I actually finished this post early this morning and can’t wait to share it! Husband woke me up at 4:30 this morning to let me know he made it to Paris safe and sound. Now it is on to Tunis today and then to Sfax by tonight. He will head out to the rig in the morning. This seemed like such an unusually short time home…good reason I suppose. His week in Scotland surely cut in on our time with him! These last few days we have spent mostly hanging out and trying to get every second together we could possible squeeze out of them.
Before I announce the winner of the NotQuiteJuneCleaver Green Giveaway, I have a very special guest to introduce you to this fine 1st of July! This is my first attempt at such a post and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed preparing it!
Her name is Lesley and she owns Small Meadow Press. Many of you have found her through the link in the right column of my blog. I know this because you have told me how happy you were to find her! I happened upon her in a very special way. A friend of mine (who lives in France) wrote to me the old fashioned way, and when I opened the envelope there was the most beautiful image! I could barely read the actual card for scrambling to find the source on the back of it! And there it was! Small Meadow Press. I quickly did a google and found the lovely website. The rest is history as they say.
I have ordered from her over the past few years and have been more than please with each purchase. The last purchase I made was for The Perfect Paste. But there was a slight problem with my order and we had to speak over the phone. Okay, I will tell you! When I ordered I used my paypal debit card and when she ran it there wasnt enough money in my paypal account. Okay, now you know. Nosey Rosies!! Like you have never done that! Anywho, she zipped me a very nice email letting me know this and we played phone tag a couple of times before we were actually able to speak to each other. But it was so worth the wait! Lesley is such a lovely person with such a huge heart! And by the way – it IS the perfect paste!!!
As I was preparing this giveaway something she said to me on the phone that morning kept coming to my mind. She told me about how she chose the beautiful papers she uses and why and it is such a timely story. So I zipped her an email and asked her if she would be a part of this giveaway and consent to an interrogation interview. She was as excited as I was! She told me she had never been interviewed before and I assured her that was perfectly fine~I had never DONE an interview before!!! So we have corresponded over the past 10 days and she has been sooo generous with her precious time. The answers are wonderful, thoughtful and gives us all a little glimpse into her life and business. AND she added a very special gift to the giveaway! This lovely Ribbony Notebook!
NQJC: Lesley, I think the first thing we would all like to know is how and when you started your business Small Meadow Press.
Several years before I began Small Meadow Press, I published a small, quarterly journal about home-making called The Bower (with a tiny readership).That was born out of a desire to share all the beautiful images and articles I had been finding in the old books and magazines I loved. I had an accident soon after starting The Bower and struggled with it for a few years before I stopped publishing. I was happy to spend the next few years being creative with my home-life and mothering and to continue with healing from the accident. All this time my husband had been supporting us and we were greatly helped by a yearly gift of money from his grandmother. When this yearly gift stopped, I knew it was time for me to contribute to our household’s economy.
So the actual spark that began Small Meadow Press was very practical. But once I knew that I needed to do, and knew that it had to be something I could do from home and that I could weave in with our family life, the answers just started coming. Many, many nights I would have to get up out of bed because my mind was so full of ideas that needed research and fleshing out….it was a very exciting time. That would have been the Winter and Spring of 2002-2003.
NQJC:Was there anyone that inspired you to follow your dreams?
My parents always gave me the message that anything I wanted to do with my life was great with them, so I had a wonderful foundation for my dreams. My favorite books as girl and young woman were those by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy M. Montgomery. Like the heroines in those stories, I always thought I was going to be a teacher-until I became a student teacher! I found my true vocation as a mother and in creating a sweet home-life and I think all my dreams grew out of that. I was constantly inspired by women I came across in my reading and learning-Tasha Tudor, Beatrix Potter, Jill Barklem, the women-entrepreneurs in Victoria Magazine. I didn’t have mentor or role-model in real-life, but I also never had anyone who was negative
about my dreams and interests.
NQJC:What three things can’t you live without?
My first reaction to this question was that I ought to say the three guys in my life-my husband and my two sons. And at the bottom of it all, that would be true. But I think you probably mean something else, so my next answerwould be that I need something interesting to think about, connection with dear people and the earth….and solitude.And on another level, how about English novels, good water to drink and cake?
NQJC: What are your inspirations in your art and in life?
When I began Small Meadow Press I was most inspired by mothering, domesticity, good books and nature. The last two have remained constant, and I will always be deeply domestic, but as my children have grown I have become less focused on mothering. More and more I am inspired by simplicity and beauty. I get alot of pleasure from the loveliness of the objects we surround ourselves with and the way we use them to connect and celebrate and tend. And I am so grateful to be encircled with green fields and blue sky and trees and quiet. All that comes with those good things is always influencing me.
NQJC: What’s the best thing about what you do? And the worst?
