Friday Feature: Heather Jeany July 23, 2010 13:12

When I started this blog feature, I knew Heather Toupin would be one of my first interviewees. I like to think of Heather as my crafty sire. She was where I first heard about Etsy, first heard about Craftland, and she was always encouraging me to start selling my crafty goodness. She's incredibly productive, creative and a staple of the Providence Crafty Community. Here's the interview I did with her! Happy Friday, everyone!

When did you start your handmade business?
In 1998 I graduated college and started a full time job as a textile designer. For a while this job satisfied me creatively, but after a while I started to get bored. I missed making things. And then along came Etsy and it changed my life. In July of 2005, just a month or so after Etsy launched, I signed up and that's when my business really started. I juggled my full time design job and my Etsy sideshow for 2 years and then in 2007 the mill I was designing for closed. This was sort of a blessing in disguise because I was too scared to make the leap myself, but I've been doing my crafty business full time ever since.

Describe your studio space for us.
I have a sweet little room in my basement. It's only about 160 square feet, but it's big enough to do everything I need to do. I have a big print table where I have one side dedicated for Gocco production, and hinge clamps on the other side for my screenprinting. It's painted a soft, dusty blue and has plenty of wall space to pin up all sorts of silly/beautiful things that inspire me.

I think it's safe to say you're a bit of a Gocco master, what is it about the Gocco that drew you to work with it?
I love Gocco. I mean, I LOVE IT. I even have a Gocco tattoo. From the moment I saw a demo in my senior year of college I was smitten. It took everything I loved about printmaking and condensed it down into a totally practical, small machine that I could use anywhere in my home (at that time I didn't have the luxury of having a dedicated art space at home). The instant gratification aspect of it really got me, you can go from a drawing on paper to burning a screen capable of printing hundreds in mere minutes. 

Where do you go when you need inspiration for a new design?
I find inspiration all over the place in my day to day life. Sometimes it comes in dreams. A lot of times I think of really good ideas while I'm exercising. Inevitably I think of something really great right before I have a big show when I'm too busy doing a million other things.

What advice would you offer someone who is interested in taking their crafting from hobby to business?
Get ready to not make the millions that you think your genius designs deserve. No... that's too negative... get ready to live your dream? Honestly it's a little of both. Sometimes, when I'm working late into the night, I have to remind myself how badly I wanted this exact life when I was still part of the 9-5 grind. As hard as it is sometimes, I feel so fortunate to be able to be making fun stuff for a living. I guess the most important thing is that you really have to love it. At the end of the day, if you don't love it with all your heart you'll never have the motivation to put in the tremendous amount of time and effort it takes to make it successful.

As a full time crafter, what's the hardest part about being your own boss and running your own business?
The hardest parts for me are staying focused in the studio (Facebook! Twitter! I'm talking to YOU!), and in a broader sense just being "business-minded." Because I'm not. My bookkeeping piles up. I'm disorganized. Sometimes it's really overwhelming, I wish I made enough money that I could hire someone to do all the paperwork and I could just focus on making stuff, but I'm not quite there yet. Also just the inconsistency of getting paid, I do miss the regular paycheck.

How did you first become involved with Craftland? How has it changed since you first got involved?
I first became aware of Craftland in that time between college and starting my Etsy shop when I wasn't really making things. The thought of a place full of handmade goodies, and possibly the people making them, was at once incredibly magical to me and also completely intimidating. So much so that I didn't even go the first year that I heard about it because it pained me so much that something like that was going on and I wasn't a part of it. The following year I went, was totally inspired and then I think the first year I participated was 2006. I can distinctly remember dropping my stuff off (it was on Eddy Street that year) and meeting Deb for the first time. Even though it was just the drop off I was overwhelmed by the vibe in there. I didn't want to leave, I think it was at that moment that my desire to take my crafty business to the next level really solidified. So many things have changed since that time, new crafty little people have been born, we've all evolved and so has Craftland. Getting a permanent space is major, it's like Craftland is a real adult now, settled down and sure of themselves. Craftland has spread its glittery wings and it's no longer just a fun show for those in the know. Everyone knows about it and that's super exciting.

Guilty Pleasure?
Glitter gel pens. I have them in every color. And don't tell anyone, but sometimes I eat Fruity Pebbles as a late night studio snack. While listening to Hall & Oates.

Interested in what you see on Heather's inspiration board? Check out this photo on her Flickr page where she added notes of all the pieces.