seed pod newsletter
"Star Spangled Man"
© Maria Pahls 1999
primitive pals #048
© Copyright 1998 Maria Pahls
Published to the internet
by arrangement with Homespun Peddler.

Fence Post
the fence post
(editor's letter)

dear friends:

welcome to what i like to call the "anniversary" issue of the seed pod. it was with this issue that homespun peddler began putting my newsletter on their site along with the gallery of images. celebrate our little mile stone with us and enjoy the read!

primitively yours,
maria pahls
drop a line
miscellaneous letters sent in by readers

debee nees wrote about our "gathering" held in march:
"the ultimate trip"

What would you do if you had a chance to meet, greet, and talk at length to a group of very talented folk artists whose work you greatly admire? What if you had to drive 10 hours in iffy, sometime treacherous driving conditions to do it? And what if your driver was a total twit brain who would miss critical turns, get you lost, and almost run out of gas in the snowy West Virginia Mountains?

Well, Paula Setters, Frannie Meshorer and I felt up to the challenge on the weekend of March 20-21, when we drove to Cincinnati to meet Maria Pahls and be her guest at a gathering of incredible folk artists in Ohio.

First, it was so great to meet Maria, after having an "internet relationship" for about a year, swapping dolls with her, and finding we share a taste for the slightly bizarre and funky . . . ("The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a favorite in both our houses).

Her face is like a china doll's, and she was way too young to be as accomplished as she is, if you ask me! Her children are gorgeous, and quite spirited, as young children are supposed to be.

We ooohed and ahhhed over her primitive doll collection, and especially were impressed with several old little sock doll soldiers that were obviously made with love - hand-stitched faces, some with beards, and completely clothed (some in hand-embellished uniforms). We all gasped - "WHERE did you get these???" It turns out Maria's husband, Jim, made these treasures as a child! He sewed them and gave them names and ranks, and enacted Civil War dramas with them. They were by far the most precious items we saw on the trip, and I am so glad that Jim (and his Mom) had preserved his childhood memories in these dolls. The fact that he made and treasures these dolls also leads me to believe that he might have a deeper understanding than the "average" husband of what drives a primitive folk artist.

We got a preview of Maria's pattern doll models. - really NEAT. And as if that wasn't enough, to meet Gloria Bowlin ("The Crow and the Weasel") and Sharon Andrews was just icing on the cake. These women design really great patterns and dolls. I tried to keep my mouth shut and my ears open to soak up all the creative conversation that was flowing around the room.

Then, we went to see Dan and Jerry of "Fried Green Tomatoes". They show at upscale regional Folk Art Shows - I hadn't seen their work before. I was blown away. Their work was all over the house, blended in with antiques and folk art and wonderful old quilts. I REALLY wish these guys lived near me - they'd probably have to issue a restraining order to keep me away from their house. They make funky angels with barn wood wings, sometimes putting several angels on one pair of wings with their arms around each other. They make little angel heads sticking out of wooden house windows. They have old-looking dolls sitting on old quilts.

My favorite was a group of three scared-looking dolls in an antiqued, hand-carved wooden bed with their (patched) covers pulled up to their necks - I think Dan said it's called "We're Not Afraid Of the Dark". One of the dolls clutches a little cloth bunny. Really adorable, and it just makes me laugh.

Their stuff has a light-hearted sense of humor that makes you just want EVERYTHING. We stayed and stayed, and never overstayed our welcome.

Another real blast was the "show and tell" session where Sharon, Gloria, and Kindred Spirits' Sally Korte and Blue Ribbon Stencil's Donna Hrrkman all showed their "stuff". Sally Korte pulled out of her magic bag **THE** wool jacket from Woolenstuff, **THE** "What's Its Name" Halloween doll, and **THE** original piece of several items we have all mooned over in the books for so long.

