Comically sad and sometimes grotesque, the visions of artist Erick Knudtson are a new and interesting addition to the lineup of talented artists and makers at the upcoming Maker Market. New to the market scene, his cutout screenprints, printed  t-shirts, and original artwork are in his own words a ‘bit more art garage sale.’  This is a sale not to be missed as moving onward for this artist maybe in the near future.  Somewhat elusive and full of characters, artist Erick Knudtson shares some of his insights and life experiences from creating on the road to sitting still.

 

Maker Market: You are kind of hard to creep on the internet...is that intentional?

Erick Knudtson: Ha! It used to be somewhat intentional. Probably from watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day too many times. At the moment, I just don't spend a lot of time on social media and I have a pretty lazy web-presence because i would rather be working in the studio than marketing myself. It’s something I need to get better at. I’m not opposed to social media, it can just be a bit time consuming.

 

MM: Where are you from? How did you get here?

EK: I’m from Elkhorn, WI. I  went to school at UW-Whitewater and then traveled around for a couple years. Then I ended up in Milwaukee. Looking forward to traveling again and making art on the road.

 

MM: Where did you travel on your first trip? How did it influence your art?

EK: The most influential trip  was a couple years ago when I traveled with two very close friends for a year in a motorhome. We stayed at some residencies in Iowa and Tennessee, and moved around everywhere in between. It was incredible! Too many life changing experiences to even begin. A far as how it influenced my art, it made me realize that you don't necessarily need a studio to be an artist. You need to learn to work with what you've got and draw inspiration from every experience you encounter.

 

MM: Where would you travel to next? Are you a planner or a go with the flow kind of person?

EK: Not sure where or what is next. I will say that I've got a terrible case of wanderlust so hopefully I'll be moving around soon! Absolutely a "go with the flow" type person with anxiety flares when things don't go as planned!

 

MM: What mediums do you work in and do you favor some more than others?

EK: I’ve tried my hand at a lot of different materials. Painting and printmaking are my favorite mediums to work in. I’ve also worked on some animation projects in the past that have been a lot of fun.

 

MM: When and how did your creativity first bud? Were you a creative kid?

EK: I’ve always loved to draw. My middle school and high school didn’t have any kind of art program so I think that starved me in a good way. When I got to college I dove right in and have been drawing, painting, printing, etc… ever since.

 

MM: It is astounding that schools do not have art programs or that art programs are getting cut left and right. How do you think having more experience as a young person would have changed your outlook on art?

EK: It definitely would have been nice to be exposed to more art and creative processes at a younger age. Ironically, I am somewhat glad that I wasn't because it made me that much more hungry to experience every process I could at a later age. Having said that, I do think that it is terribly sad when it seems like the arts are the first to go in schools that need to make some cuts. The arts should be the last to go. Luckily there are a lot of creative programs outside of the public school system that can supplement to a certain extent.   

 

MM: What inspires the people you draw? Are they inspired by real people or inspired by the process?

EK: I wouldn’t say any of the pieces are “portraits” or are meant to portray any particular person. I start with a reference photo of some sort then tend to distort and exaggerate features because it makes the characters… well I guess it makes them become “characters”. It makes the figures playfully comical , yet somewhat unsettling. I’ve always like to juxtapoz the silly with the dire, laughter with sobs, the heavy with the light.

 

MM: As a newcomer to markets what can shoppers expect to see from you?

EK: I tend to be a little bit more art garage sale than craft fair. I will have t-shirts, cut out prints, buttons, postcards, and maybe a few other things.

 

MM: What is currently inspiring you? Art? Music? IG accounts? Movies?

EK: I guess as far as art is concerned, I’ve been looking at a lot of Hieronymus Bosch, Durer, the Flemish Primitives, Outsider art, and some contemporary artists. I follow a lot of skateboarding on IG so I guess that style makes its way into my work. I also love horror and sci-fi movies which definitely play into some of the ideas and aesthetic decisions in my work.

 

To find Erick Knudtson and his exclusive pieces come to this month’s Maker Market! To see more of Knudtson’s work go to http://erick-knudtson.squarespace.com

Posted
AuthorAshley Smith

Reclaimed wood is the medium and Eric Beneventi is the maker. His company Hounds Tooth Wood Werk takes inspiration from the material itself and the sky above. His handmade swings with inlaid constellations are beautifully crafted alongside more rustic live edge pieces. This juxtaposition is what really makes Hounds Tooth Wood Werk exciting and so fresh at each market. Beneventi speaks to Maker Market on how he got his start and how HTWW has truly evolved.

 

Maker Market: How did Hounds Tooth Wood Werk get started and what inspired your name?

