On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast we’re talking about building a handmade business with my guest, Jessica Marquez.
Jessica is a life long maker who found her way back to textiles while working on an MFA in Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. After countless hours working digitally, retouching images and staring at a computer screen she longed for hands-on analog making. She taught herself embroidery and then never stopped stitching. In 2008 she started a creative handmade business, Miniature Rhino, named after a young cousin’s imaginary friend, a dentist she called Dr. Rhino. Miniature Rhino became a symbol of creativity and imagination and seeks to inspire and teach hands-on skills through a line of embroidery kits, patterns, classes and books.
We begin the conversation by talking about Jessica’s childhood growing up in California in a family that enjoyed crafting of all kinds. Jessica talks about an exchange program she participated in as an undergrad that gave her the opportunity to study a variety of different types of art making. After moving to the east coast to get an MFA in photography, Jessica realized that exhibiting her photos in galleries wasn’t the right path for her. Instead, she got a day job and, at the suggestion of a friend, opened an Etsy shop.
Jessica talks about how she transitioned to working for herself full-time and gets frank about what she could have done differently to reduce her stress level. She also talks about how taking on too many orders for handmade goods gave her a repetitive stress injury and chronic pain. Shifting to selling kits and patterns was the solution and helped to propel her business forward. We talk about how her packaging has changed over time to be more appropriate for retail shops and more environmentally friendly.
I ask Jessica about how she built some key relationships over the years that led to big opportunities. I also ask her how she got her two book deals, Stitched Gifts (affiliate link) and Make and Mend (affiliate link). In both cases, Jessica didn’t go with the first offer that came along and I think it’s really fascinating to hear how she ended up finding the right publisher each time.
In this conversation we reference:
The Miniature Rhino Instagram account is really lovely. I ask Jessica for some Instagram tips and she recommends her favorite Snapseed filter for consistently getting crisp, bright whites.
And, of course, I ask Jessica to recommend great stuff she’s loving right now. Jessica recommends:
This episode is sponsored by Hobbs Bonded Fibers. Hobbs Batting has proudly produced batting in Waco, Texas since 1978. Hobbs batting provides superior integrity to quilts and quilted projects and they invite you to contact them for a complimentary sample pack. Send your sample batting request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Enter to win a collection of Hobbs Tuscany Batting products! To enter, simply send an email titled ‘While She Naps Giveaway’ to Stephanie at email@example.com She’ll draw a winner on the Hobbs Batting Instagram account (@hobbsbatting) on April 15, 2019.