Meet Holly Sutton – an artist by passion and profession. Holly started making hair bows quite accidentally while searching for one for her step daughter. That started off as an interest, which developed into a passion, and later budding into a wonderful business.
In this interview, Holly tells us all about how she started off making hair bows, and also some good pointers to budding businesses.
Holly, thanks a lot for this interview and sharing your views with us.
1. Can you share with us a bit about your art, about you and how you got started?
I was always trying to buy hair bows for my stepdaughter but I could never find exactly what I wanted. They were either too small or too expensive, not the right color, and so on. I gained an interest in trying to make my own by seeing what others had made at consignment sales, vendor booths and online. It seemed like something I would really enjoy doing and I could be as creative as I wanted. Once I began teaching myself how to make the hair bows, all of these ideas for themes and ribbon and color combinations started piling up in my brain so quickly that I had to stop what I was doing and start writing them all down. For the first couple of weeks, I would stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning making ridiculous amounts of hair bows because as I would create one, another idea would come to me and I would get so excited about it that I couldn’t sleep. I had to stay up and make the next one. I was afraid I would die from sleep deprivation at that rate, so I learned to pace myself and list my ideas so I could go back to them when I had time.
2. Is Art your Passion or Profession?
Art is definitely a passion… so much so that I turned it into a profession in more ways than one. Aside from making hair bows at night, I teach high school graphic design full-time and I also do paintings, murals, drawings, etc. on the side for people that request them. I learned so much in college as an art education major and my passion for art just grew deeper with each thing I learned. I found everything so interesting and inspiring that I wanted to share it with others, which is why I decided to be an art teacher. A lot of people tell you not to make a career out of what you love doing in fear that you will lose appreciation for it, but that hasn’t happened for me.
2.a.How many years have you been into Art and Crafts seriously as a profession?
I’ve been making arts and crafts since I was a kid. It has always been a fun thing for me to do. My mom is a preschool teacher and a florist, so she’s bursting with craftiness and creativity and I get that from her. She made the Halloween costumes for me and my younger sister every year as kids. On a rainy day, she was always prepared with some kind of crafty project before we could even mutter the words, “I’m bored.” For my birthday party one year, she found a massive paint splatter tie-dye machine and put it in the middle of our kitchen and all the kids at the party made their own t-shirts. I took art lessons every summer growing up and we always made fun little knick-knacks to take home. Arts and Crafts was always my favorite part of Bible school and summer day camp. I take advantage of holidays to be crafty and make handmade valentines, Christmas cards and birthday presents. I’m guilty of seeing a crafty item I want but never wanting to spend the money on it and saying, “I can make that myself!” I see it as a challenge. I only began making hair bows with the intention of selling them in November 2010. The first couple of bows I made are embarrassing and I’m shocked that anyone bought them. I’ve come a long way in a short amount of time. It’s the small tweaks I’ve made that have made a big difference.
2.b.How did you come up with your brand name?
There’s no sentimental meaning behind it… I just wanted something with some sass. My 6-year old stepdaughter is as sassy as they come and she is my inspiration for all the bows I make. I tend to tease her when she’s in a mood and call her things like “Sassy Pants” or “Pouty Pants”. So, I started making a list of all the “Pants” names I’ve used and “Fancy Pants” kept jumping out at me. My bows usually have a funky combination of patterns and colors and I envision prematurely stylish girly-girls in fancy tutus and coordinating embroidered shirts wearing them. It just fits. Plus, “Fancy Pants” is just fun to say.
2.c. What’s the best part of having your own business?
I get to make the rules, which is a nice break from a long day of following the rules. I get to choose what’s made and what’s not. I love being able to work around my busy schedule and the deadlines I have for my business are creative challenges instead of stressful burdens. It’s something fun for me that I just happen to get paid to do. I get paid to have fun. That’s awesome.
2.d. What surprised you about having your own business?
Its success. I’m guilty of constantly second-guessing, third-guessing and fourth-guessing myself to the point that I completely talk myself out of things. I am my own worst critic and I really doubted that anyone would want to buy what I made in the beginning. As business has grown, so has my confidence in my work and my ability to have a successful business of my own.
2.e. How and where do you advertise your product?
