my handmade story

For as long as I can remember I have been an artist in some way.  Before my mom remarried when I was 13, it was just her and I.  She was a hard worker and gave me everything she could, but I understood the concept of making do with what we had.  I have a very distinct memory of playing with barbies and flipping over two plastic cups to lay a ruler on top of them so that my barbies had a bar they could mingle at.  I'm sure that was the future wine lover showing through, but I like to think of it as just being imaginative.  In high school and beyond I always had art journals, magazine clippings, wall murals in my room, diy jewelry and thrift shop finds to keep me company and they are still things I cherish to this day.  Sure I went through crazy phases and even took some adventures- like running away to New York when I was 15 (4 days on a gray hound bus is a story for another day), but at my core- my life has always been to be inspired and to create.

I've been self employed for about 8yrs now and I don't know any other way.  If it wasn't with owning a salon, having a retail shop or a photography business- it was creating things, blogging, freelance- anything I could get my hands on.  When I first started making hair accessories to sell in 2010, things were slightly different.  Sure it was just a few years ago, but it wasn't as common as it is now to have a handmade shop, it was being done- just not by everyone. I was lucky because I was offering up something new, after much research I knew I was creating something unique and I had looked up to my favorite handmade seller who had been doing it longer, to work up the courage to get my product out there.  At the time I owned a salon & photo studio in an amazing space on the top floor of a historic building in the little town I lived in and decided to host a handmade market to feature the very few local people who were making things too.  It was fun, successful and gave me the boost I needed to open a shop online.  With just a little word of mouth and the help of my photography facebook page that had around 2,000 followers I launched {just.lovely.things}.  I named the accessories line that because I already had this blog name from 2009 when I used to post things I loved finding online- I had like 5 followers because no one cared or understood then.  Confession time: I have never loved my business name, I wish all the time I had thought it through and sometimes want to just start all over!! 

When I launched the shop, I had no idea what to expect.  I remember selling out of everything I had made on that first day and thought 'how nice of these people to buy my things to show their support'.  The next week I released more designs, those all sold out in a day or two and I thought 'ok, thats crazy.. but cool!'.  The third time it happend 'holy shit, what did I get myself into?'.  I had to sit back and think about what I was doing and how much time I needed if I was really going to pursue this.  I was still doing hair and making hundreds a day, it was great- but started to feel like a job, I was burnt out.  When I saw that something I was having so much fun creating was making me the same amount of money in just a few hours after I released new inventory I knew I needed to make a business decision that I could be happy about.  You can catch up on how everything went down in 2011 here (a little timeline).  Basically I quit everything and pursued a handmade indie business life and haven't looked back.  From the first ad I ever purchased to spread the word about my little business, my first big market and my first national features- the little steps along the way have been nothing short of exciting and I still pinch myself when I think of what I have done.  To know that something I made with my hands, in my little studio space, is out there- its still the coolest feeling!

Working from home full time has its pros and cons that right now I'm actually struggling with and will share more about next week, but its also been one of the best decisions for my mental health I could have done. I get to dream, create, explore all on my own schedule and I wouldn't change that for anything.

From the beginning of this handmade indie business story I started in 2010, I have created every piece by hand.  I have photographed every item, styled each shoot and was lucky to have friends model for me.  I had people that believed in me and a family that supported and encouraged my wacky decisions, just to see me happy.  I have had amazing opportunities I still can't believe are real, I have had ugly lows where customers actually opened their own shops and started copying my designs (heart break), I have made friends in this community I never would have met any other way and I have learned more about myself in the last 3 yrs than any other time of my life I can think of.  Currently I'm getting ready to put my products in more local shops around Portland (my new city!), I'm supplying accessories to 3 tv shows this fall, a country musician on tour is sporting them and I want to dream up new designs.  To date around 7000 creations have left my hands and I'm proud of each one.

However- I'm in that place where I need change, I crave it.  I don't know how I want to continue with my handmade life- its still a huge passion of mine, but something needs to change.  I wanted to share my story with you because its not done, I believe its still just starting and I can't wait to see where it takes me next.

Stick around next week because I'm going to share more of my handmade journey with you, including how I market myself and how to get in touch with magazines and tv shows to get your product in their hands! xo

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