Okay, now pay attention so you don’t get confused. I am on vacation still (until August 20th) and I’ve asked all sorts of people to sit in for me while I am away…one of whom is Jen Menkhaus from The Littlest Bean. Jen M. interviewed me (Jen W.) to give you a glimpse behind the scenes at the person who makes one of your favorite blogs possible. 😉
This was actually quite fun and I do hope you enjoy. As a special treat, I’ve included a picture of my office/studio and one of me as well.
By guest contributor Jen Menkhaus
We all love Indie Fixx, and we know we can always turn to it to find the most beautiful, inspirational and enviable craft around. After perusing the blog’s daily fix of all things crafty, including the Feed Your Soul downloads, fun tutorials, impeccably-curated artist features, and even a delicious recipe or two, we know that Jen Wallace is someone we’d trust. We’d let her help our significant others pick our birthday gifts, we’d love to be invited over for dinner and craftiness, and we’d definitely let her redecorate our dwellings. But what do we really know about her? I’ve been lucky enough to chat with Jen at shows, but when she agreed to be interviewed by me for a guest blog spot, I was eager for an opportunity to give everyone a peek into the mind of this super crafty lady.
I remember finding Indie Fixx when I was just starting my craft business in early 2007. It was one of my first connections with the indie craft world. How and when did you get started? What was your motivation?
I started Indie Fixx in 2006. At the time I was a jewelry designer (tiltingswiftly.com, now on hiatus) and I thought it would be fun to start a blog highlighting other indie artists and designers and it also be a great way to help promote my own business.
I also had an interest in both writing and curating. I’ve always had some sort of writing gig, whether in high school where I was an editor for our literary magazine or in college when I was the editor of our yearbook, and I’ve always written on my own time as well. After college, I was a museum curatorial assistant, an archivist and later a reference specialist in a public library with a focus on fiction…all of those jobs have aspects of curating and I realized that was the thing I liked about them. And that’s what I do on Indie Fixx…curating. I think of my posts as mini-exhibitions.
That’s wonderful- I love out the blog grew naturally from all of your interests and experiences. What was the hardest part of going from blogging for your own business to becoming a nationally-known blogger?
Hmm, probably the amount of time it takes. I work lots of hours. Many more than I would if I worked a regular job for someone else.
I think most of us can identify with that! So what’s a typical day like for you? IS there a typical day?
Typical days do not involve me leaving the house or changing out of my pajamas until sometime around noon. I spend a lot of time, too much time, at the computer. Research, writing, paperwork and email, email and more email.
Working in pajamas on the computer is definitely a perk of being self-employed. What advice would you give artists who want to be found and featured on a blog like Indie Fixx when there’s so much quality craft available thanks to the internet?
I could write pages on this topic, but here are a few really important tips.
- Good photography. If you can’t do it, figure it out. If you can’t tell if it’s good, ask someone. If you can’t make yours better, get some help. I can’t tell you the number of shops that I just can’t feature, because their photography is not up to par. This is really important folks. It’s the proverbial tree…if you make good stuff, but nobody can see, does it exist? Sadly, the answer is nope.
- Get to know the blog you are submitting to. If you come across a new blog, spend some time reading it over before contacting the blogger. Make sure your goods are a good fit, read the policies to see if they like submissions and how they like submissions.
- Don’t just do a mass mailing to ALL the known blogs in the world. Contact a few blogs at a time and see if you hear back from them before contacting others. More established blogs won’t want to feature you if you have been featured on another bigger blog lately. We like to keep our content fresh and original.
Other than blogs, what’s your favorite social media outlet currently? What do you like about it and what would you change?
Twitter! I love twitter. I can keep in touch with my readers, indie artists and meet new folks. I love the microblogging aspect of it, since I have lots more to share than I can share on Indie Fixx!
It took me a while to warm up to Twitter, but I definitely like it now. I suppose I’m just a bit old school! Speaking of which, do you miss magazines as much as I do? And do you think blogs will ever replace them entirely?
I think magazines will continue to exist in their current form for a while, but eventually sometime way in the future the paper mag you hold will disappear. Before we get to that point, I do think that more design and style magazines will fall by the wayside though. There is something about the ephemeral nature of style & design that seems to work so well on the Internet.
Why do you think blogging is so connected to making these days?
Because people love to share what they make and what’s a better way to share your homemade sweater than to share it on your blog!
It’s true! Blogging is fun, and reading blogs makes me feel connected to the world when I spend my work days in my house. I know I feel out of touch when I fall behind on the blogs I follow. What blogs do you read every day? Do you have any blogging “idols?”
I have a confession to make…I don’t really read that many blogs. Putting Indie Fixx together doesn’t leave me a lot of free time and when I do have some free time, I want to get off of the computer! Plus, I don’t want to be too influenced by what others do. That said, I do try to check out design*sponge at least once a week. I love the before and afters.
In your scarce free time what kind of craftiness are you up to?
I have been making some free time for crafting lately…my new feature She’s Crafty has given me the kick in the pants I needed to get creative again. I’ve been doing a lot of paper crafts. I just finished up a paper garland today that I will be sharing on Indie Fixx. I’ve also been drawing a lot lately. I can’t really draw all that well and tend to stick to the same kinds of things to draw, like flowers and abstract stuff, but I am playing around with a few ideas for fun projects. Oh, I’ve also been doing a lot of embroidery. Especially, making up my own counted cross stitch patterns.
I have been loving your new projects. I wish I had more time to try them all. If you could make three wishes for the craft community, what would they be?
- That more consumers would appreciate quality over quantity and understand that there is so much more virtue in purchasing goods from the person who makes them—someone you can talk to and ask questions of and who will answer you—over purchasing goods from a huge faceless multi-national corporation.
- That people (and companies) would stop stealing original designs and passing them off as their own. Be original!
- That as the popularity of handmade and indie made goods does grow that we don’t lose the very essence of what makes us different as creative business people.
About the contributor: Jen Menkhaus has worked around craft for the last 16 years, from selling in galleries to doing display for Anthropologie, to working for Buyers Market of American Craft. Her craft business, The Littlest Bean, is her excuse for buying lots of craft supplies and playing with colors. She is a major craftaholic, a minor blogger, and team leader for the Baltimore Etsy Street Team. Jen lives in Baltimore with her ever-growing family of humans and pets, and way, way too much felt.