I felt like some kind of pilgrim, coming to a holy shrine. There was a point where Maria and I looked at each other, and she just said "Sensory Overload". The words that describe the day for me! We spent more time at the Fairy Festival than I think the group would have -I spent too much at the Fairy Festival (that little fairy bear just jumped right into my basket!). And I spent too much at the Sharonville Ohio Folk Art Festival (I haven't finished the first rug hooking kit I bought; now there are two more to do!). What's money for anyhow? Let's just say I did my part to keep the folk art business and the local economy of Cincinnati going. My patriotic duty is done!

It has taken me several weeks to process the experience enough to put something down in print. It was an absolute blast, but the best thing was the meeting of hearts and minds that took place with this remarkable group of folks. Plus, my driving didn't kill us! Though I think Paula and Frannie will think twice before jumping into the car with me again. If they know what's good for them!"

editor's note: debbee is a talented doll maker,member of crooked tree hollow doll club, builder of habitat homes, & gifted writer. you can see more of her offerings in the crooked tree hollow newsletter.

a note from nicol sayre on quilt market 1998:

"Quilt market was great!!! We were so lucky to have our booth in between Sharon Andrews and Kindred Spirits! Some customers commented how nice it was to have us all in one easy place to come back to. The response to our book , Old Christmas, was really good. The best part of Quilt Market is, as always, the people. To be in one place with so many wonderfully creative people is food for the soul and never fails to remind us about why we started this business in the first place! We had many fun and hilarious times and learned something about each other as well as taking care of business."

here's a note from teresa h:

" I definitely want to be a member of Primitive Pals. I enjoy making primitive dolls (when I have time) and collecting cloth dolls. I have a wonderful Alabama Indestructible Baby made by Ella Smith around the turn of the century. I also have an early Chase baby. In April I went to a doll festival in Roanoke, Alabama. It was in honor of Ella Smith. I really admire these women doll makers. I especially love Izannah Walkers dolls. I am trying to make a reproduction of her dolls. I am a perfectionist in this respect and am not satisfied with my creations so far, they just don't look like Izannah dolls! I have one of Shari Lutz's dolls that is sooo beautiful and looks like an Izannah doll. Just thought I would stop lurking and say something."

paula sent a note and i thought this part was funny:

" Spent the weekend trying to make primitive fairy wings out of old metal window screen. I showed them to my husband who looked at them for several minutes and didn't say anything- I took that to mean he thought they were okay- as opposed to the armature for my Annie Moon class doll which he thought was a waste of a good coat hanger"

here's a note from lori baker

"You've really done it now. I'll have you know that 2 bear makers sat up till 1:00am on Tues. night (after a long drive back from Baltimore) and made DOLLS!!!!

Somewhere in the last few months I got this crazy idea that I had to try to make something other than a bear, (for therapy, I thought!) WELL, they actually turned out great and we had a blast. We could hardly see straight, a lot of fine detail but I think it did us both good.

When Pat Murphy from MI was coming here to go to the Baltimore show, I asked(begged) her if she wanted to stay an extra day when we got back to have a "make something other than a bear day". We did! We can all get into such ruts, I really haven't made much of anything but bears for the last 10 years! It's also easier to hide a few stitch imperfections in mohair than it is on muslin or cotton.

Pat brought a box of old fabrics, plus we had also gone to the Calico Cupboard in Westerville, OH (bought MORE material!) and hit a few more antique shops! It's just too bad that we didn't have time to go on and do another. We both made black dolls with painted ,sanded faces and thread hair. Now my pair of black dolls from Marcie LaJoie have a daughter!

Here's to new good things!! Now I think all you doll makers that have never made a bear need to get off your duffs and 'Just do it!' "

primitive ponderings
questions asked by readers, then replied upon in later issues.

new questions:
what are your top 5 favorite names for dolls?

i need sources for all sizes of gourds, can you help me?- pat. t
yes pat, see spider web & burlap sack in this issue.

shop owner chat:
the kent's of homespun peddler
Publisher's note:

As much as we loved it, we closed the storefront in March 2001. It was time to do other things. Of course, we continue to sell patterns by mail order via this web site. Despite closing the store, the interview that follows is still interesting so we will leave it here unaltered.      Pattye & Stephen

in 1998 i "sat down" with stephen and pattye kent from bay city michigan and chat a bit about their business.