Eric Beneventi: I started it as a creative gift giving outlet. I would make small kinetic sculptures using simple machines like levers, cranks, pulleys. These first pieces were from the heart and mimic my illustrations. I then started building furniture to furnish my own house, and a few small pieces for friends. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive feedback I got and decided to try my luck with selling it. The name was inspired by two things really. First my dog, a coon hound named Raisin. I still have the first tooth she lost. Secondly, an old phrase about a saw "as sharp and as clean as a hounds tooth".

 

MM: How were you first introduced to woodworking?

EB: My Grandfather first introduced me to woodworking as a child. He was a gifted woodcarver and I would watch him in his workshop or sitting out on the back porch as we talked about life lessons.

 

MM: How would you describe your aesthetic?

EB: My aesthetic is ever evolving. As my skill set has grown in the past few years, the feel and quality of my work has evolved as well. I started out doing very rustic reclaimed tables and have grown into more refined pieces with a rustic feel. I want to keep as much of  that feeling as necessary to highlight the other life the material has had.

 

MM: Where do you source your materials?

EB: As far as the materials I use, I try to come by most of it by accident.  I am more picky than I used to be. I would  pick up anything and everything I could get my hands on. Now I try to pick out wood with more history.  I have used reclaimed flooring from the Turner Hall and wood from the Avalon Theater remodel as well as oak barrels that Lakefront Brewery used to age their beers in. I have also been working with the Urban Wood Lab, they cut down trees in Milwaukee and turn them into wonderful live edge lumber.

 

MM: Do you find inspiration from the material itself? What about using reclaimed wood excites you?

EB:  I love the warmth, feel, and character that reclaimed wood has on its own. I try to keep that in doing as little processing as needed. The colors and defects from the natural weathering is what inspires me the most about this material.  

 

MM: What does your creative process look like? Where do you work out of?

EB:  Since I use reclaimed wood I come about the process differently than some other crafters.  The materials dictate what I can make. Some pieces are sitting around for a long time before they  "speak to me" and tell me what it would need to be to give it new life. Other times I know exactly what I want to make as soon as the materials come to me.

 

MM: Love the new swings! Have you got to swing on one of these beauties yourself?

EB: I have not personally tried them. The first two I made were gifts for my niece and nephew for Christmas last year and they seemed to love them. The newer ones I have for sale are inspired by constellations and each one has a different Mythical star formation inlaid on them.

 

MM: Do you create custom work? Any favorite projects of late?

EB: I mostly do custom work. It has been truly beneficial to speak to new customers at Maker Markets and most of my business comes from people seeing my work and contacting me about custom pieces in the days and weeks after each market.  My favorite projects are the custom live edge pieces I have done.

 

MM: What is currently inspiring you? Music? Movies? IG Accounts? Blogs?

EB: Inspiration hits me at the strangest times. I can’t pinpoint my ideas from any real media but a spark will always ignite from the star gazing and cloud watching. I’m really into the mysterious side of the universe and the unseen. I have just stumbled upon a very intriguing podcast called Tanis. I won't go into it but it’s quite bizarre.
 

 

 

 

Posted
AuthorAshley Smith

Pattern designer and illustrator, Allison Bielke  creates patterns full of life, color, and classic kitsch. Taking both inspiration from mid century mod and her travels in life, Bielke has created some amazing iconic patterns that can be seen all over Milwaukee. From her amazingly adorable Colectivo Coffee bibs to a holiday ornament made for the Milwaukee Art Museum, her work can be seen in so many different forms. Bielke designs can be bought by the yard which takes the creative process on a whole new journey. On her own journey, Bielke speaks about how she got started, Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and what is on the horizon.


 

Maker Market:  When and how did Allison Beilke Pattern Design and Illustration get started? 

Allison Beilke: For years I wanted to learn how to make patterns and design fabrics, but I really had no idea how to get started. I stumbled upon a textile designers blog 7 or so years ago and in her frequently asked questions someone asked her how to get started doing that kind of work. She directed them to spoonflower.com - a website that allows you to upload your own pattern designs, have them printed on fabric and shipped to you. Once I figured out how to make a repeat tile and ordered my first swatches, I was hooked. For a few years it was just a fun hobby, but then I created a design of Milwaukee's skyline for a city scape design contest and it later spawned into my own small business when I started getting some positive feedback on that design from quilters and other people in the community.

 

MM:  What kind of creative kid where you? Where you drawing at a young age?

AB:  Yes, I was drawing a lot as a kid.  I was lucky to have a family friend who lived down the street that gave me private art lessons.  I learned so much from her at a young age. 

