Everyone say it with me: YAAAAAAAASSSSS.
Feels good, right? I bet you’re ready to conquer the world. I know I am. It just feels good. And it’s the perfect way to introduce today’s Talking Shop spotlight: Erin Garcia of Feed the Fish Co., an inspiring, creative, and contagiously-joyful maker who creates whimsical, hand-cut felt decor and organizes killer crafting events.
I can’t wait to share more about Erin. She inspires me immensely by how she wholeheartedly embraces her crafting community, encourages others to experience the joy of handmade crafting, and creatively pursues her passion with vision.
Without further ado, everyone: meet Erin!
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi! I’m Erin and I create handmade felt goods for home and party. By day I work as an Epidemiologist for the state health department and by nights and weekends you can find me creating products for my handmade business Feed the Fish Co, teaching crafty workshops, or experimenting with new projects (and writing all about them on my craftstyle blog Crafterateur. If there’s a last-minute gathering or need for a craft break – I’m your gal!
Describe your journey into crafting.
I grew up in a creative household, the kind where my Mom made all of my Halloween costumes from scratch. My Mom was a second-grade teacher and always finds fun ways to decorate for holidays and special gatherings. My Dad had a photography business and continues to be known among family and friends as a great cook, always creating masterpieces in the kitchen. Growing up, there was always a creative, l hands-on activity I could get into. My first memories of creating we’re making my own greeting cards and then later scrapbooking about trips and other milestone events.
How did Feed the Fish Co. get started?
Feed the Fish Co is a nod to my childhood. I used to create handmade greeting cards and pretend that Feed the Fish Co was my card company (I was inspired by the Hallmark card commercials of the 80s, remember those?). Fast forward to 2011 when I finally decided I would try selling my cards along with other celebration-inspired goods; the only name that seemed fitting was Feed the Fish Co. Over the years, I’ve shifted to create more with felt, but my message and vision have always been to celebrate the every day, find your creativity at any age, and to spread crafty cheer all over.
What drew you to handcut pennants?
The first handcut pennant I made was for my friend’s daughter’s 5th birthday. I made her a felt flag with a ‘5’ on it and used a chopstick as the handle. It brought so much joy to her daughter. I had so much fun making it, I started experimenting with different shapes and materials (I switched to wooden dowels), plus longer words/phrases (like yaaas and sports). I was used to cutting paper letters (In Feed the Fish co’s early days I used to create paper garlands with handcut sayings.) so working with felt at the time was very new and exciting. Now I like to call my Feed the Fish co goodies “handcut awesomeness.”
What do you love most about handmade crafting?
Handmade crafting, no matter the size of the project, is always intentional and carries so much meaning. The more I create, the more I want to learn about the materials and new techniques. It’s in this constant learning and understanding where I grow to appreciate the work that goes into a handmade item and what our minds and hands are capable of creating. I hope that through my creative workshops I’m able to help spark that intrigue in others, too.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as you’ve started and grown your business?
It’s a lot of work! Sometimes there’s more business and less creative time so you have to make sure you periodically step back, reassess, and figure out the balance that works best for you.
What has been the biggest learning curve in your business?
Finding my audience. It took me a few years to really understand and find my audience. When starting a handmade business it’s important to figure this out so you know what types of markets to sign up for or what stores should sell your product. There’s a bit of trial and error.
What do you enjoy most about running workshops and planning crafting events? Biggest tip for organizing such events?
I find joy in putting together an activity that people get excited over, especially when people say “they’re not crafty” (because I believe everyone is!). I love how when I show a few examples of the project and then teach how to make it, every student creates something truly their own as they put their own creative spin on the project.
Biggest tip: Make a list of all the items needed for your crafty event (including craft supplies, and food and drink if providing). For larger events, that list can also include a timeline of what needs to be done a few days or even weeks before the event.
What advice would you give to others looking to start their own passion project or small business?
Find your people and go for it! You won’t know if you don’t try. When friends and family kept telling me I should sell my work, I thought they were crazy, but it turns out people like what I make and I enjoy spreading the crafty joy!
Having the backing of a maker community and friends who you can trust to give you honest feedback is key. Sometimes I make something that sounds great in theory, and turns out a bit wonky. It’s nice to have creative input from fellow makers on how to make it better, or maybe to tell you to start over again.
How would you describe your creative process?
I am often inspired by color or something funny I heard. All of my pieces are reflections of me. My pennants and wall hangings are things I say or can relate to. If I have an idea, I go for it and make it, and just see how it turns out. I also enjoy creating new projects with leftover materials from previous projects just to see what I can come up with.
What have been some of the best experiences you’ve had within your creative community?
Thinking back just on 2019, my favorite projects were creating a window display for a local gift shop and a giant felt flower wreath for my SF Etsy maker community. I enjoyed every bit of the creative process because I hadn’t done anything like those projects before. I’m thankful for my creative community for allowing me the opportunity to create these types of felt art!
How do you stay motivated and avoid burnout?
It’s all about balance and figuring out what works for my business and brand. Two winters ago I signed up for way too many craft shows; it took me a good six months before I got that creative energy back. This year I created specific goals for myself and my brand. Creating a vision for your work is always helpful and it benefits both you and your clients/fans.
The Fun Qs:
The best movie or show you’ve watched recently?
I’m really into the Great British Baking Show right now and I’m catching up on the latest season. It’s so inspiring and makes me want to get extra creative in the kitchen.
What is your desert-island meal?
Korean soft tofu soup, extra spicy with assorted mushrooms. Even if it’s a hot island, give me a hot bowl of soup any day!
The song that’s currently stuck in your head?
Since it’s Christmas time: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Your dream travel destination?
I went to Japan for the first time earlier in the year and I already cannot wait to go back. I want to experience Fall in Japan, eat street food in Osaka, and learn more conversational Japanese so I can speak with the locals.