all photos via Sarah from Les petites mains
It's been a while, but I am finally featuring another talented creator who is "making the dream." This drawn out series started with a desire to explore the histories and goals of those who are making their dreams through handmade goods and crafts. I became interested in seeking out artisans, creative entrepreneurs,and makers -- all to share more about their creative process and to inspire other aspiring makers.
One thing I've learned during this new series is that makers and creative small biz owners are busy, busy, busy . . . and that makes it really difficult to put the spotlight on them; they are always behind the scenes, creating. I love capturing different artisans fulfilling their creative, imaginative goals!
I discovered Sarah's Etsy shop, "Les petites mains" while living in Houston -- where I was a professional day dreamer. :) I was beginning to learn how to sew, and I was fascinated by the handmade dolls niche and the detail that went into every creation. Because so many goods are manufactured in today's modern world, people tend to take many things for granted, especially products like dolls and toys. That's why I wanted to bring light to Sarah's shop.
On her About page, Sarah mentions that her shop started with a desire to "slow the world we are living in." She needed to rediscover the pleasure of working with her hands at her own pace. Sarah has a passion for textiles and loves diving in to the richness and authenticity of colorful fabrics. "I decided to create beautiful, poetic objects for adults and children, to make them dream, play, and use their imagination," she writes.
It was a pleasure to tap into Sarah's creative process and learn more about how her business started. I'm humbled that she took the time to answer some of my questions; Sarah is French, so she really went the distance to make this happen. :) Thanks, Sarah! So, without further ado: Meet Sarah of Les petites mains!
1. How did you develop an interest in doll making, and how did your business come about?
I’ve always sewn; my mother started me at a young age. I think it really started when my cousin had her baby, a little boy named Paco. He was one of the first babies around me and I wanted to spoil him. I’ve looked around on the Internet and saw the creativity and the craze around handmade toys. It fascinated me. The little girl in me got me into making dolls, one [process] that I would have liked as a kid but with my new vision as a young woman. I loved the format, as I have a small workshop and a real obsession with fabrics; I keep a lot of them without being able to stop! I search for the prettiest, the softest, the richest…so dolls are ideal because I can use a whole variety without even doing the same thing twice.
2. On your Etsy page you mention your passion for textiles: the fabrics, colors, softness, authenticity, richness…. Can you tell us a little more about that? Where do you draw your inspiration behind your materials and creations?
Here again, I believe my mom has a lot to do with it. When we go out together, we don’t shop for clothes, but for textiles…. I have been raised to touch, admire and appreciate the richest textiles, the natural fibers. In my professional life, I am a make-up artist, so you can see that in all aspects of my life, the harmony of colors and textures are essential to me.
My inspiration comes from the textile itself, the ribbons or other materials that I find. I mix them up; I get creative. I do look at blogs and pictures of children’s fashion. Certain details, a cut, or even some accessories on my dolls inspire me.
3. Can you talk a little bit about your creative process and your workspace? What is a typical day like for you?
There was a time when I only did the bodies of the dolls: I trace, cut, sew, and pad them all. This period isn’t the most creative and can be a little bit repetitive, but it lets me imagine and draw what I will do next. I draw a lot, some quick sketches. I often imagine some series of 4 to 5 dolls who will work well together, in harmony under some theme, like a season, a color, or a motif. And then comes the time when I give them a color, a style and a soul! I like to think that I’m making a gift for a special person everytime.
My workplace is very small, in my own home, so I need to be very organised and clean. I am lucky to have very good natural light throughout the day, which is essential for my morale and for the pictures after the whole process J. I accumulate a lot of cute baskets, pincushions, and some small vintage luggages. I take a lot of time to make my workshop pretty and a nice place to live.
An ideal day for me is a day when I have nothing else to do except sew and create. It’s a luxury when this happens, when I have some time on my hands and I can create. I feel like everything is possible.
Another thing I appreciate is that I work alone, which is for me another luxury. I can choose what I create; I can start doing some blankets if I want to, than go back to my dolls. For example, these days, I do a lot of small dolls because I have tons of ideas for this format, but I will get back to the other size later. I have so many ideas; there is not limit!
4. What are some of the rewards and challenges of owning your own shop?
I believe that I am very lucky to own my shop. I can sell my creations and deliver some love for unique objects, handmade toys, all over the world.
We are drowning in industrial objects, without any soul, and they are all looking alike and made in questionable industries. Even though we know all of this, we have to remember the good sides of technology, like the Internet, and how it allows people to choose some handmade products, all over the world! I feel like an old lady saying this, but none the less, it’s magic! In a past not so far behind, this wasn’t possible!
We could imagine that selling on the Internet is a little bit sterile and lacking in human contact, but I am very surprised to see the support and the gratification that I receive from my clients. I think that the fact that my dolls are handmade automatically brings that closeness, even on the Internet.
Of course, there are some challenges: fixing prices, managing my expenses, being organised, thinking of all the aspects of my business. My biggest challenge would be finding the time, because handmade is time consuming, so you have to love what you are doing without counting the time that you put into it, like we do in these modern days!
5. Any advice for aspiring business owners or anyone interested in selling their handmade creations?
Me, I really wanted to have everything perfect before opening my business, I wanted to control and anticipate everything. It’s a good thing to be a perfectionnist and be well organised but with this experience, what I have learned it that you need to be accept freedom and creativity and you can’t control it. You need to have some freedom to create and sometimes, it takes a different way than what you were planning. It’s fun to see yourself grow. There is risk when you create objects : you tend to start thinking like a businessman. We want to be profitable, efficient, strategic… It’s our world today who impose that stress on us and it’s important to stay focus on the essential : having fun while making something, on our own rythm. That’s what handmade is : the fun, slow and quality process which is impose by our hands J. That does not mean giving away our creations. If we want to offer quality materials, quality work and respect our time schedule, the prices need to be proportional.
One last thing, it’s true that you need a good dose of passion to put all these hours creating, but you need to take some time to go out, take a break, and close the door to the workshop so you can come back later. If you don’t, there is a chance that you can lose the passion and that is exhausting! It all depends on your personality. When you know your limits, you need to work around it and it’s like that around your life! It’s a balancing act!
6. What do you want people to ultimately take away from your beautiful dolls and unique process?
I do hope that my dolls are like a personal therapy against stress and the urgency of our world. Every doll I make requires some time and meticulousness, and it reminds me that I need to take things slow. I remind myself every time that the doll is not for me and it will be received or given to a person somewhere in the world and I find myself lucky to have that chance. I put in some extra care so that it shows in my final product; and I send some joy, some beauty and a whole lot of imagination. It’s an exchange between the maker and the receiver, a wonderful exchange!
Et Voila! Thank you again, Sarah, for your dedication to the craft and for sharing your dreams with us! Friends, hop on over to Les petites mains and fall in love.