Saturday, 6 December 2008

Mama's Little Babies

Well welcome to the Little Red Suitcase. Our hope is to bring you inspiration through interviews of those out there creating one of kind hand made items. People just like you and me who are putting them selves out there and promoting their very own indie businesses and enjoying what they do, whether it be a full time venture or a part time gig. The possibilities are endless from jewelery to felted coffee cup cozies, handmade is a cut above the rest. So find a cozy chair, maybe a mug of tea or coffee in my case and read how others are doing it, you never know what you may find in The little red suitcase!

very first interview is that of someone whose unique necklaces caught my eye so much, I asked for Santa (aka my boyfriend) to get me one(the Hot air balloon necklace) for Christmas. We can all go to the big stores and find the same ole same ole, and probably bump into someone down the line who happens to be wearing possibly the same necklace as you. But say for example you go the handmade route, you stroll on over to Etsy and come across a very interesting piece of jewelry made of shrink plastic and vintage Victorian imagery. Well then you probably have landed on Cheri Lewis's shop "Mama's Little Babies" and you are probably about to buy a very one of a kind piece jewelery that people will totally admire. She has a wide array of necklaces, bracelets, earrings, broaches and even bobby pins.

Read on to find out who the lady is behind all that wonderful
shrink plastic jewelery.

. First of all lets hear a little about you. Tell us a little about who you are and any artistic/creative backgrounds you may have.

I am a wife, mother, daughter, gardener, friend. I am a lover of delicious food, travel, the mountains, the ocean, camping, snow skiing, tennis, horses, and my beloved dogs. I grew up in a culturally rich Italian background and have a deep love for my family and friends and I treasure our time together. I've worked as an elf (pointy shoes and all), bookkeeper, make-up artist, garden designer, interior designer, custom clothing and costume designer, Fimo artist, metal smith, and now, shrink plastic artist. My husband and I bought our 100 year old, stone house in the Santa Cruz Mountains 25 years ago and we spent many years remodeling, adding onto and lovingly restoring every last inch. During this time I was also an avid gardener and a busy mother of three. I began a Fimo Jewelry line that was sold in shops around the country until I was seduced by metal. I have studied metalsmithing for eight years and have participated in classes at the college level as well as attended workshops across the country. I especially love chasing and repousse and my recent works are inspired by historic fashion and costume and include the techniques of wire wrapping, as well as metal fabrication and include many materials, including vintage seed beads, vintage metal and enameled flowers, silk and prismacolor pencil. My work has been included in many juried shows, as well as in print. I have been a keynote speaker at the Oakland Museum, where I presented a biography of my work to date. My passion for Victorian illustrations exploded in the production line of Mama's Little Babies. Although Mama's Little Babies is quite consuming at the moment, I also produce a mid-range metal jewelry line for several galleries, as well as create a few one-of-a-kind pieces for various juried shows throughout the year.

2. Explain the name "Mama's little babies" its got a very cute ring to it!

The name Mama's Little Babies has been kicking around in my noggin for many moons. When I was doing custom costume and clothing sewing and design, as well as a lot of sewing for my daughters, the name just popped into my head, and I thought, what a fun name for a business! All these years later when I was trying to come up with a name for this new line of jewelry for my Etsy shop it seemed perfect.

3. What brought you into the world of creating such unique jewelry? What are your necklaces made of? How did you come across this technique?

Well, I've always secretly loved kitchy craft techniques and like to imagine ways to turn humble materials into aesthetically pleasing and wearable items. Shrink plastic has always seemed like a "diamond in the rough," and when I began to take notice of some of the other artists using shrink plastic on Etsy, I was inspired to put my own spin on the material. I worked for months to develop a product line that was appealing, inexpensive and also used high-quality materials. Being a metal smith, I was especially selective about my chains and findings. I absolutely could not stand the idea of using silver plated materials, so I searched high and low to find my chain, which is finely textured and I feel lends the pieces the vintage and Victorian feel that was so important to me.

