What started as a sanity-saving creative outlet for Laura Verner has turned into business specializing in cute children's toys and clothes. When she's not making "slightly off" stuffed animals, she's teaching sewing camps and classes. When she's not doing all of that, she's with her family and probably on the lookout for cute fabric. She took a moment to answer a few questions about herself and her business.
Please tell us a little about Elvie Creations.
Elvie Creations is basically just me, LV, working while my kids sleep in my home sewing studio. I specialize in making unique and vibrant children's toys, clothes and accessories. But the other half of what I do is teaching sewing classes. I run sewing camps during the school breaks over the summer and holidays. I'm also just starting up some adult sip and sew classes. So I stay pretty busy between those two parts of my business.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Inspired feels too lofty a word, I sort of just fell into it. I was home with our first baby and we had just moved to Nashville to be near family. For the sake of my sanity I knew I needed something to challenge me creatively, and I needed to work, but it felt overwhelming to start over in the job market in a new city with such a young baby. So I started teaching sewing lessons in my spare time. Simultaneously, I was approached to sell some of the things I made by a little shop for local makers that was just starting up. It was sort of a friend of a friend connection, and I realized, "Oh! I could be selling this stuff in stores!" So I started branching out little by little to new stores and events until I realized I had a full blown small business on my hands. Though sometimes it still feels like it's just this fun thing I do while my kids are otherwise occupied:)
Can you teach anyone to sew if they are willing?
Hmmm... well, I don't want to oversell myself here but I've truly never come across anyone who wanted to sew that I thought, "Yeah no, you don't have what it takes. Sorry." I'm a firm believer that while there are definitely natural talents, making a choice to do something, and pursuing it wholeheartedly, will get you further than natural talent at rest any day. I teach kids as young as 5 in my classes, and I have adult private lessons with people in their 60's. So if you want to learn, I can teach you. Just like anything, there are skills I have more expertise in than others, but there's a lot of ground to cover before jumping into couture sewing, and I can cover it with you.
How do you come up with the look of your stuffed animals?
To be honest, it's just what comes out when I start sketching. I have always been drawn to color, and loud prints. So sometimes when I'm imagining the next character in my group of animal friends, I imagine the colors that will bring it to life as I design it. I describe my animals as slightly wonky, and that is on purpose. It fits with the vibrance and playful colors that I know I'll be using. If I were using bright clean ginghams and solids for everything, the slight asymmetry of my characters would look out of place. I try always to design something that is slightly off of what you might find in a traditional toy store, try to give a quality that makes each kid feel that their little stuffed friend is entirely unique. And every single one of them is!
What local products do you use at home?
Oh all kinds. We love local goods. Foods are always an easy one of course - we love the farmer's market produce and I love to get items from Baked in Nashville. We have a lot of whimsical local art in the girls' room from Caleb Faires. I tend to do a lot of shopping and trading at the holiday festivals I participate in each year and I almost always end up with some fun treasures from Black Sheep Goods and Dear Mushka. And then, of course, in my line of work, there are some of the best fabric and pattern designers in the country living in nashville, so I get to support people like Anna Maria at Craft South, and I almost always have a fabric print by Alexia Abegg in my stash. There is just such an explosion of local talents here, the list could go on and on.
Do you collect anything?
Besides fabric, which is a borderline hoarder type situation? Well we used to own a little coffee food truck in Washington state and I started trading some of the other vendors at farmer's markets for their handmade mugs. I've kept that collection going. I appreciate the unique handmade ones, but I also love a good old fashioned kitschy quote that makes me smile in the wee hours of the morn. My current favorite of these being one that says, "I'm not saying I'm Wonder Woman, I'm just saying no one has ever seen us in a room together." :)
What is one of your favorite gifts to give (Elvie Creations excluded)?
Well, now that is a hard question because I LOVE giving gifts. It's one of my absolute favorite things to do. And the gift so depends on its recipient. So I don't know if I can answer this fully, but I can at least tell you that I like to give experience oriented gifts when possible. Whether that's a membership to the zoo, or a coloring book with some unique handmade colored pencils (that I got at batch;). I mentioned Black Sheep Goods earlier, one of my favorite gifts for the littles in my life, if I'm not making it myself of course, is her weaving kit. She has a pop out loom, (made by the local One Man One Garage), basic instructions, and four colorful yarns to get started. It's the perfect example of the gift of an experience!
What would you be doing if you weren’t making cute stuff?
Oh that list is long and varied. I have a degree in English literature and my background is in alternative education. So that is a pretty wide field of possibility. I suppose I use a lot of that background in my teaching of sewing, but it could be useful in so many arenas. But I would love to work with some of the nonprofits in town. I love the work of AWAKE, Thistle Farms, and Epic Girl. I'd love to have time to do more than simply give money to those organizations. Also, I'd love to read a book without falling asleep.