Category: “Meet Your Maker” Vendor Series
Meet Your Maker: Toys by Jean Elise

Jean Elise of Toys by Jean Elise is passionate about the world, and about bringing the world into the everyday play of children. Her toys are colorful and playful, but they also take kids seriously: from play money, to notebooks for documenting backyard discoveries, these are the types of toys for the truly curious. Learn more about Jean Elise’s travels and passions that make her so good at connecting with kids and making brilliant toys.


jean, elise, toys, table, display, for sale

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art? 

I aim to create work that inspires children to be inquisitive and imaginative and make discoveries in the natural world. I want to spark their interest in looking at bugs or get them intrigued to learn more about countries all over the world. To create my toys and games, I draw upon interesting and educational aspects of world culture and the natural world. I design toys and kits that allow children to explore and grow in ways that make sense with various stages of development.


2| Why do you make/design things? 

Because it’s fun! I also think it’s just inherit in my nature. As a child I was constantly drawing and making. I have a very specific memory of me and a friend wanting to throw a birthday party for our stuffed animals. I spent the entire play time making tiny hats, treat bags, candies (out of paper and rubber bands) and little costumes for them. I never even got to the part of “having” the party! The joy for me was the process of creating all the tiny things, and I really haven’t changed the much when I think about it!

pirate, treasure, map, dabloons, chest

3| Tell us about your creative process. Is everything hand-drawn? How does an idea become a final product?

I begin creating most of my toys by exploring a subject matter that I notice many children are interested in, or a special niche interest that a few children I know hold dear. For example, I’ve observed many children lovingly select small treasures they spy when playing outside or on nature walks. It’s a fantastic introduction to the natural world. I then ask myself, what’s a way a child could take this interest a little bit further? What about a special box where they store all of their treasures? This keeps their specimens safe, tidy and accessible. An additional step further would be to include a small catalogue book so young naturalists can begin the practice of recording what they find.  They can write (or have someone help them write) the date and location, what the object is and what their observations are about this object. They might write about how the object looks, feels, sounds, or even what it smells like. In other words the object’s phenotype. They are not “pretending” to be scientists, they are scientists. They are doing the work of a naturalist – so how do I embody that in my product? There’s a lot of effort that goes into the writing and the wording, and the kit design in that regard. After the concept and writing is figured out, I move on to how to execute the product with the resources and materials available to me. My business is just me, my toys are not produced in a factory, so I have to figure out how I alone can produce what I need for my toys and kits to work. Once I’ve got a good idea of what the each product entails, I start to draw and design. All illustrations are hand-drawn by me with good old paper and pencil. I then ink them, scan them in and tweak them on my computer to be easier to use my design software. I’m completely self-taught in all the design software and am always learning new little tricks and tips. Then it’s just a matter of printing and putting it all together.  Then packaging, distributing, selling, etc. Then, after a bit of time, I go back to that original design and re-do some or all. These changes might be due to new materials or tools I now have, a change in personal style, a change in the goal of the product, or it might reflect feedback from customers, friends or fans. Kinda neat that I have some fans, right? They are super great and I feel so loved when they shoot me a message, like something of mine on social media, or stop by my booth at a show.  The creative process, as you might imagine, never really ends!

4| What do you love about your job?

Running away in my head with a concept for a new kit or toy is so dreamy. How can I make something for children who have a penchant for mycology? Astronomy? Cartography? What about the kiddos who want to know everything there is to know about bridges? Or ants? Air ships? Foods of the world? And then there are kids that would love to learn a new skill, like drawing. Or sewing. Maybe even fortune telling? Creating toys that fuel a child’s specific interest is pretty special.


5| What is the biggest challenge in making toys for kids?

The biggest challenge for me is, more or less, figuring out what to prioritize. There’s just a lot that I want to do, and everything takes a chunk of time! Especially if I want to do it the way that I want to do it, which sadly doesn’t always get to be the case. I have big dreams for things I want to include with my toys or games, but again, since it’s me and not a whole factory, I have to pick and choose what makes sense for me to produce at any given moment. That’s tough! I’m also, in a way, competing with so many toys that have more bells and whistles – electronic toys and apps that of course can do things my toys and kits can’t. There’s a very old-fashioned feel about my toys and kits and finding a place for that can be hard. There are a LOT of inexpensive plastic toys in this world. Some of them are favorites and get played with again and again and can be passed down from kid to kid. Some, however, can get boring pretty easily and get tossed in short order. They sit in landfills and take who knows how long to decompose. I’m pretty determined to make toys from materials that can be recycled and can actually decompose. I don’t want my toys to be another plastic thing thrown in a toy box. I’ve got a background in Montessori education, and a major component of that educational approach is to only offer children beautiful materials made from more natural materials, like ceramics, baskets and wooden tools. This shows a respect to children by honoring their aesthetic needs while also helping them learn how to respect the materials and resources available to them. That’s important to me and I work hard to try to embody that sentiment in every toy and kit.

