Category Archives: tired

the story behind the fall collection

The 2010 fall collection is finally here! It’s something completely new for me and for Holland Cox, and I had a lot of fun (and lost a lot of sleep) putting it together.

My goal was to see if I could ease up on my dependency on bold, wild patterns, and instead express my love for deep, saturated color through texture (above: the ankara wristlet).

It was a challenge to come up with eighteen (six each of my three flagship designs) unique expressions of texture, but I’m pretty happy with how they all turned out.

I found myself particularly attracted to ruffles, specifically tuxedo-style (above: the salamanca wristlet). I also used embroidery, quilting, applique, patchwork, and vintage notions like zippers and buttons as surface decoration.

Especially exciting was using materials from fellow makers, like hand-dyed silk ribbon from Crystal J. Silk of Richmond, VA, and wool felt from Giant Dwarf of Philadelphia, PA.

I wanted to make all eighteen completely unique and one-of-a-kind. I didn’t totally abandon the patterns, either…some of my favorites from past collections showed up here and there (below: the singapore classic handbag, featuring a pair of blue lagoon prints from 2008).

Working on something completely new like this is the absolute best thing about my job…there’s nobody around to tell me not to take risks, to question why I want to do something different, or to tell me that breaking from the norm will be “too hard.”

While being a solopreneur gives me unlimited freedom, it also means I have to do everything myself (for now anyway!), and friends, I will not lie, this collection was an unheard of amount of work (below: the helsinki envelope clutch).

I learned a lot about myself putting this collection together, not the least of which is that I am officially too old for the all-nighter. Seriously. Also, back-to-back-to-back 18 hour days are probably not the best idea, either.

But there was no other way to get it all done, so I have no regrets! Also, I know myself, and I’m pretty sure that as time passes, the pain associated with the process will diminish, and I’ll only remember the warm fuzzy feelings I get when I make something that I love.

Unfortunately I mean pain in the most literal sense…one memorable evening I had to go to bed early, because my entire left arm was tight and itchy, hurting from about 4-5 hours of nonstop embroidery, sewing on buttons, and tacking down ruffles by hand (below: the bombay classic handbag). Ouch.

Some of you familiar with my older collections have probably noticed something else new about this one…the names of the handbags.

From the very beginning I resisted the urge to name my handbags after women, which a lot of indie handbag designers do. Instead, I chose somewhat random words and phrases, like “temptation” or “seize the night.”

This time, I chose to name each handbag after an international city. This fall is perhaps the first time I consciously tried to create a unified collection (in concept anyway, if not in colorways), and I wanted the names to reflect that. Also, the names of faraway cities have always sounded exotic and seductive to me, two words that I associate with the best kinds of fashion accessories (below: the casablanca envelope clutch).

Well friends, that’s the story of my labor or love! I hope their new owners love having them as much I loved making them. Two of the classic handbags are already sold out (remember the whole collection is one-of-a-kind, so now is not the time to hem and haw if you fall in love with one of them).

Since this is something completely new for me, I’d love to hear what you think! What techniques, materials or vintage notions should I use next time?


creative fatigue & the next new thing

It has been a very long and intense few weeks for me…May was extremely hectic, and I am not at all sorry to see it go. Mental note for next time: craft shows 7 days apart for four weeks straight? Not a good idea.

I mean, it’s not as if I didn’t know I would be tired! But I didn’t really think about how tired I would be of making the same things over and over again…

My hair accessories are some of my most popular items at craft shows. They are small, inexpensive, easy to wear and easy to buy. A totally painless way to inject lots of color and personality into an outfit. They very regularly sell out or nearly sell out, so I am always making more…in fact, I made 66 headbands in the month of May! Seriously….that is a lot of blind stitching.

Anyway I’m not trying to say that I suddenly don’t enjoy sewing any more (!!! as if that’s even possible!!!), it’s just that making the same thing over and over again can get tiring. It becomes hard to stay energized when I’m looking at yet another stack of [insert thing that I have to make a ton of].

