a chat with Sabrina Famellos of Anzula

I managed to catch a few moments with Sabrina Famellos, the owner of Anzula. It’s no secret that I love their yarns. It’s been an honour and privilege to work with all their yarns for the Meet the Yarn posts. I hope this quick interview will help you learn a little about the remarkable woman who created Anzula.

little acorn:
Your colours are beautiful. The subtle depth and power continue to blow me away. What led you to choose this direction for your colourways?
sabrina (anzula):
When I decided to go from mostly retail sales to wholesale sales I wanted to create colors that would be the foundation for creating beautiful stitch work. I started with about 40 colors of semi-solid colorways and introduced them at the January show for TNNA [the industry trade show] in 2010. We now have over 130 colorways and I love where they have taken us.

Anzula yarns

little acorn:
What do you wish customers would do when they first step through the door at a trunk show?
sabrina (anzula):
I love it when customers ask me to help them pair colors for their projects. I would totally be okay if they didn’t ask me if I was tired.

Anzula yarns

little acorn:
When not making, you can be found…
sabrina (anzula):
Outside or at a yoga studio. Before a show, I’ll often get a coffee and find a park to wander through. Although I can’t say I’m not making. I always have my knitting with me.
little acorn:
You are on the road many weeks of the year. How does that inspire your creativity?
sabrina (anzula):
I get so much inspiration from traveling, I love the colors and textures you see from the road.

Anzula yarns

little acorn:
I ask everyone: Kitten or puppy snuggles?
sabrina (anzula):
I have to choose?!?I love both, but if I have to choose it would be kittens. I grew up with cats and a dog. Our dog adopted us when we lived in the foothills above Fresno and we adopted all of our cats as kittens that stumbled across our path. My first was Sassy, short for Sassafras, and we found each other when I was in junior high school. My heart broke when we moved my second year of high school and she ran away. I’ve had my cat, Miriam, for 16 years. She is the second cat that I personally adopted. She owns a piece of my heart.
little acorn:
Thank you so much for taking time from your day to chat with me!

You can find more about Anzula on their website, www.anzula.com, drool over all their beautiful colours, and follow them on social media — I’m partial to their instagram account. Also keep an eye to their events page to learn when Sabrina will be bringing a trunk show to a yarn store near you.

All photos in this post by Anzula.

a chat with Jess Cook

Jess Cook and I sat down for a quick chat via email yesterday. Jess helps creative business owners get more done than they could if they were going it alone. We have worked together on a variety of projects over the years. I hope this quick interview will help you better understand the unique service and insight Jess can offer your business.

little acorn:
What sets you apart in the landscape of VAs?
jess:
My focus is on expanding my services to also include digital download products and regular email newsletters/blog posts full of information that’s valuable to small business owners, since I can’t work with everyone 1:1. I’m transitioning away from a traditional VA role to focus on content production (website copy, newsletters, online course material, ebooks, etc.) and project/team management. I also offer consulting sessions to ongoing and one-time clients. I’m really embracing the idea of being a “first officer” for my clients – I work best in that role, where I’m their first source of information, their confidante, the person they can count on to get things done and keep the ship running, so to speak.
little acorn:
That’s great! I look forward to see what you discover for small business owners.

When you first work with a new client, what preconceptions do you wish you could magic away? What do you wish for? What drives you nuts the most?

jess:
It’s important when you’re ready to hire someone that you actually get ready. It’s so hard for a business owner to hand over any part of the reigns of their business, and I understand that because I’m a self-proclaimed control freak. But if you’re not prepared to regularly assign tasks to your new hire, then that person’s going to get frustrated because there’s either nothing to do or the “to dos” come with deadlines that are too tight because you weren’t able to think ahead.

I help my clients work around this by offering to add a brainstorming session to our work together. So we’ll hop on a Skype call and plan out the coming month and quarter at a time, so we can see the big picture together, and then it’s my job to map out the little pieces that come together to make that big picture happen.

The hard part is when a client doesn’t have time or interest in these types of planning sessions OR when they aren’t organized enough to give me regular jobs to do or the materials and information I need to do my work. If you’re not organized in your business then it can be hard to bring someone else into that business to work for you.

little acorn:
When not making, you can be found…
jess:
Right now my life has a lot of components, so I’m working hard to balance those components. I have to make time for client work, my own business work, homeschooling 3 kids, general household tasks and of course family time and down time for myself. It’s a lot of juggling right now, but soon it will be summer, and things will calm down a bit. After that the next adventure is that the kids are going to public school in the fall, so that should open up a lot more working time for me.

