Category Archives: Our Creative Friends

Jennifer Brown Book Signing 2

Creative Inspiration for Writers: Interview with Bestselling Author Jennifer Brown

We are excited to introduce you to bestselling author Jennifer Brown.  Jennifer writes women’s fiction and middle grade fiction.  Check out her latest suspense thriller SHADE ME.   For a complete list of Jennifer’s books please visit her website  www.JenniferBrownAuthor.com.

So how do we know an actual real-deal author?  Kristi is friends with Jennifer.  I asked them for a photo and this is what I received.

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As you can see they work out together and are both a little camera shy.  

We are grateful to Jennifer for giving us some insight and advice that keeps with this summers theme of creativity in life.   Do you ever wonder what surroundings a bestselling author works in?  What inspires them?  What other creative talents they have?  If so, read on!

 

1.  What inspires you creatively?

I have always found that enjoying other artistic endeavors (mine or otherwise) tends to inspire me. A great book, a meaningful song, a deep movie, a poem or painting that I connect with — when I see something great that someone else created, it makes me want to create, too.

2.  What kind of surroundings do you like to write in?

I can write in pretty much any kind of surrounding, but don’t love dark and gloomy areas. I tend to keep it to my kitchen table, where I’m surrounded by windows and can see and hear what the kids are up to. I can’t really write to music, unless it either has no words, or has words in a foreign language I can’t understand. My brain just latches onto words too easily, and it gets distracting.

3.  Who inspires you?

In terms of inspiring specific pieces, that could be different on any given day.  But in terms of who generally inspires me to write and makes me want to be better what I do?  Stephen King. He’s a master storyteller and I wish I could spin a yarn the way he does.  Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda, because he packs so much meaning into his work, and I love deep meaning in art. And Marian Keyes, because her work is light and fun and romantic and sexy.

4.  How old were you when you started writing?

Gosh, even before I could write, I was a storyteller. I would draw pictures and tell the story out loud as I turned the pages. I wrote my first short story when I was eight. I wrote a picture book in high school. I’ve just always written for my own entertainment. I started writing with the hope of publication in 2000. I was *mumblemumble* years old.

5. Do you have any other artistic outlets?

Here’s the thing. I can draw and paint pretty well, but it gives me the rage. Like, serious rage. I hate it so much, so I never do it. I do, however, play piano. It was something I wanted to do my whole life, but never had the opportunity until I was an adult. I’m self-taught and try to practice every night (when my cat, who loves nothing more than to walk across the keyboard, will let me).

6. How long does each stage of the writing process take?

Depends on the project, actually. It takes me a lot more time to write a 100,000 word YA or adult novel than it does to write a 40,000 word middle grade novel. Also, my writing availability fluctuates through the year, depending on how much I’m traveling to speak, whether there are holidays, or if I’m just personally busy. But generally, it goes something like this:

Writing the rough draft takes anywhere from 3-6 months. After turning it in, there is a several-month wait for my editor (and others in the publishing house) to read it and write a revision letter, and also suggest revisions on the manuscript itself (the length of time on this really fluctuates, depending on the editor’s other projects and workload). Depending on how heavy the revisions are, that stage can take me anywhere from 4-8 weeks to complete. Then I wait a couple months to either get another revision letter, or (if the editor feels the revisions are complete) to get copyedits. Copyedits are detail edits, and grammar tends to be pretty cut-and-dried, so they take much less time – hardly ever more than a couple weeks. From there, within a month or two, I get what’s called first pass pages, which is where the book is laid out and I can make one final look-through to fix any small errors that have been missed. That takes about a week. During this whole process, the editor (and others) is working with the designer to come up with a cover and any interior design, and not long after first pass pages, I will get ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies). Those tend to come out a few months before the book is released, to give reviewers time to look at and review the book before it comes out. I would say the entire process, from idea to bookshelf, can take around 18-24 months. Patience is a must-have skill for any writer.

