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Make Baby Stuff Newsletter, Issue #004 -- Summer Baby Crafting
May 16, 2008
This monthly newsletter is brought to you from the Make Baby Stuff website. Each issue brings you up to date with new crafty happenings, contests, instructions, reader questions, more tips and our featured crafty artist of the month! It is your kick in the pants to get crafty!
Welcome to all the new readers from Craft and boingboing who hopped over from features about Taryn's Cardboard Playhouse Plans that she kindly wrote for us. Not to mention, another huge welcome to all the Apartment Therapy: Ohdeedoh readers that found us through our Upcycled Baby Blocks tutorial. Yay! We are growing fast!
We've also added another Baby Sundress Pattern since our last newsletter since several people wrote in to ask for one with shoulder ties.
We have a WINNER! - Our DIY baby carrier contest is over and we had 36 fabulous entries. Be sure to check out all the entries and see all the amazing talent out there.
A big congrats goes to our winner, Kristin! She submitted her Falling Leaves Soft Structured Carrier entry and we were quite smitten with all the details. Not only does Kristin make a mean carrier, but we soon learned that she also has an Etsy shop called See Mommy Sew where she sells fantastic maternity skirts among other things. Congrats!
Check our Newest Tutorials Page for More New Articles! Our newest tutorials page lists all the newest projects as soon as they go live on the site! Never miss a new tutorial by simply checking this page.
Who: Stacia Wells Linz of Happy Tomato is a former kindergarten teacher turned craft at home mama. She lives in Baltimore, a city she says "is the coolest little underrated city on the map" and shares her crafting time with her two children, Otto who is 2 and Ava who is 4. She has been running Happy Tomato for two years and also considers herself a "chronic geek" who loves crosswords, Scrabble and books.
Stacia is one of those rare people who have so much love and energy about what they do that they inspire you to get off your own butt and do something creative! Her designs range from guitars to anvils and it seems she has picked the most recognizable images for toddlers. As I browsed through her designs my 18 month old pointed at the screen, "Tar!" (guitar) and "Whoo, Whoo" (owl) and "Twuck" (fire truck) and I was immediately in love. You pick the design or "block" that you want and then pick what you want it on, such as a onesie, long sleeve, maternity shirt, bib and many other options.
What led up to launching Happy Tomato? Several things converged in a vortex. I was a stay-at-home mom with a preemie and a toddler. I was feeling ahem..unfufilled—missing teaching Kindergarten, missing art (and unable to use my toxically beloved oil paints anymore), missing a plain old creative identity separate from motherhood. And I really could not find cool, fresh designs on clothes that didn’t cost an absurd amount, so I started carving my own designs and printing stuff for my own kids and with them to amuse all of us, and then for other moms and it just snowballed. Apparently other people also think the Anvil on an infant bodysuit is funny.
What is the process from idea to product? The image has to work in a pretty small carving space, so it’s sketch 30 times, carve once. My kids are really helpful with that, “That looks hideous!!/awesome/turn it on the side!…” Each design is transferred to a block of wood (or linoleum, rubber, drywall) to be carved. Carving takes a long time--even simple designs are easy to screw up almost instantly (or cut yourself). I only keep the kids out of that part. Then we test print, refine, re-carve. The actual printing is awfully fun. I mix most of my own colors—they love that—and I let them run around the house with brushes and “help” because I am entirely confident in the non-toxic inks (and, after teaching Kindergarten, nothing scares me). I have a homemade press and have developed a whole system around naptimes, making dinner. Then everything dries on the line, gets embellished if requested, heat-set, tagged and sent off.
What is your favorite part of the process? The process itself is the best thing about it. I love that HT is inspired by my children, that they have a hand in the process of ideas, sketches, actually printing (certainly the product “modeling” )—but that it gives me something separate from them at the same time. You have to have that. The business enhances my identity as a mom, it doesn’t compete. Plus, it’s allowing me to afford to stay home with them and enjoy them while they’re small, without suffering a nervous breakdown.
