Get your hands on this: exemplary craftsmanship in clutches.
I run across thousands of clutches of every shape, size, and style. I can spot good craftsmanship like an eagle can spot a field mouse. And as someone who teaches other women the skill to make clutches so that they can make some income, I have always had the newbies start with the larger clutches as that scale is easier for novices. As many of you know, the smaller the scale, the more precise you have to be. You don’t have that much room to be off on your measurement, cutting, seam allowance, or sewing. Sometimes, you are just “all thumbs”! 🙂
Many of you have purchased my 3×1.5 purse frames to make coin purses. This allowed you to:
*expand your product line offering
*capture potential sales by offering a lower price point in your shop
*use small bits of beloved fabric leftover from bigger clutches to make a complimentary product
And you all know full well how much of a challenge this size and scale can be to make. This, I believe, really shows where you are in the skill development of your craft.
So can you see how thrilled I was when I ran across one of these amazing coin purses showing what I believe to be one of the best displays of craftsmanship. In one of our many convos (I sure can talk a lot, can’t I?), I mentioned to her how much I really admired her craftsmanship. Only after I looked at her purchase history did I realize that she had started earlier this year with my $8 PDF tutorial, some glue, and a few frames! *beaming*
Let’s take a look at the work done by Wendy at ByMyTouch.Etsy.com:
Wendy also makes bigger clutches and you can also see her fine handwork on these as well! 🙂
What makes Wendy’s work even more impressive is her story. Wendy does all this meticulous work all the while living with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
I was even more amazed by her after being reminded of this. (I had forgotten her bio as I have lots of customers … and everyone changes their thumbnail pics all the time!) I was so inspired after our string of convos that I wanted to bring her work, her shop, and her story to you so that you can get that spark you may need. We all can get in a rut, even doing things that we love. And sometimes it takes something, or someone, to inspire us to do more, to do better, to move forward with vigor and joy. Wendy is that person. If you are not inspired by her, you are dead to me. 1/2 joking here … 😛
Here is our Q&A. You will find that she is a good writer as well! Geez- what can’t she do?? 🙂
Q: What is fibromyalgia? What is CFS?
I’ve had Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 9 years and over time I was unable to work and had to close my Landscape Design business eventually becoming unemployable. It has been a long and often difficult journey towards wellness and I have now seen over 40 specialists which is not unusual for those of us with an ‘invisible illness’, so called because you can’t see what’s wrong just by looking at me – I probably look the picture of health!
Fibromyalgia is different for everyone. For me it has meant a base level of pain all the time, mainly in my neck and head which makes looking down at my sewing or cutting fabric very difficult some days. It causes a lot of severe migraines, light and sound sensitivity which are impossible to push through – if I try to I can end up spending (losing) 2-3 days in bed so I try to pay attention and just accept that I can’t do that today, but tomorrow might be better. During a bad ‘flare up’ where the symptoms get much worse, I will hurt all over – my face, my joints, my whole body except for my nails pretty much! During those times which can last for several weeks, it can be very hard to work and if I try I only make the symptoms worse. The trick to it is to be as productive as possible, without overdoing things to cause flare ups because then I lose so much time that overall I make less than if I went a little slower. It’s a constant juggling act and some days I’m better at it than others.
The CFS is easier to describe – I just feel exhausted. A simple example is having a shower and then drying my hair immediately is beyond me. I need to have a rest in between. So when I’m making a purse, I usually have to do it in several stages with rests in between.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
Knowing that Fibro dictates everything I do. I am one of life’s ‘doers’. Unfortunately the fibro has meant making accommodations and adaptations continually which often goes against what I want to do.
Energy and concentration are the other biggest challenges because feeling so tired makes it hard to concentrate and I’ve learned that creativity doesn’t mix well with poor attention – mistakes happen, then frustration sets in and if I don’t feel good about what I’ve made, I will not offer it for sale. I’m detail oriented and regardless of what I am making, I want it to be the very best quality design and construction that it can be. Perfection does not exist, but I try very hard!
Q: What do you do to get around these challenges?
