October 07, 2017

Handmade Marathon: Hereness Thereness

Editor's Note: I originally fell in love with Amberlea's gnomes and play houses, in particular because I had a little fabric play house like this when I was little.  Learn more about her handmade business here. 

(+) Tell us about your business
I make children's toys out of fabric that's been printed with my own illustrations. Wee fabric houses, hand puppets, finger puppets, and I've just recently finished writing and illustrating my first children's book, about a globe-trotting Gnome's adventures through Southeast Asia.

(+) How did you get started?
About 5 years ago, I left my job as a graphic designer, and my husband took a sabbatical from his job, and we backpacked around Asia for 7 months. I had been thinking about starting an Etsy shop for a while, and with the time away, I was able to solidify what it was I wanted to do and make. When I got back, I began sewing, drawing, prototyping, and after a couple of months was able to open my shop and start doing craft shows.

(+) The gal behind the business - Tell us about yourself, how do you spend your Saturday mornings, a little glimpse into your life, your family etc.
Hi! I'm Amberlea, a maker/graphic designer/yoga teacher, living in Ottawa with my husband (my highschool sweetheart; this year we're celebrating 20 years together!), our 3-year-old son, and our two cats. 

I've been home with my son since he was born, and working on my Etsy shop and doing freelance graphic design in my "spare" time (or, rather, during naptimes, though naptimes seem to be something of the past, lately!)

Summers in Ottawa are awesome, and Saturday mornings we often bike to the farmer's market, to the river for a swim, or to a park. Or sometimes my husband will run errands with our son, and give me a bit of quiet time to get caught up on work.

(+) What inspires you? Where does your creativity come from?
Anywhere and everywhere. 

It could be a photo from an ad, or a diagram at the dentist's office, or the way the light filters through the trees during golden hour, or the raindrops on kale in the garden — literally anything — often I'll get a spark of an idea when I mis-see something; like when I see a face in the texture of a wall, or a landscape in the grain of a floorboard, (or the classic "that cloud looks like a bunny jumping over a tree!"). 

My mind will start running with the tiniest thread of an idea; it's actually a frustrating problem to have so many ideas, and not have the time to follow all of them through! I try to collect as many of these random strands of thought in my sketchbook, to save them until they become big and loud enough that I HAVE to do something about it :)

(+) What's one thing you would like to improve about your business?
Marketing. Spend some effort to direct traffic to my Etsy shop — with seasonal craft shows and word of mouth, my shop has been maintaining enough traffic as I can handle with my limited time. But now with my son getting older and more independent (and starting part-time preschool in the fall!), I want to start ramping things up again.

(+) What is the best gift you have ever given or received?
While my husband and I were traveling, I saw a beautiful carved wooden buddha statue at a shop in Tegallalang, Bali, but the store was closed. We couldn't find the store owner, so I just decided it wasn't meant to be. The next day we were set to leave for Java, and while I was at a yoga class, my husband rented a moto, drove back to the shop, which was still closed, found someone to call the owner, waited for the owner to come, and managed to buy the statue and get back before I did. And then he kept it hidden in his own backpack for two weeks until my birthday, and then gave it to me. I cried, quite a bit :). I was so touched. And you have to understand this is not a tiny statue, it's fairly large, not something easy to carry around in a backpack!

(+) How do you celebrate special occasions?
With friends. We don't host many parties, but we like to have friends over for birthdays and Thanksgiving. For birthdays there's a homemade cake (or sometimes someone will bring some beautiful treats from one of the many amazing bakeries in town), and lots of food, and if it's warm weather, we'll hang out on our back deck, where there's lots of space for the littles to run around.

(+) What do you do when you make time for yourself (you and only you)
Yoga. Run. Read. Journal. Quilt. Movies and popcorn at home with popcorn after the kiddo's in bed. Ah, alone time. It doesn't happen often, but I do love it when it does!

You can find more hereness & thereness here: 

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