Monday, July 21, 2014

art and process {blog hop}

My friend Courtney tagged me to participate in a blog hop about my current artistic endeavors, AND as usual, I'm totally late to posting it :) But better late than never? Here's my "art and process" for my baby carrier company, Umi:

1. What am I working on? 

Right now, I'm finishing up orders before taking August off-ish for self-imposed maternity leave. Baby 3 is due around the 5th-ish (isn't it crazy how -ish becomes the new normal in parenthood and life?) and I will definitely need a good month or two to get into a new groove as a mom of THREE.

The exciting part about these orders is that they are beautiful new 100% linen ring slings for two local stores - one in Portland and one in Ashland, Oregon, just outside of my hometown. Both of these came about this summer when I finally said, "hey, you know what, I'm going to put myself out there and see if they'd be interested in carrying my line." I was terrified but you know what? They said Yes. So that store/person/collective/whatever you've been wanting to approach? Just do it. The worst they can say is No, or even, Not Right Now.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

There are a lot of great ring sling makers out there but I do think that I've been able to create a unique product with the handprinted designs. I also have some big creative dreams/ideas that will continue to set my slings apart from others' in the future while keeping prices affordable. It's easy to get priced out in this market and one of my goals is to figure out how to keep my slings affordable while still very high quality AND with the one-for-one concept. It's been a big learning experience and I continue to have to search and tweak what I'm doing. I think if I went on Shark Tank I would be totally annihilated, but thank goodness, that's nowhere in my future!

I've been coasting along this pregnancy and haven't felt especially creatively inspired but I'm excited to explore some design ideas this fall/winter further once we get into a new family rhythm. It's a process that continually evolves as you try and find what you're happy doing and what your customers are looking for.

3. Why do I write/create what I do? 

The social entrepreneurship aspect is incredibly important to me. Being able to give a sling to a family in need is the reason I initially started selling them and continually try to keep that the goal of my sales and outreach. After initially participating in supporting Project Baby Bilum through the ring sling drive, I realized that I loved ring slings enough to try and eek out a living (that's a relative term) from it while continuing to support PBB and in the future, other nonprofit babywearing organizations who are working to put carriers in the hands of families who will really benefit from their use, like Lift Me Up and Carrying On ProjectThe one-for-one concept in the babywearing world is something that only one other company that I know of is doing - I found out about them after I started and actually breathed a sigh of relief, because yes, it can be done! and our styles are very different and they're advocating in a different country, so I feel very content with where I'm at.  

Whenever I get overwhelmed about having entered into a HUGE market (the babywearing market is seriously giant) and I find myself frozen with doubt and insecurity, I take a deep breath and remember what I'm supporting - and that all I'm asked to do is tend to my own corner of life's garden. Remembering that even the sale of one ring sling may change someone's life for the better is kind of profound. 

In reality, this business is my #3 priority in life and it's important to keep that in mind when making business decisions. It may keep me small forever, but I've decided that I am 100% happy with allowing this endeavor to grow and evolve organically without me having to push and strive and stress out and worry about, for example, my lack of social media savvy. It allows me to admire other companies' work and appreciate that everyone has different tastes and are entitled to them! When I do get stressed, nothing good comes out of it and I've actually made some very poor business decisions while in this mode. 

4. How does your creating process work? 

Creating the ring sling pattern was trial and error as I started off making for my own use using a lot of different online tutorials and seeing what was comfy and what was not. The thing about any type of baby carrier is that it is completely personal preference. Some people prefer a pleated shoulder, some people prefer gathered, or a hybrid. Some love cotton, some only want linen. Some people just don't enjoy ring slings, period. So knowing that you can't please everyone is freeing, mostly, to create a product that I myself love and would be proud + happy to wear out and about.

Also, my best tool for keeping design inspiration and ideas coherent and together is a "secret" Pinterest board - anytime I see a design of anything that I like, or a new color combination, I pin it to the board and it's all there to be assimilated. It's like creating a huge electronic mood board! There are ideas from all over and I'm hoping that during a new creative phase it will lead to some exciting productions.

As for the day to day, it comes in fits and bursts and mostly while my kids are sleeping. The girls are getting used to seeing me at the sewing machine and as they get better at independent play, I'm able to squeeze in work in small chunks throughout the day, whether it's sewing or packaging or shipping. I do have a sewing area set up in our loft/bedroom area but the summer heat has forced me down to the dining room table, so that's my new workspace and it's been a pleasant change. As a mom of littles I definitely do not adhere to a set schedule...which is also the reason why I have a 2 week shipping window. I'm hoping to whittle that down someday, but fortunately most people used to custom work are also used to waiting a little bit longer for the product. With a new baby on the way...well, we'll see!

I'm tagging two lovely ladies if they'd like to share!

Kira from Rain or Shine (and her Etsy shop)
Erika from A Tiny Rocket (and her Etsy shop)


  1. I love the colors in the photo - so bright and beautiful! Max has finally gotten too heavy for my cotton :( Do you think linen is more supportive? Also, when/if baby #3 comes along I just may beg you to try a silk sling for me - I love the shine/shimmer and have heard that they're good for chunky littles :)

  2. Meg! I always love to hear about the creative process and it's almost as if I am getting an inside peak on the whole vision. and especially being a mama to soon to be 3 kiddos- it's amazing what one can do.

    PS- Thanks for the mention! it really means a lot.

  3. Erika! I mentioned you and then FORGOT to tell you I was mentioning you. Ha!

  4. Linen is definitely stronger! And I would LOVE to make a silk sling for you my friend!

  5. Awesome! I loved reading a bit about your creative process. Thanks for tagging me! I want to share mine too now.


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