It’s a season of hustling right now for me, to keep powering through all these various things happening, in order to come out at the end of the year having seen growth in my business. It can be hard in the moment, but I know things will get easier when our homeschooling adventure is over, and I don’t want to lose momentum in the meantime, so I’m working extra hard now in order to prepare myself for a more focused work time in the future.

little acorn:
It’s definitely crunch season! I think most people believe the yarn industry is all about the winter months, but they don’t realize that we’re finalizing next autumn/winter right now!

What drives your creative process. What do you enjoy? What isn’t so fun?

jess:
In my work, I’m driven by the desire to solve problems. When a client comes to me and says they want to figure out how to add something to their business, or how to improve an existing system, I love hitting the ground running with a project like that and finding solutions for them. This job is amazing because through my clients I’ve got connections to all sorts of smart people, so I’m able to call on those connections from time to time in order to help solve a problem for one client (like a recent adventure where I was able to ask Penny for advice and it resulted in solving a major problem for one of my clients!).

In my personal adventures, I’m a fan of the finished object. I’m driven by the desire to make things that make me, or other people, happy. I like to show people I care about them by making things for them, but I’m also a “selfish crafter” and I spend most of my time making things for myself, because I’m the one who truly appreciates it the most. I do enjoy the process, but I’m definitely after the end result.

little acorn:
Ok, I ask everyone: Kitten or Puppy snuggles?
jess:
BOTH! We’ve got a miniature zoo in our house, so I get regular snuggles from two dogs, a cat, a ferret, and a guinea pig. We also have a chinchilla but she’s pretty anti-snuggle. :)
little acorn:
Thank you Jess!

Learn more:

You can find Jess at jesscookonline.com

If you are interested in hiring your first VA, Jess has a guide, “Hire your First VA”.

a chat with Jillian Moreno

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed an email exchange with Jillian Moreno. I’ve known “of” Jillian since the early days of Knitty. We followed each other through Instagram a while ago and connected over my morning coffee/tea photos. Without further ado, let’s get to our chat.

little acorn:
You have been a part of this industry for a long time, but many may know you as KnittySpin. What do you see as your raison d’être?
jillian:
Making people happy with fiber. Whether it’s spinning, knitting, embroidery, weaving or something I haven’t started learning about yet, I am rapturous about fiber and textiles. I read history, go to museums, art shows, dabble and dig-in it’s all interesting to me.

I want people to be happy making things with fiber, so I write and teach and help other people write and teach. I point, practice and preach about how great it is and that it should be fun. I’m a big proponent of fun with fiber. There shouldn’t be absolutes, not just one way to do anything.
photo of jillian moreno's fiber & knitting

little acorn:
Your book absolutely helped me overcome my perfectionist issues with my spinning and simultaneously become more consistent.

You frequently teach at workshops and classes all over. What do you wish students in your class would (or wouldn’t) do?

jillian:
Jillian Moreno Spun fiberRelax! It’s harder to learn something new or a different way of going about things when you’re an adult. I think we have the idea of perfection and time constraints breathing down our necks. We don’t play enough or stumble enough in our fiber work.

I want my students to experiment, to make yarn they aren’t happy with in my classes at first, so I can teach them how to make the yarn they want.

little acorn:
I struggle with perfectionism, I like your approach!

What do you do when not designing/ad wrangling/spinning?

jillian:
I hang out with my family, walk in the woods and read. I read a lot.
little acorn:
That sounds ideal to me!

What drives your creative process? What part of it do you enjoy? What isn’t so fun?

jillian:
I am a process person; I’m terrible at tying up all of the ends. I love the digging in and tearing apart of a project, the round and round until I have it figured out. Then I’m happy to be done, even if I’m not finished. I like researching and making connection between things. I ask a lot of questions. I am never happier as when I am cramming information, words, visuals, conversations, textures into my brain. When I worked at Interweave my favorite job was new product development.

I think editors of all sorts, anyone who is excellent and loves tracking detail are gods. I enjoy paying people to do the parts where I have zero skill or joy.

little acorn:
We are very similar you and I. We need to figure out how to get together for coffee/tea one day.

Ok, the fifth question: Kitten or Puppy snuggles

jillian:
Both! I love them equally. I have no pets right now but am first in line to care for all of my neighbor’s four-legged babies.
little acorn:
Thank you Jillian!

Learn more:

Yarnitecture by Jillian MorenoYou can find Jillian at jillianmoreno.com.

Check out where’s Jillian’s teaching for your chance to take a class with her.

