In the series “Professional Crafters” we will be having interviews with (small) business owners that monetize their crafting skills. The goal of this series is to give you an exclusive insight in what drives these entrepreneurs.
In Episode 2 we will be having a chat with Brenda Brownlee from Homeberries SVG.
Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Brenda Brownlee and I am a Christian homeschooling mother of five children ranging in age from 16 down to 2, wife of 18 years to the best husband in the world and graphic designer. I love crafting and designing. I have been sketching my entire life, but only recently discovered the joy of creating digital designs. For years I worked as a paper quilling artisan and built a very successful business, If Looks Could Quill. Unfortunately, quilling doesn’t mix well with babies and toddlers, so when I had my youngest son, I took an indefinite sabbatical from quilling. When I discovered digital design, I knew this was the place for me. I could still express myself artistically, but not worry about one of my children getting into my projects and ruining all the hard work I put into it.
How did you get introduced into Crafting
My mom was always crafting, so from birth, I was surrounded by arts and crafts. She also ran a crafting business and would invite my sisters and me to tag along to craft shows with her. As soon as we were old enough, we would even help assemble items mom was going to sell. And since crafting came naturally to my mother and she knew the joy that comes from doing it, she would always supply us with the tools we needed for any artistic pursuits we had. I am so grateful to her and my father for fostering our love for arts and crafts.
Tell us about Homeberries SVG
As a creator of designs for electronic cutting machines, I find inspiration everywhere – in books I read, in watching my children play or hearing some of the funny things they say, in conversations with family and friends, in nature… I could go on and on. Often, my best ideas will come to me just as I’m trying to drift off to sleep at night, so I’ve started keeping a notebook on my bedside table and writing them down or quickly sketching them out so that I can shut off my mind and actually sleep.
Designing is time consuming – most of my designs take several hours from concept to fruition. I have several notebooks full of sketches and I keep those sketches next to me as as a reference while I design in Adobe Illustrator. Once I’ve completed a design, I make sure to either test it myself on my Silhouette Cameo or have one of my Cricut owner friends test it for me. As soon as I know it is working properly, I’ll save it to the various formats I offer in the shop – svg, dxf, eps, and jpg.
The hardest part for me is finding the time to do it all! As a mother of five children, it’s definitely a juggling act to run a business and take care of a growing family. But it is all worth it when I finish a design, post it for sale, then see the positive response.
For those who are new to electronic cutting machines, I’d advise that they watch or read as many tutorials as they can about their systems. Each brand varies slightly in it’s capabilities and functions. I’ve learned a lot myself from Youtube and from crafting blogs. I’m constantly learning new things that my machine can do and having so much fun creating with it!
What tools do you use
As I mentioned earlier, the cutting machine I own and use is a Silhouette Cameo. I love the flexibility of the functions the Silhouette machines offer. I have the designer’s plus edition, though I don’t use it for designing as I prefer to work in Adobe Illustrator for creating actual designs. I love that I can turn embroidery designs into cut files with the designer’s plus edition of the Silhouette Studio software.
Aside from items I have created for personal use, I don’t usually create a lot of physical product (beyond testing the files I create to make sure they are going to work for my customers.) However, I do have a nice stash of vinyl I’ve purchased from The Vinyl Spectrum. I prefer their website over others because it’s a nice one-stop-shop vinyl site. They offer Oracal 651, 631, 951, Oracal Stencil Vinyl, TT GLITTER vinyl, as well as Siser HTV (smooth and glitter). And, they are from Michigan, which is where I grew up, so I love that I’m supporting a company from my neck of the woods.
My favorite tutorial blog is Silhouette School. Melissa at Silhouette School does a fabulous job showcasing all that Silhouette machines are capable of as well as tips, tricks and tutorials for all things vinyl. While her focus is for Silhouette machines, a lot of what she teaches is applicable to Cricut machines, too. I have learned a ton from her!
I would suggest to newbies to make sure you have the right tools for use with the cutting machines. The tools can make or break your abilities to succeed in creating beautiful products. Some tools that you might need or want include:
- Mat (comes standard with your electronic cutting machines)
- A weeding tool or a pick. You can use anything that has a sharp point, like an exacto knife (but be careful not to accidentally slice your fingers!), sewing needle or straight pin, pointed tweezers, dental picks, etc. Cricut and Silhouette both sell weeding tools, or you can get picking tools at Harbor Freight, with several sizes to a pack. Look under “Precision Hand Tools” – they have some really reasonably priced pick tool sets.
- A scraper. Silhouette and Cricut also both sell scrapers. The Pampered Chef stoneware scrapers are great alternatives! Home Depot or Lowes also sell sets of scrapers too. You could even use old credit cards if you are in a bind.
- A spatula. Again, Silhouette and Cricut both sell spatulas, but any flat tool that you can slide under the paper to lift off the mat will work just fine.
- Transfer paper. Clear contact paper works great with some vinyls, but may be too sticky for others. There are tricks to making it just sticky enough, though. Pinterest is great for such tips and tricks. I have two group boards on my Pinterest account for such purposes – a board for tips and tricks as well as a board for project ideas. You can get a large roll of transfer paper from Amazon or other crafting websites. Yes, it’s an investment to purchase a large roll, but it will last you for a really long time. A friend of mine purchased her transfer paper roll three years ago and she still has a fair amount left even though she uses it every day for her business.
- And, of course, your choice of medium (card stock, paper, vinyl, heat transfer vinyl, etc.)
What is your favorite piece of craft
My favorite craft I created isn’t a digital design. It’s paper quilled fantasy artwork entitled “Fairy Queen” that I designed and quilled several years ago. It’s the one piece from my quilling business that I never sold because I love it so much. It was a labor of love that took me almost 200 hours to complete (the face alone has 8 different skin tone colored papers in it), so it’s been hard to let go of it. Maybe some day when I’m old and grey and I’ll gift it to a loved one who appreciates it as much as I do.