Happy Friday everyone! I am very excited to wrap up this week with an interview with my mom, the original crafter! She was crafting and selling her work well before anyone knew the name Martha Stewart. My mother, Donna Sokolowsky, is the root of all my craftiness and my drive to have a successful business of my own.
I think this picture of me in my mom’s shoes at her sewing station just about says it all! Growing up she had several successful businesses selling her work. These ventures range from custom wedding gowns, interior decorating, custom murals, to historic restoration of antiques. Oh and did I mention she did this all while raising four, yes four, children!
Today, I give you my very own Super Mom! (Yes, she painted that planter box.)
Tell us a little about yourself and when you first began crafting?
I’m a fifty something Mom of 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys. I live in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire with my wonderful, loving husband, our 3 Japanese Chins, and 5 guinea fowl. I’ve been “crafting” since the age of 5 when my Mom taught me how to use her sewing machine, cut patterns, hand sew and embroider clothes for my Barbie dolls. My aunts taught my sisters and me to work with fabric painting and plaster of paris. We’d make moldings of different hanging plaques and then we would all paint them. Lots of fun!
So I’d say, being artsy runs in the family and my children are no exception!
I know you have had many ventures in the world of crafting businesses and have sold your work to folks all over the world, could you tell us about some of your favorite ventures?
Yes, it is true I have started many businesses and sold to some very notable folks. I’ve also worked for several of the worlds largest craft companies as a VP. As a consultant, I’ve helped small, local companies move into the national market place and then to the international scene.
It’s hard to choose just a few ventures that were my favorites. I think the number one choice would have to be my work as an interior designer for children’s rooms, especially nurseries. Those really incorporated all my skills, and each job was unique and special. From the extravagant to the simplest each was so precious, and the fabrics and designs were so varied! Then of course there were the babies to be held. Oh, how I love babies!
Next, would have to be my mini-shop, in an old converted barn here in town. I was able to make one of a kind items, work with antiques and found objects with just enough rough edges to be able to use my decorative arts skills to make them into something special once again. I always put some little quirky thing on each piece, intended to make them light and fun. Many of these items were also sold on Ebay, that was exciting to know they would be traveling across the seas. It makes me happy knowing my work would be gracing someone’s home and creating smiles far away.
You have been a seamstress, stenciler, pattern maker, interior designer, muralist, restoration artist, among many other things; What is your favorite art medium to practice?
What is my favorite art medium to practice?! How could I possibly choose?! I love them all, some I guess more than others. I would be hard pressed to choose between Historical Restoration and Muralist. Both involve a lot of history, whether it’s in the piece or a family’s (or Town’s) memories. These usually include pattern making, freehand work, and the use of unusual colors or subjects. I also enjoy the challenges of learning a new medium, such as gilding. No matter what the medium, one thing remains the same, the reveal! To see the client’s face light-up and to hear their amazement is definitely the best feeling in the world.
Currently, I am not working on anything as we are in the process of moving from one house to another. So what I tackle next will probably be a surprise to all of us. Once I get my studio set up again that is. One thing is for sure I love to paint, sew, and restore and I love selling what I produce! So it won’t be too long before I can’t stand not working anymore.
Since this is a reflection post, could you tell us one of your favorite memories of working with me and/or all of your children?
One of my favorite memories is restoring a 1903 organ with my husband and all of my children. What an honor for me!
We restored the front or “show” pipes to an organ at the First Methodist Church in Rochester, New Hampshire. That was a huge project, 167 pipes total! It called on most of my skills and resources. I managed to show everyone how delicate each step needed to be and how to do it properly. We worked from an old photo to find the original design, over the years the organ had been covered by layers of spray paint and other designs. Discovering the correct colors was a careful and lengthy cleaning process.
The most special thing was the camaraderie we all felt in this year-long project. Margaret my most consistent worker, next to her step-dad of course. We would work all hours of the day and night in this huge old church! It was wonderful to have my family stand in the spotlight with me for the grand unveiling and subsequent concerts to honor the organ’s past. Truly wonderful!
I would love to sell on Etsy! I love that it is like a one-stop shop for all sorts of things without the overhead of having your own physical shop. I will might start with a whimsical canvas art collection of ideas that I have in my head right now. However, once I get going on that it will be anyone’s guess how it will expand from there.
Any advise you would like to give to those beginning a crafty business?
Advise I would offer to others would be very simple. Don’t be shy about your skills and what you have to offer! We all start somewhere and there is nothing more satisfying than to put your finished projects out into the marketplace for sell. Be creative in how you market, look at what is current and fine tune it to your sense of style. Also look ahead to see what drives the market. You have to fill a niche that isn’t there or is lacking in order to sell. Don’t price yourself out of the market either. It is easier to go up in price later than to go down. With that in mind GO FOR IT! There is no right or wrong in art.
You can find my mom’s illustrated children’s books on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. The author was one of the volunteers that worked on the pipes, and was a true friend to my mom. You’ll be the first to know when my mom is up on Etsy. I would like to thank her for all her work helping me pull this post together. We hope you enjoyed all the family photos and have a wonderful weekend.