“You can reinvent yourself. We can do whatever we want in this world,” Sarah Watts tells me, looking out through her cat-eye glasses with new-found confidence. Over the last few years Watts, an illustrator with a knack for drawing enchanting octopi, mushrooms, and other flora and fauna that evoke a creepy cute edge, has been through a lot with her career. Part of the five-woman super brand Cotton+Steel that had to leave all they’d built behind after a falling out with their fabric manufacturer, she’s had to find her footing again as an artist and business person. Although it was tumultuous and exhausting, for Watts it was also a gift.
“Watching everything happen with Cotton+Steel, with it not going well at the end, made me feel less scared that if an idea doesn’t go the way you want it to, it’s not going to be the end of the world,” she says. That knowledge made her brave.
“I had this fantasy of owning a stationery brand, but I didn’t think it was possible. In my head, I just thought that was what other people did, but I don’t have the same opportunities.”
A New Business Idea
In the fall of 2017 she found herself in the car for eight hours, driving from Atlanta to Florida with her family on a trip to Universal Studios (a trip planned entirely by her husband, Scott. “I was so tired,” she says), and suddenly the idea for a brand new business came to her. “For eight hours straight we drove to Florida and incubated this idea. It’s like we couldn’t escape each other. That’s all we talked about.” By the time they arrived, they had a business plan. Scott had been working as a photo retoucher for many years and was ready to leave his job and take on a new challenge, too.
Scott and Sarah launched Craftmoon at QuiltCon.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Watts.
While at Universal Studios Watts noticed visual brands in a new way. “My head just switched. I was like artists made Hello Kitty and Marvel comics. I have this power where I could create something people could be really into and Scott could help run the business. It was just a big mental switch. Like instead of me saying, ‘I can’t. That’s not me. I’m not the person.’ I said ‘Why don’t you just learn how?’” Realizing that nobody was born with business skills freed her up to learn them herself. “I wasn’t born with the knowledge of how to draw things. I went to college and learned how to create artwork and perfected the skill. I can perfect the skill of being a business owner.” That revelation was incredibly freeing.
The new business would be called Craftedmoon and it would be a brand that created art prints and gifts for the crafty homebody. “Our customer is the type of person that loves being at home and working on projects like sewing and knitting and scrapbooking,” she says. That’s where the first part of the company’s name came from. And moon? “It’s spooky. We got married on Halloween and we love kitschy Halloween stuff. On our first date we watched Evil Dead,” she laughs.
Until starting her own business, royalties from fabric sales had been Watts’ primary source of income. When they’d exited Cotton+Steel she’d just had a baby; the combination left her with some financial instability. “It was almost like I just completely lost my job.”
Launching With a Splash
She and Scott knew they wanted to launch the company with a splash at a big event and they chose QuiltCon 2018. Drawing on her early career experience working for a stationery company that handled bigger brands, including Mary Engelbreit, Watts knew it was important to create a large library of digital artwork to pull from. In the two months leading up to the show she created 30-40 pieces of artwork. The first product line consisted of art prints in two sizes, greeting cards, journals, and enamel pins. The couple put $5,000 on a credit card to fund the inventory and set up a Shopify site for online retail.
Stationery from Craftedmoon.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Watts.
She learned inventory management, Quickbooks, got a DBA and a business license, and trademarked the name. “It’s so empowering. Nobody was born knowing this stuff. They figured it out. Why can’t you?” She compares the feeling to the first time she sewed a button onto a shirt with her sewing machine. “It was so overwhelming. How am I going to put on a button and sew this buttonhole?” she says. “But it worked out.”
Craftedmoon did a build up to the launch on Instagram, and QuiltCon sales were good.
“It was such a good response. I was like I’m not letting this go. This is too special to me already.”
Following the Plan
Just this month Scott quit his job and is now working for Craftedmoon full-time, making part of their dream during that drive to Universal Studios a reality. “This is the first time that we made a plan and then followed our own steps. And it’s working.” They found a healthcare plan they can afford, but that was one of the bigger challenges, especially with two children. “It’s intense. It really expensive and if you don’t pick the right one it’s not going to cover everything,” she says.
Craftedmoon was initially headquartered in the couple’s spare 10’x10’ bedroom in their Atlanta apartment. When they outgrew that space they moved into a shared studio space with a friend. After moving to Dallas this year they found a new studio and are in the midst of moving in.
The company is also offering their goods wholesale. They’re on the wholesale marketplace, Faire, and are also distributed by Moda, where Watts is now a designer for Ruby Star Society, the fabric division founded by the former Cotton+Steel designers. They’re also looking into getting a stationery sales rep who could get them into AmericasMart Atlanta and the National Stationery Show.
A new Craftedmoon initiative has been The Quarterly, a limited edition product release that happens each quarter. “It’s a way to carry things that we don’t want to have in inventory year-round. If we had 12 different shirt designs in 8 sizes that would just need a huge space, but we can have a popup shop online and sell a bunch, and then just order what we sell,” she explains. “It helps to reduce waste too.” Being ecofriendly is one of Craftedmoon’s values. The company uses sustainable packaging as much as possible and they plant a tree with every order by making a $1 donation to the organization One Tree Planted.
“Being in business with my family feels really comfortable because they’re not going anywhere and we can work together,” Watts says. She and Scott met in high school and this year they’re celebrating their 16th anniversary. “Plus, I’ve always wanted a family business.”