Q: so who had the idea to start a business and what sparked it?
p: Well, actually it was more Stephen's idea and he badgered me into doing it. Our store was an established consignment craft shop and I had worked there for 7 years. I was always saying "if it was MY store this is what I'd do... or that is what I'd sell... or here's what I'd change". Stephen finally convinced me to put my money where my mouth was.

The new location

S: Starting a business wasn't a completely new thing for us. I started my own computer consulting business 20 years ago. Over those years I've consulted to numerous other small businesses and startups. I knew just how crazy you have to be to try it... and Pattye and I are pretty crazy.

Q: how'd you go about buying the store?

P: Two years ago the time seemed to be right. After discussing it at length, we approached the previous owner. She was in fact thinking of retiring and agreed to sell.

Q: What about craft experience? or retail experience?

P: When Stephen and I met I was head of the telephone order entry department for a large medical supply company in Detroit. That was a totally different product but it was sales to the public. My only RETAIL experience was in this store and selling at craft shows. I've ALWAYS done crafts of one kind or another. I paint, sew and do papier mache. I've done quilts and dolls and samplers, I even once made custom lingerie... the only thing I HATE doing is counted cross stitch! I became a primitive convert after doing my first Hickety Pickety doll. The primitive style is "ME" and I just love it.

S: I already mentioned my business experience. I'm also the creative type and love crafts of any kind. I paint, sketch, doodle, sculpt and even sew... but mainly for fun... I'm a hacker, Pattye's a pro. I love woodwork and can build just about anything. But my specialty is woodcarving. I've been whittling since getting a carving knife at my first summer scout camp. (I tried to teach Pattye to carve but couldn't stand the sight of her own blood!)

Q: Did the business work as you expected.

P: Yes and no. We've been able to make most of the changes we wanted to the business but some of the changes to the building have to wait due to the cost! I've had a lot of fun but I've found that I'm tied to the shop all the time, maybe more than I expected.We have one part time helper but should probably have two. But our two teenage daughters work there on weekends, holidays and summer. They're a great help and it's wonderful having a family business!

Q: what sorts of stuff did you start out with for inventory and how much? how did it develop and what are your primary items now?

P: When we bought the shop most of the consignors stayed with us. That was about 80% of the business. The wholesale lines included Boyds Bears, Cats Meow, and a few other lines. We kept Boyds, dropped Cats Meow and added candles. We've gradually added specialty foods and other wholesale lines.

Because I LOVE primitives, I've been moving the store in that direction. But I still carry some of the "cutesy" lines because we have loyal customers who like that style. We're educating the old customers and attracting new ones who like the folk art that we love.

I've also added patterns and some supplies. We have to build that market because people don't know us for supplies; the shop has always sold finished goods. I just took on a line of quality paint brushes and I'm working with a local painting teacher on doing some classes and projects.

Q: How do you feel about consignment sales?

P: I like it because we get unique, hand crafted items. Working directly with the artists is nice. Customers appreciate it because we can often get items made specifically for them in their colors or to fit their measurements.

We should caution everyone, however, that consignment can be frustrating as well. When it's three weeks before Easter and you have no bunnies, that's not good. When you ask your best bunny crafter "what's going on, where are the bunnies" and they reply "well, I just didn't feel like painting this month", . . . well . . . YOU JUST WANT TO SCREAM! With wholesale you can buy in advance in the quantity that you want. That's much easier to plan for.