4. So your sitting in your studio, creating. Take a break and look around and describe to us your work area.

My studio is in a building that used to be our horse barn! My stepson and husband transformed it into a cheerful, light-filled dream space for me. I am surrounded by my many metal-working tools (me like tools!), soldering equipment, rolling mill, jeweler's bench, beads, beads, beads, wire, wire, wire, tiny works in progress, mistakes and experiments, bookcases galore, hammers, stumps, scissors, x-acto knives, chasing tools, one beloved Yorkie and two other poodles who visit throughout the day and who show up faithfully at 6:00 p.m. to escort me back to the house. I live in the country and when I look out my window, I see rolling hills, a persimmon tree loaded with orange globes, my neglected vegetable garden which never fails to spark a tinge of guilt, and the rose arbor smothered in a New Dawn rambler my husband and children built me for Mother's Day many years back.

5. Pretty much all of your items have a Victorian feel to them. Is that an era that really catches your eye? What is it about these designs that work the best for you?

*Can you hear me now broach*

have a large collection of books with a focus on Victorian
fashion and the popular handicrafts of the time that I have been accessing for my metal work for many years. I also have an extensive collection of Victorian era illustrations that I have collected for almost 15 years. When I began playing with techniques for the Mama's Little Babies line, I instantly grabbed my beloved illustrations and was really excited to be able to use them them so literally. I suppose I love the Victorian era for many reasons, some of them being the absolute over the top use of detail and embellishment (more is more!), their lively curiosity in the natural world and habit of collecting specimens and bits and pieces from around the world. Many of the images I use have a whimsical, tongue in cheek aspect to them which I find irresistible.

6. When did you start selling on Etsy and what has been the response to your pieces? I for one am in love with each and everyone:)

I started on Etsy around this time last year with my mid-range metal jewelry line. Mama's Little Babies first posted items in June after months of experimentation. Etsy has been a wonderful experience. I have met so many unique and helpful people on the site. I love lurking in the Forums and have picked up invaluable business advice from the other artists on the site.

7. How do you get your self into the creating mode? Some may listen to music, others complete silence, what gets your creative juices flowing and ready and rearing to go?

*Blackbird earrings*

read an interview years ago given by Julia Child and the interviewer asked her, "How do you get inspired?" She laughed in that warbly way she had, and replied, "If I waited around to be inspired, I'd never accomplish anything! Each morning I go to my kitchen and just start working." That is my modus operandi. I just dig in. If I don't have a brilliant idea, I work on the not so brilliant idea and tiny sparks sooner or later ignite. I also become rather grumpy and discombobulated when my hands aren't busy for any length of time. When working I always have something on to keep me company. I always have one of the following going - the radio (usually NPR), the t.v. (CNN, Food Network), books on tape or my iPod on Shuffle.

8. Many of us out here are looking to break into selling our handmade goods whether it be on Etsy or through a personal website. What would be some advice that you can pass down to those readers?

Like so many artists, I've spent so much of my life being shy and just hating the idea of promoting myself in person to galleries and shops - that's why the Internet is so great for us! So here's my advice! Be unique! Every artist throughout time is inspired by other artists and their work - just make it your own! Take fantastic photos - don't scrimp here! Be curious and diligent about learning how to promote your work. Fall down a few times - it's good to know you can bounce back. Every single person in business has ups and downs. And my favorite old ditty - Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

9. 5 things you just cant live without.

1. Really great French Fries. *Big Top Acrobat Cuff Bracelet*

2. A good book at hand.

3. My simple, exquisite twisted metal scribe.

4. My tiny acorn collection

5. Ice cold Vodka.

10. Whats next for you and "Mama's little babies"? Any new designs your conjuring up at this very moment?

I 've been working with some sassy, French fashion illustrations from the early 1800's
the last couple of weeks. They will be classic in shape and have tiny trims and felt embellishments. I think I'll have the final prototype ready for launch next week!

Thank you Cheri for filling us in on all the ins and outs of your creations. Be on the look out for more to come over here on The Little Red Suitcase and be sure to scoot on over to Mama's Little Babies and maybe gift someone(even yourself) an eye catching bracelet perhaps!

1 comment:

cynthia said...

Oh Cheri is Awesome. What a cool endevour. Girl you rule!!!!


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