1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Alexandra and I run the Etsy shop Terra Dei Farm, which specializes in pure and natural aromatherapy massage oils along with offering goat’s milk soap and a few other farm fresh products. (I also manage the Etsy shop “White Barn Art” which houses my photography and art listings.)
I am happily married and we have four children aged 11 months to 6 years. Our home is FULL of personality, personality, personality. Which I find amusing as in real life (you know, as opposed to the internet,) I’m actually a very shy person. The words of Al Franken’s SNL character, Stuart Smalley, often play in my mind. “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it, people like me!” I’ll keep working on coming out of my shell…
2. Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Primarily I am a stay at home mom to our four kiddos. Or rather, stay at farm mom. I also serve as co-manager (aka CEO of Veterinary Medicine, Accountant, Manager of Public and Animal Relations, Fruit and Vegetable Preserver and more) at our family farm – the real life physical Terra Dei Farm. We raise meat goats, chickens, meat rabbits and custom finished feeder pigs. Check out our farm’s facebook page: www.facebook.com/TerraDeiFarmLivestock.
3. Whatʼs the most important question a customer/client should ask you when considering purchasing from you?
Aside from the easy answer of, “Anything they want to know!” I would probably say – “How do I use your massage oil at home?” I think a lot of people assume that if they aren’t a professional massage therapist they wouldn’t have any use for my products. On the contrary, I design my oils with the purpose of providing individuals with a moment of spa escape at home.
4. Whatʼs the most memorable custom order youʼve created?
I recently provided a large batch of infant massage oil bottles for a Newborn Massage Class at a large East Coast spa. That was a really fun thing to be a part of!
5. What would be the title of your memoir and why?
Upon prolonged deliberation I have decided that the title would probably be Burn Before Reading. Please don’t think that I have low self-esteem problems! Rather, as my husband would attest, I often try to use cliché sayings in an attempt to be funny and end up completely messing them up. (Something akin to the bartender in Boondock Saints, but a tad less vulgar.)
So, while I would like to say that my memoir would be titled something ridiculously awesome, like Burn After Reading, it probably wouldn’t turn out that way.
6. Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration definitely comes from my children. It seems to never fail that I am struck with the most fantastic ideas at the times when I am with them (and therefore unable to take my eyes off of them, because there are four of them and they are young. And ornery.) So, ideas seem to strike when I am unable to be in my studio for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, when I do have time to work, I often find myself devoid of inspiration. Well, I usually feel the inspiration to go take a nap.
7. What does handmade mean to you?
I think handmade means that the object is a manifestation of a person’s mind, heart and emotion. Those are some of the most mysterious elements of life, yet so essential to being human. It can be extremely difficult to put our thoughts, visions and emotions into words – and impossible to see those that others are thinking and feeling. Yet, through handmade creations we are blessed with an opportunity to glimpse the invisible, to see how a human mind works both on an individual level and as a species. It really is miraculous.
8. Who has been the most influential person for your business?
In the strictest sense, I would say that it would definitely be my cousin. She is always encouraging my creativity and is the one who originally suggested I open an Etsy shop. (To which I replied something along the lines of, “meh.” Luckily she kept pushing and even researched selling fees and structure for me.)
In a broader sense, it would be the cliché but true answer of, “my husband.” He is truly a wonderful business partner; enduring hours upon hours of conversation and brainstorming sessions about product line, advertising and marketing, SEO, pricing, presentation… you get the idea. Not to mention all of the time he spends manning all four of the kids while I get work done. He really is amazing.
9. How would you describe your creative process?
This is a hard thing to put into words… and generally involves a lot of frustration. It follows the same pattern whether I’m creating work of art, or simply a new label for a bottle. I would say that it starts out as an instinct. I begin to sense something within me, an instinct, that slowly through thoughtful deliberation manifests itself as an idea.
Once I have the idea in my sights I grab it and run. I become consumed with mapping the ins and outs of the idea and striving to perfect every single little detail of the project. I’m not exaggerating with the “consumed” word – I fall asleep thinking about it, dream about, wake up thinking about it. When trying to wrap around an idea and mold it to perfection, my mind becomes like a freight train hurtling down the track. (On that note, apologies to my husband and anyone else who has ever unwittingly placed themselves upon the track and derailed that train of focus…)
However, the moment when everything clicks, the idea comes to fruition and my original instinct becomes tangible reality….it’s amazing. It feels like finally coming up to the surface after an extended amount of time underwater and taking those first glorious gasping gulps of air.
I usually contemplate choreographing a victory dance at that point, but before I can even figure out the steps for the first 8 counts I feel the restless instinct of a new budding idea and the train is back on the track. Just another one of life’s endless cycles.
10. If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
This will probably sound canned, but I would pick Michelangelo. I say this despite the fact that I’m not a sculptor or painter.
“Why?” you may ask, would I choose an artist that is not even in my direct field? I’ll tell you. It’s his focus and intensity. He had a tremendous desire to understand the world around him, how thing worked and how they applied to his craft. I think that is a trait that any artisan, regardless of genre, could benefit from learning.
Legend has it that he would break into the morgue and dissect bodies during the dark of night just to understand how the human body works. Not so that he could become a surgeon, but simply so that he could draw and sculpt it better. I’m a big fan of attention to detail, and it just doesn’t get more hardcore than that.
11. What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Oh, there are so many handmade possessions that I cherish! It is hard to narrow it down to one, or even ten, but since I have to I would probably pick my dresser. It is a beautiful 5 drawer wooden chest of drawers that my grandfather made for me when I was born. He is an exceptional craftsman and skilled woodworker. Upon the birth of each of their grandchildren, he would make the child a dresser and my grandmother would make them a quilt. So, actually I suppose I can only narrow it down to two most cherished handmade possessions…
12. How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Fortunately, at this point in life, my studio time is limited enough that I always have more ideas than creative time. However, as I said earlier, I often find myself devoid of intense motivation when I actually have a chance to accomplish creative tasks, so I am learning to write down ideas as I have them (so that I can act on them later when I have the time, but typically have already forgotten the ideas.)
13. Where would you like to be in ten years?
Honestly? Right here. I really hope that our life in ten years is very similar to the one we have now, with the exception of everyone being ten years older (which means the kids will be a lot more help around the farm!)
I absolutely love living on our remote farm (we only have one neighbor in a square mile.) I couldn’t imagine a much more peaceful existence and I really try to transfer that tranquility into our products.
Maybe I’ll even overcome my shyness and my mommy and daddy will be so very proud of me.