S: Other than the lack of control that Pattye talked about, consignment is usually a win-win deal. Wholesale requires a shop owner to tie up a considerable amount of cash in advance. With consignment you get the merchandise with no up front cost. For the crafter, consignment is good because it can insure that items are continuously on display and ready to sell. We can concentrate on selling and the crafter can concentrate on being creative.

Q: What about the web site?

S: Well, that's my baby. My computer company has been involved in the internet for a long time. It was just natural to build a site for Homespun Peddler. Being OUR site, not a client site, I've found it great fun and a wonderful creative outlet. The site has also been much more successful than I anticipated. We have a loyal following and lots of e-mail feedback. But the REAL mark of success came when our host site webmaster complained that our hits were overloading his system.

Q: Your web site is becoming known for primitive art. Is that your main focus?

S: We list many things on the web site but the primitive sections have been getting most of my attention. Pattye and I both love this style so we naturally promote it. But the response was immediate and overwhelming. We quickly realized that there's an unfilled niche here. Our dream is to become the central source for primitive information on the web.

Q. do you have any advice to someone wanting to begin a business such as yours?

P: You have to love what you're selling. It's very rewarding when customers come in and appreciate what we have, even more when it's something that I made. When you own the store it just can't be "only a job".

S: Be sure to have your funding well planned in advance. We planned carefully and worked closely with our banker. Had we not done that, the first year could have been real scary.

Q. are there any mistakes you made along the way that you could caution entrepreneurs about?

P: We didn't really make mistakes but we did learn a lot. My only caution is to be prepared to spend most of your time with the store.

S: I agree that we made no real mistakes. But we paid for good professional help up front. We worked closely with our CPA, attorney and banker. It would be a mistake to skip that step. I should also repeat this: there are always more bills than you expect; have your finances planned well in advance and be ready for the unexpected!

tips & techniques
bye bye onion hands!

ever been cutting up onions or garlic or seafood only to find that hours later your hands still retain the odor of those foods? try this:

lather up your hands with soap and (this is gonna sound & look weird) rub them with the soap on all over a stainless steel sink fixture making contact with all areas of your hands including in between each finger and the top side of your hands to the stainless steel. rinse. you many need to repeat, but it should "lift" the odor from your skin.

what's it?

lindsey woolsey: a course sturdy fabric of wool and linen or wool and cotton

burlap sack

Magic Threads
julie mccullough
719 p st
lincoln, ne 68508
402-477-6650/ call for catalog cost

The Gourd Factory
Linden CA 95236

The Gourd Farm
c/o Lena Braswell
Route 1, Box 73
Wrens GA 30833

The Pumpkin and Gourd Farm
101 Creston Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446

West Mountain Gourd Farm
Route 1, Box 853
Gilmer, TX 75644

Ozark County Creations
Dennis and Becky Hatfield
30226 Holly Road
Pierce City, MO 65723

John Van Tol
East Maitland
NSW 2323 Australia

book wormie   book reviews
books of interest

american folk dolls
by wendy lavitt
aisn: 0394711327

cloth dolls
(from ancient to modern -- a collector's guide --with values)
by linda edward (a schiffer book for collectors)
isbn 00-7643-0213-2

prairie people: cloth dolls to make and cherish
marji hadley & j. dianne ridgley
isbn 1-56477-053-2

for all you soap makers!
susan miller cavitch(author of the natural soap book)has written another instructional book: the soapmaker's companion: a comprehensive guide with recipes,techniqies & know how.
from storey communications
p.o. box 445
pownal,vt 05261

Country Living Handmade Soap:
Recipes for Crafting Soap at Home
by Michael Hulbert
Hardcover - 112 pages March 1998
Hearst Books; ISBN: 0688155626

Country Living Handmade Candles:
Recipes for Crafting Candles at Home
by Jane Blake, Emily Paulsen
Hardcover March 1998
Hearst Books; ISBN: 0688155634

spider web
web sites of members & other sites of interest

craig & sharon illa antiques

art quilt site

gourd artists guild site


One today is worth two tomorrows. ben franklin

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