What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas from? Mind-melding with other people, mostly children. Other moms—and all these amazingly generous, creative women I’ve met so far in starting a business. Funny expressions, irony, visuals. Certain colors. Proceeds from certain blocks go to certain charities (e.g: the Pink Wolf to Susan G. Komen For the Cure and the Blue Crab to Save the Bay)—those are the most like ‘inspiration.” My friend (whose last name is Wolf) was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and it suddenly occurred to me I could contribute with my business, to her personally, and in a larger way, so I called Komen. The notion of doing these “Special Tomatoes” was my most exciting idea so far.
What is the hardest part of your business? A female CEO once told me: owning a business is the hardest thing you will ever do, next to being a mother—and it’s a lot like being a mother. Suddenly, you have to learn a whole new skill set, insanely fast. The business plan, the taxes, accounting—and all the self-promoting—the gulping and making the phone calls, the contacts. Yes, cream rises and so do good products, to a degree—but mostly, it’s plain good timing and really, really hard work. All of these lessons about doing the thing you’re afraid of, about tackling the demon-thing first and then eating the popsicle—these are great opportunities to model for my children—especially my daughter, to whom I feel a great responsibility.
When do you find time to create? HA! That’s easy--I just rob from all of the time when I could be sleeping or exercising. Unfortunately, that’s very true. My daughter calls me the “Mummy” because 1-3 am is my most reliable, uninterrupted worktime. But that’s execution—the real “creating” time, the ideas, happen when I’m getting down on the ground and looking at bugs with my kids or talking to other moms during a playdate. My kids laugh at my bun full of pens and pencils and that I keep post-its everywhere, but I always have them handy.
Do you have any future plans for your business? More sustainable fabrics. I love bamboo—but there’s a lot of chemical ickiness to processing much of the bamboo that’s now being sold as “eco-friendly.” I have tried very hard not to get sucked into eco-hype, just to make money or be faddish. My real goal is to expand what the consumer is getting when they buy a Happy Tomato, by what they can also feel good about giving. That means more “Special Tomatoes” (giving blocks). Every block now has a little story behind it, but every design could also be helpful, contribute. I want to come up with block designs to represent everything from life-threatening food and insect allergies, heart health, endangered foliage. I have a wind-farm block, but I don’t think it’s that compelling visually yet. It has to do some good and look good.
If you were an entree on a menu what would it be and why? I am completely foodcentric, so you just hit me in my metaphor. I would love to say something glamorous like crème brulee or an artisanal cheese, but I know in my heart I’m that Sunday Brunch frittata: madly, creatively culling together whatever ingredients from the week need to be used up, reapportioned, re-envisioned into a new dish. Tasty, occasionally inspired, but completely purposeful & utilitarian.
The weather is getting warmer and the sun is getting brighter! I'll bet you're looking forward to afternoons in the park and day trips to the beach. With summer weather comes summer clothes, outdoor toys and the need for sun protection.
After splashing around, baby needs something to cuddle up in! Check out this easy Hooded Frog Towel Tutorial and whip one up for your own little froggie. You can make one really easily out of just two regular bath towels or buy terry cloth fabric from the fabric store. Pick brown instead of green and it becomes a little bear towel! Tons of possibilities with this hooded towel project.
Going to the beach? Don't forget your sand toys! I'm absolutely in love with this set by Green Toys. For those of you who avoid plastic toys but make an exception for sand and tub toys, you'll be thrilled to learn that this set is made of recycled plastic, is BPA and phthalate free and (here is the best part) it is under $20 on Amazon.com and you can get free shipping if you spend $6 more. A board book about the beach, like Beach Babies Wear Shades fits the bill and will get baby familiar and excited about the beach.
Get ready for family fun in the sun!
If you like this newsletter, please "email it forward" to someone you know who might appreciate it. If a friend did forward this to you and you like what you read, please subscribe now!
As our site and community grows, I hope that you drop me a line and tell me what crafty baby stuff you are up to! Did you make something that was inspired by something on our site? Pretty please play "show and tell" with the rest of us! Often, having an audience for your crafting is just a kick in the pants that you need to get working.
Feel free to send in tips or questions too! We love mail!
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