Meet Katie Ford. Ever since she was little, this colorful maker always knew she had a creative calling in life – so it’s no surprise that her passion for making has become a part of her professional and personal life. Read on to learn how Katie got her start as a maker and how her business, Fiber and Gloss, came to be!
Introduce us to you.
My name is Katie Ford. I’m the artist and owner of Fiber and Gloss, a growing brand of handmade art and locally printed products. Born and bred in the Cleveland, Ohio area, I’m proud to still call “The Land” my home with my wonderful husband and our 60+ houseplant “children”. I spend my days working as a high school art teacher and spend every last free second I have creating and working on growing my business. I won’t ever say it’s easy to balance both, but I LOVE that my entire life revolves around making and creating of all kinds.
Why not just jump in and go for it before fear even has a chance to really enter the picture?
How did you get your start as a maker and what do you make?
I don’t know if I could tell you a time where I wasn’t creating something. My parents tell stories of how even as a 3 year old, I was so particular about the type, size, color of everything I used to draw or paint with. For as long as I can possibly remember, arts and crafts have just been my thing! I even taught myself to crochet in middle school, and once Pinterest came to be, I tried every craft and technique I could get my hands on. While I mostly love to draw and paint, I also love crochet and fiber arts.
How did Fiber And Gloss come to be?
When I thought about what I was going to be when I grew up, the answer was always simple – I’d be an art teacher and spend my days sharing my love of art in hopes of inspiring my students to fall in love with creating, too. When I finally landed that job, though, I started to feel myself growing almost angry and depressed – something was missing. I had spent the better part of two years focusing only on writing lesson plans, creating examples for my students, and all the other things that come with being an art teacher, but I hadn’t put any time in to creating anything just for me. I watched my students have creative epiphanies and find joy in discovering new ideas or skills, but simply being a witness to this creative process truly wasn’t enough.
Once I finally decided I had to start creating for myself again, I also wanted it to have a purpose and not just be me doing entirely random things. I also wanted to make some cash from this since teaching doesn’t always pay the big bucks and who doesn’t love some extra spending money?! So, I decided Etsy was the way to go. I didn’t have a clear plan at this point of what I would be making or what direction I’d go, but I knew I wanted a shop name that was broad enough to be all encompassing of my favorite things to make. My favorite things to do, creatively speaking, are to paint and crochet, so I started making a list of words that described both things. As you might guess, I landed on Fiber and Gloss and haven’t stopped since!
I started out by just making the things I felt like making. As things begin to sell, I started to become more focused with my aesthetic and different product offerings. Of course I’m still figuring it all out as I go, but I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. I’m being totally, one hundred and fifty percent honest when I say I legitimately NEVER thought I’d be making and creating things people would actually want to spend their hard earned dollars on, so this whole process has been very humbling.
Have you always had a creative side or did someone help you find it?
I’ve ALWAYS had a creative side! It’s always been a part of me, and I couldn’t imagine myself without it since it takes up so much of my personal and professional life.
Do trends help guide what you’re creating? And if so, how do you identify them?
I’d love to sit here and tell you I’m some hipster and that I just do what I want instead of following trends, but I’ve definitely hopped on the trend train a time or two! I’m not sure if it’s like this in every state, but in Ohio, people are obsessed with all things Ohio. They wear it on their clothes, hang it on their walls, accessorize everything with it, you name it – Ohio people just eat. it. up! It’s almost like a badge of honor to see who owns the most Ohio stuff. Knowing just how well Ohio things sell, I started right at the beginning of my business journey by making all kinds of Ohio designs. Today, my most popular items are prints of my hand drawn maps, most of which are for locations all over Ohio. I’m crossing my fingers that this state pride obsession is spreading all over the rest of the country since I’m on a mission to make maps of every city and state I possibly can.
What trends are you seeing pop-up right now?
I’m really glad that there are more and more makers making greeting cards! I started making them after I did a couple pun illustration prints and people encouraged me to turn them in to cards. But I really love that in our digital, computerized, instant gratification life, old fashioned, handwritten notes and greeting cards are so popular. I love how many cards myself and so many other makers sell as “just because” notes. A text message or email won’t ever carry as much power as a handwritten note. I really hope this trend continues.
Who (or what) gets you excited about the work you do?
I’m intrinsically motivated to keep growing as an artist and moving forward as a business owner. Now that I know I can do this, and I’m more confident in my ability, I definitely believe that in many ways, I’m the one who can stand in the way of those goals more than anyone else. I love what I do in a way that I’m almost addicted to it – but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. My husband is also in med school, so I’m certainly driven to hopefully build up a little savings and take care of us as best I can in this chapter of our lives.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with other makers?
When we’re talking about opening an Etsy shop, or something similar, I know people spend hours upon hours researching every last detail and planning to no end. This is great for some people, but I’m someone who likes to learn and grow as I go. I’ve definitely made some mistakes along my maker business journey that I may not have made if I’d spent more time researching, but I don’t think I’d trade those moments for the lessons I’ve learned. I think everyone also has a tendency to let fear stop them from going for things – especially if they spend too much time stressing about the details ahead of time. So, I figure why not just jump in and go for it before fear even has a chance to really enter the picture? If you’re sitting on some goals you have (with anything, really, but especially in the making and creating world of things), just go for it! Start slow, and you’ll be able to figure it all out as you grow. You can read a million lists full of do’s and don’ts, but you still have to figure out what’s going to work best for you.
Also, let’s be real here, remember that you have to spend money to make money. Full disclosure, I had a $3,000 loss at the end of my first year – but I believed in myself and loved what I was doing too much to stop. I know not everyone is in a financial or life situation where that’s realistic, so I’m extremely thankful that I could make it work.
What goal(s) are you working toward?
When I started my maker biz, I really just wanted enough money to help with my student loan bill every month. Since I’ve surpassed that, I’ve set my sights on something even bigger. My ultimate one day goal is to have a studio/shop combo to call my own. The number one question I hear when I’m selling at markets and pop-up events is, “Where’s your shop?”. One day, I want to be able to say, “Why yes, I do have a shop and it’s at ___!” I may or may not have a secret Pinterest board loaded with ideas for whenever the day may come.
What’s your creative mantra and why?
As simple and cheesy as it probably sounds, I tell myself all the time: just keep making. I can come up with ideas far quicker and more frequently than I can possibly execute. The more I make, the more ideas I have, so the list just keeps growing. So I just have to tell myself over and over again, just keep making! And whenever I find myself in a creative rut, which thankfully doesn’t happen too often these days, I just have to make something. If I keep creating SOMETHING, I’ll eventually figure it out and get where I’m trying to go.
What’s on your studio playlist?
Actually, I usually like to binge watch silly shows or cheesy early 2000’s romantic comedies while I work. I grew up never really being able to just sit in front of a TV and do nothing, so that habit sort of continued into my work. I enjoy the background noise and sometimes it’s nice to have a break to look at something other than what I’m doing for a few minutes every now and then. If I am listening to music, it’s usually anything from Backstreet Boys (no shame here!) to Mumford & Sons. It’s also one of my goals this year to finally jump on the Podcast train.
When you’re not creating what are you up to?
Honestly, I’m almost ALWAYS creating! But in those moments when I’m not, I’m likely tending to our many lovely houseplant children – because plants are pets too, right? I’m mostly an introvert and a homebody by nature, so I’m quite content just spending time at home with my husband.
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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