I have a Facebook page for Fancy Pants Hair Bows by Holly, and I also promote on my personal Facebook page. I have an Etsy shop which has proved to be a fantastic social network and has given me nationwide business. I put a business card in each package I ship out in hopes that customers will hang on to them and refer me to their friends. I’ve donated to a couple of fundraisers and events and I held my first giveaway around Valentine’s day which was a surprising success. I’m setting up my first official vendor booth at a children’s consignment sale in March and I’m hoping that allows a bigger audience to see what I do. Most importantly, I depend on people to tell each other about my craft. Word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertising and it always puts a smile on my face to hear someone say that a friend referred them to me.
2.f. What are your future goals for your business?
When the time is right, my dream is to be a stay-at-home mom. I hope that by the time I’m ready to start having my own children, my business is successful enough that I can quit my day job and turn Fancy Pants into a full-time gig. My mom stayed at home with me and my sister and ran a floral business out of our house so that she could spend more time with us. I am forever grateful that she was able to take us to school in the mornings, pick us up every afternoon and be at home whenever we needed her. When we were sick, she didn’t have to call into work to tell them she couldn’t come in. At the same time, I think having her own business saved her sanity because it gave her something else to focus on besides just her kids. I want to be able to do that with my own children. I loved that my mom was able to spend so much time with us and I want my kids to have that same luxury.
3.Is there any area which you would say you specialize in Art and Crafts?
Perfectionism is my specialty. It’s also my arch nemesis. I came out of the womb being a perfectionist in everything I do and no matter how much I try to let go of things, I just can’t bear the thought of putting my name on something that isn’t its best. My products are never sloppy because I don’t allow them to be. If it doesn’t look like something I would want my own child to wear, I tear it apart and start all over again.
4.Do you take classes for others?
During the summer, I go to an art teacher retreat which is one amazing week of just making the art that we art teachers never get time to make. It’s awesome. Other than that, I don’t have much time in my busy schedule for any classes. I would love to go back to school and get my masters in Art Education so that I could take more college art courses. Maybe one day.
5.Which of your art/craft tool is your favorite?
I love the building process of a hair bow. Mixing and matching different patterns and colors together to see what comes is out is exciting. I get to start with a blank canvas every time. I like to mix patterns together that people wouldn’t normally think of. More often than none, I will just start with one pattern of ribbon that I’m in the mood to use and start trying to match other patterns, colors, buttons and so on with it. Sometimes just a pattern on a ribbon will inspire a bottle cap design to go in the center of the bow. That’s my other favorite part of making bows – designing the bottle caps. They can turn a plain bow that any little girl could wear into a bow that only fits one little girl’s personality. That little touch of personalization makes that bow unique which is something customers are always wanting.
6.What part of the creative process do you enjoy the most?
I love that there are no boundaries. I can mix as many patterns together as I want, build them as big as I want, celebrate any holiday or theme I want in a bow – it’s limitless. I love that I can add a touch of my graphic design skills into them by adding the bottle caps which also allows me to show off a little bit of my (kid-friendly) sense of humor. One of my biggest hits so far is my “BOYS STINK” bow which was the inspiration for another Etsy artist’s Treasury entitled, “Boys Stink! But I still kinda like it when they wear cowboy boots!”
7.What keeps you motivated?
Making people happy. I get such a high from people saying how much they love my work. I also get super excited when I see the little girls wearing my bows around.
8. What would be your tips, advice and suggestion to your fellow crafters?
Don’t doubt yourself. As artists, we are our toughest critics and we see all the flaws in our work before we see the beauty. Truth is, we are members of the elite few who can create the things that we do. Most people only wish that they could be crafty and are amazed by what we can do. A craft is defined as a an art, trade or occupation requiring special skill. Not ordinary skill. Take pride in your God-given gift. Most importantly, never stop having fun with it. Once it stops being fun, it turns into a job and a mental block instead of a creative outlet and artistic escape. You should always enjoy the company of your talent.
9. If you had no financial or time constraints, what dream project would you like to work on?
First, I would like to complete every painting and drawing I ever started and never finished. There’s a lot of them. Unfortunately, that’s a bad habit of mine. Then, I would like to start (and finish) all the drawings and paintings I haven’t started yet but have been wanting to do for a long time. It doesn’t sound like much, but it would be a HUGE accomplishment for me. I would also like to eat endless amounts of Skittles and Sour Patch Kids while working on them, but the question didn’t ask what I would do if I had no caloric restraints. Still, that would pretty awesome.