 

MM: Many of your designs are holiday themed, including an ornament made for the Milwaukee Art Museum. Do you have a soft spot for such traditions? AB: Part of designing patterns for surfaces is determining what other people will want to see and purchase on products and the holiday market is huge.  I really enjoy designing patterns for the holidays that have a little bit of a different color scheme or a modern twist than traditional holiday designs.

 

MM: Your designs have a mid century lean. Is there something that draws you to the past?

AB: Yes!  I have always been drawn to mid century design.  I remember watching older Hanna-Barbera cartoons as a kid and being drawn to the bright colors and flat shapes, which to me looked more interesting than the highly rendered, detailed cartoons of the 80s.  Later I got more into the textiles and furniture design of that era and it's something that continues to inspire me.  I liked that this style of design is sophisticated and understated, but also full of character. 

 

MM: What does your creative process look like?

AB:  I usually start with sketches and an idea for one main pattern design and then sometimes I create other coordinating fabrics afterwards.  It's always fun to see what color schemes and collections can come from one design. 

 

MM: With your pattern designs a customer can order yardage. Do you get to see any of the finished products from customer purchases? Does it inspire and excite you to see what people do with your patterns?

 

AB: Yes!  I sometimes get to see people's finished products through social media and love seeing what people create!  One of the coolest parts of designing fabric is that it inspires other creative people to make things with it that I never would have though of!

 

MM: What has been your biggest seller?

AB: Definitely the My Fair Milwaukee design.

 

MM: What have you been working on lately? What can shoppers expect to see from you at the upcoming Maker Market?

AB: Last year my new item was tea towels with my Milwaukee pattern on it.  I am continuing to sell those along with other items like postcards, note cards and coasters.

 

MM: What is currently inspiring you? Music? Blogs? IG accounts? Artists?

AB: Traveling really inspires me!  One of my favorite things is coming back from a new city I visited, going through my photography and seeing what ideas I can come up with from there.


 

To see the My Fair Milwaukee print in person check out Allison Bielke and her work at the upcoming Maker Market on  Sunday June 19th at Colectivo Coffee in beautiful Bay View.

Posted
AuthorAshley Smith

From within dreams, literally, come the beautifully handmade pieces from AnnKat Designs. Metalsmith and creative entrepreneur, Ann Kathryn Kehoe puts so much time and energy into the design of each piece as well as what each piece truly represents.  Incorporating hidden messages and empowering energy into each design is a subtle, unique part of her process that adds a personal touch and connection between the artist and wearer. Between creating custom wedding jewelry to be worn til death and developing her own line, this busy maker took sometime to talk about her journey, her philosophy, and what is next for AnnKat Designs.

 

Maker Market: When and how did AnnKat Jewelry Designs get started?

Ann Kathryn Kehoe:   I started AnnKat Designs five years ago.  At the time, I was the lead jewelry designer for a company in Kansas City where I designed & fabricated hundreds of pieces. Although I worked in a studio all day, I craved creative freedom and wanted to explore my own design ideas.  I built up my own collection of tools, began playing around with some unique concepts and opened AnnKat Designs.  When I moved to Milwaukee a few years ago, I transitioned to working on my jewelry full-time and it’s evolved from there.

MM: What attracted you to metalsmithing? What is your workspace like?

AKK: I became interested in metalsmithing when I was 12. I met a jeweler at an art fair and would save up to buy gemstone rings from him every summer.  Over time, we developed a friendship and he taught me how to forge & manipulate metal. He inspired me to attend college for metals and I later apprenticed under several jewelers before taking on a design position.

I think what attracted me most to metals is the personal connection & sentiment that jewelry holds. I love the idea that I can create a piece of artwork that is intended to be touched and worn. I love that working with metals is challenging and takes a lot of patience, but what I love most is that there is always more to learn and improve on!

My studio is a humble and beautiful space in our home with lots of natural light. I have a workbench for each station: design prep, fabrication, soldering, polishing and shipping. Organization is my key to productivity, so I have a lot of shelving and keep it pretty tidy!

 

 

MM: Where do you take inspiration from?

AKK: I’m mostly inspired by nature, textiles, antiques, art, my dreams & music. I'm attracted to antiques and gain inspiration from vintage clothes and textile patterns, but at the same time I like to follow current artists working in other mediums besides metal to gain a fresh perspective. I'm also greatly inspired by my dreams. Often times, solutions to a project I'm stuck on will appear in a dream and sometimes an entire new design will come to me.  When I'm inspired by something, I'll take elements from it that I’m attracted to and approach the idea from my own perspective.

I think the most important part in the design process is to keep in check with my own vision and not get pulled into making something that feels fake or just fits a current fashion trend

MM: When selecting the gemstones for your pieces, what qualities are you looking for?

