Saturday, July 9, 2016

Fine Tuning a Craft

I have been very fortunate in my life to be able to do something that I love. I won't pretend that it has been easy, it has required some hard work, late nights, and doing things when I didn't "feel like it" but all of that has given me opportunity to build on my skill. 

I love corsetry and costume design. In watching Project Runway I almost fell into a bit of that snobbish attitude that costume design is not "as good" as fashion, but that was rather silly. If you have a passion for something, and a desire to be better at it, be the best and others will appreciate your work. You can't help but admire something when you can see the passion and drive that was set behind it. 

If you know much about me you know that I've had to learn my trade mostly through my own playing about. We live in a marvelous age where you can find almost anything online, and I do not take that for granted. Learning to sew and even design with out the aid of a mother, grandmother, aunt, teacher, or master is not as difficult now as it once was, but it does still take a desire to seek the knowledge out. 

There have been times in my life when my head was in a dark space. When my confidence was on a foundation of sand and I feared sinking. I've torn myself to bits as I "un-stitched" pieces or re-cut things. I've cried and berated myself for not being able to figure things out when working on a piece. I've learned to smile and show gratitude when taking a compliment rather than pointing out the flaws that I see in my work. 

You may wonder where all of this sappy reflection comes from. I'm not usually so sentimental. But as I am currently working on one of the largest commissions that I have ever faced, and am concurring challenges with it in a much shorter time span than I would like, I realize that I'm very lucky to even be able to be doing this at all. I'm ever so thankful for the men and women who have taken me under. I have brilliant mentors when it comes to business, and I've had people willing to share their knowledge with me, or bought me books, or handed me some fabric and an idea and let me play. 

I'm still very young as a business, and I still have a great many obstacles  ahead of me, but as I improve my craft and situation, I have to be grateful for those challenges. When we stop being challenged, we stop improving.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Take a leap, but be prepared to fall.

I've been sewing costumes for almost 20 years. Hard to imagine it being that long with me only 33, but it's true. From the first time I took some sheets and curtains that were in the yard sale bin and turned them into a dress fit for Queen Cleopatra, it was obvious that I not only had a passion for it, but a talent. But then, my mother has always said that I have too many talents. In fact, when it came time for career counselors to help me choose my path, they told me the same thing. It sounds rather boastful, but it was rather frustrating at the time. There I was searching for direction, and no one could even point a way out. We tell kids all of the time "you can be anything you want to be" and for me this was true, and I had all of the career assessment tests to back it up. But I had no idea what I really wanted to be.

I went through the usual ideas, teacher, music teacher, I had an idea of being a one stop wedding shop, then I thought about getting a bridal consultant certificate, but nothing really stuck. In 2002 I got married, 6 months later I had a nervous breakdown that left me with such anxiety that I couldn't leave the house on my own. I still have issues with anxiety that stem from that breakdown, but that moment left me immobile. We had no children, so I took up my sewing machine again. I spent my days experimenting and playing with it, mostly on Renaissance clothing for me and my then husband.

Slowly I made my way back into the world, and it was through a friend of my then husband's that I found a shop that sold costumes. I was self taught, and had a lot to learn, but the owner saw a talent and a passion in me, the rest he and his other batch of costumers could teach.

The sample I brought to the shop owner
It was there that I learned I could make money with it, but I didn't believe it was enough. I didn't believe it could ever be enough, so I continued to work up the ladder at the fast food place I was working part time at when I found this shop.

I did work my way up to assistant manager, and I was proud of that, but I still wanted to create costumes. The shop dissolved after a few years, the city it was in just wasn't ready for it, and I continued to work hard at the restaurant job, and sew on the side.

It didn't take long for me to loose the pride in my assistant manager position, and I began to resent it, then hate it. By 2012 I was waking up with the desire to drink before work, and at some moments I was even suicidal. I wanted something that would fill me with joy again, something I was passionate about, but I was told that this is what life is. You wake up, you go to work, you pay your bills, you do it again. You don't have to like what you do, some people are lucky to have that, but as long as you have a job with great money and benefits, you do what you do. In September of 2014 I couldn't stand it anymore. The job was eating my soul, and if I didn't do something I would either end up in a mental ward, or dead. I came home from work one night and sent off my notice.

I did take another job temporarily. When I started I thought it was perfect. I was working M-F 9-5:30, pay was good for entry level and I had good benefits. I even imagined myself working my way up in the company. But after 6 months I was so bored with it that the dark thoughts crept in again. So in March of 2015 I decided to use the 401k money from my assistant manager job and go out on my own. I would make my business work. I would take that leap and follow my dream and passion.

