Friday interview: Little Man! May 18, 2012 12:54

This week I'd like to introduce you to Christine from Little Man. You may recognize some of Christine's bags, I spy them all over town on the shoulders of stylish ladies. Please read on for some great advice on balancing work and family, and finding inspiration when you're feeling burnt out. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your handmade business.
My name is Christine Guanipa and am the owner and designer of our family business Little Man. We create and design textile handbags and accessories, all by hand, in our Massachusetts studio. 


Describe your studio for us.
My studio is the better part of the basement in our home. We live in an old mill town and our home was originally one of the mill supervisor homes built in the late 1800’s. The basement walls are made of solid stone. Occasionally these sturdy walls shed some stone dust on my work area. Although I haven’t any windows, we’ve brightened up the space with sunny fabrics and strong lighting. My favorite part of my studio is the commute. I also love the fact that at the end of the day I can close the door to the mess I’ve made and don’t have to think about it until the next day. Previous to this, my studio space was the kitchen table! My more spacious basement is definitely an upgrade!

As a mom of three daughters, how do you balance the demands of running a business and being a mom?
Being a mom, wife, and entrepreneur has its challenges. I find that the most important ingredient for success, that makes it all work, is that I have a husband who wholeheartedly supports all that I do through Little Man. In fact, he is the cartoonist (and inspiration) behind the Little Man logo. His support has allowed me to take advantage of the many opportunities that become available for my business, which may not have been possible for me to entertain, on top of the many other responsibilities that come with motherhood. To make steady progress with Little Man I have learned to grow the business in small steps, in a  manageable pace. My experience has shown me that there are two kinds of entrepreneurs; those that jump in and those that move step by step. I am the latter. I have grown my business alongside with my three girls. As they grew and became more independent, so did Little Man. Today we have one daughter that is married, one in college and one very independent 12 year old. Today, I can also say that Little Man has attended 4 wholesale trade shows (just this year) and has opened several new store and gallery accounts throughout the U.S. All these are good things. I’ve noticed that, (much like it is with toddlers) a lot of little steps can take you very far.


What do you do when you need some inspiration?
When I am feeling “burned out or dry” I have learned to respect the process. Generally, I step away from the creative pursuit and give it a rest. That is not to say I stop working; I simply stop straining my creative side and allow it have some needed rest. I also take advantage of the many creative friends and places within reach that can help to inspire me. My daughter Faye and I recently went to Atlanta to visit family. While we were there we had an opportunity to get away from our everyday environment and appreciate the work and inspiration that is happening in and throughout Atlanta, with its rich repertoire of gifted artists and galleries. Visiting independent shops and boutiques (like  Craftland) turned out to be real fuel for recharging a dry system.

Your daughter, Faye, recently started her own jewelry business. What is the most important piece of advice you'd offer to her?
All our daughters are equally creative in their own rights, but it has been our oldest daughter, Faye, that  has decided to pursue a path a little closer to my own. In fact she even went to the same art school where my husband and I met. We love watching her develop her line of jewelry and continue to encourage her to enjoy whatever it is she finds to do. We believe that if she loves what she does, then she will not see it as labor. We encourage her to maintain a level of excellence in both her craftsmanship and creativity. We believe artists should let people know them by the fruit of their hands, and that fruit should always reflect a pursuit for excellence.


What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade to me means simply “of the hand”. I love that the artist’s touch has been infused into each piece of work that bears the title “handmade”. That personal perspective and attention holds great value in our family. Whether it is a handmade dinner or a handmade piece of clothing, it represents someone’s time, thoughts, talents, and treasures.

How did you first become involved with Craftland?
I think I first heard about Craftland through word of mouth from other artists. Through the years, I have had the opportunity to get to know some of the “ founding mothers” of Craftland and can say that it has been such a pleasure to see us all grow and expand our business and scope of outreach, impacting more than just the local community. Our family loves and supports all the good work and relationships that have happened as a result of our connection to Craftland. It is more than just a retail outlet for Little Man, it’s a privilege and a joy  to be a part of such an inspiring community.


Little known, fun fact about you?
A little known fun fact about myself is that for a brief time - and I mean very, very brief time - I was the saxophone player in a Reggae band while I was  living in Northampton. Go Bob Marley!
Thanks for reading!