AKK: When selecting a gemstone, I look for it to have a nice balance of shape, size, quality, and color- but most of all the stone has to feel right! Basically, if I get inspired immediately from a gemstone, it’s coming home with me.

 

 

 

MM: How does symbology intersect with your aesthetic?

AKK: My work is full of symbolism, as every design has a meaning & empowerment infused into it. Every gemstone has it's own healing properties and I also like to include symbols and hidden words just for those who wear the piece.  A lot of my rings will have sayings on inside of the band, or images underneath the stone.  It is the wearer's choice to share with others or keep it to themselves for a little extra power.  I like to think these secret empowerment can breathe light into dark spaces and bring a little extra strength to the wearer.

 

 

MM: Do you do custom orders? Have any favorite custom pieces?

AKK: I love making custom designs. My favorite part is figuring out what the right design is for the customer.  The process usually starts with a few keywords, material/stone preference, and initial sketches, then it just evolves from there. Many of my custom designs are engagement rings, and I feel honored to make objects that hold so much meaning and sentimental value!

This 14K gold, amethyst & moonstone engagement ring is probably my favorite to date. This ring was designed for a woman who is a yoga teacher and we wanted to focus on the theme of balance. The number seven was symbolic, representing the 7 chakras & balance within the body. The Moonstone & Amethyst are symbolic of maintaining balance in mind & spirit, and the ring overall is symbolic of balance & everlasting love between the couple.  This ring was completely hand-fabricated out of 14K gold, with hand-engraved details on the edge of the band.  Even more unique, I made a gold midi ring that she wears as her wedding band.

MM: Are you currently working on new projects? A new line or lookbook?

AKK: I’m currently focusing on making one-of-a-kind, hand-fabricated designs combining cast elements, hydraulic die-formed pieces, mixed metals and unique gemstones.

You can expect to see many of these new pieces at the upcoming Maker Market, along with many new gemstone pendants and rings!

 


Join featured artist, Ann Kathryn Kehoe and AnnKat Designs at the upcoming Maker Market for Bay View Gallery Night this Friday from 5-10 pm.   Maker Market for Bay View Gallery night features a brand new line up of talented artists and makers for a truly unique shopping experience.

 

 

Posted
AuthorAshley Smith

     Quarter Saw is busting into Maker Market with wonderfully crafted and inspired home goods. Quarter Saw combines industrial and modern design to create pieces that are both beautiful and functional.  Owner and creator Scott Fleming has taken his youthful love of woodworking, passed down by his father, and started a blooming business dedicated to his unique style and high quality craftsmanship. This soon to be groom took a little time away from Quarter Saw and the insanity that is wedding planning to talk about his new business and the everlasting impact of Zelda.

maker market quarter saw triangles shelves handmade

MM: When and how did Quarter Saw get started?

Scott Fleming: After a failed start up in Arizona, I found myself out of a job back home with my parents.  I always loved woodworking as a hobby and figured I'd try to make some cash with it.

 

MM: Is Quarter Saw a full time gig or a side business?

SF: Even though it started out as a money making venture, it's now a side business for me.  I work a steady day job as VP of sales for a small electronics wholesaling biz outside of Milwaukee.  Electronics and woodworking don't exactly go hand in hand....or maybe I'm a Renaissance man.  It's all good.

 

MM: When and how did you pick up woodworking?

SF: My dad is a master woodworker by hobby; grew up on a farm, engineer, knows how to build just about anything.  From a small age I gravitated towards that and was operating a scroll saw by the time I was in 5th grade...mostly making Zelda swords and whatnot.  

 

MM: Where do you source your materials?

SF: Wherever I can find good stuff.  For big box stores it's mostly junk besides Menards. Craigslist has also been pretty fruitful for me. Just need to be willing to take a little drive out of the city.  My live edge slabs are from Hoppe Tree Service.

 

quarter saw for maker market record shelf handmade wood craft

MM: What are some of your top sellers?

SF:  My top sellers are, hands down, record stands.  Closely followed by essential oil diffusers and triangle shelves.  I've put up 2 live edge coffee tables and they've both sold which is awesome.  I'll have a black walnut table at the next market so hopefully somebody wants that one in their house too.

 

MM: How do you develop your designs? What is your process like?

SF: Creative process is really up and down for me.  Sometimes I want nothing to do with woodworking, other times I'll see something and immediately the gears start turning in my head.  My biggest motivator is probably just learning how to do new things, putting new tools in my belt is a great feeling.

 

oil difuser by quarter saw for maker market milwaukee

MM: How did you create your essential oil diffusers and their modern meets mad scientist design?

