babies and business

I think I have always harbored a baby on the doorstep fantasy. Baby in the garden is even sweeter.

ready for fall-


the design goes around the back-


flowers and vines-


around the side, but the back is plain-


There is another one coming- lilac blanket.

I often brood on my lack of enthusiasm for the business and marketing end of doing “craft work”. I have spent a lot of time this year, trying to do the marketing thing and as a result, have produced much less work. I think of myself as an artist, not a small business person. The selling of my work is a chore that has to be done because otherwise I would fill the house and I’d have no money to buy stuffing. Selling is not why I do it.

It is hard for me to send out a doll to someone who has bought it from a photograph- like from Etsy. I worry that it will not be what they were expecting. I am always grateful (and relieved) when I hear from buyers who let me know that they are happy with their purchase. I find it very stressful to sell in person, doing craft fairs and the like, so that doesn’t solve the problem. I have always thought of my work more like kittens then merchandise- I want it to go to a good home where it will be loved.

That brings me to the subject of commissions. I am bad, bad, bad at doing commissions. On the one hand, someone asks me to make something for them, I am happy and flattered and I want to please them. Then, if I say yes, I spend the whole time I am making the piece, feeling like they are sitting on my shoulder, second guessing every design decision I make. I can not seem to keep their voice out of my head. I seem incapable of reproducing one of my pieces- which is often what someone asks for. The face I made on Monday will not show up again on Friday. Especially if I am trying to do it! The only direction that I can work with is color- that isn’t a problem for the most part. Know thyself- a life long learning challenge. This is a rambling apology, and excuse I guess, to the most recent frustrated and probably very pissed off person I have dealt with.

Now, I should go back up to my attic and get back to work. Making stuff makes me happy.

30 thoughts on “babies and business

  1. Making stuff is fulfilling. Everything else gets in the way of that. Cheers to you. I hope you feel less frustration in the future. :0)

  2. I’m glad you have this same duality about selling your dolls. I just sold my first doll to a stranger, and I am so worried about their reaction. I mean what they will say about her (and also a bit about how they will treat her…)
    Anyway, I love your dolls, your babies are so…(I don’t know, my english is not good enough to explain what I want to say)..they are perfection, something like that, yes…

  3. Oh and I am so sorry, but I think I didn’t even thank you for your lovely patch you send me! your cards are so adorable too!! thank you!!

  4. I hate making things to order. You explained the experience perfectly. If you continue to accept commissions, you should consider telling prospective customers that each piece is unique and that although you can make something similar to what they have in mind, there will always be variations due to the nature of handwork. I agree though, commission work is very stressful.
    All that said, I can’t imagine anyone not being completely delighted with something made by your hand. I love, love, love my polkadot grandma!

  5. Mimi, you are an artist, not a machine! It is one of the joys of your work — nothing is exactly the same. I feel your frustration and hope that whoever the “probably very pissed off person” is reads your blog and gains a little insight into your work. Hang in there!

  6. By the way, the new babies are absolutely beautiful! I love the colors and the applique work.

  7. I’m glad you have the same duality about selling your dolls. I just sold my first doll to a complete stranger..and that feels a little strange…I’m not sure about their reaction, how they will like her, and I’malso a bit worried about how they will treat her..
    anyhow, Your babies are so…(my english is not good enough for finding the right words..)… so perfection, yes, that is..I love them!

    And another thing: I think I haven’t said thank you for your original patch you send me! I love it so much!And your postcards are so beautiful too!! Thank you very much!!

    (sorry to post this thank you so late, I thought I did before, but sometimes I write a comment and than it doesn’t appear on your blog, is that possible? Maybe when I forget to enter my mail address or something?…)

  8. We’ve talked about this before and you know I share the same feelings. I don’t accept commissions because I just can’t. It takes away the joy for me! And I don’t do craft fairs – blah. And I’m not running a business. I feel the same way you do at the end of this post – just go back upstairs and make things in your room and feel good and let everything else take care of itself!

  9. Thanks for sharing all this Mimi! It’s nice to know that others share the same feelings I do. I have similar thoughts about swaps as well. I find it so hard to make something for someone and worry about whether they’ll like it. And the thought of reproducing something I’ve made in the past sometimes makes me feel panicky as most of the time it seems like sheer dumb luck that it came out the way it did.

    Love your babies, but of course I love everything you do!

  10. I completely understand about commissions. I can whip something up for someone in a day, as long as they don’t know about it or just have a vague idea, but as soon as there are specifics involved suddenly it takes weeks and the machines and materials just don’t work anymore…I think it is a shift between doing something for sheer joy and ‘having to’ make something. Very difficult!

  11. Mimi, I suffer from the same ailments when dealing with commissions. I’d really just rather make dolls. So, that is what I do. I’m not any good at marketing either so yes, the dolls have piled up in my house. But that makes me happy. When I tire of them, I give them away. Although I admit to having a box full somewhere. Hmmm..should really see what’s in there.

    Keep doing what you do. It makes you happy. That is more than enough.

  12. the babies are gorgeous, the embroidery sublime! aaahhhh!
    on the commission thing – i like a commissioned work but only if i make a connection with that person. i find that they are buying your work because they love what you do and are happy with whatever you do. if they are after an exact replica, well, they picked the wrong people. we are not mattel and they obviously do not understand the very nature of our work!
    and on that note i shall wander back to my table and play!