entomologist kit, bugs, jar, critter, toy

6| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

Hm, neither really. It just slowly, slowly started to occur. Some friends (and strangers!) expressed interest in purchasing some little felt craft things I had made, and then I started sharing a booth at different markets with a friend. However, once I made my first board game Jungle Chess (which you can still purchase on my Etsy site) for a friend, I think that sealed the deal. Who doesn’t find being a professional toy-maker appealing?


7| How do you work, and where?

I get a lot of my ideas from my work with kids – I’ve worked with infants all the way up to middle school and every age in between. They are my number one inspiration, and from their interests and quirks I base the creations of my toys. I flesh out my ideas by doing research into a variety of topics – folklore, zoology, and art history. I’m inspired by turn of the century ornamentation, Korean animation, scientific drawings and various authors and other illustrators I admire. I spend a lot of time sketching at home or at cafes, then I scan my work in and digitally arrange and color them. There’s a bit of more manual work as well – cutting, sewing, gluing, sanding, etc. There’s also writing, proofing and editing work which I usually have to enlist the help of good friends to assist with! Part of my apartment I’ve converted into a studio so the bulk of my work (that can’t be done out and about) is done there.

blocks, mix and match, fox, coins, drawings, colorful

8| I love the specificity of your toys! Do you make custom toys? If so, can you tell us about a favorite custom project?

Thank you! Specificity is definitely my jam. Also, I do make custom toys! I actually made a special variation of my play money for Conner Prairie, which was so much fun to do and a huge honor! I went there a lot as a kid with my family and my girl scout troop and thought it was such an amazing place. To know now that I have something there for other kids to use is so cool! The play money I make and sell for my own business reflects the amazing diversity in fauna we have in our country. Each of the beautiful, rainbow-colored bills features a specific region in our nation and showcases animals that live there. For the Conner Prairie bills, each paper bill features a specific habitat in Indiana and animals that dwell there. Cave salamanders and little brown bats in our caves, river otters and rainbow trout in our rivers and streams, and prairie deer mice and spur-throated grasshoppers in our prairies. Just to name a few! I loved doing the research for that project and learning more about the amazing inhabitants we share our state with!


9| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

I’ve always admired ceramicists and potters. I have little to no skill when it comes to working with clay and envy those that do! Watching a potter use their hands to deftly turn a lump of earth into something so delicate is fascinating. It’s one of the oldest art forms and a perfect marriage of practicality and artistic expression. How poetic!

gameboard, game, money, dollars, play

10| What makes a handmade object valuable? 

A handmade object is created with intent. It requires concentration and it fulfills a purpose. Makers make things that reflect a time, a place, an emotion or a passion. When someone sees that object they might get a sense of that time, place, emotion or passion. A connection is formed. Makers recognize that someone will treasure this object –  it will be played with, it will be read or listened to or watched. It will be worn or admired or given to a loved one. That’s a wonderful thought and makes it so unique – a factory produced object lacks that concentration and devotion in it’s creation. It lacks that human to human connection.


11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own? 

That’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s not necessarily the most valuable but it’s up there… In the 1960’s my grandfather moved to Indonesia to teach forestry, along with his family (including my mother) and he knew lots of local artists. He purchased a handmade statue of a barong, which is a lion-like mythological creature in Indonesian. It’s utterly fantastic! In Balinese dance a barong combats a scary demon. It’s symbolic for the constant battle between good and evil. When my mother was living in Indonesia there was no TV for her to watch, so almost nightly she went to see traditional dance performances and puppet shows. I like to imagine her as a teenager sitting with her friends and watching the barong dance. I also think about my grandfather’s sense of adventure and interest in world cultures and how that influenced me – as a traveler and a maker! The intricacy in its creation and use of unusual (to me) materials demonstrate the craftsman’s talents and show me what artists used in that place at that time. It’s an object that gives me a fascinating slice of life of 1960’s Indonesia.


