Sunday, March 9, 2014

Grows Feature: {Starry Knight Design by Melanie}

I originally noticed Starry Knight Design at the Missoula People's Market- my eyes immediately drawn to a large selection of brilliant moccasin patterns for babies.  Josey got her first pair last Spring, and we have loved them so much!  I also ordered her an adorable pair of giraffe moccasins about the time we were saying "bye to bubba."  Had to!

Melanie has created an array of beautiful, cute, unique designs for not only moccasins, but accessories, too.  Because she lives in the Bitterroot like us, I wanted to interview her as a part of this Grows Features series.    

My midwife, Sheehan, was there for the birth of two of Melanie's three sons (Kai, Eli, and Liam), so our interview started with homebirth discussion.  Hearing her sparkling voice say, "it's one of the best decisions I made for myself" gave me peace as we are preparing for ours!  Read on for more on Melanie's creative business, which now is the sole source of income for her beautiful family:

Describe yourself! 

I’m Melanie Knight, a happy, hard working mom of three boys-Kai- 8,Eli- 6, and Liam- 16 months. We live off grid in Sapphire Mountains outside Corvallis.  I make soft soled leather baby shoes & accessories- Starry Knight Design.

Our home and business is located 40 min from Corvallis 5800 ft (6mi on dirt road).  My husband Brad does most of our town errands, especially in the Winter.  We've lived here since 2009, and our place which started as a rudimentary house has grown into much more.  Brad is a builder and has done all the work.  

Name a few past & current projects you’ve loved.  

When I was in college, I loved watercolor painting-mostly natural scenes or plants.  Now my leather shoe business is so steady, that's what I'm usually working on.  This year, I did start on some leather accessories for women- small purses, cuffs, headbands and phone cases. It has been a great way to get some new ideas flowing.  

Where do you work, and how do you make this environment productive?

As my business has grown, so has my work space.  I have a studio in our house with storage for shoes and leather. It has big counter for cutting and my sewing area is set up with everything I need in arms reach.  My boys are there with me a lot of time & we homeschool, so we also have desks, art stuff, toys and school books.  The baby has his toys set up in my room, napping, nursing, playing there.  The older boys are more independent, helping with the little one sometimes! For me to be productive, it needs to be clean and organized.  I take breaks with the kids, and take advantage of the time when they are sleeping.  We just do what we do everyday, don't push it when it's not working, and it has worked out so far!

How do you capture your inspiration? 

I do sketches here and there if I have ideas for new designs. I make lists of possible designs.  When my customers ask for special orders or new designs, it helps me to step out of myself and see what people are looking for.

Who inspires you?  

Creative businesswomen/
mom/friends have inspired me through my 5 years at the Missoula market- ReCreate, MagBag, and Piper Paisley.  It has been so great to grow with these women and see eachother's businesses and families grow while learning from eachother.  Especially for me, living off-the-grid, I definitely value those relationships- it has been really great to have that regular interaction with other work-at-home-moms.  Markets can burn-you out a bit by the end of the season, but it's really nice to have that feedback and face-to-face interaction.  Our kids have grown up together at the market.  When we first started, our kids were just babies, now they are running around together.  

Dig this Chick has been quite an inspiration to me online this last year, with her creative business, GEO, and her writing.  I met her at the Missoula MadeFair, and since have read her blog as inspiration to be a better mom and be a better person.  It's really honest writing, I've been reading now for about a year-year and a half.  This season is one favorite essay:  we want to be able to do everything as mothers, but we can't.  It's not that moms drop the balls, they just put them up on the shelf.  Neat analogy.  Put things away for when you do have time.  You eventually might have time for all the things you love, they're not going away, they're just waiting.  

Also, we play a lot of pandora, and I love anything that comes on by Sufjan Stevens!  (I am a big Sufjan fan, so I was so happy to hear this and had to share my experiences seeing Sufjan at Sasquatch for the 50 States Tour & at the Wilma for the Christmas Spectacular. Like Melanie, Sufjan is a prolific artist, having written thousands of songs and always coming up with something new.)

What materials do you use? 
I use remnant and repurposed leather (I buy in bulk- much of it is remnants from furniture companies and garment factories) and custom-dyed suede.  It helps to have a big back stock so I can keep a design on my site for awhile, and make enough for my wholesalers.  

Can you break down your creative process for us?
  1. Make a list or sketch of designs 
  2. Make a test cut-out 
  3. Sew it and try it out
  4. Fix problems or change design
  5. Make permanent pattern (could you send a picture?)
  6. Take pictures and market
  7. Get feed back and change if needed
  8. Try again!

How does it feel when you know you're finished with a project? 

I love the feeling of packing up orders and seeing them all stacked ready to go out across the country.  It is great to be able to pause and take a breath before jumping onto the next list.

What are your upcoming creative goals?  

*Make new designs and styles to keep things fresh

*See my new leather accessory line take off this year

*Online sales to grow more this year

Share a piece of wisdom you’ve learned.  

If you are creative, just start with one idea, design or project and go from there.  It may take a long time to grow into a business- just start somewhere. When I first was making the leather shoes, I had no idea what I was doing! It was an outlet for my creativity and I went with it. Now six years later, it is my family’s sole income.  (way to go, Mama!)  

**This week, Melanie is giving away one pair of 6-12 month soft soled leather shoes with giraffes to a lucky reader AND a headband (adult or baby) for another lucky reader!**

To win:

1. Visit (give yourself some time to check out the amazing stock Melanie has created) and check out Instagram @starryknightdesign  to keep up with new designs and snaps of her beautiful life in the mountains!

2.  Comment here by Friday, telling us which of Melanie's designs are your favorite!  

Thanks, Starry Knight Design!

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