SF: Well organic chemistry was my favorite class in college so I do know my way around a Bunsen burner, but the idea was actually belongs to my fiancée- she's really into essential oils.  She basically said "hey you should make an oil diffuser" and the design is just what I came up with.

 

MM: Why do you think buying handmade and local makes a difference?

SF: I think buying handmade local is cool due to the personal nature of it.  Meeting people is awesome. This kind of stuff forces people to meet face to face and chat.  I like that.  It's easy to click a few buttons on Amazon and wait a couple days, but when you leave a market with something handmade you also go home with a story and a new friendship.  It's cool.

 

live edge handmade table by quarter saw for maker market milwaukee

MM: Will you be debuting any new products at the upcoming Maker Market?

SF: I'll be displaying my live edge black walnut table/bench with maple inlays.  It's pretty rad.  I had a lot of people asking me about benches at the last Maker Market.  I threw more rigid and sturdy legs on this table that can support a few people sitting on it.....and there you have it, a table/bench hybrid is born.

live edge maple table by quarter saw for maker market milwaukee

 

MM: What is currently inspiring you? Books? Blogs? Music? IG accounts?

SF: To be honest I'm getting married in less than 2 months so that's really been my focus lately!


 

In the market for a killer new record stand or a industrial but modern oil diffuser? Come see Scott and Quarter Saw at the upcoming Maker Market this Sunday in the parking lot of Colectivo in Bay View!

 

Posted
AuthorAshley Smith

    On May 15th, Maker Market welcomes the new season with a stellar roster of veteran artists and makers alongside some exciting fresh faces. Among these newcomers is one of the youngest creative entrepreneurs to ever set up shop at Maker Market.  Eleven year old Mara Gramling, of Dye Young, will be offering shoppers hand dyed and one of a kind t-shirts for the fashion forward. With creative luminaries for parents, Mara is following in their footsteps but in her own unique and youthful voice. This busy lady took some time away from school work to spill the beans on how she started Dye Young, Arnold’s face, and the inspiration behind her wild designs.

 

milwaukee maker crafter craft handmade

Maker Market: How did you come up with the name Dye Young and when did you start making?

Mara Gramling: I have been making crafts and selling them since November 2014 when my school Highland Community School had a holiday craft fair. The first products I made were ceramic magnets. Then this past November for Highland's craft fair, I decided I wanted to make t-shirts and my mom said she would help me because she likes dying and printing and stuff like that. We were brainstorming names for my business and my dad came up with the saying "live fast, die young."   Then I said "print fast, dye young" and then I just shortened it to Dye Young.

 

MM: Can you describe what you make and what methods you use?

MG: I make wild colorful creative t-shirts in men, women, kids, and baby sizes. I make them unique by dying them using different tie-dye methods and bleach methods. I also print on them using stencils and stamps that I make myself.

 

handmade craft paint dye art

MM: What about hand dyeing gets you the most excited?

MG: I am excited by the colors! I like choosing colors to dye with according to the color that the shirt is already. Tie-dye and shibori (a method my mom taught me where you fold and clamp the shirts in certain ways) always gives you a surprise! It's super cool to unfold the shirts after dying and be see the patterns you made!

 

MM: How would you describe your style? Do you wear your own designs?

MG: My style is just being comfortable. That’s all I care about! Yes, I love wearing my weird shirts!

 

MM: Where do you get the shirts that you print on?

MG: All the shirts that I use for my business are second-hand and most of them I get from Value Village because it's really close to our house so we can walk. We use second-hand shirts because it's good for the environment.

 

shibori art craft milwaukee maker independent fun

MM: If you could pick one person to wear and represent Dye Young who would it be and why?

MG: If I could choose anyone to wear Dye Young I would choose Arnold Schwarzenegger because it would look really funny to see him wearing a colorful shirt with his big serious face. Also, I also couldn't think of any other good celebrities and I'm just watching the Terminator right now.

 

MM: Why did you want  to start your own business?

MG: I started my own business because I needed something important to do other than schoolwork because it's boring... and I want to make money.

 

MM: What are you gonna spend all your dough on?

MG: Some of my money I will reinvest into my business and pay my mom back for all the shirts she bought for me. The rest of it I'll save for something big, I don't know what it is yet. Also, Mom and Dad make me give 10% of all my money to charity all the time. I am going to give to the Humane Society. Oh! and I'll buy myself and my brothers popsicle every time the paleta cart guy comes by our house this summer!

 

MM: What has been inspiring you lately?  What are you watching, listening to, reading??

