Welcome to the Creative Mama series, where I chat with fellow mamas about their creative journey, the ins and outs of their craft, and how they manage the endless juggle of life, art, work and mothering. The idea behind the Creative Mama interviews is to gather stories from creative women who inspire me – women who are trying to carve space and time for their passions, often with small children at their feet; women who are juggling life and work and family and self, while trying to remember to laugh and seek joy through it all. My hope in sharing these stories is to create a sacred space for mothers and mothers-to-be – so you may feel connected, creative and confident, and ultimately inspired to follow your own dreams.
I first stumbled upon Lissa’s blog while searching for a handmade leather tote bag and I instantly fell in love with her idyllic lifestyle on Lopez Island, living in a small cabin with her partner and young son.
Lissa designs and sews a range of bags through her business Barnacle Bags and spends the rest of her time caring for Owynn, wandering their property, tending to the garden and chickens, and cooking in her gorgeous cabin kitchen.
You must pop over and visit her blog or follow her on Instagram (@lissasnapp) – for a city girl like me, I just can’t get enough of the beautiful scenes of everyday life surrounded by nature. I’m now constantly dreaming of my very own remote cabin, complete with its own green house and outdoor bath!
I hope you love reading the following interview with Lissa – the way she freely allows herself to have time away from mothering to work on her own creative passions is incredibly inspiring, and she has lots of wonderful advice and insight into running a business with a small babe.
Tell us a little about yourself… who are you, how many children do you have, what part of the world do you live in, what do you do?
Hello, my name is Lissa! I live on a small island off the coast of Washington State with my partner Alex and our eighteen month old son Owynn Grey. I have a small business designing and sewing bags known as Barnacle Bags.
Can you please tell us a little about your creative background and the journey that led you to creating Barnacle Bags?
I started Barnacle Bags in early 2010. I had never used a sewing machine before that and was gifted an old machine from a friend’s father that winter. I used that machine for about 2 years before upgrading. I started out sewing organic cotton drawstring backpacks because I was riding my bike a lot at the time and needed a simple pack for putting groceries in. That summer I began selling my cotton rucksacks at our local farmers market and then found Etsy. Slowly over time my business began growing. I began using new materials like waxed cotton canvas and leather which really changed the look of my bags. In 2011 I was featured on Etsy and that is really when it began to grow.
Did you face any challenges in establishing yourself creatively and starting your own business?
In the beginning I worked all the time, like 24/7, on Barnacle Bags. I barely had time to socialize and was just totally inspired by other Etsy sellers who had quit their day jobs and I dreamed to be like them. Within about a year of starting Barnacle Bags I too was working full-time on my business. Of course there were hard parts but I never really felt down about it. If I would have a slow month in the shop it can be hard, but then I work harder, like on new designs or take new photos of my bags to update the look of my shop. In the beginning there was just so much to learn from the craft to selling on the internet to blogging to marketing and so on… I was just too busy to take the time to feel challenged. I completely fell in love with being my own boss and have not looked back.
Describe your workspace and your work process. What does a typical day for you look like, from when you wake up to when you go to sleep at night?
Well, days are quite different for me now since I have a babe around. But a typical work week is now 4 days a week… We wake around 7:30. Alex makes a fire in our wood stove, I hop in the shower to refresh myself from the common sleepless nights (we co-sleep and Owynn still nurses throughout the night, hoping to change that soon but it will take time). Then Alex usually cooks a breakfast with eggs from our chickens, I dress Owynn, read him some books and then we all eat breakfast together. Then Alex is off to work around 9. I go out and feed the chickens with Owynn or tidy up the house for a bit and wait for one of Owynn’s amazing babysitters or grandmas to come watch him until about 2 in the afternoon. So I head over to the studio from 10-2. It is a building about 500 feet from our cabin which Alex built while I was pregnant. So I go in there, enjoy the peace for a moment, I respond to some emails and then quickly get to work sewing my bags. I usually listen to the news, music, or podcasts… I am loving the Woolful podcasts at the moment. It helps to keep me moving to have some good tunes or stories on. So then around 2 I head back to the house, meet up with Owynn, I eat lunch, after sometimes we go to the beach or just hang around the property. Around 4 I start prepping for dinner and then sometimes when Alex gets home around 4:30 I will head back into the studio for a bit before we have dinner around 7. After dinner we spend some more time outside and then get ready for bed. Owynn takes his bath and by 9 he is asleep and from about 9-11 I work on the computer, talk with Alex or just fall asleep soon after Owynn and start the whole day over again.