7.  What advice do you have for kids & adults who dream of being a published author?

It’s never too early; it’s never too late. Read. Read a ton, actually. And try to absorb what you’re reading in terms of style and craft. Pay attention to what makes a story good and what makes a story bad (in your opinion). Write. Every day. Even if you’re just playing with bits and pieces of stories and techniques. And, finally, believe in yourself. Too many would-be authors give up too easily. You are going to have days, weeks, months, years, where you are certain that you stink and it will never happen for you. You will get rejected. You will get bad reviews or hateful emails or harsh critiques. That’s just part of being in the business. Sometimes the writer who gets published isn’t necessarily the best at writing; she’s just the best at believing in herself and sticking with it the longest.

We so appreciate Jennifer taking the time to share herself with us.  We’d like to congratulate her on her nomination for the 2016-17 Gateway Award for Torn Away!


Don’t go yet!  We have exciting news!

Jennifer is hosting a give-away on her Facebook page.  You could win a signed book by Jennifer Brown and this fabulous necklace from our Literacy Kansas City Collection.

Hang Ups Live Love Read Necklace

Hang Ups Live Love Read Necklace

Here’s how you enter:

  • Visit Jennifer Brown’s Facebook page and find the post announcing this contest.  Don’t forget to “like” her page to keep up with news and announcements.
  • Post a comment and link on her contest post telling her which of our Hang Ups products you absolutely love.  You can find us at www.hangupsinkc.com.
  • The contest runs from August 9th through August 26th, 2016.  It is open to US Residents only.

Meet Our Friends Rebecca & Norman: Robot Maker and Presidential Hopeful

Say what? Norman, a current top-runner in the presidential race, and I would like to give you an exclusive, never-before-granted tour of Remnants by RJ: Where the Robot Magic Happens.

For those of you who don’t know, Remnants by RJ is just that—a collection of society’s cast off “remnants” that I (Rebecca Jackson) transform into fun, quirky pieces of art. I tend to see what something could be, instead of what it just is.

Primarily, I make recycled robots. I take discarded bits of life—those things lurking in attic boxes or collecting dust on thrift store shelves—and allow them to find their way to a new reality through trial and error assimilations. Each robot is a transformation of the ordinary into something magical with a name, a story, and a personality.

Just like Norman. As soon as the clock knob came to rest on his little film canister head, I knew I’d found my robot counterpart.

Norman is the odd-bot-out in most situations. He has the innate social skills of an ostrich/warthog hybrid and often feels a bit insecure. You might say, Norman is—and always will be—an underdog. But who doesn’t enjoy rooting for an underdog? Despite his insecurities, he accepts himself as he is and enjoys sharing his journey with the world.

Today, that journey takes you inside The Workshop.

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Finished robots, photo shoots, and packing materials reside in the outer sanctum of the workshop…as does the all-important Drill Press of Awesomeness. (If the house were on fire, I would save the drill press first, then maybe the kids. But seriously, they have legs, they should be able to get out on their own.)

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The inner sanctum is a small square room, located in close proximity to the drill press, that houses the workbench on one side and the robot part shelves on the other. Despite its cluttered, slightly haphazard appearance, the shelves are mostly organized and bins are labeled as necessary: arms, eyes, legs, small feet, etc.

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When a robot begins the reassembly process, it’s a matter of trial-and-error. I usually have the glimmer of an idea and begin looking for potential bodies and heads. Then it’s a matter of trying them out.

Norman is currently overseeing the reassembly of a very special robot for Carolyn. (Since neither of us want to ruin the surprise, this is only a sneak peek. You’ll have to wait for the final reveal.)

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I often try to add something personal or unexpected. It is very important to me that each robot is one-of-a-kind. Despite traditional robots being streamlined, replicated machines, I don’t ever want to mass-produce anything. I love the way my recycled robots find their way to a new life all their own.

