have panned out. Started at wooden signs and now we’re here. Every now and then I just look at my husband and say ‘f’in stitch markers!!!’ in disbelief, because, honestly, who knew?
What is your favourite inspirational (or creativity-related) quote?
Honestly, I’m not really a quote person.
What is your main creative struggle, and how do you work through it?
I struggle with the idea that the interest in my stitch markers is a fad, and eventually people will stop caring and everything I’ve worked for will fall apart. To combat that, I push myself creatively to come up with new, innovative designs that test my limits and abilities. I’m always looking for other ways to grow and expand the business beyond stitch markers. More on that in the future ;)
Tell us about a total maker FAIL. What did you learn from it, and how did that failure help you grow?
When I was still making knitwear, I had designed a few patterns for pieces I sold on my site and at craft fairs. In an effort to expand the business, I decided to try my hand at publishing and selling the pattern for one of my most popular designs. I saw others in the space doing that, and thought it was the next logical step for my business. As it turns out, logic and art don’t always see eye to eye, as the process of trying to publish the pattern was an absolute nightmare, and I didn’t enjoy a second of it. After months of back and forth with pattern testers and my own struggles, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I knew from that point forward I would only move my business in directions that spoke to me, rather than seeing what others were doing and thinking that I needed to mirror them in order to be successful. I try to avoid categorizing events as failures, as that implies a negative outcome. Instead, I think of my stumbles as learning experiences, each one nudging my business further in the right direction.
What do you feel has been your biggest accomplishment?
In July of 2020 I collaborated in the Italy Collection with Ali of @explorerknits, and that entire process was a huge turning point for me personally and my business. The collaboration involved creating ten stitch marker designs to match ten colorways created by Ali. Not only did I match the colors, but being the insane person I am, I also crafted each design to match the inspiration behind each colorway. From the architecture of the Duomo to the waters of Venice, I stretched myself creatively in ways I never thought possible. What I was able to do with the Italy Collection made me feel like a true artist, and allowed me to express my deep love for Italy through my work. It also gave me insight on what it’s like to work with another amazing artist, as Ali is incredibly talented and dedicated to her craft.
What is one goal you’re working towards right now?
I’m working on something pretty big right now, and it’s… a secret! The one thing I can say is that it’s something I’ve dabbled with in the past through Hello Lavender, and this time it will be here to stay. Spring 2021. Mark your calendars.
Name three creative people who inspire you, and why?
- Deepica Mutyala (@deepica): As an Indian businesswoman, Deepica is a huge inspiration for me. She went against cultural norms that pressure women to be housewives, doctors, or engineers, and instead forged her own path by doing what was important and meaningful to her. She’s a constant reminder to me that, as long as I stick to my beliefs and work hard, I can have the business and the life I want.
- Adella Colvin (@lolabeanyarnco): Adella is an absolute boss. She knows what she stands for and she STANDS for it. She isn’t afraid to have her voice heard and speaks her truth with conviction. She is a reminder to me that business IS personal, and business owners need to stand in their beliefs, rather than staying silent in the fear of losing followers or business.
- Ali Osterholtz (@explorerknits): Ali is quite possibly the kindest, most genuine, hard working, and caring human I’ve ever met. She truly puts everything she has into her yarn. She cares deeply about the world and uses her platform to drive real, actionable change. And it has to be said, the girl is wicked talented with her colorways.
What is your best piece of advice for someone who has lost their creative mojo?
I’ll start my answer with a recent anecdote. When I was working on the Italy collection, I had two designs left that I just could not for the life of me get down. I worked on them for a week straight, but nothing seemed to fit. I was in the middle of breastfeeding my youngest daughter when I scrolled across something fuschia on my phone. In that moment, I knew, above all else, that I HAD to make fuschia Lolas. Was fuschia a color I had used in the past? No. Did it match the mood of my other Lola colors? Absolutely not. Did any of that matter? No, because my brain wouldn’t rest until I got the design out of my head and into the real world.
So, I finished breastfeeding my daughter, got out my clay, and made my first pair of fuschia Lolas. Instead of going back to Italy, which I had been forcing myself to work on, I instead listened to my instincts and put my effort in what I WANTED to do, rather than what I SHOULD do. In the process, I created a new Lola color, which was hugely popular, and in doing so freed up the creative block in my brain, and soon thereafter knocked out the last two Italy designs. All of this to say, if you’re stuck, listen to your gut. Create what is calling to you. It doesn’t matter if you’ll never sell it or no one will ever see it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the complete opposite of what you would normally make. All that matters is that you create in a way that fulfills you. The rest will follow
Share five fun non-maker-related facts!
I died at birth. Spoiler Alert! I survived.
My parents still don’t know what I do for a living. No, seriously.
I can’t swim. Floaties for days.
I possess a dangerously deep well of knowledge of the show Friends, down to spotting inconsistencies in the characters birthdays. Yes, I’m THAT person.
Italy is my soul home.