Zelma Rose is where pure creativity meets good old craftsmanship. And I had the pleasure to meet the lovely Lisa Anderson Shaffer, the designer and maker behind Zelma Rose. In 2010 Lisa established Zelma Rose as an creative outlet inspired by all things she loves and appreciates: nature, North California and the old craftsman’s traditions her grandparents taught her. Zelma Rose bow-ties, cross-stitch jewelry, lockets, scarves and boutonnieres are all hand made using the best quality materials, vintage and new. Lisa strives to make unique products and she enjoys developing her artistic talent every day. Read on what else she likes, what are her dreams and how she manages family and self-employment in our interview. I loved talking to Lisa and having a glimpse into her creative process. I’m sure you will love it, too.
First of all, congratulation for being nominated for the American Made Award by Martha Stewart. What does this nomination means to you?
Martha Stewart is definitely a heroine of mine. Her work ethic is incredible and she has built her empire not once, but twice. She has really been at the forefront of encouraging women to make and create, and that it can be a business and a money generating endeavor. It is thrilling just to be on the radar at Martha Stewart Living and be a part of such a great collection of makers working hard everyday at what they love.
Your work is fine craftsmanship, what led you to become designer and maker?
I was that kid in school that everyone else knew was an artist before I even did. Being a designer was never part of my process as a fine artist and coming back to art making after nearly a decade pursuing a psychotherapy license brought me to places that I had never been before creatively. I like to think where I am now as a designer and maker is a result of the influence of all my experiences as an artist, teacher, psychotherapist, and mom. It has been so much fun to create an object that can be worn and made ones own. That was new for me in this process. My previous creative work was fine art. Sculptures, textile work, and painting. I love designing a piece, making it and knowing that it is going to serve a purpose to my customer. Maybe it is for a special event like a wedding, or a gift, or maybe just a treat. Whatever the reason, I like the purposefulness behind it. I have had the privilege of creating custom wedding designs for three close friends this year and being able to be a part of their celebration in this small way has really filled my heart. It’s been such a pleasure and what this work is all about for me.
Bow Ties, Cross Stich Jewelry, Lockets… Describe the idea of Zelma Rose products? What is so unique about them?
At Zelma rose we are all about classic style. I love fashion, both trendy and classic, but there is something about the tried and true classics that keep us coming back for more. A well pressed white shirt, a belted trench, a pair of really great jeans. I think classic style is pseudonymous with American style and I love to revisit classic ideas with a more modern eye. All of my designs start with a classic idea. Whether it is the product, like a bow tie, locket or pocket square, or the method, like cross stitch, I aim to stay within the bounds of traditional style and give it that modern NorCal vibe that brings it into the here and now. It is my mission to create designs that you can’t find anywhere else. I search high and low for textiles and materials that meet my unique aesthetic. I want my customers to feel like they really have something special that will stand out and be noticed when they wear one of my designs.
What do you keep in mind when designing your products?
Definitely craftsmanship first. I want each piece to be made with incredibly high standards. When a stitch isn’t right I start over, if a fabric doesn’t sew the way I like it too, I scrap it. Every design holds to our motto of classic style and modern design. I am always asking, where does this originate? Is it a new idea, or a modern twist on a classic? Does it stay true to the unique style and beauty of the Bay Area?
You are passionate about North California, how does this influence your work?
I love California! I moved here from New York nearly 18 years ago and have spent my entire adult life here. I met my husband in San Francisco and stated a family here. Nowhere compares. The natural beauty and the individual spirit of the people keeps me constantly inspired. When I am lacking motivation I just step outside and take a walk and bam, either a mountain or a bike messenger has me going on my next idea. The Golden Gate Bridge has taken my breath away for nearly 18 years. I do not foresee this stopping anytime soon.
As every job, being a designer and self-employed has also pro and con. What do you love most about your job? What’s not so great?
I have never been happier doing what I am doing now. I finally really get that, yes, while I have other interests, I am actually an artist. Allowing myself to be one works the best for me and my family. My schedule now, while daunting and insane is perfect. I run everything around being with my daughter and there is really no other job on the planet that could allow for that. I can answer emails and go into production before the sun comes up and work really late into the night if I want. I am lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive family that goes along with my roller coaster ride. What I find difficult about owning your own business is the emotional ride. Some days you are riding so high from a great piece of press or getting into a new store and this might be followed by a dry spell of feeling very frustrated with slow growth and being plagued by self-doubt. Luckily I have a great group of women who also run their own show and we can talk and connect with each other about the ups and downs that we all ride out.
Have you any advice for somebody who would like to enter the world of handmade goods?
Think about whether you want to go full time or part time from the start. Can you imagine this becoming more than a hobby? It might sounds premature, but we all know ourselves best and for some people having handmade as a hobby works just great. For others of us who tend to go full tilt into everything, the objective is always full time. Whatever way you do it, it is good to have a goal in mind at the start. And the timeline is up to you. Maybe you hope to be full time in 5 years, 2 years, 10 years. It really doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there, just start.
Can you describe us your day at the …morning…. noon…. evening?
I am a morning person. It took me a while to figure this out, but being able to get up at 4 am everyday and start working I guess means that I am a morning person. I start work at 4 am and do a little of everything in the morning. Design, answering emails, making, preparing for shipping, blogging. I like to mix it up. I work until my daughter wakes up, which could be as early as 6 am or as late as 8 am. I spend about 3 hours or so of uninterrupted time with her and then get 2 hours or so, courtesy of grandma to take a meeting, go to the post office, or take a trip to the city for supplies. Most mornings I have lunch with my daughter and put her down for her nap. I go back to work during naptime and then I am back to being mom until my husband gets home when I return to work. After the babe goes to sleep, I might do some hand sewing while my man and I watch anything on HBO. It sounds crazy, but it works for us and allows me to really wear all the hats I want to.
This is a tough one. I am a firm believer in putting your dreams out there and being specific. I have a board in my studio with all the publications I want to get in and cross them off as they materialize. No one else is going to dream it for you, so why not put it out there yourself. I remember a few years ago, before I started ZR shopping in Barney’s in NYC with my husband. I fell in love with a pair of handmade earrings that I could not live without and thought; wow this must feel amazing to be this designer. So yeah, Barney’s would be a kick in the pants and some NYC pride for sure. On a personal level, I would love to meet Marc Jacobs. He is really the epitome of American style. I am so inspired by the way he works and make time to watch the documentary Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton a few times a year. Watching him work is magical and reminds me of why I do what I do.
Top 3 destinations?
New York City
Currently addicted to…?
Night owl or early bird?
Always in your bag…
Burts Bees lip balm, moleskine notebook, and a pen that works.
Thanks you Lisa for having me and for the fun interview!