12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

Besides making things, my other biggest hobby/life passion is world travel. I’ve now been to 36 countries and many of those I’ve backpacked through independently. I’ve hitchhiked in Kyrgyzstan, seen a bull sacrifice in Ghana and watched the sunrise over 800 year old temples in Cambodia. Our planet is beautiful, isn’t it?


13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

I’m left handed.

I’m scared of (but also enamored with) caves.

Two of my favorite authors are Kurt Vonnegut and Haruki Marukami.

code, encryption, cipher, kit, secret, decoder

Come on over and visit the shop to check out these lovely toys in person, or visit Jean Elise Toys on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or on her website. Thanks Jean Elise!

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Meet Your Maker: Home Ec. Preserves

Jessica Sowls is owner and chef of Home Ec., an Indianapolis based jam and pickle kitchen. If you’ve ever sampled any of her creations you know how transcendent (yes, I’m going there) an expertly made jam can be. Learn more about the life of a jam-maker from the sweetest one in town, and make sure you get your jam/ jelly/ marmalade game straight.

fruit, preparation, kitchen, indianapolis, jam, peaches

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

I usually say something like “I make fancy jam and pickles,” and then elaborate if people seem interested. I always feel awkward talking about it, as it’s such a grandma/bourgeoisie mashup.


2| Why do you make/design things?

I have artists in my family, so it was a natural thing to do while growing up. Once creating things is in your blood, no other work will ever be as satisfying.


3| What do you love about your job?

The autonomy! I can work when I want to, take breaks when I want to, and make what I want to make. I also love the variety of things that need to be done as a one-person business. I do everything- from bookkeeping to social media to selling at farmers’ markets to picking fruit at orchards to experimenting in the kitchen. I love that I found a niche where I can be creative and make a living (albeit modest) at the same time.

jessica, apron, kitche, jam jars, jelly

4| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

Being an artist was the plan, yes. Being a jam and pickle maker, no. I went to art school and wasn’t a good cook by any means. I was always interested in DIY stuff though, and when I moved into an apartment with a really great kitchen I started cooking a lot and canning. Around that time I had an art show in one of Big Car’s old spaces in the Murphy building (I think this was 2010ish). I was doing food paintings and embroidery, and I set up a little table in the gallery to sell my jam too. People bought it, and I started selling more jams, pickles, and cookies in my friend Casey Roberts’ art studio every First Friday after that. I did that for a couple years before getting confident enough to apply for a booth at the Indy Winter Farmers’ Market, where I got my official start in 2012.


5| How do you work, and where?

I rent part of Lick Ice Cream’s kitchen at Circle City Industrial Complex. We both used to rent a shared kitchen in a church basement that was pretty cramped and old, with equipment that broke down a lot, nosey churchgoers asking if we believed in Jesus while we were working, and my stuff occasionally getting stolen. Lick has this great commercial kitchen at CCIC now that they built out and invited me to join them. I am forever grateful for that.

As for how I work, it really depends on what needs to get done. In the kitchen I voraciously listen to podcasts and music to keep my mind occupied since most of the work is purely physical- prepping fruit and veggies, washing dishes, and labeling jars can get really boring after a few hours.

spoons, fruit, jam, preserves, local, card

6| How did you come up with your current (and future, and past) jam and pickle flavors? Which ones are the most popular?

I use a combination of others’ recipes and my own. Inspiration often comes from flavors I encounter in other types of food, and I look at a lot of cookbooks. There are limits to how much I can be truly creative with preserving, as long-term safety is the reason that preserved foods are the way they are.


7| Where do you source your ingredients?

I buy from many local farms as fruits and veggies come into season. In the summer I will often pick the fruit myself from places like Prelock Blueberry Farm and neighborhood fruit trees (this year so far I’ve scored sour cherries, plums, and black raspberries). What I can’t get locally I will buy from wholesalers, though I try to adhere to a US-grown policy, as I hate the idea of using fruit shipped halfway around the world. I do have to make an exception for pineapple and vanilla beans though, as that’s the only place they grow!

work space, shelf, jars, process, jam making

8| Can you pickle anything? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve pickled?