I try to pay attention to my symptoms and I know when to stop (I’ve had a lot of practice!). I have a very flexible routine that helps me be as productive as possible – I check my shops first thing each morning, renewing items that have expired, responding to messages etc. Inspiration usually comes the evening before so I am always excited to start making something. Depending on what it is and how I’m feeling I may simply get all the elements together, then after a rest I might cut the pieces out, another step might be to pin everything together. By this point if I’m not feeling well enough to actually start sewing I’m probably feeling frustrated so I get round this by getting everything prepared the night before so that I can get straight on with it in the morning.
It takes me longer to make anything, and as you can see, I have to break any project down into individual stages. Because the majority of my items are one-of-a-kind, I do not create a production line. I’ve done this a couple of times and without exception the frustration of seeing several purses all laid out ready to be made but not having the energy to make them, not only overwhelms me so I grind to a halt, but I’ve found that I don’t enjoy making them because the creativity isn’t there when I’m simply repeating the same designs one after the other.
I have a wonderful large oak drawing board (3’ x 5’) that I used when I was a landscape designer. I’ve laid it horizontal and it raised up to about 4’ so that I can work standing up – this is a huge help because it means I’m not bending over anything with the weight of my head pulling against very tender muscles. It also means I am constantly moving around which helps keep the muscle moving and the blood and oxygen flowing.
Q: What is the inspiration behind your shop’s name?
I think you’ll laugh at this! I had a series of surgeries in 2009 and they necessitated months of bed rest. After the first really big surgery I was on the strongest pain meds and therefore slightly loopy. I had heard about Etsy and when I visited the site, it invited me to sign in. Every name I chose was taken and after more than ½ an hour continually typing in names, I lost patience and just started typing in anything, then to my horror up popped a welcome message! I had no clue of the name I’d typed but fortunately it turned out to be one I liked and wasn’t rude!
Q: Tell me about your charitable contributions from sales of your goods.
Volunteering and donating to charity has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Like many families during this recession, my husband lost his job and we could no longer afford to sponsor a child in Mozambique which we had been doing for years or make any other donation, so I decided to try to earn the money. I had been making some cards and bags for fun as therapy to recover from my surgeries (there was very little I could do at this point, but I could stand at the sewing machine for a few minutes). By February 2010 I’d got the bug and started designing and making things in earnest with the sole aim of raising money for charity. Originally I donated the profits but that didn’t quantify an amount for my customers and the costs of running a business and all that goes with it meant that with only occasional sales, I didn’t have anything left over to donate, so this Spring I changed that to guaranteeing 10% of every bag/purse sale and $1 per card. I know that in business terms this is not wise as it means the charities get paid first regardless of the supplies, fees, business occupation taxes etc that need to be covered too, but I want my customers to know that every purchase supports a charity.
Q: Do you sell your goods elsewhere other than Etsy?
Yes. I have been lucky enough to be invited to sell my items in two local boutiques. I do occasionally get offered wholesale accounts but I am reluctant to accept because I may not be able to make anything for a few weeks if I’m going through a particularly bad flare up of the fibro symptoms or the fatigue.
Q: What else would you like your customers to know about you and/or your goods? Your creative vision? Your design aesthetics?
About me: that I refuse to let the fibro have me, so try not to focus on it more than necessary, but at the same time, I made a promise to myself to be willing to try just about anything to get well – and I’ve stuck to that!
About my goods: that every item is made with great attention to detail, original designs and unique finishing touches. The love and passion for what I am making and why I’m making it is as much a part of my products as the materials I use. I have spent countless hours since I started the shop researching and sourcing materials that are the finest quality, eco-friendly and vegan. I actively seek out companies that behave with integrity – they might be fair trade for example, or have similar ideals to me. Organic fabrics designed by smaller manufacturers are my main source in recent months as I want to support those that love our planet as much as I do and it also makes my purses unique. Mass produced anything is not for me!
I especially enjoy using an unusual and perhaps unexpected fabric choice, such as organic cotton canvas for a clutch purse, embellished with my hand embroidered buttons for example. I’m a square peg in a round hole, and very happy to be so. I guess my goods reflect that!
**I hope you are as inspired by her as I am. Please leave your comments and be sure to visit her shop. She makes amazing bags of all kinds!**
I will feature one shop seller per 3-4 weeks. I hope you find this to be a great start! If any you have your own blogs, please SHARE THIS. You can also SHARE THIS by using any of the buttons below this post. Let’s spread the word!