Dr Suess says “Remember that life is a great balancing act”, well sometimes it’s hard to maintain balance.
I am not Super Mom, super artist, or super business owner.
I am a hug-giving, nose-wiping, midnight-feeding, diaper-changing, storytelling, song-singing, full-time mom. This is who I am first. When my children are sick everything comes to a halt. My production slows, my planning slows, and my shipment dates go down to once a week. I work from my iPhone while snuggling kids. I sneak out of nap time with the stealth of a ninja to grab a few minutes of studio time and run to the post office on my way to the pharmacy. Balancing home and work life is a common theme for nearly everyone. If you have any secrets to share on how you manage, I am all ears.
As an artist I am always looking to the next project before completing the six I have going on. I have a million ideas to process in my head and transfer into three dimensions. Sometimes a project takes me years to complete. The Grandfather clock I built took two years before I heard the chimes for the first time. I built a set of nesting tables during that two-year span and cut one table completely wrong and had to start over. I carved a chair that I broke the back off of, fixed it and then spent weeks sanding. I also made a baby, a dining table and a gossip bench all while revisiting the clock. I currently have Little Bare Chairs, Little Duck Stools, tables and toys all in the works. I work best with multiple projects that I can visit when I get bored with one, but sometimes I take on too much and get overwhelmed. I’m not perfect. I am talented, precise, and hardworking, but I make mistakes.
I am a novice business owner. I am learning everyday how to promote my business, budget my time and resources and succeed as a small, home-run business. I am lucky to have the help of my husband but for the most part I am in charge of all the bookkeeping, scheduling, purchasing, and making. It is wonderfully satisfying to be your own boss, especially when you succeed, but on the flip side it all falls on you when you mess up. I learned this first hand this week, I took on too much and missed an important deadline.
While out of town last week my son was sick with several infections. We ended up in the hospital in Virginia. During this time the application deadline for a very special show passed and I missed the deadline. I am incredibly disappointed in myself. After the initial shock that I would not be participating in my third consecutive Black Swamp Arts Festival passed, I was able to take a step back. There is always another show, another application, another opportunity to sell my work. I am a mom, I am an artist, I am a human and I made a mistake. I felt obligated to share these feelings with you because I want you to know the person behind Little Bare Furniture as more than a furniture and toy maker. I want you to know that love and sacrifice go into each piece I make. I want you to know how much I care about my work. But most importantly, I want you to know that my family comes first.
‘Can you make this?’
‘I can totally make that myself, right?’
‘Did you make that?’
When these questions pop up, chances are the answer is yes.
As a woodworker and art school graduate, I love being asked if I can make the project you have on your mind or fix a piece of furniture you love. Whether it be as small as a wooden tool box or as big as a bookcase, I am honored you thought of me.
I can build a wooden tool box and build a bookcase. I have the skills and equipment to do so. I hope someday to be at a place in my career where I can build anything and everything a customer asks me. With a young family, it may take me while. My time is stretched pretty thin, and I love it. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to be asked. I may get your project done quickly, so don’t stop asking. In fact, I ask myself every day ‘Couldn’t I just build that?’ And again the answer is yes. The next question has to be, ‘but do I have the time?’
Sure I can build a book shelf for my daughter’s room and wall shelves for my kitchen. I can also buy them at Ikea or TJMaxx. As an artist and maker, I feel like a fraud when I load my car full of laminate furniture, 17 frames and 6 throw pillows. I could make all of these things, but my ability to do so doesn’t make it practical.
I am a planner. I have list upon list of projects for my household and business, but practically speaking, business projects require my ability. The others can wait or be completed by placing that Amazon order or driving up to Canton, MI and treating myself to Swedish meatballs. On the flip side, I don’t live in an IKEA show room. I live among items made with love supplemented by Kalax, Hemnes and Trofast.
We eat three meals a day at a table we made in our studio and my kids play on chairs we made. When visitors ask ‘Did you make that?’ I am pleased to be able to enthusiastically answer yes!
In October we moved into our new house. The list of projects I wanted to complete grew every day. The first I wanted to tackle was the honey oak mantle that was far too shallow for our fireplace. So if you ask if I made this mantle the answer is, ‘yes.’
Our mudroom was another challenging space. A family of four people and a dog, we
needed storage. So we built this.
My husband and I are enthusiastic cyclists. We have several bikes that we ride regularly.
My husband has this bike that is treated like art between rides so we needed a way to
hang it, so yep, we built this.
This is our family table that we made and our bookcase we made, complemented by the sign now available in the store. (http://littlebarefurniture.com/store/)
The original Little Bear Chair and Little Duck Chair are used daily for climbing, reading, and play dough building.
If you follow me on Instagram you have seen how often we use the Little Bare step stool.So I can make that. In our house if it isn’t from IKEA we probably did. I am so thankful that my husband and I possess the skills to make beautiful things that we will be able to pass down to our children. The furniture we make for you and for ourselves will outlast the things we buy.This topic could lead into an entirely long-winded discussion on the value of handmade but we will leave that for another day.
Here are a few other original pieces in our home.
Black Swamp 2014 was a success for my fledgling business. Having spent the summer in the hospital due to hyper emesis with my second pregnancy, with the help of my husband and friends I was able to create enough inventory to participate in my first festival. I received generous feedback and encouragement from the community, excited to have a local artist in the juried part of the festival. My sales were good, and I took home second place! That was an unexpected bonus!
This year, 2015, was even better! With a central location, my booth stayed busy the entire festival and my sales were fantastic. I had returning customers, new customers, and people stopping by to discuss pieces that caught their eye. I was overjoyed with the feedback I received. And I find myself driven to produce more and more complicated work by the statements of disbelief that I, a woman woodworker and mother of two, could be the artist and craftsman behind the pieces in my booth. (I could go on about that topic but that is a blog post in itself.)
The music, food, and art make Black Swamp one of the best festivals in Ohio. Friday night my family and I enjoyed fabulous fair food and music in the rain. We decided this year to enjoy the festival as much as possible both as festival goers and vendors. Watching my son dance as he shoved pizza in his mouth was definitely a highlight. My sweet Eloise slept in her Tula carrier the majority of the evening and both days at the festival. I do credit her with some of my sales; she drew a lot of people in. My family and friends made the festival memorable, but my favorite moments were those with children (and a few adults) stopping in to play with my toys. Building block towers, testing out the Little Bare Chairs, racing cars, and pretending to take pictures, these creative moments are why I do what I do.
The Rockbridge Community Festival is an event I remember looking forward to each year as a child. It takes place in the small southern town of Lexington, Virginia nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many talented artists, local food vendors and community organizations gathered Saturday August 29th for a beautiful sunny day of festival fun!
I left Lexington eight years ago for Marshall University as a pre-med major, clearly I have changed a lot since then. While I have gone “home” many times in the past eight years, this festival gave me the opportunity to bring my art and passion home. My booth was visited by family friends, high school classmates, and familiar faces. I also had the pleasure of meeting many new people and to discuss my work with people young and old.
Now, back in Bowling Green, Ohio I am back at work. Restocking inventory and finishing furniture for the Black Swamp Arts Festival on September 12-13!
Hope to see lots of friends at Black Swamp. Little Bare will be located at the corner of Wooster and Main. New furniture designs this year!
This gallery contains 18 photos.
It’s my first time out at Bowling Green’s Black Swamp Art Festival. There’s well over 100 artists exhibiting their work and there are some simply fabulous examples of art from across the country. I’m overwhelmed the judges selected my furniture as the 2nd place best-of-show winner.