MG: I am inspired by colors and I get ideas for designs from things that I see in books and stuff. Right now I'm watching The Terminator movies like I already mentioned. My favorite album is the new Animal Collective. I like to read graphic novels. I read a lot of manga. I am inspired by illustrations I see.


 

To meet the creator and designer Mara Gramling and shop the  exciting Dye Young line don’t miss the Maker Market spring opener on Sunday May 15th in the parking lot of Colectivo in Bay View.

 

Posted
AuthorAshley Smith

A pet is a family member, a loyal companion, and truly a best friend. Pets can add joy and happiness to the lives we lead. In the same vein they can be totally weird and sometimes hilarious. Pets have personality. Valerie Miller, founder of WowieGoods, knows the love and loyalty and also the comedy that pets bring. Partnered with nostalgia for the classic “Best Friends” necklace, she created a line of pet tags that can be shared between two pets or pet and owner. These hand stamped tags allow the owner to show off their pups attitude with charm. Between volunteering and hanging with Ernie, Jake, and Pickles, Miller took some time to talk about her relationship with animals and the fun she is having with WowieGoods.


 

Maker Market: When and how did WowieGoods get started?

Valerie Miller: My fiancé, Ryan, and I bought a house and fused our dog families together about 2 years ago. Prior to that, my dog Pickles hadn't been the nicest to his dog Ernie. Once we moved into our new house, that all changed and they started to get along very well. One day I looked at Pickles and Ernie and I said to Ryan, "Do you think they'd wear those Best Friends broken heart necklaces if they could?" "You know, the ones from the 90's." And then I thought....why not? So, I started making Best Friends sets for dogs.  Then, I realized everyone's dog is their best friend, so why not make a set for a human and dog to share and wear too. Shortly after, I decided I should offer more, so I started thinking of some more unique tags to make. We've got 3 dogs, I'm involved in dog rescue, and most of my friends have dogs, so it wasn't hard to come up with new sayings to stamp on the tags – inspiration was everywhere. This all happened about a year ago. I opened my Etsy shop in April of 2015.

 

MM: Is WowieGoods a hobby at the moment and if so would you like to turn it into a full time gig at some point?

VM: It's a hobby/side business at the moment, but I think my ultimate dream would be to be able to do WowieGoods part-time and still work as a graphic designer part-time, which is my full-time gig now. When I started, I was mostly driven by the fact that I thought the Best Friends idea just had to be done. I didn't pursue it in order to make money, but it's been nice to be able to tackle some projects that come along with buying a home.


MM: What inspired you to make pet tags and what is your process like?

VM: Pickles and Ernie were the ones that really inspired me. From there, Ryan and I would randomly think of other sayings for the tags. Usually it just happens at our house. Pickles will be doing something crazy and I'll look at her and say, "you're such a weirdo" and then realize that "weirdo" would be a good tag to stamp. I also get a lot of suggestions from customers when I'm out at local events. That's very helpful and I appreciate their input.


MM: How were animals a part of your upbringing?

VM: As a child, we had a dog, but now that I look back on it, my family didn't know what they were doing at the time. She was loved, but we could've done a better job raising her correctly. My connection and passion for dogs didn't really blossom until about 7 years ago when I started volunteering with MADACC (Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission). I started walking the dogs at the shelter and also got involved in advocacy for MADACC's animals and especially pit bulls. Walking the dogs and interacting with the poor animals at MADACC definitely taught me a lot about the connection a pet makes with a person and vice versa. I was always astonished when I'd see dogs that were clearly abused, with actual scars, possibly from being forced to fight, and those dogs were always the happiest to see humans. It made no sense to me. Here I was, the species that did that to the poor animal, and yet, the dogs still loved unconditionally, and wagged their tails with excitement. These dogs didn't know me, but within 5 minutes most of them would nuzzle up to me as if I had been in their life for years. The ability for an animal to immediately love and trust like that is amazing. Humans certainly aren't capable of that.


MM: Do you think that the relationship between humans and their pets has changed for your generation?

VM: Absolutely. Just think about how many restaurants/bars/hotels allow dogs now – it's great! More people are treating their pets as family and that makes me very happy. I think the rise in adoption has influenced this as well. Rescuing a pet can bring a different kind of connection, especially in cases where you really did save their life or rehabilitate them. I didn't even know there were dogs in need like that when I was growing up. Where I lived, you either bought a dog at the pet store or got a puppy from a farmer who's dog had given birth. I'm so glad people are bringing their pets inside and caring for them as best they can. Statistics show just that. My full-time job is also pet-related. I'm the graphic designer for a company that makes dog treats and grooming products, so I'm also aware of how much money people are spending on their pets theses days, and that number keeps climbing.

 

MM: Is there a special pet that has your heart at the moment and what tag is your pet rocking?

