Last weekend I participated in the Valentine Craftacular at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI. It was SPECTACULAR – as a seller and as a shopper. Just before everyone started picking up I managed to make a quick run to snag a few items I’d been eyeing the entire day – one of those being two really big, and really adorable pigs! I thought they’d be the perfect Valentine Gift for the girls and keep them happy as I was picking up my booth. These adorable pigs were made by Christina Ward Creatures. They are super cute and super durable! The perfect prop for PIG RACES! Before we get to the pictures of my adorable girls racing, I would like to share with you some more fun information that I’ve learned about ChristinaWard: Tell me a little bit about your background in arts and crafts.
I’m a product of the early 1980’s Milwaukee. It was a strange time. Factories were closing, we lived with a real fear that the world was going to end in nuclear annihilation! I was lucky to have my Gramma living on her farm between Black River Falls and Osseo, Wisconsin. (This is the area made famous by Micheal Lesy’s ‘Wisconsin Death Trips’!) I spent most of my summers with her.
We had an outdoor privy. There was electricity, but no phone and the heat was from a wood burning furnace in the basement. The house itself was a three room with an attic structure constructed from old dynamite boxes left over from when the railroads were being put through.
My grampa had died in 1974, so we didn’t keep the pigs and Black Angus anymore, but we had loads of chickens and a full 2 acre garden. In those days, you either did it yourself or worked with your neighbors to barter what was needed.
Gramma made rag rugs on her loom, stitched quilts, tatted, canned, crocheted and did loads of other home skills now enjoying resurgence. Childhood itself was different during that time and place. Kids worked! The TV was black and white and only got in a weak signal from Eau Claire. Enough to watch the news and Johnny Carson.
As I got older I became more and more interested in what she was doing. How do you string a loom? How do you stretch a quilt using dining room chairs? What are the signs that blueberry bushes are nearby? She began to teach me the basics. Nothing formal, I just became another set of hands for her. So we would work together with me asking questions and taking mental pictures of how it should be done.
When did you first start creating things? I was always a tinkerer as a kid. Making Barbie clothes from scraps. Nailing boards together to make boats. Experimenting with my easy bake oven. My first conscious success was a version of the Cabbage Patch dolls in 1983. My gramma had taught me an old way of making dolls using old stockings…I was using gramma’s stash of silk stockings!
I brought the doll I made to my Home Economics teacher and she was really surprised. She had me make her two more for her friends. I think that was the start.
What were the first things you created? and how did your creativity progress from there?
This kinda continues from the last questions…..I moved on from the old stocking dolls to making a full size person! It was a prank for school. She hung by a noose in a classroom window; it was very effective!
I then would make animals for friends as presents. It wasn’t until many years later that my husband encouraged me to try to sell them.
Is this your only business or do you do other things as well? I’m one of those people that cannot sit still! I can’t even watch TV without having a book or sewing in my hands. (me too!) My other current projects/work/obsessions are:
1. Milwaukee Beersoap. My friend is a brewmaster at Sprecher Brewery here in Milwaukee. We make soap from the beer and sell it to small boutiques and stores in the midwest.
2. Making my stuffed animals! I have so many ideas for designs in my head and never enough time to work on them. I’m thrilled this year to have the opportunity to attend Maker Faire in San Francisco in May 2010 and do some teaching of creature design.
3. Baking! I love baking. Every holiday season I bake around 25,000 cookies that get packaged and bagged and sent all over to our friends and family. I also do some baking throughout the year. My goal for this year is to master some traditional Polish pastries, as enjoyed by my husband’s family.
4. Gardening. I volunteer at Pinehold Gardens CSA throughout the season as a farm laborer. My youthful farm experience pays off! I also work at our urban backyard garden during the season.
5. Wine making & food preservation. I’m big on canning and all types of preservation. I make jellies, jams, pickles, wine, whatever else we can think of.
6. WMSE 91.7fm. This radio station is a small community radio station in Milwaukee. I volunteer as a grant writer, development developer and all around helper. This radio station is the ONLY outlet for local music of all types and genres.
Do you still dream about making other things? If so, what? My brain is always ten steps ahead of me! Animal wise, I have patterns I’m working out for 4 new animals. I’ve got a series of quilts reflecting the year 1979 in Middle Eastern Politics that I hoped to have finished in 2009…but am still working on.
My big pipe dream project is a still. Yup, moonshine. I’ve been reading about how to do it. I’ve got a set of plans. Someday soon, you may see the smoke in the backyard and know that we got the applejack a cookin’ and keep the revenuers away!
How did you come up with your shop name? My shop name is the antithesis of creative! It’s just my name. I couldn’t think of anything clever and remembered what my dad always said, “All we really own in this world is our own good name.” I thought, well, good enough!
What are your favorite shops on etsy? Why do you like them? I have an odd and a bit rarefied sensibility, so my taste is what could be called a bit “off”. I love looking at the shops of my compadres on the Plush Team. Collectively and individually, they are mighty inspiring. What I find myself drawn towards buying are items that are wonderfully unique and expertly crafted.
Here are some of my favorite places on etsy:
This marvelous lady creates kanzashi, traditional Japanese hair ornaments, from recycled kimonos. They are breathtakingly beautiful.
How did you hear about Etsy? I heard about etsy from a little soap maker in Crivitz, Wisconsin in the summer of 2006. I didn’t get my shop up and running until 2007. I still struggle keeping it stocked…my biggest challenge is that I’m not a very good photographer!
Any words of advice to others? I have a few bits of advice to pass along.
First I would say, be true to yourself. It’s easy to caught up in trends or worry about who is selling a thousand widgets. Don’t fall into that trap. There will be very few people who make millions of dollars selling handmade. Think of every piece you create as another way to create your Community. Just like my old farm days, I’d much rather have folks think highly of me and my work than any amount of dollars.
Secondly, Join a team! On etsy, there are hundreds of teams that focus on region, city, type of craft and even professed beliefs. Joining a Team provides camaraderie, challenge, fun and inspiration. And again, you get to create your community. My membership in the Plush Team has brought me boundless good. You can even check us out at www.plushteam.com! And now that we’ve met the artist and heard her fabulous story and past, let’s see the PIG RACE! Here the girls are getting there pigs to the starting line. Capri has a few issues… …but don’t worry…she figures it out… Here they are. Waiting for the start. don’t worry…the outlet has child proof covers on it… And they’re off! Capri has a bit of rocky start. Still trying to figure out exactly how to sit on the pig and move at the same time. Cedi kept wanting her picture taken and then to ‘see’ it (she’s figured out you can preview on the camera). I had to assure her that I would show her once the race was over. Capri has figured out a new strategy for riding her pig… Cedi has found her rhythm (she literally jumps up to move forward each time – oh and I know – her hair rocks!) and is moving quickly around the track.Capri loses her balance…Cedi has taken a clear lead. Capri has switched strategies all together. She has abandoned her pig and has decided to run the rest of the way. And we have our winner… a proud Mercedi Rose Lapacek! The girls LOVE their pigs. They have raced with them everyday since we’ve brought them home. And even though the last thing we needed were more stuffed animals – these were definitely worth it. If you’ve decided you need one of these pigs, or your child does, or someone you know child’s does…check out http://christinawardcreatures.com/. And her etsy shop is: www.christinaward.etsy.com She has a HUGE selection of SUPER CUTE animals to choose from! Thanks Christina for the great interview and the FABULOUS PIGS!