Meet Erin Garcia, the crafter behind Feed the Fish co, a celebration goods company that does amazing things with felt. Erin hosts special workshops and loves to share her creative adventures on her blog, Crafterateur. Read on to learn what inspires Erin and her mantra to “Craft so Hard” and create what you love to create!
Hi, I’m Erin Garcia Manalac. I’m the maker behind Feed the Fish co, a celebration goods company that specializes in hand-cut awesomeness and crafty workshops. I also write about all my creative adventures on my craftstyle blog Crafterateur. I’ve been a California girl all my life – I grew up in Duarte, went to school in Berkeley and San Diego, and now reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m an Epidemiologist by training, but I live and breathe handmade! I love creating with my hands, mixing color, learning new art forms, and meeting others who love to do the same.
How did you get your start as a maker and what do you make?
I suppose I’ve been a maker since I learned how to glue. My made up business as a kid was a greeting card company I called Feed the Fish co, a nod to one of my favorite stickers that reminded you to feed your pet fish. I didn’t call myself a maker until 2011, post-graduate school, when friends encouraged me to sell my handmade cards and paper décor. You could say I fell into the handmade business. After my first craft show (which was, by the way, in the front yard of my Berkeley studio apartment), I was hooked! Naming my adult version of my craft business was an easy decision – Feed the Fish co, now, a nod to my childhood and how craft-filled it was. I started off selling cards, paper garlands, and a selection of earrings (because I had just started to dabble in jewelry making). It wasn’t anything serious until a couple of years later when I started getting invited by groups to lead craft workshops and sell my products in stores. Feed the Fish co has morphed over the years, but it’s always been about a celebration of fun every day. Today, I mostly work in felt and create a colorful line of pennants and wall hangings with fun sayings, each hand-cut sans templates because cutting is my favorite. I also take custom requests for celebrations large and small. I love to challenge myself with cutting new font styles, and creating fun projects for my craft workshops.
Have you always had a creative side or did someone help you find it?
When I was little I made a lot of paper crafts. I created my own greeting cards for birthdays or just because; my Mom probably still has all of my handmade cards from when I was little (and also up until now because she’s my Mom ;)). I marked each card with a Feed the Fish co logo. Remember those Hallmark commercials where the recipient of a card would turn it over to see if it was a Hallmark brand card? I used to pretend that people would look at the back of my cards to see if it was a Feed the Fish co brand card. In junior high and high school I was big on scrapbooking. You know, back when people developed film. There was a scrapbook for every big adventure. My craftiness went away for a bit in college (all school, no play!), but came back slowly during grad school, and I was in full-swing crafty mode when I settled into my first job post-school. Now that I didn’t have to go home and study – I could go home and craft!
I have my parents to thank for my creative side. My Mom is a retired 2nd grade teacher; I remember lots of art projects when she was teaching. She scrapbooked a lot too, and she always finds creative ways to upcycle and reuse items. Old cards or wrapping paper suddenly become new gift tags! My Dad had a part-time photography business back in the day, and when I was old enough I got to help out a little bit. He’s also the chef in the family, so I always had my own personal cooking show growing up. Watching him create in the kitchen is still one of my favorite pastimes. Creativity was part of my everyday life.
Not quite, but I keep myself so busy with crafty workshops, pop-up shops, and writing about creative adventures that people think it’s what I do for my full-time gig. It’s a fun balance and I find that I am more excited to create when it’s something I can’t do all the time. But who knows, maybe one day I will go full craft!
Do trends help guide what you’re creating? And if so, how do you identify them?
For my business, yes and no. I love to create what I love to create, and I hope people like what I do. I do, however, take inspiration from popular phrases (right now it’s Cardi B’s okurrr) and turn them into handcut awesomeness. It’s fun when people can relate to my crafts or have a memory triggered from one of my projects. But it’s also fun when someone says ‘I’ve never seen anything like this!’
For my personal crafts (the stuff I don’t sell), same thing – yes and no. I feel like I’m more inspired to create in general if I see something fun a friend made. If there’s a new tool or craft supply that sparks my interest I might want to give it a try, too. I find most of my creative inspiration from my Instagram feed – I like to follow makers, plant enthusiasts, and home décor accounts. If you follow along on Crafterateur you’ll see all the creative things I get my hands on.
I’m seeing a lot of fiber art popping up, like weaving and punch rug hooking. Weaving is one of my favorite craft activities outside of my business. I even collaborated with a friend to design my own line of acrylic weaving tool kits! Weaving is an old craft, but it amazes me always how much variety can come out of the simple materials. I’m also seeing a lot of ceramics popping up. I will admit, I want in on this, too. I recently took a ceramics class with a local maker; my stuff looked horrible, but it was so fun to do and learn about the process that I’m inspired to continue learning.
Selling product is always nice, but what I really like about being a maker is the ability to teach others a new skill. I love creating new projects and building upon my skill sets so I can spread the crafty love either via workshops or more casually with friends and family. I hope my love for creating inspires others to create something for themselves and their loved ones, too.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
Create what you love to create! Sometimes I feel like “I’m just making product” for my crafty biz, but when given the chance to be creative and try new things, even while using the same medium (generally felt for Feed the Fish co), I get excited and feel rejuvenated in my craft.
I would love, love, love to have a workshop space of my own to share creative projects with my community. That’s more long term. In the more near term, I’ve been feeling the need to create just for me. For the last couple of years I’ve been creating craft wish lists made up of projects I want to try, learn, or refine. This year my list includes learning pointed pen (I want to learn in the classroom setting because I’m a lefty and it’s hard!), trying gouache painting (I took a workshop last month and now I’m hooked!), and practicing my weaving craft. For that last one I’ve recently come up with a new challenge project where I create weaving versions of my dress collection – because weavings look like super cute dresses to me. It’ll be my version of my #OOTD.
What’s your creative mantra and why?
“Craft so hard” – It’s not about mass producing and creating something quickly, but more about taking the time to make a well-crafted piece.
My all time favorite craft and lifestyle expert is the one and only Martha Stewart. Besides my Dad, Martha (first name basis like we’re friends) is my go to for recipe and entertaining inspiration. I like the simplicity of her style and it’s a good reminder that you can “go big” by focusing on small details.
Oh, I wish I had a studio! I currently create all over my apartment. I usually play a movie or tv series in the background. Taking music requests!
When you’re not creating what are you up to?
Thinking about creating! But I also love dancing, cooking, nature walks, and discovering fun coffee/tea shops with the Hubby.
Makers make the crafting world go ‘round. Are you a maker who wants to be featured on Darice? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’re looking forward to meeting you!
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