Her book, Yarnitecture, is available at a bookstore near you.


a chat with Karen Whooley

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed an email exchange with Karen Whooley. I’ve known Karen for about a year now and have knit and crocheted samples for her. Without further ado, let’s get to our chat.

little acorn:
You have been at this for a long time, with 19 books and according to Ravelry, over 330 designs! Simple patterns often get a bad rap, why did you choose to focus on them?
karen:
I am so glad you asked that! When I learned to crochet, my grandmother only spoke Italian. I learned to crochet in Italian, and when we bought books from Leisure arts, or back in those days, from a newspaper clipping, she and I would take a magnifying glass to the photos to figure them out. So I never learned how to read a pattern until I taught myself in my teen years.

Fast forward to 1998 when I submitted my first designs. I still wasn’t confident in writing patterns so I started with simple. For many years I stayed with simple and easy to crochet. As an instructor, I have always created my own designs for my classes, so simple is another ingredient for learning. However as the years progressed, I went back to my Italian Lace roots and you will notice as now I hit year 19, I am doing much more lace. But as you will see, I still make my patterns simple to understand.

little acorn:
I consider this my wishes question. What do you wish students in your class would/wouldn’t do? What do you wish everyone would do when they first look through one of your patterns?
karen:
Let’s break this into two parts: Classes and patterns.

As a teacher I am a hands on, learn at your own pace kind of instructor – even in live classes! I also hand out my contact information to each and every student I have. My job isn’t done when the class is over. If you forget something, or didn’t understand something, I am glad to get an email asking for help! Honestly. I have students from more than 12 years ago still sending me a note from time to time! I love that!

As a designer, I pride myself on clean patterns, easy to read and understand. Every pattern is professionally tech edited and anything designed after about 2010 will usually have a stitch chart along with the written text. This got more consistent after 2014 and now every new pattern I release will have charts of some sort.. And if you have a question about a pattern published elsewhere – like a magazine or yarn company – I am glad to get a question from you about those pattern from you as well.

little acorn:
As I’ve knit and crocheted your patterns, I can attest that you do indeed write clean, easy to read and understand patterns! What do you do when not designing?
karen:
I am an avid reader and can read up to 12 novels of all sizes in a month. (that is just in the evenings before bed!) I love to visit my two children at their colleges (Montana State University in Bozeman, MT and Washington State University in Pullman, WA). My husband and I love to spend time in the garden and although we don’t do much of it right now (2 kids in college!!) we love to travel!
little acorn:
Books (and yarn) warm the soul. I’m a voracious reader as well. What drives your creative process?
karen:
When I first started as a designer in 1998, my goal was to eventually end up with my own company producing books. Little did I know the internet would be what it is now! :)

I got a little sidetracked in the early 2000s and started designing primarily for books and magazine companies, but what I discovered over the years is that I like to do what I want to do. I don’t like to be given a theme, or colors of the season but design what is coming out of me at the time. I guess you could say I like having control over the entire process! :) In the last 2 years, I determined that this was the time to refocus and go back to my dream. In September 2016, I launched to the world Occhi Blue Press – my new book imprint. The first book, A Garden of Shawls, will go in presales starting March 1st, just in time for National Crochet Month! And you will notice I an releasing far more indie patterns starting this year!

little acorn:
The sample I crocheted was lovely, I can’t wait to see the rest of the book! The fifth question I ask everyone: Kitten or Puppy snuggles?
karen:
Kitties are by far my favorite! I have 2 Amber (a tortie) and Callie (a calico)! Plus a blue doe Jersey Wooly Rabbit named Sapphire. (She’s actually my son’s, but he’s away at college and my husband brushes her out her coat for spinning so she’s mine for now!)

Thank you Karen for taking the time to chat with me.

Learn more:


You can find Karen at karenwhooley.com.

Her new book, A Garden of Shawls, will go in presales starting March 1st.


a chat with Ariela & Terri of Geek Calligraphy

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed an email exchange with Ariela and Terri of Geek Calligraphy. I’ve known Terri for several years and became curious about what she was doing when she started sharing amazing geeky prints to social media. Without further ado, let’s get to our chat.

little acorn:
I’ve read your website, overall I get “why” geek calligraphy… but really, why do you want to get out of bed and do this (and not something else) each day?
terri:
I get to be in business with my best friend. Which is actually hard, but incredibly rewarding. Also I get to enable Judaic Art that isn’t bog standard, which is amazing. And I get to be subversive professionally, which is always fun. And if I didn’t do this, Ariela would be getting substandard help, and that would be a crying shame.
ariela:
Geek Calligraphy sits at the intersection of what are probably my three greatest interests in life: Judaism, Art, and Geekery. Honestly, it’s the best job I could imagine, and I am lucky to be able to do it, even part time, and to have a partner (Terri) who covers my weak points so well.
Geek Calligraphy product - SpaceScape Ketubah
little acorn:
Your business partnership makes me smile. Even though there’s considerable physical distance, I think it’s very important and I sometimes wish I had a Terri!

