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Meet the Crafty Mama

Ann, Harvest Moon by Hand

Who: Ann Rinkenberger of Harvest Moon by Hand is the crafty mother of two girls who has done a variety of interesting things, like running a non-profit art and farm camp on her 10 acres of Minnesota land. Her connection to nature is obvious and perhaps stems from growing up with parents who canned foods and grew their own rhubarb, pears, plums, apples and raspberries. "Being able to enjoy jams, applesauce, rhubarb sauce, tomatoes, salsa, peaches, and pears during the winter is quite rewarding," she explains.

What lead up to starting Harvest Moon by Hand?
Because both my daughters love to play and use their imagination, I began making more of their toys and quilts by hand - all from natural materials (primarily wool and cotton). This became even more important after toys were being recalled one Christmas because of lead paint and other unsafe materials.

Because I homeschool my daughters, I wanted to create a home environment that incorporated some of the things we saw at a local Waldorf school that they and I liked. So, I began creating the window stars and a nature table with different elements with which they could play. My family and friends would comment on the toys and window stars I was making, and they encouraged me to start a business.

What is your main source of inspiration?
I love to look at craft books and magazines from the library for inspiration. I also spend time on Flickr taking a look at the creativity of people from all over the world. Sometimes this leads me to blogs which are interesting and inspiring.

hm waldorf blue star
Can you tell us more about the Waldorf inspired window stars?
The window stars are made by cutting and then hand-folding small squares of translucent paper into different patterns. Some star points are very basic (only 3 folds) while others are very complex (24 folds per point). Once the points are folded, I overlay the folded paper and glue the points together.

If the stars are placed in a sunny window, the special paper has a stained glass glowing effect that is quite pretty. The stars can be enjoyed by themselves or in groups to celebrate different seasons or holidays.

I offer a variety of patterns and colors of window stars. Customers can purchase directly from what is in the shop, or they can email me to request a certain pattern of star and color(s).

I've had customers request specific number of points on a star, and I create my own patterns of window stars for them based on what they want. It is fun to be able to design a window star and see how it turns out.

hm pancakes plafood
What was your goal when you started out and have you reached it?
My goal with Harvest Moon by Hand is twofold: (1) to provide creative, imaginative families with Waldorf-inspired window stars and natural toys, and (2) to provide homeschool families and artists with educational resources, craft supplies, and patterns. All of the items that I offer in my shop are ones that I would be happy to use and/or have in my home.

In reaching that mission, I would like to be able to eventually bring in enough income where I can save some money for retirement and be able to travel internationally to do some volunteer work.

What is your favorite part of your creative process from idea to completion?
My favorite part of the creative process is the actual creating or doing part. With the window stars - I enjoy selecting the colors, folding the individual points, and assembling each one to see how it turns out.

With the toys and felt food, I love stitching and watching something come from its raw material - wool felt, wool stuffing, embroidery floss - and be transformed into something that can be played with by a child.

waldorf green star
What is your least favorite part?
My least favorite part of the creative process is when I try to create something (maybe it's a new window star pattern or a felt food item) and it doesn't turn out. It can be frustrating after investing the time, but that's part of creating something new. Not everything is going to work out...and that's okay.

rainbow star

When do you find the time to create?
I wake up pretty early in the morning - usually by 4:00 a.m. I have several hours of "quiet time" before my daughters are awake and we start homeschooling. Sometimes my younger daughter will get up early as well (between 6:30-7:00 a.m.). At that point, she'll sit with me and do something creative - embroidery, needlepoint, or coloring.

What are your tips on balancing business and family?
Family comes first...always. My daughters' health, well-being, and education are most important. Creative time and running a business comes second. If either of the girls aren't feeling well or homeschooling is taking more time than anticipated, I work fewer hours.
That being said, I think there is a way to establish "working and creative hours" around the rhythm of the day. The girls know that I do take some time during the day when I'm at the computer doing the business aspects of running a business. They know that this is time that they are free to play or listen to books on CD while I work.

Having them see how an at-home business is run also is educational and hopefully provides them with the inspiration to do what they want to do when they are older.

hm wool ball
What do you do to ensure that you don't burn out?
To be honest, I'm still working on this. I tend to pour my heart and soul into projects I'm working on. However, when I do start to feel that there is too much on my plate, I cut back with things that I feel are not as essential to my life or family's life. This helps slow things down a bit and give that needed break and respite from a schedule that could easily get out of control.

I also allow a couple of hours for t.v. programs that I enjoy each week (a couple of medical shows), reading, and...if I’m really feeling stressed out...I'll pull out my Prismacolor color pencils and a coloring book that has mandalas or geometric shapes in them.


Are you crafty in other ways? If so, what do you make?
I enjoy cross-stitching, needlepoint, crocheting, and paper crafts. I love photography, and carry a camera with me wherever I go. Having digital cameras has given me an opportunity to practice my photography skills more without the expense of processing film.

My daughters and I enjoy cooking and baking. As part of homeschooling, I teach them about a different country every month. One of the highlights for the girls is that with every country that we study, we make recipes and taste food that is from different countries. It's really widened our view of the culinary tastes around the world.

Any future business or creative plans?
For Harvest Moon by Hand, I plan to continue offering the products I have now - the window stars, natural toys, felt food, art kits, and homeschool supplies.

hm yellow

All the creative work I still plan to do myself. That, of course, is limiting in some respects. However, I'm detail-oriented and there is a quality-control aspect that is very important to me. I want everything to be handmade - either hand-folded window stars or hand-embroidered toys – and made in such a way that the product is durable and will last for a long time.

In the near future, I am going to be offering PDF patterns of the felt food that I make. It's been fun to design my own items and I'd like to share those with others who enjoy making felt food.

If your children only had 5 toys, what would you provide for them?

  1. Box of costumes.
  2. Blankets or silks (to make fort houses, use as props, or as costumes).
  3. Handmade felt activity book that I made for them (it has a variety of games like tic-tac-toe and checkers as well as activities like weaving and an I-Spy color game).
  4. Waldorf-inspired doll or animal.
  5. Tea party set with felt food

Since I read to my daughters at least a couple of hours a day, their play reflects what they've heard either that day or in the past. Having simple, open-ended toys gives them so many possibilities. They are only limited by their imagination.

Thanks Ann! Visit her shop at Harvest Moon By Hand, her blog and her Flickr page and support a fellow crafty mama!!

To read more Crafty Mama interviews or to learn how you could be one of our featured mamas, go to our Crafty Mama section!


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