On today’s episode of the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, we’re talking about bargello with my guest Brett Bara.
Brett is the founder of Hello Bargello, a brand dedicated to reviving the vintage craft of bargello for modern makers. Brett is a crafts expert and creative entrepreneur who has been working in the crafts industry for over 20 years. Over the years, she’s been a magazine Editor-in-Chief, a book author, a TV host, a video instructor, a brand spokesperson, a social media maven, a designer, a blogger–and more.
Her entrepreneurial spirit has inspired her to start businesses that connect the young, urban folks in her community with the deep tradition of handcrafts. In 2013 Brett founded Brooklyn Craft Company, a modern crafting store and workshop space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. In Brett’s current role as owner of Hello Bargello, she strives to connect the dots between preserving traditional crafts and building a thriving, contemporary e-commerce business.
This episode is sponsored by Craftsy.
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We begin this interview with Brett talking about growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania with two very DIY-minded parents. Brett’s father was a carpenter and her mother was an avid crafter. Her earliest memories are of her family making things. Brett recalls a story of creating a cross stitch for her 8th-grade boyfriend as a gift. Although she was very artistic, the idea of art school or making a living as an artist didn’t seem possible so Brett went to college initially pre-med, switching within a semester to humanities.
After interning at a magazine, she moved to New York and worked every contact that she had until she landed a magazine job. She worked in magazines for many years, eventually getting a job as the crafts editor at Women’s Day and then launching Crochet Today at SoHo Publishing (even though she didn’t know how to crochet). She then hosted the magazine’s accompanying PBS television show. Through these experiences, Brett became well-connected within the crafts industry and eventually moved on to do freelance work for a variety of brands.
She got the idea to host a big craft workshop event in New York and put one together, including securing major sponsors, called Brooklyn Craft Camp. The event was a success and Brett set about looking to open a permanent craft workshop space. That was the seed of Brooklyn Craft Company which began as purely workshop space, but then moved to a new retail location and became a modern craft store with two other business partners.
While working at Brooklyn Craft Company, Brett created workshops and kits for a whole variety of trendy craft projects. One day, perusing books at The Strand bookstore, she came across some vintage bargello books and became fascinated with this craft. She bought supplies and started creating some bargello pieces, teaching bargello workshops, and creating bargello kits. She says as soon as someone tries bargello, they get hooked and she knew she was onto something that could potentially be big.
Brett became a mom of twins and shifted gears toward working on Hello Bargello full-time. The company now offers PDF patterns, supplies, kits, and a subscription box. She says the Songbird Pillow was an early success and is a consistent best-seller. We talk about the different strategies behind each of these products. Brett’s family moved out of New York City and, although they renovated the first floor of her house to be Hello Bargello’s headquarters, Brett realized she was better off having an off-site place to house her business so she rented some studio space a short walk away.
We talk about future plans for Hello Bargello, creating community around your brand, the pros and cons of doing wholesale and selling on Etsy, Hello Bargello’s Instagram strategy (including manicures), and more!
And, of course, I ask Brett to recommend great stuff she’s loving right now. Brett recommends:
- Taking craft classes. She is signed up for a stained glass class.
- True crime podcast Bear Brook
- Crafting with kids. Brett and her 8-year-old daughter have recently tried soap making, candle making, resin molding, and 3-D printing.