I am in no way complaining that my headbands are super popular! I am incredibly thankful that people love them, and frankly I enjoy making them. But after the second dozen or so, it’s time to take a break and make something else.

Some might laugh at me for taking a break from one kind of work to do another kind of work, but hey, it works! These last few weeks, I would take a break from sitting at the sewing machine by sitting outside, or on my couch, to make my flower hair clips, which are sewn by hand. Still sewing, still working, but somehow it didn’t feel like work. It honestly felt like a break. I count this as one of the many advantages of doing something you love for a living!

But the best way to get over that craft-show induced fatigue? Work on something completely new! I have learned from past experience that taking a total break from sewing for too long backfires. After a show, I generally take a day or two to recover and rest. The first day or so it’s nice to not have to sit at the machine and work all day long, but after a while, after I catch up on sleep, I start to get cranky.

Yes, friends, I am literally addicted to sewing. I actually go through withdrawal. FYI, feeling twitchy and annoyed for no good reason is in no way rejuvenating or restful. When I start to feel that way, I know it’s time to break out the sketchbook and work on something totally new.

Everybody wins! I get to feel good about making again, my muse gets to stop b*tching at me for making the 30th zipper pouch, and you get to see new stuff. Up next: a new tutorial inspired by my mini college reunion at a friend’s wedding over Memorial Day weekend.

How do you combat fatigue? How do you get re-energized creatively? I’d love to hear your story!


in the weeds: show prep & recovery

I am well into my fall show schedule, and I’m happy to report that I am getting much more sleep than I did during the spring shows. Unfortunately, that also means that my apartment is more of a mess than usual, and frankly, I do not predict that changing any time soon! I have nearly given up on making my apartment look like a place where someone normal lives, and not like a gigantic work room/storage room/sweatshop. I swear that for a few weeks during the summer, everything is neat enough to actually invite people over…but I digress.

Although I have complained in this space many times about how tense the 2-week interval between shows can be, the reality is that I really enjoy the frantic schedule. I’m one of those people who gets more done when I have a lot/too much to do. It helps (a lot!) that by now, I have gotten much better at predicting what my inventory should look like for any particular show, and that makes getting ready so much easier…I don’t waste time making things that I don’t need, or making too many of one thing at the expense of something else. Also, I’ve gotten better at preparing for shows in general (there is a TON of non-sewing preparation, believe me), so that makes the last few days less hair-raising as well! The best part, however, is that I am finally happy with my booth set up/display. It only took five years!

This is from Art on the Avenue a few weeks ago. Something just clicked, and everything came together for the Art on Belmont show in September, and since then I’ve been feeling very happy and confident about my booth set up. Of course, this weekend’s show in Philadelphia (Squidfire Art Mart) will test how well the outdoor, 10×10 booth look translates to an indoor show, where I’ll only have a 6 or 8 foot table.

This is a shot of the obi belts at the Art on Belmont show. I am on the lookout for a nicer dress form, but beyond that I’m happy with how this looks. The good thing about this form is that the stand is removable, so it can sit on a table, which is how I will use it at the Squidfire show this weekend. It’s nice to be able to see the belt “in action,” although maybe for some future shows, I’ll put an apron on the dress form instead, we’ll see!

The best thing about the upcoming Squidfire show and the Handmade Market is that I’ll be inside! The indoor show is such a cakewalk compared to the drama of the outdoor show. I’m really looking forward to putting away the tent for the season…

Anyway, it’s nice to see tangible evidence of learning from experience. There was a time when I was still frantically sewing, bleary-eyed, at midnight the night before the show, and packing up the car at 2 am. No more! These days I finish days in advance, and go to bed early the night before. Not that I don’t need a gallon of coffee in the morning, but that’s par for the course, regardless. 🙂 This time around, I managed take a few “recovery” days off, fill in inventory, plan for future shows, beef up the Etsy shop, AND plan for my novel writing adventure, all since Art on the Avenue on October 3! Good times.

For now, I am not quite finished with my sewing for the Philly show, so I will stop writing about preparing and actually go do it! Coffee in hand, of course.