I’ve yet to see anyone pickle potatoes, but you can pretty much throw some vinegar on anything and say it’s pickled. It’s a whole other level to be able to can or ferment the food and end up with something edible. Not sure which is the weirdest, but I’ve pickled winter squash, morel mushrooms, and starfruit. They were all really good.


9| What’s your favorite way to use one of your jams or pickles? Do you have a recipe to share?

I’m pretty boring when it comes to using jam and pickles. I eat my jam on toast and pickles straight from the jar. Both can be surprisingly good in homemade salad dressings. A spoonful of jam in a cocktail instead of simple syrup is good too.


10| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

It would be fun to experience the life of someone very different, like Kanye or someone like that, who is the opposite of me in so many ways. We’re all human, but what other similarities would there be? I’d especially love to be inside the head of a man for a little while to see what goes on in there.

pouring, filling, jam jar, fruit, process, kitchen

11| What makes a handmade object valuable?

Value is completely subjective. For me the value lies in a connection to the object in a sentimental way or in appreciation of aesthetic qualities.


12| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

Boring answer, but probably my car, which I’m terribly attached to sentimentally and aesthetically (it’s a 1980s Volvo that I’ve had for 15 years). It’s the only object I think I would be devastated to lose.


13| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

Maybe that I do my own car repair? Since my car is 30 years old I’ve had to learn how to fix a lot of things on it myself, and when done successfully it’s a really empowering feeling.


14| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

I grew up in rural Minnesota, on top of a bluff that overlooks the Mississippi River. I was a notoriously picky eater, though I always liked jam and pickles. Before coming to Indiana for grad school, I lived and worked all over the Southwest US, as well as the obligatory stint in Brooklyn (which was punctuated by 9/11).

canning, late night, kitchen, process, local, jam

Side question- what’s the difference between jam and jelly?

Jam is made with whole fruit, and jelly just the juice. Preserves are generally chunkier than jam, and conserves contain nuts and/or dried fruit. Marmalade is made with whole citrus fruit, rind and all. Sometimes I see people calling other things marmalade because it’s a cool word, but it’s not marmalade if it’s not citrus-based.


Need more preserves? You can find Home Ec. on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @homeecpreserves. You can also find Home Ec. right here on the Homespun shelves in perfect little stocking stuffer/ last minute/ work party/ hostess gift sizes. They are just the sweetest little treat. Thank you Jessica!


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Meet Your Maker: katydid

kate lucas-falk, indiana, letterpress, print, print maker, handmade, interview

Kate Lucas-Falk is artist and owner of katydid, a letterpress business based in Chicago, IL. With a little humor and a lot of Hoosier pride, she created some of our most popular letterpressed designs including the lighted monument ornament. Learn more about what it takes to bring her ideas to life and what its like to be a letterpress printer.


1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

We create cards, prints, and coasters combining my own drawings with letterpress printing. Most of our goods begin with an old-fashioned pencil drawing on paper. Computers allow us to digitize the drawing and translate it into a polymer plate. We then use that plate on either our very old (1890s!) printing press, or our relatively old (1950s) printing press.


2| Tell us more about your process. What steps does does a typical run of cards or coasters require?

Typically each product begins with a drawing. The drawing is scanned into my computer, where I prepare it for plate-making. I send that prepared file to a company who translates it into a printing plate I can use on my presses; it’s a nice combination of new technology and old machinery. Each piece of paper is then hand-fed through the press once for each color. So the holiday monument ornaments, as an example, take five separate trips through the press. I also die-cut each coaster and ornament, which I’m proud of, and I print and fold our all of our packaging by hand. I’m lucky enough to have seasonal help with packaging (those ornaments don’t thread themselves). It’s all a labor of love, for sure.

letterpress print, process, stages, four color, plate

3| Where do you get your design inspirations?

I’m inspired by nature, design, fine art, family, other printers -anything and everything. Imagery that communicates a lot using a little. I love limited color palettes. I love pencil on paper, and repetition. Most of my products are firmly rooting in drawing.


4| Why do you make/design things?

I’ve always been the most comfortable when I’m making things; I’ve drawn since I was a kid. With luck and hard work I’m able to earn a living selling the things I make. But if I didn’t need to make money at all I’d still end up in the studio drawing and printing. It’s hard-wired I think.

letterpress, antique, studio helper

5| What do you love about your job?