VM: I have 3 special dogs in my heart and home. They all have one of my custom ID tags right now. They read, "I'm a Jake," "I'm a Pickles," and "I'm an Ernie" on the fronts, and my phone number is on the back. I hate to admit it, but my orders come first, before my own pups. I actually didn't make those for them until about a month ago!


MM: What are some of your top sellers?

VM: The Humper & The Humped (set for two dogs), Best Friends sets - particularly the bones, Ladies Man, Mom's Favorite, Dad's Favorite, I Got a Second Chance, Big Brother, Big Sister, and Dumb & Dumber (two pet set).


MM: You take custom tag orders. Have you had any hilarious requests?

VM: I most recently had a custom request for a tag that says, "slut." I thought it was good enough to keep in the rotation, so that will be a regular now.


MM: Will you have any new and exciting new offerings at the upcoming Maker Markets?

VM: I definitely have more variety. I did add 2 new shapes since the last market - I have badges and bone sets now. One badge says "Fun Police" and there is also a 2 badge set, "Sheriff & Deputy." The bone sets are Best Friends sets - your dog shares half of his bone with his best doggy friend. I also have refined my process and found the best materials so I'm more confident with all of the products.


MM: You also use your business to spread the word about animals in need. Are there organizations or causes you would like to recognize for rescuing animals in the Milwaukee area?

VM: As I mentioned before, MADACC is Milwaukee area's neediest shelter. Many people aren't even aware that MADACC exists. It is a government agency, with a non-profit (Friends of MADACC) support system. There is a physical facility (35th & Burnham) and they have officers that canvas Milwaukee county as well, picking up stray, abandoned, and abused animals. They currently rescue and assure safe, temporary shelter, basic veterinary and humane care for over 12,000 stray, unwanted, abandoned, mistreated, and injured animals each year –– more than any other animal control organization in Wisconsin. Unlike other facilities, MADACC will take all animals, even ones that are sick, injured, and who may exhibit unsafe behavior, because those animals need a place to go too. Rescue groups and humane societies pull some animals from MADACC and then adopt them out, but not all animals get pulled and that's one of the reasons the shelter is so full. My own Pickles (as seen in the WowieGoods logo) was picked up as a stray but no owner came forward for her. She was passed up by rescue groups and humane societies and spent over a month at MADACC. She was scared, and possibly formerly abused, and all she needed was love and patience. She is a completely different dog today.

I also volunteer with Canine Cupids rescue group. The majority of the dogs we take into rescue come from MADACC. Cupids is a foster-based rescue group, meaning there is no physical shelter. We rely on foster families that open their homes, time, and love to these dogs. The foster families work with dogs to help them adjust to living in a home, often with other animals. They help train and socialize them so they are ready for adoption. Cupids takes a lot of dogs with medical issues, treats them, and nurses them back to health so they have a better chance at finding their forever home.

Here's my plug....if you have ever considered fostering a dog or cat, I strongly encourage you to reach out to MADACC or Canine Cupids. Fosters SAVE LIVES and make room in the already overcrowded shelters. OR if you're looking to adopt, check out their available animals.


MM: Where can people find Wowie Goods outside of Maker Market?

VM: WowieGoods has a store on Etsy and aftcra and can also be found in the following local stores:

Sparrow Collective

Central Bark Menomonee Valley

Orange Gallery

Hammer Down Shop

Roost at Lynndale Farm

MM: What is currently inspiring you? Blogs? Movies? Music? IG accounts? Ect?

VM: Mostly the dogs - my own, my friends' dogs, dogs I see on Facebook and Instagram.


Find Valerie and WowieGoods at the upcoming Maker Market at Discovery World this Saturday March 5th. And to all the tiny dogs out there…..Spring is almost here!

Posted
AuthorAshley Smith

 It is easy to watch magical things happen when you are near Flying Ox Creations. Rachel Lewis’s felt masks, wings, and tails can turn any kid into a superhero, a dragon, or a kitten. These quality handmade costumes foster the imagination and spark creative play. In a high tech world it is a delight to see how simple it is to excite and engage children and adults alike. With a focus on soft textures and a penchant for humanitarianism, Flying Ox Creations is a simple concept with a lot of substance. Busy bee and creator, Rachel Lewis, took some time to dig a little deeper on what it means to don a mask and transform.
 

Maker Market: How and when did Flying Ox Creations start?

Rachel Lewis: My daughter can be really sensitive to the way things feel, and mass-produced costumes tend to make her itchy and super crabby. But she loves to dress up, so what is a mama to do? I made a couple sets of butterfly wings and a flamingo Halloween costume for her a couple years ago and then started giving them away to friends and family. I realized that I really LIKE making costumes, and a business was born.  I put up an Etsy shop last March, so officially, I started not quite a year ago.

