Friday Interview: Danelle Williams! September 09, 2011 10:34

Happy Friday, everyone! This week I'd love to introduce you to Danelle Williams, straight outta the Midwest. If you have a super awesome vinyl wallet with Rhode Island on it, it was Danelle who made it for you. Read on to learn more about Danelle and the awesome things she makes. Have a great weekend! (Also, happy to see Craftland images in frames in her studio, thanks Danelle!)

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business.
My name is Danelle Williams and I own Florence Oliver, LLC (formerly Monster Fashion).  I started my handmade business in 2004 after I taught myself how to sew on my mom's vintage Singer sewing machine. I design and sew a variety of bags, pouches, and fashion accessories, many of which incorporate vintage fabric and/or trims making most items one of a kind. I just changed the name of my business to Florence Oliver last month after feeling for a long time that I was designing for some girl - and I finally figured out what her name is!  

Describe your studio for us.
My studio is located in one of the lower level bedrooms in my house.  Since I spend a lot of time in this space, I tried to create a place that is both inspiring yet still light and airy. Most of my time is spent at or near the sewing table usually with music or Netflix playing on my computer.  During the winter my studio can get really cold -- I live in Minnesota -- so some days I migrate upstairs to crochet hats and work on other business tasks I can do outside of this room.  My favorite thing in my studio is the vintage card catalog my husband bought for me at a University surplus sale.  It stores lots of notions and other small items that can be hard to organize. The next best thing is the fabric curtain that I can close to hide the messy shelves full of fabric that are in the closet!

What is it about vintage fabrics that inspired you to work them?
So many things about vintage fabrics inspire me.  The color combinations, patterns, and even the quality of some of them. Things were definitely made a lot better back in the day! I also like the challenge of working with a limited quantity of each piece because it means that each item I make is unique or there may only be a few of a kind. Many vintage fabrics also have a story behind them, although most of the time I have to imagine what that story is. I feel privileged to be able to use a piece of vintage fabric that someone saved to create something special.

What is the handmade scene like in the Midwest?
The handmade scene in the Midwest is definitely thriving! I've been lucky enough to be a part of the Midwest handmade scene in several different cities (Chicago, Ames/Des Moines, and currently Saint Paul/Minneapolis).  There are a lot of really great shops that sell and support indie craft here in Minnesota as well as some reputable indie craft fairs.  Not to mention the many fantastic artists that live here. I'm constantly in awe at how much talent we have in the Midwest. 

What advice would you offer someone hoping to take their work from hobby to business?
Organization and time management are two of the most important things that will keep your business running smoothly. They are also two things that can be hard to discipline yourself in - I still struggle with them from time to time.  Get comfortable talking about yourself and what you make, word of mouth combined with hard work will get you customers. Make sure you really love what you are doing/making. The idea of having your own handmade business can seem really glamorous but be prepared to work more hours than you would with a normal job, and make sure you really love the items you make because you may have to make several hundred of them!

What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade to me is exactly as it sounds, something that is made by the hands of a person.  It's a way of thinking and a way of living. Choosing to buy something someone put time and a part of themselves into over a cheap mass market item. Choosing to make a connection with the person you are buying something from, learning about their process, and supporting them.  Handmade is also a way to keep alive the skills our grandmothers used and taught us. 

How did become involved with Craftand?
I became involved in Craftland during the 2009 Holiday show.  Shortly after this the store opened and I was asked if I wanted to sell year round and I've been selling there ever since. I love Craftland! 

Guilty pleasure?
Bigfoot documentaries! I'm seriously obsessed.