The old heavy machinery, the endless opportunities to push myself to be uncomfortable, persevere, fail, and learn new things; printing, the feeling when something I make is exactly the way I want it, the feeling when customers love a product so much that they tell me so, printing for the holiday season in the summer, receiving an email from a store that reads “we’ve sold out of your product and we need more!”; working for myself. Hearing my daughter call “Good night mama!” from her bedroom window while I print in the evening.


6| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

Being a working artist has always been the plan, but letterpress printing was a surprise. I studied art and teaching in undergrad and therapy and art in grad school. After school I knew I wanted to keep drawing. I decided to start a wedding invitation business incorporating my drawings, and on a whim I took an introductory letterpress workshop thinking it might be useful. I fell in love immediately. Most printers will tell you a version of this story – that they fell in love hard and fast. And before they knew it they were half-way across the country buying a two-ton printing press and justifying it to their mystified loved-ones.

soldiers and sailors monument, indianapolis, downtown, ornament, christmas lights, holiday lights

7| How do you work, and where?

I currently work in my garage in Chicago. After ten years I moved from my old studio space in New York. I miss that space, but can hardly argue with my current lack of overhead and lovely commute. I’ll probably be moving my heavy machinery to another studio this coming spring.


8| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

What a question. I wouldn’t. I like and enjoy my own artistic headspace. I’d love to have coffee with Gerhard Richter or David Hockney though.

dinosaur with scarf, plaid scarf, holiday card, winter, letterpress

9| What makes a handmade object valuable?

The fact that it’s hand-made, that it’s singular. A real hand-made object springs from the brain of it’s maker, and in this way it can’t ever be duplicated. When you buy something that’s handmade you know that the object and the maker have a relationship.


10| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

My daughter. And all of her drawings and paintings.


11| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

I’ve had mild depression since I was kid. I’ve managed it for years with therapy, medication, exercise, diet, and meditation, and lead a very good life. Not something I share very often, but wanted to be honest in case it helps someone else. (Stay strong and get support people with mental health issues! You ain’t alone.)

process, studio, space, printing

12| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

I am a licensed mental therapist. I spent fifteen years practicing family therapy in New York, and I miss those little faces. I love plants, have too many plants, and mostly keep them alive. I have been an extra in two major movies and one network television show. No, I will not tell you which ones.


13| Any new products on the horizon?

Yes! Referring to the inspirations above, I’m planning on opening another stationery company in 2018. It’s been so fun drawing and printing the Indiana pride products, but I’m ready to explore different imagery and ideas. Excited to share those new products in the future.


For more katydid follow her on social media @katydidletterpress or visit her website. Or for a more tactile experience, come visit us here on Mass. Ave. and we’ll be happy to show you her beautiful work in person.


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Meet Your Maker: Lonesome Traveler

Although Jenny Hill’s business Lonesome Traveler is run by her alone, it radiates the most loving sense of community. Just browse her Instagram and you’ll quickly find hurricane relief efforts, babies, weddings, representation of all peoples, and on top of that beauty- gorgeous neckties. Not just neckties; bow ties, pocket squares, western bows, cuff-links and tie bars, and kid’s bow ties too. Made for ladies and gentleman, this exquisite line of accessories will draw you in for all the right reasons.

tie, handmade, roses, flowers, lonesome, traveler

1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

Lonesome Traveler neck-ware accessories are sewn by me, Jenny Hill, in St. Louis, MO. Our goods are created using a collection of vintage, re-purposed, dead-stock and unique found fabrics. All of our neckties, bow ties, pocket squares and women’s western bows are constructed from templates and patterns we develop in-house.  We use natural fabrics exclusively, either linen or cotton, and we strive to use fabrics that are either made in the US and/or are recycled vintage. We offer a standard line as well as custom grooms ties for weddings.


2| Why do you make/design things?

I make things because as an artist my brain is always designing and creating, I assume most every artist feels that way. I make things for a living because I worked corporate design jobs in my 20’s and when I hit my 30’s I wanted to find a route where I could work more with my hands (and less with computers) and at the same time be my own boss. I knew I wanted to start a family and wanted to be able to work for myself with the ability to design my own hours and lifestyle.

mother and son, yellow, dress, 1950s, floral

3| What kind of aesthetic do you shoot for when choosing fabrics?

