How and when did you start your company? It all started on a whim, at a friend’s craft night back in the Fall of 2012. Girlfriends + wine + crafts = right up my alley! Our task was to make decorated coffee sleeves out of felt, buttons, sequence, and fabric. Whatever our little hearts desired. After we finished, I had a large enough piece leftover to make into a pillow for one of the girl’s daughters. And now, 3.5 years later I have a pillow business! I’ve made A LOT of pillows since then and have really enjoyed challenging myself with the designs.
What was your inspiration? I had a friend who was really into crafting and design. She was a big inspiration along with a trip I took to Franklin, TN. It’s such a quaint little town just south of Nashville, where my husband and I have been several times since to get away for a long weekend. Every shop has a vintage, rustic feel in both the layout of the store and in the products they sell. I love looking through all the old and new, handmade home goods.
How long does it normally take you to stitch a pillow? It depends. Some of the simpler designs I can do in 45 minutes. The more complex designs maybe up to 2 hours. However, I don’t just sit down and stitch one pillow from start to finish. I like to have several going at once to break up the process.
How much time do you dedicate to making pillows? A LOT! And that’s my best answer. I’m a dietitian by profession and work part-time in the NICU at our local hospital. I have a family with 2 young boys at home who are very active in sports so I find time for the pillows whenever I can. Usually after I get them to bed, I’m in my home office working! It’s quite sporadic, really. It’s a craft that I can carry with me and work on anywhere!
Where do you get your materials from? I like to buy from local shops when I can: Sew Dayton and Sew-A-Lot have a great supply of fabrics, buttons, thread, etc. I also buy vintage fabrics from flea market vendors. The felt comes from several places in different states…I’ve even ordered once from Nepal! It’s 100% handmade felted wool and it’s quite thick so hard to find exactly the right kind.
When's the busiest time of the year for your company? Definitely during the holiday season. I start getting holiday orders in early November and then after Thanksgiving it really picks up. Every year I’ve been busier than the one before it so I know I’m moving in the right direction. I ship pillows all over the U.S. and supply 5 retail stores so it can get pretty busy at any given time.
How do you plan on expanding Westlake Craft within the next 5 years? Each year I sit down after I do my taxes and think what do I want to accomplish this year? I think of 3-4 big things and then make a list of some smaller tasks. As far as the big things, I’d like to obtain 1 or 2 local college licenses to be able to put their logos on my pillows. I know they would sell well, but it’s a big step to undertake not only in the application process but the ongoing reporting. I am also looking into the idea of having an online ordering system built in to my website. Up until now, it’s been easier to manage everything by email. The designs are pretty specific so I enjoy working out the details with each customer individually. However, now that I’ve grown into a pretty substantial business with a decent sales volume, it’s become harder and harder to manage the emails. I consider the pillows my art. They are not something I can mass produce, nor do I want to teach others how to make them. A lot of the design happens during the process of making a pillow, which for me is the best part. There is no step by step. I love a challenge but I also love changing the colors and designs as I go, within the confines of what the customer wants. I hope my pillows become sought after, one-of-a-kind gifts.
Learn more about Westlake Craft by visiting www.westlakecraft.com