 

MM: How did you come up with the name Flying Ox Creations?

RL: Without getting too much into the specifics, I feel like oxen pop up a lot in my life. And I like them – they’re a solid, hard-working, get-things-done kind of animal, and these seem like good aspirational qualities for someone whose thoughts are usually bouncing around in a million directions. But I also love the idea of one of these strong, earth-bound creatures getting wings and a chance to fly. It’s a silly visual that brings me joy.  

 

MM: What inspired you to start making kids masks and costumes?

RL: In an increasingly digital world, there are so many really cool ways to play that involve technology – but it’s also so important for kids to engage in imaginative, creative, active play.  I want this for my daughter, and for as many other kids as I can stick my costumes on! Additionally, having a child who is sensitive to the way things feel showed me that there is a hole in the costume market – and while my masks/tails/wings are not necessarily specifically for kids with sensory issues, I want them to be comfortable and wearable for all kids, especially those who may have trouble finding something comfortable at a large retailer. I was also unimpressed by the quality of a lot of the mass-produced costumes I was seeing – kids play hard, and from a parental standpoint, it really sucks when that thing your kid is in love with falls apart after a little while.

 

MM: How do you decide what to make? Can you describe your creative process?

RL: My daughter is full of suggestions, and as she is my target demographic I really appreciate her input. I try to pick animals that have distinct, easily-identifiable facial characteristics that will translate well to felt. And then I look at a bunch of pictures of the animal, including cartoons, draw them out on paper, trace onto felt, cut, sew, make adjustments, repeat. Everything is hand-cut, and I do most of the sewing on the machine. It’s a really fun challenge to take something that is originally 3-D, the animal, and translate it to the 2-D flat mask.  In a way it will become 3-D and animated again when the wearer puts it on their face.

 

MM: Did you play “dress up” as a kid? What kind of kid were you?

RL: I did, yes. I don’t think I ever in my life had an actual store-bought costume, and my mom was kind of a wizard at turning household items into costume props. We lived in Yemen, where you couldn’t just pop over to Target and get a superhero costume, so we had to get creative. I also spent a TON of time with my nose in a book, and I really liked stories that featured talking animals or time-travel.

 

MM:  What do you think it is about putting on a mask that fosters imagination?

RL: I think that when you put on a mask, you get to be something or someone else for a minute, and we ALL want a chance to escape our own identity from time to time. Obviously, you can pretend to be a lemur without having a lemur mask on your face, but I think the mask is a little spark that gives you permission to really go for it.

 

MM: Last year you donated 10% of your profits to Big Home Academy. Can you describe your connection to this school in Ethiopia and why you decided to donate to it?

RL: We went to Ethiopia last year to visit my sister and her family, who live in Addis Ababa. The gentleman who started Big Home Academy works as a guard at the international school where my sister works, and she has gotten to know him that way. We visited BHA, and I was blown away by the love and passion I felt there. Basically, the founder is just a regular guy who saw a dire need for a school in his very low-income community and  works really hard to make it happen. He is not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but he is so committed. He inspired me, and I wanted to help, even in just a small way. Getting to play dress-up is kind of a luxury compared to having a safe place to learn.

 

MM: What are some of your top sellers?

RL: Pink and purple kitties, all the live long day.

 

MM: Will you have any new and exciting offerings at the upcoming Maker Market?

RL: Yes! Super adorable bunnies and carrots for Easter baskets (down with jelly beans, up with masks!) Also making their Maker Market debut are beavers, lions, giraffes, cows.


MM: What is currently inspiring you? Music? Film? Blogs? IG accounts? ect…

RL:  The list is long. We watch a lot of Wild Kratts in this house, and I would be lying if I said they didn’t inspire some of my animal choices.  I have a life-long love of National Geographic and am straight-up obsessed with the National Geographic IG feed. There are so many unbelievable artists on IG – a few I especially love are @helenahpornsiri, who makes the most insane illustrations out of pieces of fern and @blrothshank, an incredible miniaturist. The Milwaukee Public Museum.  Anything narrated by David Attenborough. Richard Scarry books. Lots of kids books, actually. I think that masks make beautiful gifts when paired with a book about the same animal. It’s really fun for me to look at books and think about masks that could go along, and vice versa.


Find Rachel Lewis and Flying Ox Creations at the upcoming Maker Market this Saturday at Discovery World.  Or to find these amazing adorable creations online head to https://www.etsy.com/shop/Flyingoxcreations

Posted
AuthorAshley Smith