Next, I like to try to get to know what do you wish customers would or wouldn’t do? Your extensive FAQ and blog posts cover quite a bit. Is there anything else you would like to call attention to?

terri:
Customers who show up with completely unrealistic time expectations. We can do a lot, but we’re not miracle workers. Also people who approach us for things like wholesale inquiries and then evaporate off the face of the earth.

geek calligraphy card - take care of yourself (dragon with spoons)For a while, it was completely inaccessible licensing departments. It’s amazing how much easier it is to get in touch with the Lucasfilm people now that Disney owns them.

ariela:
My biggest pet peeve is probably clients who respond to me sending them a sketch by telling me something isn’t right, but can’t or won’t explain what’s the problem. By all means, be polite, but I can’t fix it if I don’t know what the problem is! Specifics are everyone’s friend.

Worse, though I am not sure I would call this a pet peeve, is when people submitting inquiries don’t respect our stated prices and try to tell us our work isn’t worth that much money. Those who say “Oh, sorry, that’s out of my price range, nevermind,” are fine. It’s the ones who say “How about $200 less?” or somesuch that really press my buttons.

little acorn:
I couldn’t press buy fast enough when a certain print made its debut. On the consumer end, I know I struggle with this and wish everything I liked fit into my budget. I see this with technology clients, I once had a potential client say “I am not paying you because I can google it!” (my reply? “have fun!”). I hope that discussions with you, and others in the knitting community (please see The great teaching kerfuffle and Why I’m not Designing Knitwear Right Now by Kristin Nicholas for starters) have helped me think twice about the language I choose when I can’t commit.

Ok, next question! What do you do when you aren’t Geek Calligraphy?

terri:
My full time job is parenting a ridiculously active toddler (known as J or Monster online). I’m in the middle of several knitting projects at the moment, including a pink and yellow cardigan for my daughter and a baby blanket for my nephew. But I’m most proud of what I’m calling my “Art Show Shawl.” It’s a shawl in the Geek Calligraphy colors and it’s going to be wonderful.
ariela:
I have a full-time day job, which takes up most of my time. I work on the back end of email marketing (database integration, template coding, analytics and segmentation), for a Jewish nonprofit.

I’m currently studying to be a soferet, so Geek Calligraphy may expand to offer mezuzah scrolls and info on commissioning a megillah or a Torah at some point.

For recreation, I like sewing, cooking, and home improvement (yay power tools!). Also swing dancing.

little acorn:
What drives your creative process?
terri:
I often delve into my past career of selling Judaica for a living to figure out what we should be selling. Or I mine it for things to parody.

It’s hard for us to be separated by two radically different day jobs (parenting and office coding). Often when one of us has time, the other is dealing with something that is metaphorically on fire. But it’s been rewarding to make it work.

ariela:
geek calligraphy print - coder's oathI shamelessly plunder my day job for ideas for my calligraphy. Our Coder’s Oath and Tech Serenity Prayer are direct results of encountering issues on the job.

I think every piece I have worked on for an extended period, particularly the ketubot which tend to take months in process, has had an “Oh gob, why did I think I could do this, I’ve ruined it and it’s terrible!” moment. That’s when I gripe to Terri and to other artist colleagues, who tell me to step away for a bit until I can come back with fresh eyes.

little acorn:
geek calligraphy print - cordthulhuI could have used the Tech Serenity Prayer or a warning toward Cordhulhu while I was the IT Manager of a small NYC law firm.

I ask everyone: Kitten or Puppy snuggles?

terri:
Kittens, definitely
ariela:
I’m allergic to cats, alas, so it has to be puppies for me.
geek calligraphy - ketubah - Salute Ketubah
little acorn:
Thank you Ariela and Terri!

Learn more:

geek calligraphy logoYou can find Ariela and Terri at geekcalligraphy.com.

