Spring is here! Are you prepping for upcoming Farmer’s Markets, beach days, and Mother’s Day celebrations that are sneaking up on us? Artist Lisa Coffee of Little Meadow Studio handcrafts understated and incredibly beautiful tote bags and baskets that will be a staple for your spring and summer activities. From Market Totes to Harvest Baskets for your foodie finds, and Project Baskets for creative home storage, you’re going to find something spectacular with Lisa … and fall in love with Little Meadow Studio‘s designs while you’re at at.
Let’s get to know Lisa and how she derives the inspiration behind her work!
Hi, I’m Lisa Coffee. My shop is called Little Meadow Studio, and I handcraft rope baskets.
I’m blessed beyond measure to live, along with my husband and two children, on a twelve acre homestead in Western North Carolina, just outside of Asheville. I work from home, and my studio is a hallway room of sorts. It’s a room that connects two other rooms in my house, and is centrally located so I can be working, yet still in the middle of everything. My studio has amazing built-in shelves, a skylight and a window overlooking our flock of chickens – it’s a sweet space!
How did you get started in your line of work?
I am a Maker, and I always have been. I inherited my paternal grandmother’s crafty gene, for her hands were always busy with one project or another. As a teenager, I taught myself to make candles, and to sew. During my early twenties I seasonally followed the Grateful Dead on tour, and to fund my travels, I sold dresses and candles in the great traveling craft show known as The Lot. This was a carefree and enlightening time in my life full of adventurous travel and personal growth, and from these experiences, though more than twenty years past, I still draw inspiration. Over the years I’ve dabbled in all sorts of handmade crafts, it’s no wonder that I chose two “hands-on” careers – I spent ten years in private practice as a Massage Therapist, followed by five years working in the Deaf community as an American Sign Language interpreter. Throughout the years I kept my hands busy making beeswax candles, sewing household goods, embossing copper, learning photography, making gemstone jewelry, exploring the art of wheel-thrown pottery at a local pottery guild, knitting, and a ton of gardening. After starting a family, my husband and I moved from Colorado to Western North Carolina to live out our homesteading dreams. We purchased an amazing piece of property nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, expanded our gardens, bought our first flock of hens, began keeping bees, continuing to grow and preserve as much of our own food as possible. With my two young children as inspiration, I began sewing their clothes, quilting and knitting more. When I first spotted a rope basket during an internet search, I just knew I had to make one. And so, one afternoon I sat at my machine, and worked it out. The first two baskets were lovely and imperfect and practical and I was hooked. I didn’t start making baskets with the intent of selling them, but as I shared my process on social media, the response was overwhelming – people wanted these baskets, and I loved making them – et voilá, a small business was born!
How long have you been doing your artwork?
I’ve been sewing for 24 years, and sewing rope baskets for nearly one year.
How did you come up with the name of your shop?
The inspiration for my shop name Little Meadow Studio comes from the land I live on. If you were to walk with me around this property, I’d lead you first through the expansive gardens where my family and I grow our food. From there we would swing by the backyard playground, and head toward the Tricky Trail. We’d cross the creek at Fairy Crossing, stopping long enough to spy salamanders and play in the rushing water. From here we would first amble, then run along winding forest trails, ducking under hundred year old rhododendron trees, spotting mushrooms, bear scat, and vibrant green moss at the base of each tree trunk. After winding along, we would cross the creek again and follow the path up through sourwood and oak to a little rainbow colored wildflower meadow. Here we would watch how the afternoon light casts through insect wings. We’d notice how the breeze turns each bloom towards us, like a welcoming wave – dandelion, oxeye daisy, goldenrod, red clover, joe-pye weed, poppy, jewel weed, yarrow – depending on the season – the whole rainbow blooms here. We would wander around admiring each bloom, perhaps laying down a blanket, a place to rest and daydream the afternoon away.
How do you create your work?
I do most of my sewing in the middle of the day when my children are otherwise occupied around the homestead. However, since my studio is in the middle of the house, they are often by my side, if not sitting on my table as I sew. Each of my baskets is sewn using a continuous piece of cotton rope. I hand dye the rope in small batches prior to sewing. Sometimes I have a specific shape or pattern in mind when I’m dyeing, other times, I make it up as I go. Some of my most favorite baskets have come from those days when I sit down with a hank of rope and start sewing with no particular shape in mind. I love the organic shape building aspect of making these baskets, which reminds me of wheel-throwing clay.
What is the inspiration for your work?
My inspiration for most things in life has always come from the natural world around me. I spend most of my waking time outside in the garden, or exploring the forest with my kids. My work is influenced by the need of having beautiful and functional ways of storing my homesteading tools, harvests, knitting WIPs, and crafting supplies. I often joke that one can not be both a homesteader and a minimalist because the work of growing, harvesting, and preserving food requires a lot of stuff, and I’m forever looking for creative and beautiful ways of storing that stuff. The idea of creating something that is as beautiful as it is useful motivates me. I’m practical but I also like pretty, and I’m not willing to compromise beauty for functionality if I can have both.
What is your next new exciting project?
This spring I’m planting a dye garden on the homestead. The idea of cultivating plants for dyeing textiles has me beyond excited. My seeds are ordered, my garden beds prepped, and as soon as the spring weather takes a firm hold on my mountain garden, I’ll be growing indigo, hopi sunflowers, goldenrod, amaranth, elderberry and many, many more. I hope to transition to completely homegrown plant dyes within the coming months. Long term, I have plans to turn our back room into a pottery studio. It’s been years since I’ve sat at a wheel and played with clay, and I plan to revisit that love affair soon!
What is a quote that you personally live by, or you have shared with others for inspiration?
“It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.” – Nancy Thayer
As a small business owner, what is one piece of advice you would share with other small business owners?
Make what you love, and Share The Love with your buyers. Without the people who actually buy my art, I would have a hobby, not a business. I strive to respond promptly to customer inquires, clearly communicate my process, rates and shipping times, and generally try to be available. Sending out a token of appreciation to customers, whether it’s a handwritten note, special discount offer, or small handmade gift are a few ways that I share the love with my customers. I see working from home, creating beautiful functional art, to be a great privilege, and I’m grateful every day to have this lifestyle.
What handmade-related business resources do you use to help improve your business?
I don’t use any specific handmade-related business tools. Should I be?! I joke, but really, my most useful tool for the business side of my work is a simple google docs spreadsheet, which helps me keep the numbers in check. I also can’t say enough good things about the instagram community. I am inspired and uplifted daily by Makers of all sorts.
What does “handmade” and “handcrafted” mean to you?
I interpret Handmade and Handcrafted to mean, quite literally, the work that comes from one’s own hands. Handcrafted means being involved and “hands on” during as many steps of design and fabrication as possible. It means authentic, personal, unique. It means time well spent.
Why did you choose to join aftcra, and what do you enjoy about the community?
I’m new to Aftcra, and I came for two main reasons:
1) I was looking for an online community serving American Makers, and
2) I wanted to find a platform where my work could stand out as unique, and not just one in a million.
I was very impressed with the ease of setting up my shop, and overall the user interface feels welcoming and intuitive. I’m excited for the opportunities within this community!
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