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Equally important is my commitment to recycling. As a society, we are often obsessed with the next bigger, better thing. That leaves a whole lot of consumer waste in landfills or sitting on shelves in a thrift store. Incorporating those old-fashioned or outdated materials into my work is not only a commentary on the never-ending race to the future, but it is also a challenge to rethink the familiar, giving it new life as an eco-friendly, sustainable piece of art.

Of course, that’s a natural segue into a concluding paragraph with a good dose of campaign propaganda. Norman is currently running for President of the United States on a platform of “Recycling Materials, Not Ideas.”  Among other things, Norman believes that humans, like recycled robots, are endowed with certain unalienable rights, like Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Appendages.

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Together, Norman and I are ready to start infecting the world with imagination and kindness. Won’t you join us? I bet, with your help, we can change the world.

Thank you to Rebecca & Norman for guest-blogging for us in our summer creativity series!  If you’d like to see more of Rebecca’s creations or follow Norman’s Presidential Campaign here’s where you can find them: remnantsbyrj.com, on Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and via email at remnantsbyrj@gmail.com.

 

Taking Flight With Lu & Ed, a MON-STOROUSLY Cool Company

We are thrilled to introduce you to Cody, the human behind a mon-storously successful small business that is environmentally responsible and gives back to the community.  IMG_2664

Q:  Can you tell us a little about yourself and how Lu & Ed was started?
A:  I’m Cody, a monster making mom living in the Midwest, and owner of Lu & Ed! I moved my small family to Kansas City from the East Coast in 2009 and downsized majorly – into my mother-in-law’s basement. Desperate for some storage that wouldn’t take up much of our precious floor space, I dreamed up toy storage for my son that we could hang on the back of the doors for him to put his toys in, in the form of a monster he could “feed”. The next day, I drafted the pattern and with the help of my mother-in-law, learned to use a sewing machine, and several hours and many laughs later, the very first Mon-stor ever was born.
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Q: Where can we purchase your Monster?
A:  I opened my Storenvy shop (http://luanded.com) in 2009 and have been selling there exclusively ever since! It is a free to list, use and sell platform and the people behind it are super passionate and always readily available to answer questions and help their sellers succeed! They have really helped me shape my brand & products into what they are today. ♥
Q:  What are you most proud of in your business?
A: As Mon-stors have evolved over the years, so have my efforts to run a green business. I think it’s important to do good where you can, and I knew I could make a positive ecological impact with products and business practices. In 2011, I switched from purchasing new fabrics to purchasing post-production fabrics from thrift stores and textile discards from factories. When people learned about my eco-efforts they started donating fabric, bedding, and clothing to me to turn into Mon-stors. It takes a bit more effort, but I am proud to say now all Mon-stors are made from 100% upcycled and recycled fabrics. I package and ship all of my products in recycled food boxes and use biodegradable tape. Even my business cards are eco-friendly now, printed on recycled paper that is biodegradable. Saving the world – one monster at a time!
Q: Can you please tell us a little about your social media schedule and how it impacts your sales?
A:  Community is so important when you are an entrepreneur.  I have built a cozy & happy tribe of monster lovers on the internet and I am so thankful for the communities that I am a part of that helped me get where I am. I think when a  lot of people think of social media, they think “marketing”. When I think of social media I think “community”. I don’t use social media solely to sell my stuff – I view each person I interact with as a friend, and that helps me build lasting connections and opens the doors for so many more opportunities and partnerships and conversations!
Q:  What is your advice for someone considering launching a business in the handmade marketplace?
A:  My biggest advice for someone just starting out in the indie world is this: Success does not happen overnight. It doesn’t even happen in a few weeks, and most likely not even in a few months. It can take YEARS before you “make it”. Go into to this prepared for a long, hard road. Join communities and build organic friendships in the industry. Be kind to everyone, even the naysayers and bullies, and always be positive. Don’t complain about how slow the road is or how hard it is because perspective is 90% of your success – if you are excited and positive about your business and efforts, that is contagious. Others will be too!
And the big one? Always keep learning, from the pros. I read Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com all the time, even if it isn’t geared towards the handmade niche it is invaluable information from marketing and small business professionals. Try to only take advice from writers that can quote the source of their information and statistics and have the experience to back their content. You can never learn enough, because things evolve and change quickly, so make sure you are consuming good information while it’s fresh off the press and apply it in any way possible to help your business grow!
Q:  How do you give back to your community?
A:  As Lu & Ed has grown so has my desire to contribute to my local community of children in need. I reached out to artists I admire & collaborated with them to create a program I call Team Team Lu & Ed that proudly supports Drumm Farm with as much as 100% from Team Lu & Ed products going to the group  home environment for children in the Missouri foster care system, helping make the lives of the children who reside there a little more wonderful!
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Check out Cody’s Mon-sters – how could they NOT bring joy to all children – young & old?  Lu & Ed (www.luanded.com) is also a part of the Made In Kansas City Initiative.  Check out this amazing group of local talent at www.handmadeinkc.com.