I'm going to tell you those first few months were great. I found street fairs to participate in, I expanded my inventory, I created some new items, I bought new marketing, I felt like I was on top of the world. Then my savings started to dwindle. You see I had it in my head that I would start making enough to support myself with in those first 3 months. Surly by 6 months I would be self sufficient, and I had enough money to keep my bills met until then. When it didn't happen by July, I started to get scared.

Not only was I scared, I felt like I had failed. There was no getting around it, I had to keep my apartment and electric, and since most of my business is done online, internet. I needed the van to get to gigs and clients, but I wasn't bringing in enough money to support that. I had to take a job, but I needed something that would support both my business schedule and my school schedule.

It was hard to find it. My credit cards were all maxed out, my savings nonexistent, and I even took out a loan (that I had no idea how I would ever pay back) just to keep my nose above water. But I found a job that was a good fit. Retail, but with a company who had a really good message, and at least seemed to care about their people. And best of all, they would work with my schedule and their busy time was my slow time anyway! It felt perfect and my spirits began to rise again...Then came the accident.

In December 2015, just as I thought I was going to get all of my bills caught up and everything right again, I was hit by another car. What made it worse was that it happened coming home from a Cin City Burlesque show, and they fled the scene. I felt like my whole world came down around me. My van was gone, I had to keep in a rental just to keep what income I had coming, I was getting something from the gofundme page, but just enough to keep me in my rental. I started to worry if I had made the right decision in leaving my fast food job...not that it really made a difference at this point.

I did end up with a vehicle in January. It's too small to do the outdoor fairs I had been doing, but I can get enough in to do some indoor shows...when I can get the money together to pay the fees for them...And over all, even though I am struggling just to fill my basic needs, and worry every month on if this is the month I can't make my rent, I'm happier than I have been in a long time.

I got to do my first runway this year, and I poured my heart and soul into my small section of it. And you know what? My designs stopped traffic...literally. I've gotten some international attention from it, and it's all very fulfilling. I'm still struggling, still bobbing my nose just above water, but I'm paddling like hell. 

You see, you hear it all of the time, fallow your passion, do what you love, be what you want to be. And it all sounds so lovely and magical. And you can do it, you can take a leap of faith and dive into it, but what no one tells you is that it is going to be hard. 

We all know some one who is living the life we would like. For me, I'm lucky enough for two of these people to be mentors. But when I sought them out, I didn't know their past. All that I saw was two successful business women living the life that they loved. Able to take trips, plan vacations, go on shopping sprees, pay their bills on time and have a hefty savings and great credit. Seriously, they have it all! And I thought that would be me, with just 6 months of work. What I didn't see was their struggles. I didn't know the years of work behind just getting the ground footing. I didn't see the months of street performances to make enough to eat for a few days. I didn't see the years of training, practicing, networking, and struggle. I thought it just happened. 

I'm still waiting for the big break that opens my wings and lets me soar. I'm struggling, but I'm pushing, and I will thrive. Follow your dreams, do what you're passionate about, but know that's not an easy road. People will laugh at you, they will tell you that you're stupid, to get a real job, but stay true. Keep pushing. I know one day it will happen. And when it does, I'll tell you all about it. 

Photo set above from Drauma 2016 in Columbus Ohio. Theme given to our team (Discord Threads) was The Labyrinth using David Bowie as main inspiration.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A little Drauma, and a little Fund

So for the past few months I've been a little remiss on my blog. I had really high hopes of posting regularly. Then it happened. I was asked to be a part of a team for Drauma. For those of you who do not know what this is, it is this HUGE fashion show/art show/performance thing-a-mabob in Columbus, Ohio. They gather loads of local make up artists, fashion designers, graphic artists, performance artists, DJs, stylists, pretty much anyone who is involved in any sort of artistic field, and they throw them all together, give them a theme and see what happens. This year the theme is a tribute to David Bowie, my team has The Labyrinth.

Of course my team dubbed me to complete the ballroom scene. Kinda my thing. But I've also been in collaboration with another artist to do up some steampunk goblins.

So there's my Drauma. My sewing machine has been a buzzing trying to complete everything on time.

Now the second half of this blog involves a little thing that I found called the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest. 

