You guessed it - Harmony Art turns 12 this month! I am so incredibly blessed and amazed - My HEART is overflowing with gratitude for the freedom, creativity and flexibility Harmony Art has afforded me the last 3 years. The kind, thoughtful, caring people I have met along the journey have been inspiring and encouraging. What more could a gal ask for? THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
My very first textile job was designing pajamas for Karen Neuburger (KN). One of my first assignments was to create an "election print" for the 2000 election. I was told that they wanted 3 prints that were identical except that the color and the animal would change. They wanted a donkey, elephant and eagle (for the reform party). It ended up being a huge PR campaign with all the candidates and their wives getting complimentary pajamas of their parties. KN also sent pjs to our local female Senators. I was told that Barbara Boxer liked them so much she purchased a pair for every woman in the Senate! They even were worn in Chicago down Michigan Ave in a "get out the female vote" parade. I don't know if the President of the United States ever slept in his pjs or not.
It's hard to believe that was 17 years ago (design was done in 1999)! What a wild and crazy journey this has been.
I hope EVERYONE reading this will vote in next month's election!
I'm happy to say Whispering Grass is back and in a new colorway. This time it's orchid and comes with a coordinating solid Orchid color. Of course I love all of my fabrics but this one is nearer and dearer to me than any other. Why? Well, it is one of the first organic cotton fabrics we ever printed. Back in 2005, our first print run was done in South Carolina and we printed 3 designs: Whispering Grass (aqua), Sweet Jane (pink) and Eyes of the World.
My husband and I flew to South Carolina to oversee and take some film footage of the printing. I remember it was SUPER hot and humid at the plant. I was young and naive. My husband still had long hair and so did I.
I remember being stunned by the size of the machinery. Pictured above is just ONE part of the process. I remember the colorist was a gem. The plant manager. . . a good ole boy. I'm sad to report this plant and the second USA printer we used have closed down. This print run pre-dated GOTS. When we did this printing we were truly the first company to bring color and design to organic fabrics and offer it to home sewers and small businesses. Now, I can't keep track of all the new organic fabric lines there are so many. Now, we have GOTS which keeps the standards high and consistent. Now, we have an Orchid colorway of THE original Harmony Art design. I hope you enjoy it. It's been some journey. . . and so it continues. . .
It was September 8th, 2006 when our first rolls arrived at this warehouse in South Carolina. For the last 7+ years Peggy has been inventorying and shipping Harmony Art's organic fabric to our customers.
What a godsend she has been. Her attention to detail, quick turn around and responsiveness have been truly outstanding. She has been a joy to work with. I have had plenty of challenges creating and producing organic fabrics over the years but I can honestly say NONE of those challenges were ever with my warehouse. I believe Peggy is responsible for my ability to write that. The older you get the more you value and respect the people in your life you can count on.
Late last year the warehouse was sold to a new owner. They were smart enough to keep Peggy on but sadly they wanted my space for another customer and so the story goes. We are grateful to have found a new location in the northeastern part of the country (Connecticut to be exact) to hold and ship our fabric.
Today our organic fabric was ALL loaded into a truck for its journey northward.
I am excited and sad about the move. I know with any changes there are challenges to overcome but I am looking forward to a new relationship with a new warehouse. Peggy has left some big shoes to fill.
In the words of Dr. Seuss:
“Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”
I'm smiling, Peggy. I wish you a wonderful rest of the year! You deserve a great one and you will always be an important part of the Harmony Art story.
When I took the exam to get my CBEST back in the early 90's the essay topic I had to write about was "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
Last night I watched the Academy Award winning 1982 movie Gandhi. In it, Gandhi's wife, Kasturba Gandhi states:
"There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness."
Wow. More than 30 years after the movie and perhaps 100 years after the words were uttered and that still rings true. When Kasturba said it, she was referring to the British landowners who were pushing the cotton farmers into debt. The British left India and the chemical (and seed) companies moved in.
Today, it is estimated that an Indian cotton farmer commits suicide every 8 hours. Here's a 5 minute video that explains the situation in more detail. A longer movie worth watching is Bitter Seeds.
Gandhi spoke to the humanity in us all. . . I wonder what it will take to hear the message this time around ? Are we destine to keep exploiting people and planet or will we eventually wake up to the reality that we are all much more deeply connected than we realize?
I must say that I feel really happy that Harmony Art supports organic (non-gmo seed) cotton farmers in India. It makes me feel connected to this bigger story we are all writing together. Individually we may feel insignificant but together we are mighty. Gandhi taught us that too.
I am often asked, "How do you come up with your designs?" Almost all of them start with a hike. I find nature to be an unlimited source of design inspiration. When I hike with the Thursday Ramblers I almost always have my camera with me and snap away at anything that grabs my attention. My most recently released fabric is called Stornetta after the land the flowers were found on. It's a magical place with fields, bluffs, cows, ocean views, a waterfall into the ocean, huckleberries, a spooky Halloween tree and much more.
Sometimes it's a plant, a texture on a stump, a flower -- really the design can start with most anything. In this particular case, the flowers on the hike beckoned to be put into a designs and I listened. . .
