Friday Feature: Spread the Love October 15, 2010 12:33

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'm going to introduce you to Melanie Linder, the Pennsylvania artist behind the business Spread The Love. I've always been a fan of Melanie's prints and wooden postcards, and the way she can make a design that's sweet without being sappy. I hope you enjoy getting to know her too! Thanks, Melanie!

When did you start your handmade business?
I started my self-made adventure in early 2007, after about five years of working for other people.  At the time, I was designing jewelry for a small but national company, and I felt the life being sucked from my soul. Ok, maybe that's a bit dramatic – I really just didn't love the job environment and needed a serious change. So when my crazy, awesome husband dared me to quit, I called his bluff and delivered my resignation letter. Afterward, we both giggled with nervous excitement.  But as the reality of becoming a single-income home set in, we became just plain old nervous.  That was the beginning.  Within a week, I settled on making custom wedding invitations with lavish adornments and (Love Your Invite) was born. About a year and a half later I felt the need to really pursue my love of illustration as well and Spread the Love came next. Now I'm combining the two and having so much fun!  

Describe your studio for us.
My old studio was a spare bedroom in our home. It was geared much more toward invitation designing and building with lots of pattern papers and inspiration everywhere. However, just recently since my illustration work has been excelling I moved into our other spare room above the kitchen which feels like a separate apartment from the house. It's all so new but I'm loving it!  Currently, I feel the need to be inspired by every detail down to the lighting. I love low-lights, brights colors and warmth and I think this new studio has all three.


Does living in rural Pennsylvania influence your work?
Living in rural PA influences and inspires almost everything I do! I really feel connected to the land and family of this area and absolutely love being inspired by my surroundings.Born and raised here my home and life are what I pull from to make the things I love. And in return? I get the most supreme satisfaction in my heart! I am the work and the work is me.


Can you describe your process for designing new prints?
I usually get inspired and then take notes and write a ton of lists. After I think I have my idea – I'll start drawing. I'll make a bunch of light scribbly doodles until I like the balance and solidify the idea in my mind. Then I'll look up references or just get right to it depending on what I'm trying to create. Once I get the drawing tightened down I'll place tracing paper over it and make the final inkpen illustration. Here's where I can make changes and/or make sure things line up symmetrically/spatially. Then I scan in my image and convert it to vector lines. This is where I add color, texture, and the piece really comes alive! 

What was the inspiration behind your small book on making your own household cleaners?
Oh, my awesomely inspirational friend, Cally Graham! (who wrote most of the book) Cally was a new Mom trying to figure out non-toxic ways to clean her home and I was a new home owner trying to preserve the "ways of old" when dealing with all the beautiful old wood in my house. Plus, ever since I saw that show on BBC with those two crazy ladies who come and clean overly dirty homes I was interested in alternative cleaning. It made it look so fun and exciting! Like science – instead of the usual nausea followed by insidious grumbling from under my breath. So, when Cally said she had been investigating natural cleaners, and all of our friends wanted recipes, we decided to make a book.

What advice would you offer someone who's interested in taking their art from hobby to business?
Oh wow, I could go on forever! To keep it short I'll say these 3:
a). If you're someone like me – DO NOT read those "Craft business" books!  Sorry people, I know that seems harsh and I'm not saying they're all bad – but if I would have read them before I "dove in" I don't know if I ever would've jumped. It's great to be prepared but I've seen so many people get overwhelmed with the back-end that they lose what is so special and unique about them or their spontaneous passion for the art. Sheesh, nothing like getting stuck before you even start!
b). I'm guessing if you're reading this you probably already know – Get on the internet, make a website, set up an Etsy shop and start a blog. You don't have to do all of these things but at least one is pretty mandatory. Get yourself out there and see if other blogs will feature your work. This strategy definitely helped me get some Etsy sales under my belt and motivation to keep going even when I felt like it wasn't going anywhere in the beginning. But beware! Endless hours scoping the internet for competition can be very, very bad for you. Don't compare yourself with all the endless awesomeness out there. There's a place for you - find it.
c). Google Ad Words! If you have a website please invest in Google Ad words!!  I used it for LYI and it always paid off. It's kind of intimating and a little less than "user friendly" but if your website is even "just ok" like mine I guarantee it will work! As a quick example – I signed up for a wedding show a couple weeks after I started LYI and paid $600 to attend. I invested about $100 more and came out of it with zero business cards, lots of compliments, and no solid customers. In contrast, that night I signed up my newbie website with Google Ad words, paid $90 for one month and had a $700.00 job the next day from a bride all the way out in Washington State. And it grew exponentially from there! It's totally worth the money if you can get the world wide exposure of Google! I didn't really believe it could work but it's true! There is an abundance of eager customers out there waiting for your product - so go on and get it in front of them!

How did you first become involved in Craftland?
October 2009 they asked me to participate in Craftland: the year round shop and I've been a fan ever since! I've had the luck of working with a bunch of shops over that last two years and they are the best I've ever dealt with - hands down! Sales are always good, communication is always fantastic, and the actual Holiday show blew my socks off with the amount of organization and positivity wrapped into one glittering package. Hooray, I LOVE you guys!

Guilty Pleasure?
Dubble Bubble - lightly chewed + (add in) 1 package of Smarties = absolute heaven in my mouth. Also, horrifically terrible TV.