Voting goes until June 17th, and you can vote once every 24 hours. The most votes is one of the things they take into consideration when they go to choose the top 100 finalists. 

Now when you only have 500 characters and 90 seconds to tell the world who you are, what you do, and how this grant would impact you, you miss some details. But all you followers and regular readers know a bit more about what this company means to me, how I've utilized a small amount of money to help launch my first wave, and what I could do with up to $25000. 

So help a wench out! And look for me on the runway in Columbus May 26,2016 for Drauma!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Sewing with Vinyl

Some quick tips from me on making sewing with vinyl a bit easier.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Reflections before Dawn

For some reason my body has decided that 5:45 is the time to wake up this week. This morning I woke up thinking about the past year.

It has been almost exactly a year since I decided to give up the day job and focus on my business. 6 months before that I had left a job that was making me miserable but paid really well. In August my savings was completely depleted and I had to go back to having a day job. This was a really hard transition for me. I felt like a complete failure. It took a few months to realize that the expectations I had set, weren't really how I felt, but how I felt other people viewed what my expectations should be.

It took a couple of months, but I found a day job that not only fit with my schedule, but also has a very positive message that aligns with my own values. I love this job, everything about it. And it wasn't long before I felt like it was meant to be, and I belonged there.

In December I had another set back when my van was hit by another car. I had only just gotten over the last mental setback when this took every dollar I had left, and then some. It was a long month, and in many ways this took longer for me to get over. I felt violated, like my dream was stolen from me, like I had no choice in it, rather than it a result of my actions. It was a very dark time.

I don't know how I would have come out of that with out the support of my tribe and my mentors, and even at times complete strangers. I think it happening so quickly after just coming to terms with the previous "set back" and it being something that was not my fault, but felt like I was being punished was hard, even over whelming. But I made it through. I have a smaller cart now, so my business plan for the summer has changed greatly, but I've been able to continue doing what I love to do.

The point of all of this is that my expectations were unrealistic, and not even my expectations. I had in my head that if I did anything that wasn't related to my business, that I wasn't really devoted to my business. That's just bull shit. It really is a ridiculous notion that you are not a "true" artist (or what ever) if you do not live off nothing but what your art brings in. Am I willing to starve for my work, absolutely, but I'd really rather not if I can help it. It's hard to run a sewing machine from a cardboard house.

Running a business is hard. It takes a good while before you can expect to be in the positive, let alone live solely off of it. I have to work a little harder to balance my business, the day job, and going to school, but it just means that I appreciate the results that much more. Sometimes life doesn't go to plan, so you have to draft a new one.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Playing Dress up with my live dolls

I love playing dress up. I also love dressing up other people. And I love the people who let me dress them up. 

Some people just inspire me. Like this piece worn by the woman who inspired it. Ginger LeSnapps is a brilliant woman, Boss Lady, and Co-founder of Cin City Burlesque. She's one of those people who, when she believes in you, she does so with her whole self. I've been fortunate enough to have this woman as an inspiration and mentor in my life, and from time to time I get to play dress up with her. 

I can't really describe the feeling of putting some one into a vision that you had of them. Especially when it comes together as beautifully as this did. It's like seeing their soul, and then putting it on the outside. 

I will never stop stressing the importance of adult play. I whole heartily believe in it. So take some time out today to color, swing, play a sport, or play dress up. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Be your best self

Now I will freely admit that I've been guilty of looking at other people and going, "man I wish I had her life." I really never expected some one to say that about me. Well, my mom has a time or two, but I tend to throw that in with the whole being my mom bit. 

The thing about envying other people's life is that, you only ever see what they show you. My life is far from glamorous. I left a very financially comfortable position to struggle every day to do something that I love. I work hard just to make the basic needs to keep myself fed, clothed and sheltered. I don't keep normal hours, I can work 100 hours in a week and not make a dollar. You don't see the nights that I am so filled with worry about making my rent that I'm curled in a ball desperately looking over my possessions for something to sell. You don't see the meals I cut in half to make go further. You don't see me waking at 7am and not getting to bed until after midnight, then up again at 5 in order to keep costumes on track, work the day job, and go to classes. 

You do not see what struggles and demons a person fights every day, but I'll admit that I fell into this too. When I left the well paying job and began the struggle to make my costume business grow, I looked to some successful women around me as inspiration. But when after a few weeks my savings was getting smaller and I was just getting by, I didn't understand what I was doing wrong. I looked at these successful women and said, "Why is my road so much harder?" 