I have about 100 designs created and yet to be printed. How do I pick which is next? Sometimes I turn to my friends -- the ones who actually know what Harmony Art is and does -- that care and understand and maybe even sew.
In the case of Stornetta, Mary Sue and Bob picked it out. Their confidence and support of Harmony Art has been a constant source of strength and encouragement. So when they requested Stornetta in blue -- well, so be it! For the second colorway I turned to my facebook fans for suggestions and votes. They spoke too and I listened. I really love have having so many people involved. The journey is indeed the prize. Now the fun and patience begins as I wait to see what YOU create with it.
Messaging. What is it and what is important? Well, before we can really talk about messaging I think you have to take a few moments to answer these basic questions:
1. Who is your audience?
2. How are they finding you?
3. What do they already know?
4. What do they want to know?
5. How are is your business different than other companies like yours?
I think it is a worthy project to spend some time answering these 5 questions. Visualize your answer to #1. Give them an imaginary (or real) name and background. [I'm going to use the name Madge.] Create a realistic scenario for #2. Make them real. Now that you know who you are talking to, all of your "messaging" should then focus on confirming #3, expanding #4 and telling them about #5.
From my personal experience the first people interested in organic fabrics are new mothers. They want to surround their precious little one with the best. Sure we could talk about increased asthma & allergies linked to standard formaldehyde finishes and flame-retardants that have been linked to cancer. I think these things ARE important, but this can't be your only message. Guilt and fear grab attention but they don't make us feel good. They don't bring joy into our lives. Education is important but in my ideal world it's the back story not the headline.
Take a look at your web site, etsy page, facebook page, blog, etc. Are you talking to "Madge"? Telling her/him something new? Boring them? Lecturing them? My guess is that you created your business because you saw a need in the market. A hole that you were willing and able to fill. This means you could/may be talking to a person just like you! If that's the case, you don't have far to go to find out if the "message" resonates. Feel free to ask honest (kind) friends or better yet, current customers, to give you their feedback. People love to have their opinions heard. Ask. Listen. Speak - softly, kindly, intelligently. Don't try to be perfect. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know something or that you were wrong about something. You are not perfect, so just do your best at this moment in time. Be human. Be kind. Most importantly ENJOY the process. It's YOUR business so be about making it worth YOUR time and energy.
Yes, fear is an attention grabber. Did the photo get your attention? Personally, I am sick of fear. Give me beauty, joy, love and hope over fear any day of the week.
Meet Monique - the force behind our European distributor Pure Fabricz! Pure Fabricz is based in The Netherlands and has been handling our EU distribution since 2009. As luck (synchronicity) would have it, Monique was looking for colorful, appealing organic cotton bedding. She was frustrated when all she could find was beautiful shades of oatmeal and granola. Undaunted she decided she could make her own bedding. Her search for wide-width organic cotton fabric lead her to Harmony Art.
It was at this exact same time our European distributor was relocating to the Ukraine and was closing her shop. Instead of simply making a set of bed sheets Monique jumped into the fabric business! (She is someone who is not afraid of a good challenge from time to time.) Monique studied at fashion school, so she knew her way around a sewing machine. Prior to this career move she had several jobs, from shop manager to executive secretary. In addition, she is a volunteer at a local animal shelter where she is the editor of their quarterly magazine and the cat photographer!
Since their start in 2009 they have grown into a webshop (Pure Coverz) and wholesaler. They recently moved their business to a new premises with enough space to grow further. Pure Coverz sells all different organic cotton items for the home; bedding, home, bath and kitchen textiles.
The fabrics are now to be found throughout Europe in shops and webshops. Pure Fabricz has helped numerous small designers create the most beautiful garments with it.
It is a pleasure and joy to work with Monique. She is thoughtful, compassionate, detail oriented and a total sweetheart. I truly am the luckiest girl in the world. We wish Pure Fabricz a wonderful new chapter in their expanded (and organized!) location. If you have any friends in Europe looking for organic fabric, please refer them to Monique.
[NOTE: Pure Fabricz has THE largest selection of Harmony Art organic fabrics!]
"All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure."
- Mark Twain
I have often said I had no business going into business. My background (education) is in Human Services (aka social work) and although I had a successful career designing textiles before launching Harmony Art organic design, I had zero business training. When I say zero, I mean zero. I did not take one business class in college.
What I did have was the two things noted above: ignorance and confidence. I had NO idea what I was getting into. I actually think in some strange way not knowing is helpful. You can't get freaked out by things you haven't thought about. You simply face them as they arrive at your doorstep.
With this series of blog posts I plan to examine some of the right moves and some of the wrong ones I have made. For the record, I refer to my costly mistakes as my personal investment in my MBA (the hard way). Please feel free to comment or email me with your own reactions, questions or struggles. What I do know is that we are not alone no matter how it may feel that way at times.
I think many of us struggle with this puzzle. My next post or two or 10 or more will share with you some of my experience of juggling life and home and entrepreneurship. I also plan to use this space to answer as many business questions as I feel able to, so feel free to send me your questions. Let the journey venture forth. . . thanks for coming along.
Founder of Harmony Art organic design.