I love seeing your photos on Instagram and your blog of your gorgeous son Owynn and also snippets of your work and studio. How do you balance running your own business from home with motherhood?
It is really hard. I feel blessed that I do not have to leave my child all day long but working from home has its challenges. I took about 6 months off when Owynn was born and I had no idea how much time and energy my new little baby would take. I thought I could be working again from home when Owynn was about 3 months old and I was so wrong. Those first 6 months are such a precious time and important time for the baby and mom to bond so I fully wanted to be there and present for it all. By 6 months though I was missing my work and freedom. I was ready to slowly start getting back to work. I am still trying to figure out how to balance it all and honestly will probably forever be. I just try and really be present in whatever I am doing whether I am playing with my son or working on my bags. But it is hard… sometimes I go to the beach with Owynn and am sketching out ideas for my bags, or sometimes I will be cutting out fabric and wondering how Owynn is. I think it is the hardest part of being a mum but also being self employed… the work and thoughts never really end.
Barnacle Bags was already a successful business before you welcomed Owynn into your family. Did motherhood change your approach to your creativity and your work?
Yes, definitely. I changed many things. I am not taking on custom orders, I stopped making rucksacks for awhile as they took too long to make, I have changed my work flow around a lot so things are more streamlined, I am not making every bag to order – instead I have stock and if it runs out then it says “sold out” until I make that style again. Most of these changes I had been meaning to do for awhile but I just have such limited time in the studio these days I was pushed to make these changes faster then planned. Also, I have hired a friend once a week to cut and pin my bags which has been super helpful.
In running your own business from home do you struggle to carve time just for you? What do you do to “switch off”?
Ha, that does not exist anymore. As soon as Owynn is being watched I switch to the Barnacle Bags side of my brain but taking a hot bath or walk in the woods does the trick these days.
What inspires you?
Hmm… so many things. I am inspired all the time. Walking on the beach, people watching while in the city and seeing how they are using their bag, seeing all the amazingly talented makers out there through the internet. At night while falling sleep I often dream up bag designs.
Where do you turn to for a confidence boost or guidance?
Alex, friends, family and Etsy friends. Everyone in my life is so supportive of my business, it is really amazing. I think all my friends have at least purchased two of my bags. It is so important to have supportive people around you!
Is there anything you’re currently working on or looking forward to that you’d like to share?
Yes, I am working on a new zippered tote bag design and will be making rucksacks again this summer! Also I think in the Fall I will be making a backpack design for kids!
Lastly, do you have any words of wisdom to share for mothers who might be looking to work from home or start a small creative business of their own?
Just do it! It is hard, but I highly suggest doing it if you have the desire. I think, as a mom, taking time to keep your own identity and passions alive is so important to be a good mother. Of course being a mom is my number one job but I do not think I would be a very good mom if I was not running my own business and putting my creative energy into something I love. Look for help and find a good friend or sitter so you can have time alone each week to work on your business.
THE FAST FIVE
I’m currently reading… Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
The most delicious thing I ate recently was… homemade quiche baked by my mom
I’m dreaming of… how our little cabin will look after Alex finishes the bedroom addition
On a typical Saturday morning you’ll find me… cooking up waffles with my sweeties
If I could travel anywhere tomorrow I’d… ahh that is hard – there are so many places around the world I would love to go but I think a road trip along the west coast of the US and camping along the way sounds pretty fun right now!
Where can we find you?
+ WEBSITE www.barnaclebags.com
+ INSTAGRAM https://instagram.com/lissasnapp/