I set out for inspiration the other day; I wandered into Jaffa, my favorite place to be inspired. I was strolling around the flea market area and I went into a shop called Ma’Asiya (Ma’Asiya in Hebrew means “makers” ). The store’s owner is Puaa Ladizinsky, she’s filled the store with beautiful, natural and handmade pieces from around the world. As I looked at all the interesting clothes, scarves, toys and curiosities in the shop, the shop keeper asked me if I wanted to hear the story of how the store came about. Oh! A friendly shop keeper-I was definitly interested, so she proceeded to explain to me who the “makers” of the shop are.
Pua works with special groups of people who make handmade, natural items; the special pieces are made by retarded adults, mentally exhausted people, refugees, single mothers, old Russian grandmothers, local artisans and others. Pua told me that “people are special” and I believe the store and the pieces inside are as well.
The shopkeeper continued with her story, in the corner is a rack of brightly colored jackets. These jackets are made from old pique blankets that were very popular here in Israel in the 1950’s. All the kindergartens used the blankets for nap time because they were cotton and light weight and most Israeli’s are familiar with the fabric; the blankets and now the jackets bring back fond memories for Israeli’s. The jackets are 2 layers thick and made in Israel.
I particularly liked that I could find unique things in the store from far away places; I love boutiques with one of a kind pieces and things I’ve never seen before. The pieces in the store are made from a wide array of natural materials such as cotton, bamboo fiber, hemp, goat’s hair, linen, felt and wool. And of course you can find treasures from the Jaffa, Shuk ha Pish Pisheem Fleamarket, in which the shop is located.
My second craft book, Sew Magical for Kids just came out; it’s the second in a set of two sewing craft books full of my favorite projects that I’ve designed for children. The first book, Sew Magical for Baby introduced projects for babies, and both books contain sewing patterns and illustrated instructions.
The process of writing two craft books was a real learning experience for me, I found creating a craft book a bonanza of creative projects in and of itself: designing products, making patterns, shooting products, illustrating instructions, designing book layouts, styling products and designing and painting sets. I made many of the props, the clothes the models wore and used things from my antique stash so the photos would have the look that I wanted. I had my own ideas about how everything should go, but the publishers made most of the design decisions like which photos to use, which projects to cut and the book titles. If anyone else out there in blogland has experience with publishers and writing craft books, I’d love to hear about it.
My working process for the books went something like this:
I chose one of the many ideas floating around in my head and I sketched it out…
I made a rough pattern for the prototype. Once the prototype was the way I wanted it (many times it took 2 or 3 or 4 prototypes till I got it right) …
I made a final pattern (with several sizes if it applied) and then…
I made the final sample. At this point I looked at the fabrics and materials I already had or I went out and looked for the right materials and bought according to how many items I wanted to make.
I shot the finished piece so I could use the photos in my blog and promotional pieces…
I shot the step-by-step process of making the project and I used these photos as guides for the illustrations…
I wrote what I was doing as I made a project
I matched up the written directions with the illustrations and sent them to the editor for corrections.
I think my book writing experience has been different than the norm, at least in the beginning. Because of the reputation of my store ( in Tel Aviv), I was asked by a publisher if I wanted to write a craft book and this means that I didn’t go through the whole process of writing a proposal and submitting it to publishing companies. Yah! To the publisher, I proposed my favorite things I’ve designed and the things that people liked (bought) the most from my store. Writing a book like this takes an inordinate amount of time and that’s not including the editing process. I’ve spent many hours going over the instructions with the editor Shoshana, but these were enjoyable hours since Shoshana is such a patient and fun chick! I don’t think Shoshana could sew on a button in the beginning of this project, but I think she can now single handily sew a custom tailored wedding dress from the sewing information she’s gleaned from our conversations over the last year!
I wanted the projects in my book to be very unique and to be something that people could really use. Because there are so many craft books out there, unique and useful projects are very important. One of my favorite aspects of my books are the detailed, step- by-step illustrations that accompany the written instructions. I don’t usually read instructions, I look at the photos or illustrations when I make something and I know that most other arty people do the same. I know that Japanese craft books are super popular these days, partly because of the detailed illustrations that accompany the text. The illustrations or photos are so clear that mostly anyone can follow the steps without having to read them; I think my books have the same clear, step-by step visual instructions.
After the products were designed and sewn, it was time to photograph them. I had wanted to do the photography, but the publishers wanted otherwise. So, for the first book, I made the sets for the photos by creating a space in my store that looked like a baby’s room. I placed the products in the room and the photographer shot them in natural light. The effect was very soft and elegant and I am very pleased with the outcome.
Photography for Sew Magical for Kids was different, we used a photographer’s studio and backdrops. I painted several backdrops to use with a variety of of the products, modeled by my two youngest girls and several friends from school.
I thought the backdrops added a lot to the photos. I didn’t want the book photos to look like pack shots.
My girls helped me to paint the backdrops because the deadline of the book fell during my absolute busiest time, preparing (designing and sewing costumes) for Purim.
I was looking for my books in American book and craft stores over the summer and I couldn’t find them:o I assumed that they would be distributed to the bookstores that do business with the publisher, but I think I have a lot of marketing to do; I’ll keep you updated on this phase of writing craft books. So now I have two beautiful craft books that I’m very proud of and now I’m looking into publishing them internationally.
Well, here goes… My name is Laura Burch; my husand Doron Levitas and I have three daughters: Lili, Elli and Emili. I opened a store, it’s a children’s gallery; we design and sew everything in the store. I gave it the name Burch and daughters as a feminist twist to the more traditional naming of businesses such as Smith and sons. My daughters are young, so they don’t actually work at the store yet, but they are my inspiration, models and test subjects for everything we make. I’ve never owned a store before and I don’t consider myself business-minded, I’m an artist. My husband Doron has been guiding me, he is a business man; I’m learning.
The interesting thing and the most challenging aspect of my store is that it is in Tel Aviv, Israel. I’m a girl from the Heartland, living in the Holyland! Serving this culture and my Israeli customers isn’t the same as if my store was in my town, Chicago, Illinois. My tastes and that of many Israeli’s are very different; I have a very conservative style, their’s is much more flamboyant. Many people come into the store and ask me from where do we import. They think that my creations are from England or France, they don’t realize that everything is handmade in the store (upstairs in our studio). But never the less, everyone seems to love the store. They walk in and tell me it seem magical, like they’re in another time and place and they feel that my creation is a fairyland for children.
It really all started after we moved here about 9 years ago. I was a graphic designer and illustrator in Chicago and opening a store was never a goal of mine. I came to this strange land, the big city really, but there was nothing to buy here. Everything was made in China or India, cheap, plastic, poor quality and ugly. I started making the girls clothes, toys and gifts for birthday parties they attended. Now, I never really wanted to move here, so I used to sit around in my own little world and make things, many things. I made cute teddy bears, rag dolls, costumes, ornaments, fabric books, stuffed animals, bags….The things started to fill up the house. Doron said to me we’ll have to open a store just to have somewhere to put this stuff, and that’s what we did.