Introduction: The babies in my mommy group all were born between September and December and are progressing through the same stages of development. Since we began motherhood within weeks of each other, there’s been some chatter as each new mother figures out what she will do when her maternity leave is over – whether it’s daycare or a nanny, extending unpaid leave, or not going back to work at all. Most of the mothers dread the end of their maternity leave – who ever feels ready to leave their baby after three months? However, I recently met two mothers in my group who aren’t taking an undisturbed three month maternity leave at all: these mothers run their own businesses that rely on gift giving during the holiday season, and that means being active now! While most of us are trying to catch a few hours of snooze when we can, these moms are working at home to get their businesses through their busy season. Here’s a two-part series of what I learned from these mothers.
Liz has been making and selling hand-crafted clocks since 2007. This year, she and her husband welcomed Bodhi into their world. Bodhi is now ten weeks old, and he will be just over three months old when Christmas rolls around, which is long after Liz will have finished making many batches of hand-crafted clocks to be mailed off to online buyers or sold this Sunday (Dec 6th) at the Etsy New York 8th Annual Holiday Handmade Cavalcade at Chelsea Market.
Liz’s clocks are made from recycled bicycle parts and paired with reclaimed textiles or topographic maps. Liz started the business when she lived in Portland and continued it through moves to Oakland and NYC. She connects with bike shops locally and regionally to source worn out gears and then transforms them into functional and unique clocks.
Liz, who used to be a pre-school teacher, initially started making her clocks for friends, family and other teachers she worked with until the word got out and demand increased through word of mouth. Most of Liz’s business comes through her Etsy shop but she also can be found at a few major markets each year (such as Renegade Craft Fair) and her products are sold in a select number of stores around the country, including By Brooklyn. Priced from $39 – $85, Liz’s clocks are a great gift for that friend who loves handcrafted and one-of-a-kind items with a story behind them – after all, no two pieces are the same and custom orders can be personalized.
Here is my Q&A with Liz:
Q: What was your inspiration to start making clocks and how did you decide to launch your craft into a business?
A: When I was working as a preschool teacher, we often used recycled materials in the classroom to make new and beautiful things. I was inspired by children’s creativity and how they see possibilities in all things. I come from a family of artists - between the 5 siblings we have a photographer, animator, musician, a children’s art educator, and a clock-maker! We often gift one another things we make so one year I made each of my siblings clocks as Christmas gifts. They were a hit and soon friends and friends of friends were requesting clocks. So, in the fall of 2007, I decided to open an Etsy shop and soon thereafter I realized I could make a business selling them to the public.
Q: How have you prepared for this holiday season, and what’s different this year now that you have a newborn at home?
A: I spent a lot of time this summer sourcing materials and building inventory knowing the arrival of a baby would impact my ability to work tirelessly through the holiday season. By doing a lot of prep before Bodhi arrived, I was able to get ahead of the game. The process of making clocks happens in stages so now that he’s here it actually lends itself nicely to a newborn’s schedule. For example, I can work on designing clock backgrounds or packaging up orders during those stretches when he’s napping. It’s all about being as efficient as possible with my time. I also had to realize that I wouldn’t be able to do as much this first year as a new mother and I shifted my sales goals to accommodate that reality. In past years, I would participate in a number of holiday markets but I made the decision to only do one in-person market this year as they are so time consuming and require a lot of energy. The NY Etsy Team Show this weekend is the only market I have committed to this December.
Q: It’s a lot having a newborn at home. Have you thought about taking a “pause” for just this season?
A: Absolutely. There are certainly times when I wish my sole responsibility right now was caring for Bodhi. If he was a spring or summer baby I would have been able to take more time off in the early months, but the reality of my work is that it includes a busy holiday season. When I feel overwhelmed, I just remind myself that my professional choices are what will allow me to spend more time with him in the long run. Unlike other working mothers, I don’t have to worry about finding care for him when I go back to work. It definitely requires some creativity and flexibility but I wouldn’t want it any other way. And as for “pausing”, I try to make that practice part of my everyday as I sit and marvel at this sweet little person we welcomed into the world.
If you are in Chelsea this weekend, don’t forget to swing by and say hi to Liz at Etsy New York 8th Annual Holiday Handmade Cavalcade. Or check out her Etsy store to see which clocks are available online!