Taking Flight with Nicole from Ni-Chern Designs

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When planning this blog series on the entrepreneurial journey of small business owners we immediately knew that we wanted to feature Nicole from Ni-Chern Designs.  Nicole is smart, collaborative and giving…everything that a successful entrepreneur needs to be.  She understands the need for community in the handmade entrepreneurial world and when she couldn’t find a community that fit her she created her own!  How is that for initiative?  Check out this community of talented artists (including Hang Ups in KC) at:  http://handmadeinkc.wix.com/home.

If you are wondering what her company name means, Ni-Chern (Nee-Churn) is Nicole’s Chinese name, meaning little girl.  Nicole does some of the finest work we’ve seen and has an eye for fun, vibrant fabrics.  Her creations have been featured several magazines including This is KC, The Pitch, Vintage KC Magazine and the Better Homes and Gardens Do It Yourself Magazine.

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Check out Ni-Chern’s website at www.nicherndesigns.com.  Here is a peek at a few of her creations:

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Ni-Chern Designs is a part of the Made In Kansas City Initiative (www.localstart.org) and donates 10% of her profits to the non-profit organization Kids TLC (www.kidstlc.org).  We could go on and on about this dynamo handmade entrepreneur but thought it would be more fun quiz her about how she got started, what drives her and what celebrity she would love to see using her products.

Q:  When did you start your sewing business and why?

A:  I started my business back in 2005. At first it was the lack of handmade items out there and I needed to pay off my student loans. As we all know when we starting out with handmade business, there is no income in any of this!  So I refocused and went with my desire to help out by donating 10% of my proceeds to preventcancer.org for the first few years.

Q:  What has been the single best thing you’ve done for your business?

A:  Connecting with fellow handmakers. I think a lot of times when we start out, all we can think about is how to make money, but the best thing that I’ve done for my business is to make friends and connect with other people. There is a difference between connecting professionally and just making friends. I always hope that the connections made will turn into a lasting friendships!

Q:  What is your favorite business book or blog that inspires you?

A:  The business blog that has caught my eye recently is Create and Thrive.

Q:  If you could have a celebrity use your products who would it be?

A:  Oh man, I really like Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams. So, I guess any of those ladies would be great!

We would like to thank Nicole for participating in this blog series and for including us in her circle of handmade friend-preneurs!  Find Ni-Chern Designs on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nicherndesigns, follow her on Twitter @nicherndesigns and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/ni_chern.

We are always looking for tips, tricks and feedback.  If you have a fabulous entrepreneurial story please share it with us in the comments section!

Best wishes to all of you!

Kristi & Carolyn

Taking Flight with Jenny & Skip from Ugly Glass & Company

Kristi and I are very excited to launch our Taking Flight series by introducing Jenny & Skip, owners of a gorgeous store called Ugly Glass & Company located in Independence Missouri.  This series will focus on the entrepreneurial journey of several small business owners.  If you are thinking about starting your own “handmade” business or own a small business we invite you to become an active participant in this blog series.

