The following is an interview with Nicole Stevenson, co-founder (with Delilah Snell) of the educational crafting organization, Dear Handmade Life. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Stevenson about the impetus for the organization, Dear Handmade Life’s featured crafting events each year, and her advice for how to start your own crafting business!
Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: The Fanboy Comics staff recently discovered your amazing organization and was inspired by its mission to empower and educate crafty creators. How would you describe Dear Handmade Life and its purpose?
Nicole Stevenson: Dear Handmade Life founders Delilah Snell and [I] have a passion for empowering creatives with education and a forum to help people make a living doing what they love.
For nearly a decade, [our] aunt-and-niece team has been producing Patchwork Show: Modern Makers Festival, a biannual multi-city fair showcasing local emerging artists, crafters, and designers, alongside artisan food, DIY craft workshops, gourmet food trucks, and indie music. In 2012 [we] founded Craftcation: Business + Makers Conference, featuring industry professionals leading attendees in hands-on food and craft workshops and lectures and panels on creative business. [We] also share DIY craft projects, tips on creative entrepreneurship, recipes, adventures, and inspiration to make every day awesome on [our] blog.
BD: When did you first find an interest in Do-It-Yourself craft projects, and what encouraged you to launch Dear Handmade Life?
NS: I’ve been making things and starting businesses since I was a kid. My first business was a “paper goods shop” which was a refrigerator box I’d turned into a “store,” and I sold cards and envelopes I’d made from junkmail and notebook paper on the front lawn of my childhood home, when I was seven years old. The making continued from there. When I was twelve, I started making candy and selling it outside of my dad’s barber shop. I made art and wrote short stories in high school and college and started my first serious creative business selling art and clothing while I was in graduate school for creative writing. Then, my aunt and business partner Delilah Snell and I started Patchwork Show, Craftcation Conference, and Dear Handmade Life. When we started our businesses, there weren’t a whole lot of resources for creative entrepreneurs, and we wanted to help other creative business owners get the skills, connections, and knowledge that we wished we’d had.
BD: Does Dear Handmade Life have a staff of creators, and what can you tell us about these individuals and their contributions to the company?
NS: We don’t employ any full-time people, but Delilah and I both have part-time assistants, volunteers, and managers for our events, a social media manager, and contributors to our blog that we’re so grateful for.
BD: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
NS: Our work is a response to what our audience needs. We bring Patchwork Show to cities that don’t have large-scale craft shows, and Craftcation Conference is the answer to questions we’ve heard from our community for years: Where can I meet like-minded people? How do I run my business? How do I make this? Our community both online and in-person is our biggest inspiration.
BD: Two of your featured events include Patchwork Show: Modern Makers Festival and Craftcation: Business + Makers Conference. What is the purpose behind these events, and which individuals would receive great benefit from attending?
NS: Patchwork Show is a bi-annual makers festival showcasing local emerging artists, crafters, and designers, alongside artisan food, DIY craft workshops, gourmet food trucks, and indie music. All Patchwork shows are free to attend and family friendly. Vendors are selected through a jury process and feature clothing for men, women, and kids, handbags, accessories, jewelry, art, ceramics, garden finds, home goods, plushies, crochet and knit items, pet gear, kits and patterns, bath and body goodies, and more!
Patchwork Show seeks to both offer makers a place to sell their work locally and attendees a place to interact with their community, learn about the importance of buying locally and hand-made, shop from creatives that live in their area, and have fun!
Craftcation is an annual four-day business and makers conference featuring industry professionals leading attendees in hands-on food and craft workshops and lectures and panels on creative business. Craftcation ignites the entrepreneurial spirit, strengthens craft and business skills, and builds relationships in the creative community. Craftcation is a great place for people who have a creative business or are thinking about starting one, as well as people who want to be more creative and learn and meet other creatives.
BD: Are there any goals that you hope to achieve with your work?
NS: We all spend most of our lives working and if we don’t enjoy the work that we do, that’s a large chunk of our lives spent doing something we don’t like. There will always be aspects of your job that you don’t like, but looking at the overall picture of what you do, being able to say I enjoy what I do for a living is awesome. We try to help more people to be able do that. This doesn’t mean that everyone should start their own creative business, but if that’s something that someone wants to, we want to offer them resources and support.
BD: Can you give us the inside scoop on any upcoming Dear Handmade Life projects in the works?
NS: We’re working on building our community outside of our live events through offering makers and creative entrepreneurs more online resources for their businesses and their creative life.
BD: What is the most important piece of advice that you can offer to individuals who aspire to create their own designs and creations?
NS: Before you start a business based on your creative products, you should do lots of research. Delilah loves to say that people spend so much time researching every detail when they’re purchasing a car, but when people start businesses, they jump right in and don’t do a ton of research. There’s something to be said for jumping in full-force, but there’s also a smart way to do it. Find an internship, attend a craft show you’re thinking about vending at, attend a creative business conference, build your network, learn the basics before you invest all of your time, creativity, and energy. Running your own business is a LOT of work, but through educating yourself and learning from other people’s mistakes and triumphs, you’ll have a leg up.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about your work?
NS: Be sure to visit www.dearhandmadelife.com.