When I am hunting for fabrics, certain styles and patterns just jump out at me, and I try to listen to my gut. I work with a lot of vintage, dead-stock, or other unique fabrics that have that vintage inspired feel. I love big, bold florals, unexpected color combos and retro geometrics. Each season I add new styles and this summer I am introducing more limited edition vintage styles.


4| What is it you love about menswear?

I have always loved menswear. When I was younger, I was obsessed with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, and more so how they dressed than how they danced. I love that menswear has rules and guidelines, which, of course, are made to be broken. I also am a huge fan of women wearing menswear. About half my clients these days are women, both in every day wear and brides who choose to wear suits for their weddings.

work in progress, sewing, scissors, fabric, vintage

5| What do you love about your job?

I love connecting with clients who not only appreciate the neckties themselves, but also appreciate the fact that I make them! My absolute biggest joy is making neckties for weddings, knowing that I am part of someone’s most magical outfit on their special day. I also love the process of working with brides and grooms to create the perfect tie for their wedding group. Nothing is more exciting than receiving an email with wedding photos featuring my ties on the groom and groomsmen.


6| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

I had a very well planned out “aha” moment.  Lonesome Traveler was a thought out business plan, not something that just grew organically. I came up with a plan to make neckties before I left my corporate job so that I could have a lifestyle where I could create and be my own boss. I love to sew and am always drawn to men’s fashion, so it seemed like a logical fit! Luckily for me, there was a space open for me in the market and it took off from there!

groomesmen, tie, tie bar, suits, wedding

7| How do you work, and where?

I work in my home studio in St Louis, MO. It is a home built around 1900 with glorious sunlight, which is great for taking product photos. I use a 1970’s Kenmore sewing machine, a 1930’s White sewing machine, and a 1980’s Elna serger. I work with my baby boy Hugo swaddled to me, or while he naps, and when he goes down at night.


8| How did you tackle branding (I’m obsessed with your logo)?

When it comes to branding, I found a graphic designer who is an amazing artist, and who shares my same vision for Lonesome Traveler.  Mary Frances Foster, who is also out of St Louis, created my logo, which really captures the rustic and vintage Americana feel of my pattern selection.

branding, wedding, logo, lonesome, traveler bow tie

9| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

I would love to swap lives with Nikki Lane for about 2 weeks, maybe do a short tour for her. I have all the visual talents but no musical talent. Her voice is so beautiful and unique, and she knows how to kick back and have a good time.  Ride around the country and play music with my love… doesn’t seem like a bad life to be living.


10| What makes a handmade object valuable?

A handmade object is valuable because of the process that goes into it. The passion and thought and time that goes into each piece, which for us artists often means late nights, pots of coffee and endless podcasts to get orders done. Specifically for the weddings I do, the love comes in the collaboration with the groom, or the bride if she is wearing a tie, and the story that that process tells. It truly melts my heart to see how excited the grooms get to pick out fabric for their big day.

workshop, tools, knoll, burgundy, thread

11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

My favorite pieces of art that I own (if you can call them an object) are my tattoos. For the most part they are designed by my tattooer Josh Howard. Josh is a classically trained artist and an old school tattooer. He always works with me to turn my concepts into images more beautiful than I could ever imagine. His process of drawing and tattooing, plus my process of pain and healing really make these pieces the most valuable artwork I treasure most. You can see pictures of my tattoos on my Instagram, they always make their appearance in product shots.


12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

People are always surprised that I am a practicing Jew. I am covered in tattoos and, for some reason, I guess I don’t look like what people would expect a Jewish woman to look like, but I go to temple at least once a week. I am member of an amazingly progressive temple in St. Louis, and our Rabbi do a lot of work with the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ awareness, and Muslim American inclusivity. This is my other community, outside of the crafting world.

florals, ties, handmade, handkerchief, boutineer

13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

-I have lived in 5 cities; Chicago, Los Angeles, Madison, Dallas and St Louis. Most all of these moves were just for fun.

-I absolutely love to swim. I swam though my whole pregnancy up to the day my baby boy was born, about 10 hours before I went into labor, and got him into the pool when he hit 2 months. He is almost 4 months now and loves the water as much as I do. He is quite the hit at the indoor YMCA pool. We cannot wait for summer!

-I see a friend every day. If I have no plans, I take my boy Hugo to the coffee shop to see our friends who work there. A day without friends doesn’t really count in my book.

Love Lonesome Traveler? Come shop her work right here on Mass. Ave. at Homespun! Or, take a look at her website, Instagram @lonesome_traveler, or Facebook. Thanks Jenny!

