Tell us a bit about yourself.
My husband calls me sweetheart and my kids call me mama. To everyone else I’m Janel. I was copy editing college textbooks up until two years ago when my fifth pregnancy made me unusually sick. I decided not to pick up copy editing again and found myself looking for another way to fulfill myself that would complement my role as a mother. I had made simple hooded towels modeled after a baby gift I received for my first son, but certainly hadn’t thought of trying to sell them. A year ago my sister-in-law encouraged me to try a craft fair, but I was hesitant. I had been to craft fairs and seen hooded towels; if I was going to do it, my towels would have to be unique.
I stood in the store among all the different colors of towels with my then 11-year-old daughter taking notes. We filled the cart with what would become a dinosaur, ladybug, dog, monkey, frog, duck, pig, and flower. I went home and started sketching patterns. I sewed. And sewed. And sewed. RubaDub Buddies was born.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
It seems everything I do involves creating — whether it’s my hooded towels or a home with some semblance of order. Breakfast is followed by showers and shoe-finding adventures, sprinkled with occasional power struggles, somehow by 7:35 clothes are on, hair is done, teeth are brushed, lunches are made, backpacks are loaded, and we have family prayer to send them out the door for the bus. I’m out the door right behind the kids to go walk an hour with the ladies — four friends who teach me how to be a better woman, wife, and mother.
What first made you want to become an artist?
I’ve never really considered myself an artist. But I guess if an artist is someone who makes something to express their creativity in a unique way and bring joy to others, I’m an artist. I receive such satisfaction when I create. I just imagine the smiles and happiness shared when my creations are given as a token of love. I’m so grateful for this opportunity to bless and enrich the lives of others.
Please describe your creative process.
When an idea comes to add another Buddy to the family, nearly everything else goes. I’ve caught myself scheming while standing in the grocery store line, making dinner, or listening to my first-grader read. How to make the caterpillar’s stripes? Where to place the ladybug’s spots? How to make the shark’s dorsal fin stand up? After I’ve schemed in my mind, I begin sketching on paper and cutting out the parts. I don’t have a set time of day that I sew, I mostly squeeze it in wherever it will fit. And with sewing comes unpicking, although it’s especially challenging with the terry cloth! But it’s worth it when I figure out the perfect placement for ears or crowns after sewing, unpicking, sewing, and unpicking again. Sometimes the creative process can be a bit overwhelming. But I’ve learned that one of the challenges of embracing this creative streak is keeping a balance between it and my ultimate responsibility of cultivating a happy home. You’d never guess by looking at the final product that it was created amidst phone calls, mothering, or in the corner of a small three-bedroom home.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Certainly not an easy question. I guess I’d have to say the plaster molds of my newborns’ hands. They’re lined up in their birth order, each in its own glass dome on top of my television armoire. I clearly remember the unique experience of making each one. Some took several attempts and others came out perfectly on the first try. They signify what a miracle life is — such a creation to be cherished.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
Keep your shop fresh. Add listings frequently to keep your items at the top of potential customers’ searches. And utilize your tags. Don’t be afraid to be specific as well as general. Also, get involved in the Etsy community. Create treasuries. Participate in the Forums. Get to know your fellow Etsians. We can learn a lot from each other.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
The Forums are incredible. You can get lost in all that is there! It really shows that Etsy tries to help its vendors help each other. A new feature I would love to see is the ability to enter a coupon code at checkout.
How do you promote your work?
I have a blog and a Facebook page. Much of my exposure comes from reviews and giveaways with “mommy bloggers.” I send a towel of the blogger’s choice, which in turn she reviews. Then one of her readers enters to win a free Buddy of choice. I have a list of interested bloggers and when things get slow, I contact the next in line in order to boost my business. And it works. I also contacted a local magazine about doing a feature, which happily agreed to run pictures and an interview. I was ecstatic with how it turned out.
In ten years, where would you like to be?
I hope to still be making Buddies, but in a sewing room with shelves of colored towels just waiting to become a critter for a child to love!