It took one of my mentors to point out that I'm comparing myself to the finished product, not the starting model. This person I was comparing myself to started in a similar spot, she built her business, but she doesn't just do one business either. She has side jobs too. I needn't be embarrassed by needing help, we all do. And I can't compare myself to an end product, I'm just beginning. 

The bottom line is don't try to live up to an idea of what some one else is, You don't know what shit it took to get their grass so green. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

New item is putting a bustle in my step

I love working on new things, and when I came across these I just had to make one... or a dozen.

These simple bustles are so much fun to make, and I can't wait to wear them!

Besides these fun Star Wars and Doctor Who themes, I'm working on some holidays and more formal looking bustles.

Follow what's new on my Facebook page, or on Etsy or the Online Market.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Something you may not know about me

I have quite a few social phobias. Anything that involves talking on the phone to a stranger takes me up to a week to get the nerve up to do. I don't like going out unless I know at least one person that I can use as an anchor all night. I'm also rather shy, and big groups take a lot out of me.

This shocks quite a few people who have seen me "work a crowd". The truth is, I don't work the crowd, The Sewing Wench does. It doesn't take much to get me into that persona, but every event that I work where I'm selling my stuff, it's The Sewing Wench you interact with.

It really isn't that shocking when you consider that I'm the first internet generation. We learned that we could be social with out having to show our true selves. We didn't need to face the rejection because while we did have winners, we also had participation ribbons. If you participated, you weren't a looser. You weren't a winner, but you're not a looser either.

The truth is, becoming The Sewing Wench is kind of like staying behind that computer screen. They don't have to see ME, and it's her they reject, not me. This is why I always support cos-play. My generation and the ones after me haven't grown up in the social worlds as the ones before. Hell even dating is digital and you no longer have to face the person who might reject you, you just send an email and if they don't respond, you can tell yourself all kinds of things. It's kind of like that participation ribbon. If they don't tell you "no" then you participated so no losers here.

I think that's what most of my social anxiety and phobias come from. That fear of rejection. I didn't have to practice it as a youngster. I was never forced to put myself out there. It also wouldn't surprise me if that's what a lot of the kids my age say their social anxiety stems from too. No one likes to be rejected, but in generations past you had to face it, so the sting was a bit less. Kind of like building up a tolerance for something. If you experience it enough, the effect dull out.

There are occasions now where I can't hide behind my alter ego. And what I can't wiggle out of I have to face. It takes me a while to do this. I prep and practice what I need to say, and write out a script, but eventually it gets done. And I'm the better for it.

So don't scoff at that person who always wears Wonder Woman socks, or the guy who wears the Micheal Jackson jacket everywhere. You never know what villains they are fighting in their life.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ending the year with a Bang...Literally

On Dec. 5th 2015 I was on my way home from vending at the Cin City Burlesque show when the back end of my van was smashed into by another car.

Because it was an older van, the damage was more than the value, so insurance called it a total loss. Oh yeah, the driver of the other car fled the scene because they did not have a valid license or insurance. There is still some debate on whether it was the drunk fella or the girl driving, but the girl is the one being charged. 

This accident really took a lot out of me. I realized just how fragile my confidence can be. This hasn't been an easy case to handle, it's been a fight at every turn.  For the first two weeks I posted a daily update on my gofundme page ( Not only was this a way for me to ask (plead) for help, but it was also a bit therapeutic. It gave me a chance to voice to the world every step forward and every hurdle that I had to leap as it came. 

But the other thing that this experience taught me is that I am my biggest obstacle. I would get so into my own head, so into everything that was going wrong, that I couldn't work myself up and stopped doing the things that made me happy. 

I could have been working on more costumes, after the injuries were pretty much on the mend. I could have put a lot more effort into getting things on ebay and such. But I didn't. I stood in my own way a good portion of the time. 

I have let myself get in my own way a few times. I've been scared that something was too big for me, so I didn't go after it. But realizing that you're hurting yourself, is a great start. Now it's time to do something about it. 

No excuses. No "poor me" attitude. I have stuff that needs to be done so by golly it will get done. No one is going to drop a corset company in my lap. I have to make it happen. 

Last year was a great start to making this come true. The year ended very rough, but I survived, and now that I am in January (and have my school reimbursement check because I still don't have the insurance money) I can but my effort into striving, not just surviving. 

I may have lost my way in December. I may have let doubt cloud my path. But today is a new day, new month, new year and a new chance to make things happen.