Today I am thrilled to introduce my new interview series, Dream Jobs. I have been dreaming about curating a series like this ever since I started Feast + West but wanted to take my time with launching it. I love reading Q&A-type pieces on other blogs, especially if they are about people I really admire. I love learning what makes creative people tick.
A good friend and I often chat about our dream jobs, the mundane ones and the totally crazy ones. Some will never happen, some may with a little work. I love to ask the question, If you could do anything, what would it be? There are so many people out there living their dreams with their businesses, with their careers, and I want to hear from them. For now, this column is going to focus on creators and makers of all kinds, such as chefs, designers, artists and small business owners — people who make beautiful things. With their hands.
I’m excited to kick off the series with this Q&A with Haleigh DeRocher of Peels and Posies. I first discovered Haleigh’s work when I ran my weekly Kitchen Road Trip series, which consisted of gift guides to all 50 states. I got to include Haleigh’s work twice, because she moved from Iowa to Wyoming that year. I fell in love with the way she ties her love of literature with her whimsical, artistic style to create gorgeous handmade treasures. This interview is a beautiful and thought-provoking insight into Haleigh’s creativity, and I hope you enjoy. // susannah
Click through to read the whole Q&A with Haleigh DeRocher!
1. How would you describe Peels and Posies?
Peels and Posies is my Etsy shop, where I sell a bunch of nerdy stuff. I’m a huge nerd and I’m not ashamed that it completely shows when you browse through my pages of items on Etsy. I make bookmarks, hand-painted purses, tote bags, magnets, wall hangings and more, all of them inspired by books or puns or animals or other quirky things. Each item is one hundred percent hand-made (no screen-printing here) and made with thrifted or recycled items. (Think vintage fabric, cardboard, twigs from my yard, etc.) I love making useful art and coming up with new methods of creation that do not require going to the craft store.
2. What were you doing before Peels and Posies? What inspired you to change paths?
I got married two months after I graduated from Louisiana State University. As an English major, most of my college career was spent wondering what I was actually going to do after graduation, since I didn’t want to be a teacher or while away my hours in an office. My husband, always super supportive, said that I could do whatever I wanted. After getting a seasonal job at Target and absolutely despising it, I decided to take the plunge — quit my day job and devote all my time to what I really wanted to be doing: making things with my hands.
At first, Peels and Posies was scattered; I went into it with very little planning, making some ornaments and wreaths and not making any sales. In fact, it took probably five or six months to see any payoff, but as I started developing my brand and my personal style, I fell in love with what I was doing. Spending all day every day painting and creating is something I am so blessed to be able to do, and I can’t believe how far I have come since I started less than two years ago.
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
I am a huge reader. Books, I believe, are the ultimate source of inspiration, and luckily I have over a thousand of them stacked about my house. If I’m feeling stuck or uninspired, I thumb through my favorite novels and look for quotes — maybe some that I love, maybe some I’ve overlooked in the past. This always seems to help. Some of my favorites (and that you can see lots of in my shop) are Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, the Harry Potter series, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and anything by Jane Austen or Edith Wharton.
4. Describe your workspace.
My workspace actually doubles as my laundry room. It’s pretty handy in the winter, because I can throw some clothes in the dryer and it keeps it nice and toasty in there. (Our house is old and rather poorly insulated.) Maybe it doesn’t seem ideal, but I love working in there. There’s a big window that looks out upon the Bighorn Mountains, so if I’m feeling down or in need of a break, all I have to do is glance out there and see a landscape brimming with beauty. I’ve got my work covering all the walls too, so it’s a cozy and comfortable place to create.
5. What have been your biggest successes and challenges?
I count every happy customer as a huge success. I love hearing back from people who have purchased my items; it has been one of the most rewarding parts of running my own business. I love that I can provide a service for people that brings a little bit of joy into their lives.
Not everything has been sunshine and rainbows, though. I do a number of craft fairs every year, and a lot of risk goes into signing up for one. Since I’ve moved to Wyoming, I’ve had a hard time finding shows that will be lucrative and beneficial to my business. One of the most disheartening things is putting a ton of time and effort into preparing for a show, then getting there and making hardly any sales. But even still, every show is a learning opportunity, and I’ve had plenty of very successful ones.
6. What are your dreams for Peels and Posies?
Eventually, my dream is to open a brick-and-mortar shop combining my love of literature and unique design. Though it probably won’t be called Peels and Posies, I’d like to sell my own art and decor, along with other locally sourced handmade items and books. As for my short-term goals, I’d like to expand my product line into more shops where I live and in other places in the country, and perhaps pursue some wholesale selling.
7. Who do you look up to?
Many of the women in my family are creative and have been extremely inspiring to me. My mom encouraged my artistic interests majorly when I was younger, and I am so thankful for that. She was always painting pretty designs on furniture and making handy things for our home. I think that’s where my innovative spirit came from. My sister is an amazing graphic designer, and though she’s younger than me, I totally look up to her for her talent and amazing ideas. My grandma makes the most beautiful quilts and my nana has been doing crafts ever since I can remember. Coming from a long line of artists is something I’m really proud of.
8. Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
I love playing with my bunny and spending time with my hubby. We can’t get enough of the beautiful outdoors in this part of the country, so hikes and exploring take up a good portion of our free time. We also love rollerblading, biking, and playing games on rainy evenings. Other than that, I’m never happier than when relaxing with a good book.
9. What three books, websites or resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
I found the book Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin to be extremely helpful when I was first starting out. It has great tips on selling online and at craft fairs or art shows. Another great resource was Etsypreneuriship by Jason Malinak. He goes through the ins and outs of Etsy very thoroughly, teaching you ways to market and make your product really stand out among the thousands upon thousands of other products online. For a more philosophical look on what it means to be an artist, I recommend Dorothy Sayer’s Mind of the Maker. It’s a fascinating examination of why some humans feel the compulsion to create.
10. If you weren’t running Peels and Posies, what would be your dream job?
Honestly, my outrageous, never-gonna-happen dream job would be a tornado chaser. I mean, that has got to be the coolest, most adrenaline-filled job I could ever imagine. I am determined to see one in real life — and get an awesome picture, of course! But a little more realistically, I can’t wait to be a stay-at-home mom (just like my mom was), and luckily running Peels and Posies will still be possible when I’m at home with my babies. I can’t imagine a more important job than raising your kids right.
Know someone who has your dream job? Want to see them interviewed? I’m looking for ideas. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org!