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Meet Your Maker: Solder & Sage

You can see the feeling of peaceful ease with which Katy Froeter of Solder & Sage imbues each piece of jewelry she makes. The forms and materials convey a sense of movement or solidity, always simplicity. It’s buying handmade at it’s finest; learn more about her process and experience working in Chicago, IL.

ring, handmade, solder and sage1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?

As a jeweler, I focus on lost wax casting, which is carving design in wax and then casting, where the wax is lost and replaced with metal. I accompany the cast items with hand-formed and solder pieces.


2| Why do you make/design things?

I make things because to me, it is one of the truest forms of meditation I experience. It is one of the rare places that I am able to completely focus on what I am doing – creating little bits of beauty for beautiful people.

jewelry, katy froeter, ring, handmade

3| What do you love about the jewelry making process?

I love the entire process of jewelry making. Soldering and casting are probably my favorite parts. The idea that I can heat metal and form something completely different always amazes me.


4| Describe your aesthetic. Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

My aesthetic has been described to me as Scandinavian design. I love creating clean lines in large shapes with a focus on minimalism, so I can easily see correlation. My inspiration comes from my experiences ranging from traveling, spending time in nature, and the silence of daily life.

jewelry, solder, necklace, handmade

5| What do you love about your job?

That even after 5+ years, everyday is different.


6| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?

Being an artist was always in my in blood, although I didn’t think that it was a possibility to become self-sufficient at it. Eventually I realized that life is tough, so I decide to accept the struggle and choose to struggle at what I want most in this world and be willing to let everything else go. Getting laid off from my dream job, fired from a part-time restaurant gig and quitting a bunch of okay jobs because they weren’t the right fit also helped me be able to take the plunge from part-time to full-time.

solder, process, jewelry, handmade

7| How do you work, and where?

For years I worked in a collective metals studio that was beyond helpful in getting going. Now I have my own studio, which is instrumental in getting production work done. For me a big part of the creative process is creating empty space/time for something creative to grow. So the solitude of working independently greatly helps to facilitate that process.


8| Describe a day in the life.

Every day is different. Although there is an outline that I like to adhere to.

Wake up and meditate for about an hour.

Followed by a protein shake and vitamins.

Next are emails and any other computer work I need to get done.

Then I will head to my studio and do my best to check out from email/social media, etc.

If I am really on my game, I take a late afternoon run. (Typically I am not on my game.)

My nights are often filled with classes from metalsmithing to ceramics, movies with friends, or family dinners.

solder, process, jewelry, metal, handmade, necklace

9| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?

No one! My work is an expression of my life, so having to live in someone else’s place seems sad and lonely. Although I would be best friends with Banksy in a heart beat! Banksy – if you are reading – I promise to keep your secret safe!


earrings, brass, minimal, solder and sage, handmade

10| What makes a handmade object valuable?

The intention put into that piece and the atmosphere around it. I think that there is something special about buying something made with love. It helps to remind us where, who we were with and what we were feeling when we got it. It’s those memories that are the most valuable, so the work needs to last a long time!


11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?

A beat up 1969 Montgomery Ward: Retail and Catalog Store Facilities map, I brought it with my oldest sister at the Randolph Street Market in Chicago. It was of one the first pieces of “art” that I ever purchased and well before I had any serious intentions of striking out on my own. Now I look at it and see all of the places that I have been able to travel for work and think of all the lovely people I have met along the way. Even my small hometown of 15,000 people somehow made it on this map; it couldn’t be more perfect to track my life.

necklace, brass, minimal, solder, and sage, handmade

12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.

I’m shy. Which always receives a hard, “No you’re not!”


13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.

  1. I am the youngest of 4 girls.
  2. My sister just older than me was in some sort of non-fatal (or very serious) swimming lesson incident when she was learning to swim at the park district. So my mom never took me to get swimming lessons because she didn’t feel as though it was safe enough.
  3. When I was 5 years old at a family vacation in North Carolina at the pool, I got tired of only being able to use floaties to swim. Without telling anyone, I proceeded to the deep end of the pool, took off my floaties and pushed myself from wall to wall at the corner of the pool until I figured out how to swim. That pretty much sums up my life.

Want to see these beauties in person? We’ve got a selection of her work here in the shop, and you can find her online on her website or Instagram.


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