  13. I love your swaddled babies, they just look so cuddly. I really do know what you mean about selling your dolls, I have an Etsy shop with nothing in it and I have tried craft fairs but no joy and I have thought, I have lots of them, about exhibiting but nowhere here in UK. Keep doing what you do best , the thing you love the most , dollmaking. It takes the joy out of creativity if you have to work to someone else’s specifications even if it is just another ‘just the same’. when I create my dolls it is what I like when I think of selling them I start thinking what will people think? will they like this or that and that is when I stop thinking about selling them and get depressed!!!! Pressure from unseen buyers for a product from your creative imagination because they love what you have made already! you don’t need it.
    LOL Ana

  14. I was just going to leave a comment saying how beautiful I thought the applique and embroidery on the baby blankets was, but I can relate to to the whole marketing thing. I tried to make a go of freelance design back when my son was small…it didn’t work. Way too stressful. Now I just make things for fun, let them pile up, and swap them or give them away.

  15. I did a trade recently with a guy I work with. He’s going to create a logo for me and wanted a shark in return. Well, I tried to sketch something out that I could make — a realistic shark — and the truth is I just don’t do realistic. So, I talked to him about making it a “Shark Man,” because I figure that would be awesome.
    He didn’t seem sold. I decided I didn’t care because the only sketch I liked was of a shark man. Hilarious too. So I said to hell with realism and what he wants — I’ll have more fun making what I want. And I did, I think it’s the best soft sculpture/doll I’ve made. (I’ll try to post it.) I don’t think he’s thrilled with it, but I didn’t do it for him, I did it for me. I knew I wouldn’t have to keep it in my house when it was finished, and that made it that much easier.
    I did some commission work during last Christmas, making crocheted toys, and I haven’t made ANY since. It bled all the fun out of my creative process. So, when people ask if I sell my toys, I say no. Like you, I’ve got them (in some mean demon form) sitting on my shoulder telling me it’s not good enough.
    And that is simply not good enough for me. I’ve got plenty of my own demons to deal with, without any outside help.
    You’re awesome, I love the pieces of yours I have, and plan to continue collecting.
    Thank you.

  16. Mimi,
    your work is wonderful, your creative spirit is amazing, if people want copies, let them buy from China – your dolls are not a product but works of art which embody your love for creating dolls. The marrying of creativity and commercialisation is SO difficult as you say, I think Jan put it very succinctly in that letting the new owner know what to expect of the process and the end result. Thank you for allowing me into your workroom, and showing me your art up close, I feel very privileged to have that experience. See you soon. Geri.

  17. Your words could have come from me (although I cannot write so well) as I, too, feel as you do when it come to the creation process. It’s comforting to know that I am not the only one.

    By the way, your work is beautiful and inspiring!

  18. I love LOVe your baby doll. I agree that you just say, “You’ll be buying a bit of my creative personallity so though your commissioned doll may at first not be what you expect you will grow to love her.”

  19. I LOVE those swaddled babies…your work always makes me smile. I feel the same way about commissions as you…it seems to take all the fun and joy out of the creating….I worry about it and spend way too much time hoping to please the person who ordered what ever it was. Now, I am trying to say…”I don’t do commissions.” I used to sell at craft show every weekend, now only do 2-3 a year and that is much better.
    And I too felt like I could have written what you wrote, along with all your friends…nice to know we are not alone…..

  20. I agree with everyone else’s comments. You are an artist and obviously a sensitive soul.

    OT but maybe you will get a laugh out of this. Last night, I dreamt that my family & I were visiting Massachusetts again. We were somewhere and I recognized you! I approached you and said, “Mimi! I’m a fan of yours! I read your blog every single day!” And then I thought, “Oops, I just lied, sometimes it isn’t every day. Oh, no, now what will I say if she asks me a question about yesterday’s post?” LOL.

    My dream was probably prompted by the photos of you at your booth.

  21. Such sweet babies!

    I identify with your selling struggle. I find that I have to keep reframing my efforts to reach out and sell my work, and think of it as looking for the right connection as opposed to waiting to be judged by strangers. But that “looking over my shoulder” feeling comes back again and again.

  22. Mimi, these babies are absolutely gorgeous! Beautiful designs, lovely colours delicate embroidery. The business end of your post gave me something to think about!

  23. Oh Mimi, your post has given me so much to think about. I think I agree with you on commissions. I’ve only done a few, but it is a struggle to keep the inner critic quiet!

    But…for me…. I can spend 40-45 dreadful hours a week in this chair away from my home-sweet-home and make dollies only in my off hours or I can TRY to make dollies my bread and butter. Then I can be home-sweet-home most of the time which is all I really want.

    I think a lot depends on your existing family structure. If you have a “main” breadwinner who likes to go off to work, that is very nice. If, like me, you have become a family that is dependent on two incomes, it becomes very difficult to justify a sudden change in structure! Especially to the one who is left working a “real” job!

    Also, marketing is in my blood. It really seems to be. I love commerce, so I think that is to my advantage. I hope! We will see if I know what I am doing or not! Thanks for letting me ramble!

  24. What’s not to like. I’m sure the photos do justice. I absolutely love the swaddled dolls. Do you have a website to order from. Also, is that wool your using? how big are they? Thanks, Lynda

  25. I stumbled into your page purely by acciedent and im sooo pleased! Your garden babies are just so sweet! Ive just found out im pregnant and would love something from your collection.
    Everything you do is beautiful. Would love to hear from you,
    Kind Regards Sophie.

  26. Hi I would like to know if these beautiful swaddle babies are for sale…and if so what is the cost and how can I purchase them.

  27. Hello
    You do fantastic work and i fell in love with the baby dolls, how can i get a pattern for these
    thank you

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