Friday 5 September 2014

Crafty Ladies: Meet Liz Smith

This week's Crafty Lady is Liz of Made in Lowell

Liz is a master of many crafts! In her shop you'll find felted pincushions, knitted cup cosies, sewing-themed jewellery, beautiful polymer clay egg ornaments and more. 

If you're looking for something new to watch or listen to while making, I highly recommend Liz's (now ended) show Makers in Business. Her interviews with makers are all so interesting and inspiring.


Hi! I’m Liz Smith.

I grew up in a town near Boston, Massachusetts. I now live in Lowell, Massachusetts which is the first industrial planned city in the US. It used to be a great textile manufacturing hub. It’s situated at the confluence of two rivers and threaded with canals. It went through some hard times in the later part of last century but is currently in the midst of a renaissance.


Many of the old brick mills are gone but some of the ones that remain have been converted to housing and artist studios. I live in one old mill with my writer husband, and our quirky cat, Chester, and I have a studio in a different old mill. Something about the history of the textile industry being all around lends itself well to a creative life here.


Recently I’ve been making…

I’ve been making and selling things as long as I can remember! I went to school for Fine Arts and I’m self-taught in crafts. When I finally got the chance to go full time as a maker in 2007, I concentrated on needle felting and polymer clay items. As the years have gone by I have expanded to quite a large product range.

I feel like I’m at a time of transition. I’ll keep making many of the old favorites (pincushions, ornaments , jewelry) but reduce the actual number of items so I can more easily keep up with inventory when things get hopping at the holidays.


Meanwhile a new passion is creeping into everything I do these days: sewing! I’ve been hand sewing at home for a hobby (yes professional makers can have hobbies too!). I’ve been making coasters, zipper pouches, and pillow covers. I also taught myself to embroider on these items. I even started 3 queen-sized quilts! I love using scraps and vintage fabrics.

I’ve been buying old quilt squares, too. Something about these unfinished pieces from the past touches my heart. I restored a 1914 treadle Singer 66 and I’m learning to sew on it. I feel like the next phase of my business will incorporate all of these things. It takes so much time to learn whole a new skillset to the point where I’m satisfied enough with my craftsmanship to sell my work, but I’m right on the edge of that moment and it’s exciting!


I have no idea, of course, if anyone will buy the new items but that’s the chance makers take following their hearts. I do believe that if you absolutely love making something you will find a way to get it to your right people or adapt the item until it is something that sells without giving up what you love about making it.

I’ve been working on…

For two years I created a once monthly interview show on local access TV. It’s called Makers in Business. I interviewed people who make things about how they run their creative businesses. I ended the show but there are 22 episodes still available on Vimeo and as audio-only on iTunes. I feel like makers have so much to learn from each other and I’ve always loved hearing how other folks solve the puzzle of being a business person and a creative person both.

I’ve been blogging about…

I blog whenever I feel like I have something interesting to share, otherwise I don’t keep to a schedule. It’s usually about what I’m up to lately, whatever’s got me excited, whether it’s Clutter Busting, or the book jacket illustration I designed for my Sister in law’s book of poetry, I try to make it have general interest as well as be specific to me and my world.

I’ve been reading…

To be honest I’m a lazy reader! I have all kinds of aspirations but then TWITTER. Seriously, if I told you what I was reading lately the true answer would be Twitter. But I’ve got my Twitter feed arranged so a wide variety of topics come across my screen at all times. I read tweets that contains local, national, and international news as well as pop culture and tweets by creative people in many fields.

If someone links to a blog post on Twitter I will probably go read it. But I’m not likely to visit various blogs every day or week without the prompt. When I find something that may be relevant to my followers I ReTweet it to share. I love this system and I rely on my clever twitter friends to ReTweet the things they find interesting in their streams as well.

I’ve been listening to… 

I don’t enjoy TV or movies as much as non-fiction magazine type information so I’m a National Public Radio and podcast junkie. I love the Slate Culture Gabfest, On The Media, Planet Money, and the New Yorker Out Loud just to name a few. I also bought an app that allows me to listen to the Red Sox baseball radio feed. I don’t even really care about sports but I find the sound of a baseball broadcast in particular very relaxing.

Liz’s 3 Top Tips for using Twitter

1. Don’t be intimidated, overwhelmed, or worry you’ll “do it wrong”, just jump in and start reading tweets. You’ll eventually learn the lingo if you watch how other people you like use it. Twitter is great for connecting with folks you’ll never have a chance to meet in real life as well as for finding out what’s going on in your own neighborhood. Tweeting something funny or cute is always a good bet.

2. Interact! Twitter is a conversation. If someone talks to you, do your best to answer back. (Unless it’s a bot or a spammer, of course). You don’t even have to do it right away. Twitter happens in real time but lots of people are reading your tweets later and understand if you are doing the same. Twitter is your chance to be a real human as well as the voice of your brand. Tell us what you’re up to at home and at work. That said, PLEASE don’t be an all commercial channel just posting links to your online shop constantly, that is super tedious.

3. Twitter and Facebook are not interchangeable! It’s possible to set it up so that all your Facebook status updates auto post to Twitter but I really don’t recommend that. I had to unfollow some folks because it seemed like they were at the Twitter party but when you tried to interact with them all you found was an empty room with a tape recorder making Facebook announcements for them. Very off putting. You don’t have to be on twitter all the time, just check in now and then and you’ll be fine.



Suzanna Scott said...

What a lovely interview with Liz! Learned all sorts of new things about her and appreciated the twitter tips too.

Bugs and Fishes said...

Liz is excellent at Twitter... and not just because she shares pics of the lovely Chester! :)

Her analogy of the empty room with a tape recorder in it is totally spot on.