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BIZ CRUSH: Mandi Smethells

If the fiber community was a band of superheroes, Mandi would be Wonder Woman.  Her knack for creating colorful rainbows & fringe-y animal shaped artwork caught my eye on Instagram (it also caught the eye of The Loome who’s featured her on their social platforms & in their email newsletter!)

 

One glance at her work & you’ll get addicted, too.  It’s mesmerizing, whimsical & in Mandi’s words, “imaginative.”  She enjoys mixing unexpected materials, photographing her creations & teaching others the basics of weaving.  But that’s not all.  Keep reading to hear about all the wonderful things she’s up to.

 

 

What kind of kid were you growing up?

I was a total nature kid. I spent a lot of time outdoors, exploring the nearby woods and streams, finding and identifying animal and plant life. I just loved insects and water. By the time I graduated high school I had built two ponds surrounded by perennial gardens in my parent’s backyard...which they still maintain to this day.

 

How did that affect your artistic path?

I am very much influenced by colors found in nature. I look at photographs of florals to get inspired for colors or shapes. Being a big fan of insects growing up made me a little odd, and I continue looking for ways to identify as just a little weird or different. I want to surprise people with my work.

 

If your story could fit into a 30 second commercial, how would it go down?

Well, the music would be really important...something that would get my little girls dancing (I have a six and one year old.) …and lots of color. Beyond that, I would need a director, haha.

 

What ultimately made you decide to do the lovely thing you do?

I am continually looking for creative outlets in my life. Sometimes that is a home DIY project, others it is an art project with my children. About four years ago I tried weaving on a homemade loom out of curiosity and that perpetual desire to make something new, and I fell in love with it immediately. I knew I could never stop working with fiber as I just love it so much.

 

Who’s positively influenced your path the most?

Being a mother. My older daughter is so whimsical and a huge color fan, and it inspired me to make things that make us both very very happy to look at.

 

Favorite part about working for yourself?

Having the flexibility to spend time with my family when needed. Raising two young children, you never know when they will need you, and I always want to be there.  Sometimes that to volunteer at school, other times it is to cuddle them when they are sick, but whatever it is, I can almost always make myself available.

 

Most challenging thing about working for yourself?

Allowing yourself to not be working. When I have about 15 or 20 projects in the works, it can be very tempting to get work done on the nights and weekends. I certainly do indulge in that temptation, but I am careful to still allow for time to relax and enjoy my family.

 

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

Looking at raw materials. Handling yarn and rope and letting my mind be receptive to what it could be.

 

If you could be a fly on the wall to anyone’s creative space {dead or alive} who would it be?

I can’t decide, but I would probably say a musician’s studio as they create an album. Let’s say Neil Young. I listened to him on repeat in my formative years.

 

Talk about a failure you’ve learned from.

In a creative business, there are so many little failures. Little mistakes that cost you time or materials.  I feel fortunate that in this moment nothing momentous stands out. Instead, I have learned with all of these small setbacks, to undo the mistake and keep going. Always undo the mistake, it will bother you if you leave it. All of these little failures have left me with a heightened attention to detail, which is valuable when selling handmade work.

 

 

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in business?

Within my Etsy shop, an order has a a little flag indicating repeat buyers. Being internet based, my buyers are taking a leap of faith, as they haven’t seen my work in person. I am so proud that I frequently see returning customers, and that is the greatest feedback of all.

 

What do you wish you knew when you first started that you know now?

I could say “it takes time to find your voice…maybe even years,” but I do think I always knew that. I guess I wish I would have known for sure that it would happen, and in less than five years. Would have been nice to know.

 

What has been your favorite project to date & how did it come to fruition?

I LOVE color (this might be obvious.) Just recently I made a big rainbow swirl with a good chunk of my fiber stash. It was part of an effort I am making (when time allows) to make pieces in a larger scale that are addressing my artistic voice. The response was wonderful, and I hope to make similar larger scaled pieces soon.

 

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or experienced thanks to your career path?

Meeting people and having them know my work! That is really cool.  

 

What’s next / what are you most excited about?

I have some big work in mind for this summer…I have all the materials, just waiting for the time!

 

 

Time of the day you are most productive:

9pm ...after my kids are asleep.

 

The app you couldn’t live without:

Instagram

 

Social media outlet you love most:

Instagram

 

Favorite account to follow on this outlet:

@gucci

 

Favorite internet radio station at the moment:

Just whatever enters my brain on Spotify

 

Favorite Netflix binge:

ER

 

Go to piece in your wardrobe:

Anything linen

 

The coolest craft supply you own:

A glorious amount of vintage, unique yarns

 

Favorite medium to work with:

YARN

 

The best “hidden gem” in the community:

Mall of St Paul- Antique Mall

 

 

See more from Mandi here: Online | Instagram | Facebook | Etsy

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