That is Jenny (below), we are pretty sure she was excited because we’d just dropped off (check the counter below her) a brand new batch of Hang Ups in KC creations.  Or maybe she was just happy to see us?

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Q.  How long have you been in business?

A. Skip and I started creating jewelry in 2002 and opened our store front in 2012.  We created our store front as way to showcase our work and the works of other creative souls from the USA.  Currently we have over 70 artists and fine crafters on 2 floors from all over the USA, a lot from the Kansas City metro area.  We are much like an eclectic gift show! 

Q. What made you want to start your own business?

A.  I found a love of beads while creating stretchy bracelets with my friend Amie for Family Literacy Centers; “Bracelets for Literacy”.  It was a fundraising project.  After that I was addicted and started making for others.  Amie got me started on doing craft shows too…so it is all Amie’s fault I guess!!!! I think opening our store front came from a need to have a year round selling venue, instead lugging our things from craft show to craft show on the weekends.  We wanted to give that opportunity to other artists and crafters too.

Q. What is a mistake that you’ve made that you would like to share to help others avoid it?

A.  Save lots of money!  We had been looking off and on for an amazing store front for 5 or 6 years, but had not saved a penny. So everything we had on hand when the “right” space became available went into the space and it was used very quickly!  I suggest having enough saved up at home too.  If you are quitting your day job to start your business, you need bill money for a couple of years, because it might take that long or longer before you are making a profit on your business.

Q.  What is the best thing you’ve ever done for your business?

A.  I started it…I dove in and started it.  I am shy so it took a lot to put myself out there and just do it.  If I let my shyness run my life, I would not have started my business nor opened a store front.

Q.   Advice for anyone thinking of starting their own business.

A.  Network…networking is hard for a shy person.  But don’t be shy about sharing with the world that you have a business.  Always have business cards on hand to give to someone as you are telling them about your amazing business!  Create that Facebook page too!  I cannot believe how many come into the shop because they found us on Facebook!  Social media is very important now.

Q.  What is your favorite business book or blog? If you don’t have one – what inspires you?

A.  I don’t read – I like pictures!!!  Many times we are creating what we have been challenged to create.  If a customer says “hey can you make a starfish?”  we shrug and say “we can give it a go.”  Sometimes it is amazing and sometimes it is just plain ugly.  We wake up thinking about color combinations and designs. Our materials inspire us as well. We have huge amounts of beads and glass.  We just start pulling things out and putting things together, sometimes it is everything we dreamed of, others aren’t.  Ya win some and ya lose some!

You can visit Ugly Glass & Company at 206 N Liberty St, Independence, MO.  They are located right on the square in the heart of historic Independence, Missouri.  If you visit Wednesdays between 11am-4pm you can see Skip going live glass demonstrations. You can find Ugly Glass & Company online at www.uglyglass.com or on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/UglyGlassCo.

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If you have any questions for Jenny & Skip or for us you can comment on this blog post and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you Jenny & Skip for sharing your story with us!

 

 

Meet Marybeth Johnston from Jacabums

We have had so much fun with our Creativity is Contagious, Pass It On series during the month of October.  Since the month is coming to a close we thought we’d post our final installment in this series.

Meet MaryBeth Johnston, who has been a friend of mine for almost 40 years now…which must be impossible because we aren’t nearly old enough to have known each other that long.

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MaryBeth is an extremely talented seamstress with an environmental conscience and Mom to 6 children.  She has a home business called Jacabums offering a long list of handmade re-useable products for babies including:

  • diapers (Pampered Cheeks patterns)
  • covers (poly-urethane laminate, wool and fleece)
  • washable wipes made of 2 layers of flannel
  • wetbags for dirty diapers and swimsuits
  • change pads
  • nursing covers
  • washable breast pads
  • training pants
  • p-pads for carseats  & baby swings
  • diaper bags
  • bibs

That is a LONG list of handmade products that seriously reduce landfill waste.  Marybeth started the business in 2006 because she needed cloth diapers for her son Jacob. Check out how cute her diapers are:

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MaryBeth’s creations can be found online at www.jacabums.com and at a store called Le Capucin (www.homeopathiebebe.com) located in Sherbrooke & Victoriaville, Quebec, Canada.

