Our quick glimpse of Pumkinlittle weeks ago made us hungry for a better look at Erica’s business and her creations. This interview with Erica continues our series of inspiring women (if you missed our first interview check here, and then come back!).
Erica lives in northern California at 5000 feet in elevation. Her husband quit his LA “rocket scientist” job to become a teacher north of Tahoe, and the pace is slower for the whole family in the mountains. Erica’s children Josiah (13), Peter (almost 12), Noah (8) and Abby (6) have lots of freedom in their more secluded locale, and the whole family enjoys quiet without a lot of interruption (or TV… as Erica says, “Internet is my friend!”). Her grandmother was an influence on Erica’s crafty life early on. Erica says, “My grandmother is an amazing quilter and sewer. She has done it all: tatting, crochet, knitting, needlepoint, cross-stitch. She quilts now and all of the grandkids and great grandkids have more than one from her. I think her craftiness has definitely seeped into the rest of the family! That need to be busy doing something you LOVE, not just work, work, work. Work, of course, but after that you play!” Erica started creating early and remembers being eight or nine, working on plastic canvas and cross-stitching.
Creativity- Pumkinlittle and Photography
When she was 19, working two jobs and newly married, Erica remembers trying to quilt and feeling that she really needed a creative outlet. When they had Josiah a few years later Erica became a stay-at-home mom and set her sewing machine up on the dining room table during naptime. “Everyone got a quilt,” says Erica. “This continued for the next 5-6 years… How many little quilts can one make? Ask my family! Abby was born and I just sort of transitioned. Quilts were cute and all but a baby can’t WEAR a quilt!” By the time Abby was 18 months old Erica discovered a market on eBay and, “Woosh… I was off!” she says.When she first started Pumkinlittle Erica built things up one dress at a time. She says, “Everything was french seams and handwork!” Her mother-in-law gave her a serger as a gift and the whole process worked faster. Along the way, “I like to say that my sewing has grown up with my daughter Abby, less ‘baby’ style and more clean lines and gorgeous fabric. I want little girls to feel pretty in my creations but not restrained by poufy skirts or straps that fall off. They need to be comfortable and CUTE!,” says Erica.
Fabric is important to Erica. She jokes, “Without fabric I am nothing!” With a quick look at her blog, Bits and Pieces of a Happy Life, it’s easy to tell that in addition to her sewing, photography is important to Erica’s creative life. She usually grabs her camera when she leaves the house, and her photography has changed and grown just as her sewing has through the years. Erica writes, “My dad is wonderful landscape photographer and has been creating pictures for as long as I can remember. He handed me his old Minolta when I was a senior in high school. I think I did some yearbook shots (bad yearbook shots) and didn’t think more about ‘real’ cameras. Having kids just fueled that need to document their development with photography. I’ve taken a few classes and would love to do more!” When she looks at photos she took five or ten years ago she adds, “I don’t think I really understood what my goals were. I was trying to document life as it was, not the image that I wanted… Learning to manipulate my camera and light has really helped my photography grow. I’m more discontented with my work then ever though! The more I know, the more I realize I know nothing (a lot like life!).”
Blogs and Inspiration
Erica first started Bits and Pieces of a Happy Life as a “place to get away, to just be me,” says Erica. “I didn’t share it with people I knew… I love the community it creates, that I have circles of friends from different online communities.” Erica started out on Blogger late in 2005 and at first she didn’t associate the blog with business or sewing; “I really wanted to disconnect them. I didn’t see myself as ‘crafty’ or creative [the way] so many are. What a bad thing it is to compare ourselves to others! But I finally developed my own voice and own balance of crafty/photography and it works for me. I don’t like to be too chatty. I don’t have time to talk too much, and frankly am not that interesting!” She’s inspired by a number of blogs. From the first one she found she felt a bit nervous about their “crafty perfection” and a little addicted too! She writes, “One must simply find out what wonderful thing Alicia has made. Does Hilary have a new softie? Mollychicken a new little bear?”
In addition to beautiful fabric and crafty blogs, Erica loves Japanese books, lots of websites (the list changes almost daily!), and she is lucky enough to have a group of friends who inspire. Erica writes, “I have a couple of close girlfriends that have been with me from the beginning. They are a huge source of inspiration daily, pushing, encouraging and listening… I think we inspire each other.”
Business and Balance
When she looks back to the start of Pumkinlittle Erica says, “I wish I knew I’d still be doing this five years later! I think I would have built up the business more in the beginning, but I’m happy with where I am at now so no regrets.” When asked about finding balance in her life as a mother and small business owner Erica says it can be difficult, then adds, “Take out is good!… I really try not to sew on the weekends. I do sew when [the family is] gone though, and leave the housecleaning usually for when everyone is home… Everyone is usually working these days. I’m just not locked away with my sewing machine!” The calmer way of life where they live, lack of TV, good friends… These all help Erica seek balance.
When you look at Erica’s Bits and Pieces of a Happy Life, her Pumkinlittle site, Blossom Street and eBay (where you can find her work) and her Flickr photographs, you can see the joy Erica finds in what she does. Erica writes, “Sometimes a design just clicks… Then if the pictures turn out I’m in mad love!” When asked about her success as a mother who creates and sells what she creates, Erica writes that now she’s “more successful (however you define that?). I’ve never really defined myself as successful. I just sew because I love to do it. There are ups and downs but the creative challenge keeps me going and the money fuels the fabric addiction!” With the joy she finds in what she does, the balance she seeks and the beauty she creates, Erica is an inspiration to many. That inspiration alone is a stunning success.