The best thing has got to be that I can follow the creative ideas that come to me until I have something to offer to the world,
and then the world likes these things often enough to allow me to help support my family and stay in my little studio in my
home in the countryside. And I have got to also choose the amazing acquaintances and friendships that have come to me
through my business and my blog. The worst is (of course?) keeping up with the paperwork and financial side of owning your own business. I manage keep upjust well enough, but hope to someday achieve enough discipline to handle it gracefully.
NQJC: What blogs and mags do you read and what shops do you shop at?
A delicious question, Susan! I discovered your blog this year, and will be a regular visitor just as soon as I have reached my goal weight. Your photos and recipes are much too enticing while I am dieting! What a joy it is to look at an evocative picture. I have never subscribed to alot of magazines, as I just can’t block out of my mind how many trees go into the making of them. In earlier years, Victoria was my monthly magazine treat and I fulfilled my longing for home magazines by bringing home stacks of decorating books from the library. I was at loose ends when Victoria stopped several years ago (and haven’t been won over by the new one yet!). Then I discovered English magazines and treated myself to them now and again. For the past few years, I have received a yearly subscription to the British Country Living as a Christmas present and it utterly satisfies me. They have a deep ecological bent and the photographs are gorgeous and the articles so satisfying. I do also like Mary Englebreit’s Home Companion, especially for the artist features. I have bought a few of the Somerset magazines over the years, but really don’t want to be too influenced by other’s work and so rarely succumb. Blogs have really filled this lovely gap that was opening up for me as I became less satisfied by the staged layouts in magazines, and more and more concerned about the resources used in magazine production. Blogs can be so authentic and pretty and they let us into women’s real lives which is what is most interesting to me. I tend to read certain blogs for a time and then take them off my Bloglinesbecause I am spending too much time reading about women’s wonderful lives and not living my own! But below I have listed those blogsthat I regularly visit.
Shops are not such an enticing subject to me as I am not much of a shopper. I tend to be overwhelmed by the complexities of being a conscientious shopper and try to just make do most of the time. Thrift stores and consignment stores are where we get most of our clothes, and I have been using ebay lately to find slightly used shoes that spare us from going into those horrible-smelling shoe stores. I wish that Williamsburg, where I do my grocery shopping in the natural foods departments of the grocery stores, had some small, independent shops…but it doesn’t have many. So I buy used, vintage and handmade when I need
something, often online and from women I have met online whenever possible.
NQJC: I know how your business name came to be but maybe you would like to share it with everyone else. While I was working at at bookstore in Williamsburg, Virginia, I discovered in a baby name book that a meaning for my first name was “small meadow”. I stored up that lovely phrase, just waiting for a time to use it and when my business bloomed into being, it seemed just right in so many ways.
NQJC: Were you an artsy craftsy kid? If so, what kinds of things did you do?
Not really. My mother wasn’t very crafty, tho’ she would burst out now and then….but she was a wonderful gift-wrapper and taught me to be the same. Of course, I spent time drawing and painting, as most children do. I learned to sew a bit in home ec, and loved to bake and cook. Looking back, tho’, I can see the seeds of Small Meadow Press in the handmade I cards I made, all the reading I did, how much I loved to practice my handwriting and make library pockets for my books, copying out song lyrics and other quotes….it always had to do with paper and ink.
NQJC: Your work is absolutely beautiful. But I know how important treading lightly on the Earth is to you as well. Care to tell us about why you choose the papers and inks you choose?
Thanks for asking this, Susan, this is so important to me! As much as I love paper, I don’t love how it is produced-in the main. So starting with my little magazine, I knew it wouldn’t be worth it to me to bring into being something that would have a negative impact on the earth. I don’t know if it has to do with living in a logging area and seeing those trucks loaded with trees going past my house almost every day, or just the tendency to think about the path something has taken to reach the point of being held in my hands….but knew that anything I created had to be as ecological as was possible for me to make it. Inks have been tricky…there really is no great option for me to use in my studio. So I am just as careful as I can be not to waste ink and am always on the look out for better alternatives. Printing shops can use soy-based inks, but these are still quite industrial and still require chemicals to clean the presses that use them. Unless I only use walnut-ink to hand-write and stamp everything, I can’t come up with a happy solution.
I learned right away that the truly recycled papers are 100% post-consumer and tree-free papers and I have spent so many hours over the years hunting down the most attractive ones available. In the beginning years, I didn’t make all the connections that I do now and ordered things like polyester ribbon and little frames that had backs of mdf or some such thing. At some point I realized that the ribbon started out as petroleum and the frames were made in China of goodness-knows what….started buying vintage ribbon on ebay and phased out the framed prints. I am in the process now of having wonderful frames made in Nepal from the lokta bush (that constantly regrows after the fiber is harvested), and the company I am working with has told me that a whole village is now healthily and gainfully employed in producing this lokta paper and many beautiful items made with it.
