Today we have another Indie Business Interview, this time with Lise, of Zenitude Fiber Arts!
Q: How did this journey start?
I was always very creative, even as a young child. I preferred reading and drawing to sports of any kind. My mother was an excellent sewer and she taught me to sew when I was 10 years old. I started knitting not long after that. There was no craft I wasn’t willing to try…making jewelry, candles, stained glass, decorative painting on furniture, woodworking. It all appealed to me. Today, I am a dyer, a spinner, a weaver, a felter and knitter. Fibre arts allows me to express my creativity in so many ways.
Q: Why did you decide to start your own shop?
Knitting was very intense at certain times in my life and would wind down to nothing at other times. I remember loving it intensely as a teenager then as a young mother. But eventually, family life and career took the main stage and knitting was set aside for a while. In 2008,when I was doing a lot of travelling, I stopped in a knitting shop on one of those trips. I purchased a skein of hand dyed yarn, a pattern and needles– and knitted the whole way home. I was hooked once again but this time, it was the beautiful yarns that were my obsession. I became so infatuated with hand dyed yarns that eventually I had to experiment with dyes and try it myself. As you can probably imagine, this lead to a having a huge amount of hand dyed yarns in the house that I would never be able to knit by myself! The idea of opening a shop on Etsy was born in 2009.
Q: Is this business your full time gig,or do you have another job as well?
In my previous life I was working as much as 60 hours a week. It was very intense work and I felt I had very little time for creativity. I realized that I not only missed being creative but I actually needed to be creative. It was good for my soul and most likely for my health as well. I ‘retired’ in early 2011, but I really don’t feel this is the right way to describe my life at the moment. I wonder if I will ever describe myself as being ”retired”. I don’t really like the word because all sorts of stereotyping comes along with it.
So in 2011, my husband and I realized a long time dream and started an alpaca farm with four females and two crias (baby alpacas). We now have 22 animals with more births expected next summer. Alpaca farming goes hand in hand with all fibre arts, don’t you think? Now, I have a whole new source of fibre to work with!
Q: What is the most difficult part of running your own business?
When you work for yourself the rewards are immense but so are some of the challenges. You wear many hats from being creative director, photographer to being in charge of marketing and bookkeeping. You need to be organized and willing to strop creating from time to time to take care of business. (Not to mention the other household chores such as cleaning, cooking and getting the groceries!) As far as I am concerned, I really enjoy most aspects of my business. I sell online but I do markets and shows as well. I love meeting clients and getting their feedback. I enjoy seeing their finished projects or hearing how someone enjoyed the products or garments they purchased from me. I enjoy sharing ideas and helping other discover the joys of the fibre arts. I even enjoy the role of photographer and the marketing aspect of the business. Keeping track of the inventory and bookkeeping…well that is another story!
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of turning their hobby into a part time (or full time business)?
You MUST do what you love! When you work on your own, your product is an expression of yourself and it comes from the heart. People should feel your excitement when you talk about your products. Certain marketing skills will help get your products out there; you might consider publishing a pattern for a certain yarn in your shop. You might need to offer a class or advice on how to use your fibre to felt or spin it. I find that having samples on hand such as a knitted, woven or felted items are a great way to promote what you offer.
Q: What is the most satisfying part of your business?
The satisfaction of being creative is what it’s all about for me. I love to play with colour and texture. Being an introverted type of person and feeling very happy to work on my own, I was very surprised to see how much I enjoy the social part of my business when I set up at a market or a show. Meeting other women and men that are into self expression through the fibre arts is always a pleasure.
Q: What sort of goals can you share with us about Zenitude in the coming year?
Because I don’t solely rely on Zenitude Fibre Arts to pay my bills, I don’t have the pressure of making this business become more than what it is right now. But this doesn’t mean I don’t put time and effort to make it successful. In order to continue to do what I love to do, I must have clients that enjoy my products. 2015 might be a year of redefining what Zenitude Fibre Arts is all about: I enjoy dyeing yarns and fibre for knitters, spinners and felters. I enjoy blending fibres to make batts and rolags to spin. But I now make and sell a lot of finished garments at shows and markets. I love spinning yarns and hope to add these to my product line this year. I also love using those handspun yarns in my knitting and weaving and creating one-of-a-kind items. Wet felting and nuno-felting is also very high on my list of interest and I still have a need to explore this type of art further.
And there is also the wonderful pleasures of alpaca farming. Their fibre is outstanding. It is extremely soft and warm. It dyes beautifully. My intent will surely be to work more from the alpaca fibre produced here on our farm. I might decide to continue to offer both the supplies to fibre artists and the finished garments or I might decide to let go of one for the other. Either way, I will continue to nurture a creative lifestyle and hopefully encourage others around me to delve into the world of fibre art in one way or another!