Meet Jessica Lyons, designer behind Ragamuffin Designs. She splits her time between Troy, NY (where she is working on her PhD) and Clifton Park, NY (her hometown). Jessica says, “I’m a big fan of Upstate New York between the months of April and December. The rest of the time I would much rather been in a less muddy/cold/gray environment!”
Jessica loves spending time with her Sphynx cat, Lux. She describes herself as a Quirky Indiana Jones wannabe, and a hippie without the drugs or patchouli. When she’s not creating, Jessica can be found working on her PhD and perfecting her ‘ass kicking’ techniques with karate and judo.
Her favorite (short) quote is by Emily Dickinson – “Forever is composed of nows.” (Check at the end of the interview for the long one by Tecumseh.)
How long have you been creating?
I’ve pretty much always been making one thing or another, but only started selling this past January.
Why did you start?
I can’t even remember when it was I started…I think it’s something I’ve always done and is just a part of me. I really enjoy making things and take a lot of pride in my work. It gives me a strong sense of satisfaction and productivity.
What are the items you have handy at all times?
Approx. 15 tubes of lipgloss, some yarn, a crochet hook, a mechanical pencil and my little black moleskin.
Where do you get your materials?
Wherever I come across them, sometimes my LYS, sometimes from reclaimed Salvation Army sweaters, sometimes places like Etsy and Ebay. A lot of the fibers I use have stories – I remember where it was when I picked up a particular hank and who made it.
Can you tell us a little of your process?
I’m not sure if I have a “process,” I tend to just go for it. A lot of times I’ll start off with a general idea, but end up frogging the project several times until I get exactly what it is that I’m looking for…of course sometimes I just go with it and end up with something totally different from what I had planned.
How do you pick what you will do next?
I don’t often start off with a particular project in mind and go out and purchase to make it. I usually evaluate at the fibers I have and try and think of what the best way to combine them would be…of course custom orders get priority. Usually it’s the other way around.
Do you have a dedicated work area/room?
Well, I live in a more or less one room apartment, so that more or less acts as my work space, but I bring my projects with me where ever I go. I’m known as the bag lady.
Is this your full-time job? Hobby? Fun?
I’d say it’s both a hobby and for fun – if I had the time I would do it full time, but school takes precedent right now. There’s no question that I’d be making things regardless of whether or not I was getting paid. In fact, the reason I started selling on Etsy was because my family and friends were tired of getting hats/scarfs/hand warmers for Christmas/Birthdays/Any other random holiday and my apartment was starting to be overrun with knit goods.
Where do you get your ideas for new items?
Hmmm…my inspiration? Gypsies in caravans, pirates on the high seas, mermaids, fireflies and summer nights.
Do you have a best seller?
I think my hats are probably my most popular items, more specifically my tams or gnome hats.
What is your favorite?
I wear a tam I made from recycled sari silk and wool pretty much all the time. It’s kept my head warm in several countries!
What other times of crafts do you do?
I crochet, knit, kind of sew, and in general like making things. I wouldn’t call them “crafts,” but I am also a makeup artist and an avid baker.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
Well hopefully I’ll have finished my PhD by then and will be running around the world picking up treasures from my various adventures. I like to do the family thing if I can find someone prepared to embrace my bohemian lifestyle!
Have any advice for people trying to start their own handcrafted business?
It’s a long, hard road, but as long as you love what it is that you’re doing, you’ll be fine. On a more practical note, it’s a lot of hard work and I have to say this: The internet is your friend! Use facebook, twitter, blogs, etc. They help immensely.
Favorite Long Quote –
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, & demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long & its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people & grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food & for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one & no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools & robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep & pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song & die like a hero going home.”