As if this list of amazing products isn’t enough, Marybeth also makes beautiful purses, bags and pencil cases…and just about anything else people ask her to make.  I have ordered several purses from her and she has come up with gorgeous, unique fabrics for me each time.  For example, Kristi is the proud owner of a retro bike patterned purse by Jacabums.  If you are looking for a unique, earth-friendly and affordable gift for the holidays or baby showers check out Jacabums – you won’t be disappointed!

Stay tuned for our Ornament DIY series in November… just in time to help you with your handmade Christmas gifts or ornament exchange.  Happy Halloween!

Meet Tracy Spisak from Gallery Portraiture

We love our Creativity Is Contagious Pass It On Series because it gives us a chance to tell you about our creative friends who we admire so much.  This week we’d like to introduce you to Tracy Spisak of Gallery Portraiture.

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In our opinion, Tracy is one of the best photographers in Kansas City.  She is fun, creative and has a knack for finding everyone’s best side.  DSC_0024

Today we discovered something new about Tracy; like the postal service neither snow nor rain keeps her from doing a great job.  She managed our scheduled outdoor photo shoot this morning in sleet and heavy rain.  We are excited to share the results on our blog and website (www.hangupsinkc.com) in the next few weeks.

This is not the first time that Kristi and I have worked with Tracy.  Last year we had Tracy do our kids portraits.  She captured our children’s personalities perfectly.

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The first portrait is of Kristi’s amazingly artistic girls.  The brightness of the artwork shines from the wall like a sun beam.  I love my boys portraits because they are edgy and artsy while showing how fun and goofy they are.

Gallery Portraiture is a full service portrait company specializing in custom children’s & family portraits.  Additionally they create unique wall art and custom art work. Tracy and her team take the stress out of photo shoots, making picture day feel more like a play-date.  You can visit their website at www.galleryportraitureinc.com.  Like them on Facebook for updates on special deals and events.
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We hope you all have a wonderful fall weekend!

Creativity Is Contagious Feature Artist: Holly Shaw of Haleighanna’s Hands

We love our “Creativity Is Contagious, Pass It On” series so much that we are going to extend it for the entire month of October.  Send a short bio on you or your creative business as well of some photos of your creations to me at Carolyn@hangupsinkc.com and Kristi & I will share your creations with our friends!

We would like to introduce to our friend Holly Shaw who is the artistic genius behind Haleighanna’s Hands.  We met Holly at a show last March and immediately hit it off with her.  She has a wicked sense of humor and her creativity is off the charts.  This is how Holly describes herself:

“I am a Midwestern girl who decided to follow a dream and moved to Portland, Oregon. I left a corporate job so that I could work on getting to know myself better as an artist. Most of the day is spent in my studio, working with paper, paint and glue. I actually started out scrapbooking and then moved on to mixed media. I opened my Etsy shop so that I could recycle my stash (turning my art into cash to buy more supplies to make art). It was an outlet for my hoarding.”

Here are some of Holly’s most recent pieces:

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Please visit Holly’s online store at www.haleighannashands.etsy.com.

Our First “Creativity Is Contagious, Pass It On” Share

Meet Nicole from Ni-Chern Designs:

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We met Nicole a few years ago when she was our neighbor at the Zeleny Arts & Craft Fair.  We immediately struck up a friendship and are always excited when we are exhibitors at the same show like this past weekend at the Overland Park Fall Festival.  Nicole has been sewing for almost 20 years and clearly loves her craft!  Her sewing is high quality and she has GORGEOUS fabrics.  Trust us, her faithful customers, Ni-Chern is definitely worth checking out.  Visit her new website to take a peek at her fabrics, products and upcoming sales:  www.nicherndesigns.com.  If you like what you see go ahead and share her site with your friends and family.  Shopping small business rocks!