Nice write-up on CHA Designer Member Elaine Schmidt in the Morristown Daily Record. A demonstration that local PR really can position you as an expert in your local community where your business is conducted. Congrats on the article.
January 3, 2010
Woman turns lifelong passion into successful career
By JENNIFER L. NELSON
SPECIAL TO THE DAILY RECORD
Elaine Schmidt is crafty, and she has a massive collection of ribbons, fabric, buttons and beads to prove it.
“Ever since my mother and grandmother taught me how to knit and sew as a little girl, I just always knew I liked to make things,” said Schmidt, who lives in Long Valley.
She was right. Today she’s a freelance craft designer, product-development consultant, fiber artist, educator and spokeswoman, collaborating with various companies and manufacturers in the arts and crafts, sewing, quilting and gift industries.
When it came time for Schmidt to select a college path, she went with her first instinct and studied textile and design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. After learning about the fashion and design industries, she dove right in as an assistant buyer for a Pittsburgh department store.
She went on to work in the education and design departments for Butterick Patterns and Vogue, served as the design coordinator for a chain of retail craft stores called The Ribbon Outlet and worked as product development director for an import craft and gift company.
Schmidt began picking up freelance design work on the side, ultimately deciding to stick to running her own business, Elaine Schmidt Designs, “as her family came along,” she said. She is wife to Ken and mother to three grown daughters — Elizabeth, Emily and Carlee.
“I (kept finding) jobs that utilized my skills,” she said. “I became more involved in the business side of crafts and design, and it grew from there. One thing leads to another.”
Schmidt has developed new concepts for countless companies that manufacture products for the craft and hobby industries, ranging from projects in fabric to paint to wire. She was the brains behind the Ka-Jinker quick-click attachment tool and embellishment system for decorating craft projects made by the Blumenthal Lansing Co.; some even call her the “Ka-Jinker Thinker.”
Her original designs have been featured in hundreds of books and magazines, project sheets, advertisements, Web sites, trade-show and showroom displays and talk-show segments.
“Did you ever go into a craft or sewing store and wonder, ‘How did this pattern come to be?’ ” Schmidt said. “Well, they all begin with a single idea.” If handbags are the latest fashion trend, she said, suddenly more patterns, handles, hardware and clasps required to make that particular accessory begin cropping up.
“What I do is think through all the aspects that go into making these products — what people would enjoy making — and instructions on how to do it,” she said.
Though she dabbles in a variety of crafts, and her life as a freelancer calls for involvement in a wide variety of projects, Schmidt’s main focus is fabrics.
“My specialty is the softer side of crafts,” she said.
She recently published a step-by-step reference guide for crafting with ribbon titled “The Complete Photo Guide to Ribbon Crafts” (Creative Publishing International), in which she shows readers how to turn “something plain” into “something fabulous” — from a collar for Fido to patchwork pillows for Mom. The book is available on Amazon.com for $16.50.
“It’s about anything you could ever think to do with ribbons — tying different bows to sewing to jewelry to embroidery to paper crafts,” she said.
For those aspiring to learn how to turn everyday items into works of art, Schmidt advises learning the basics of good design and starting with the kind of craft you find most interesting. She teaches courses at trade and consumer shows and for special interest groups and belongs to the Craft and Hobby Association.
“If you love color and design and appreciate the visual world and textures and working with your hands, you simply have to do it,” she said.
Many others are discovering the joy of crafting and find it not only fun, but even therapeutic.
“Sometimes the repetition of knitting can have a real calming effect,” she said.
Most importantly, however, Schmidt is adamant that taking the time to learn how to do a craft, whether it’s stringing jewelry or knitting blankets, can help us all recapture our own individuality.
“Right now, there’s a lot of sameness in the world. We have so many big stores, and everything looks alike,” she said. “But to be able to personalize a gift, and to make something that’s yours and truly unique, balances the high-tech world in which we live.”