So this is how I approach everything I offer….and the way I package everything, as well. If I can’t do it ecologically, I just don’t offer it. I have long wanted to offer a Small Meadow Press planner, for instance, but could not find a way to bind it that suited me. I discovered a half-sized binder last week that is 95% post-consumer cardboard and am hoping to receive some samples soon and see if I can bring my planner dreams into reality.
NQJC: Out of all the items you have made, what is your personal favorite and why?
I think that would be the calendar I offer every year-A Calendar of One’s Own. I love the combination of words and images and boxes and numbers on the pages, and knowing that I am creating something that might be used every single day. It is a challenge and a pleasure to find new quotes and images each year and to try to make them meaningful. I also enjoy sitting on the sofa while a watch a movie and threading the ribbon through the pages to bind them.That meeting of beauty and usefulness is powerful to me.
NQJC: Where would you like to see your business go? Any thing you can share with us about future plans for your business?
I am of two minds….in some ways, I would like to someday be doing mostly handmade, one-of-a-kind paper creations and perhaps have entered the world of painting and writing. On a practical level, tho’, if I continue to need to help take care of our family financially, I will continue to do what I am doing. And that has many, many rewards. For the near future, I am going to be focusing on paring down my line to all that is most useful and beautiful and can be made with the pared-down tools in my studio. As well, I will be adding many new things that have been bubbling up in my mind the last few months. I don’t want to just make things that will sell, I want to make things that answer a need. These are the simple needs of longing to stay close to those we love who are far away, keeping tabs on our own daily lives and enjoying the peace of an organized and expressive home.
NQJC: What is the hardest thing you have faced being a business owner of a web shoppe?
The hardest thing is definitely designing the website originally in 2003 and then redesigning and moving hosts in 2007. But there is such a feeling of accomplishment and a certain amount of pleasure in the graphic design aspect, that is really a mixed experience. I would say that getting new creations up on the website is the hardest thing on a regular basis. I try to think about the process (taking good photographs, writing the descriptions, inputting those things and all the other little bits of information into the website database, tweaking, tweaking, tweaking) as the final step in creating, but somehow smiling) that never seems to happen!
NQJC: Do you have any words of wisdom for women looking to opening their own business?
I don’t know that I do…..having only experienced it this one time (so far!). I am sometimes unsure about how much success depends upon wisdom and how much depends upon happy and sometimes unexpected meetings online and at shows….probably some mixture of both and more. So I guess I would say that in those early, heady days when you have an idea and are beginning to make it a reality, make sure that you are spending time figuring out the practical details of running a business while you are researching all the creative and pretty details. In that way, you will be ready for the opportunities that will undoubtedly come your way.
NQJC: Do you have a favorite artist? author?
Hmmmm….I could never pick a single favorite and the answers have definitely changed over the years. At this moment, Carl Larsson comes to mind (long-time favorite painter) specifically. And in general, I tend to love the work of women artists who lived fairly domestic lives, close to Nature, and yet had much to express through painting and drawing and writing. Famous women like Beatrix Potter and Emily Dickinson and then dozens of others that I first learned about in the old Victorias (and have the clippings in my beloved files) and continue to love to discover.
NQJC: Do you find it hard to merge home business with homemaking?
Yes, I really do. You know how home-making is endlessly deep? There is the first level of cleanliness and filling stomachs. But
it can go so far beyond that until you are learning about Celtic traditions, say, as you are planning a home celebration of the
first lighting of the fire in the fireplace. That is where home-making used to often take me, until I began my business. Since that
time, it has definitely been more of a balancing act than it had to be before. And I do miss having the larger spaces of time
to really clear out, plan and putter. But a business can be endlessly deep, too….and creative-like homemaking….so I feel really
grateful to have the dilemma.
NQJC: Tell us about your home. I imagine it is just overflowing with art and beautiful things you have made.
I hope that describes my booth at shows….but my home is actually pretty simple. It is an old house, some parts of it are 18th century and we have tried to take it back over the years we have been here to wood floors and creamy-white walls. I like to keep it spare and natural, but with the added richness of books, birds nests, shells and such. We do have a few old paintings and also beautiful pieces made by friends and family that we treasure. And amongst all the daily ephemera that collects on our tables and sofas and shelves, and even a garland or print that I have hung on our walls, you will find some of my creations….because most of the things I make for Small Meadow Press are things that I needed or wanted in my life. And I am so happy to know that others have felt the same way and that other homes-even around the world-have something I have made within them.
NQJC: Thank you Lesley! This has been such a pleasure. I want to personally wish you all the success imaginable for your Small Meadow Press!
Now I would like to announce the winner of the NotQuiteJuneCleaver Green Giveaway!
Drumroll please…………………………………………….Kathleen of Katydid and Kid
! I am sending you an email right away – I will need your mailing address to get your goodies to you!
Read Full Post »