a little taste of the handmade goodness you will find on the site...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meet the Maker - Harpsters

Please tell us who you are & what you do?
I am Vanessa Harper and I make Harpsters, which are fun character wheatbags for kids.

How did you get started? Have you worked in other creative areas before the kind of work you’re doing now?
I've always been a creative type. I've been making all kinds of different things for years - from learning to knit as a girl, to helping Mum make crochet squares for those cool old blankets (Mum and I have been looking for the squares we made recently but I think there have been too many house moves over the years and they've gone missing). I also used to make fimo earrings as a teenager (and I managed to sell a few of those to family and friends). More recently the jewellery has been a little different - I made the necklaces and earrings for myself and my three bridesmaids for my wedding.

I am also a Graphic Designer by trade, which was a great way to be creative and pay the bills too! I still do a little of that, but not in a formal situation since my kids were born.

Is there a story behind the name of your shop?
"Harpsters" comes from joining my surname (Harper) with "monsters", which were the original characters. I've added bunnies to the collection since, and I'm sure there will be other different little guys along the way.

How long have you been creating for?
Since I was a wee girl, but the Harpsters have been in existence since sometime in late 2008.

Is your business a hobby, a profession or a happy marriage of both?
It's a hobby really. My main job is looking after my kids and my home, but I love making things and the Harpsters are a great way to keep the creative side of me alive and earn a little pocket money along the way.

Describe your work setting.
I have two work areas ... on my lap in front of the tv for the cutting and hand-sewing bits, then upstairs in the "office" where my sewing machine and ironing board are set up. And of course, the dining room gets set up with sewing machine and iron sometimes too.

Do you work alone? With a team? Do you engage your family or friends in the work? What is your process? How do you ensure you get your work done yet still have a life?
I work alone, but ask advice and opinions of my husband and other family members and friends. I'm not one of these people that's happy working on my own too much, so the feedback I get from other people is vital to my work.

Most of the work is done in the evening, once the kids are in bed. I'm something of a night-owl, so I will often carry on working long after my husband has gone to bed, then when I eventually crawl into bed my mind is often still racing with ideas (especially when I'm working on something new), so I usually pick up a novel (or solitaire on my iphone!) to clear my head.

Why do you do what you do? What inspires you? When do you get most excited?
Harpsters started out as a way to work through my Post Natal Depression. My sister-in-law once said that Mums really need something to do with their time that "stays done" - you know - when you tidy the kids room then walk back in there ten minutes later and a tornado's been through it again. Harpsters has become MY own thing that stays DONE. It gives me a bit of balance.

Can you remember your first sale? What was it?
My first ever sale would have been a pair of fimo "Buzzy Bee" or "Mary-Lou Doll" earrings as a teenager. But my first Harpster sale was back when I was making them as softies, and I think it was a Hankle. It seems like so long ago that I don't remember the details, but I do remember the excitement at making my first sale! Oh the excitement!

Have you ever been in business before?
Not unless you count Freelance Graphic Design (through Recruitment Agencies) for years. My husband owns a successful business, so he's always got excellent tips and tricks for me.

At what point do you consider yourself successful?
I feel I am successful when I'm happy in what I'm doing, whatever that may be.

Where do you do your best thinking?
In front of the computer often. My wee mind is always ticking over with ideas, but it's usually at the computer or with a pen and paper in hand that they come together.

What stops you from giving up when you are frustrated?
If I'm frustrated I usually walk away from what I'm doing for a while (if possible), and it becomes much less frustrating when I come back to it. Well, that's the theory anyway. :)

If you had time to learn a new skill what would it be?
I'd LOVE to learn to make jewellery - you know - the "real" stuff, with precious stones and shiny silver and gold. I've also got plans to start a silk-screening course soon. I'm really looking forward to that! The Harpster t-shirts might get a re-vamp after that course.

When you are not involved in your craft/business- what can you usually be found doing
Oh boy! Where do I start?! I enjoy spending time with my family - two boisterous ginger-haired boys and an equally boisterous ginger-haired husband. My folks have a bach at Whangamata, which is my favourite spot in the whole wide world - it was the place that felt like "home" when I was feeling homesick in London. I'm a bit sentimental like that. We try to get down there as often as we can. I'm a huge fan of exploring our beautiful country (especially the South Island) and that exploring often incorporates another love - photography. I can also confess to being something of a petrol-head (I'm driving us all down to Whangamata next week in the old 10-seater '76 Chev), but at the same time, I really enjoy creating beautiful food for my family. A foodie? Not quite, but close. Given the time, I do prefer to have home-baking in my house rather than the bought stuff.

Do you have a favourite handmade purchase?
I bought my sister a pair of gorgeous earrings last Christmas that I wish I'd never given away! I've been looking for something similar for myself since then.

Do you buy on impulse or do you go out looking for something you need?
I'm often an impulse buyer - buying something that looks pretty or seems like it'd be the best thing since sliced bread. If there's something I really need (especially if it's a big ticket item) I will often spend a long time researching the best price and the best quality on the internet first.


1. What is the last thing that made you belly laugh?  My eldest son this morning, acting the goat as usual.
2. What book is on your bedside table?  Diana Gabaldon's latest - An Echo in the Bone. Bought the week it was released and still unread!
3. What was the last cd/ipod track etc that you listened to? Spandau Ballet - Gold
4. Where do you hide your secret stash of chocolate? I can do without chocolate, but Russian Fudge ... now there's another story! It's never around long enough to have a stash though. :)
5. What statement do you hear yourself say to your kids that remind you of your upbringing? "Life's not fair ... you're better to learn that now." *cringe!*

Go shopping with Harpsters HERE!

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