If you wish to purchase a print for delivery by December 24th, please make your purchase no later than December 14. Note: they are only able to ship to US addresses at this time.


a chat with Tawny Reynolds of Sundrop Jewelry

I recently chatted over email with Tawny Reynolds, owner and designer of Sundrop Jewelry. Her unique eco-friendly business creates sunshine in a drop of glass. Let’s jump straight in.

little acorn:
What gave you the idea to use a fresnel lens to create melted glass droplets?
Tawny:
Our process of melting glass with sunshine and a giant magnifying glass was first developed by a friend. Back when he was a teenager in Alaska, he received a reward for returning a lost wallet, and bought himself the ultimate geek gift – a two and a half foot magnifying glass. Then, of course, he went around burning everything he could find! From melting lines in beach sand, he started making the earliest versions of Sundrop Jewelry as a hobby. We turned it into a real business in 2005, and I am now the sole maker, designer, manager, and… well, everything, for Sundrop Jewelry.

The fresnel lens I use is a type of magnifying glass originally invented for lighthouses. Turn that lighthouse lens around, and instead of dispersing light, it concentrates the light. It reaches up to 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit on a clear sunny day! Since it is so hot, most glass starts to melt very quickly. However, since the heat all comes from light, there has to be enough color there to absorb the light – the light passes right through clear glass, and white reflects the light, so they don’t melt at all, while black glass immediately starts to boil.

[youtube https://youtu.be/mOI1ERdZgMg]

Melting glass with direct solar energy is eco-friendly, of course, but I try to keep the entire business eco-friendly as well. I use sustainable and recycled materials as much as possible, including 100% recycled sterling silver, and many recycled glass bottles (some colors come from stained glass, as there just aren’t many pink or purple glass bottles around). I use packaging made from 100% recycled paper for cards, jewelry boxes, and padded envelopes. I recently discovered “tree-free” paper, made from waste fiber from sugar cane processing!

little acorn:
I love so much about everything about what you make. I smile at all your designs, the sunshine really is in every drop! When someone steps up to your booth at a show, what do you wish for?
Tawny:
I have so many colors (more than 20!) and jewelry designs that I simply can’t show them all in a fair booth – or even on my website!
Colorcard of Sundrop Jewelry Birthstones.

Color Card of Birthstones.

It simply creates paralysis of choice for most people. So I trim down what I have on display – but when someone has something specific they’re looking for, I wish they’d ask! I love pulling out all my colors, and always have stock ready to quickly whip up the simpler jewelry designs, the drops already in pairs and ready to go. The glass drops range quite a bit in size, and I usually have shorter and longer pieces as well as what is on display. I also adore working on custom designs – I’ve made clustered colors of the family’s birthstones, expanded existing designs, and worked with customers on entirely new ideas. Helping people find or create the perfect piece is the best part of my job!
little acorn:
What do you do on cloudy days?
Tawny:
Everything else involved in making my jewelry and running a small business! From wire wrapping the glass drops and finding pairs for earrings, to photography, packing and shipping, developing new designs, accounting, customer service and writing newsletters – as a one-person show I get to do it all. There’s more than enough to fill up any cloudy days – especially in California, where the cloudy days are relatively few. Sundrops have been made in Seattle, Colorado, one of the rainiest parts of Alaska, and Minnesota (where I always tried to stock up well in summer so I wouldn’t have to spend the winter sitting outside making drops in snow pants and a parka).
Sundrop Jewelry
sundrop-lyraearrings
little acorn:
What drives your creative process?

Dusty Orchid Kite Lariat

Tawny:
I get inspired by my customers and by the glass colors themselves. A new bottle color I see in someone’s recycling bin, a sheet of multicolored stained glass, new millefiori rods in the glass shop – I want to try them all! I love the way translucent glass glows in the light, and it is really fun to find new glass colors and patterns to experiment with. I frequently look at my current palette of colors, and browse glass shops for something new to fill the holes. For example, for years I’ve been trying to find a pink glass that doesn’t change color when melted and doesn’t contain lead. I’ve finally found one, and recently added it to my birthstone collection for October – watermelon tourmaline!

This year has seen a veritable Cambrian Explosion of designs (sorry, my paleontology background is showing). Many of these new designs were either custom design requests or were inspired by a customer’s original idea. The designing is definitely the fun part for me. Agonizing over naming the new pieces, writing descriptions and listing, doing all the marketing and promotion for a launch – not so much.

little acorn:
Kitten or Puppy snuggles?
Tawny:
Kitty snuggles, although I don’t get them very often – we’ve sadly become a highly allergic family :(
little acorn:
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me!

Learn more about Sundrop Jewelry:

sundrop-trio-neclackesYou can find Sundrop Jewelry at www.sundropjewelry.com and at many local stores near you.

You can also follow Sundrop Jewelry on Facebook and Pinterest.