Today we’d like to introduce you to Leigh Kelsey.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have loved doodling since I was a child. In 2005, one of my roommates was a crafter and she started selling her goods. It was inspiring to see and I decided to launch my own business Rhymes with Twee (an easy way for people to remember how to pronounce my name). I purchased a Japanese children’s screen printing toy called the Riso Print Gocco and used it to print my first greeting cards and a line of fill-in-the-blank calling cards which I called “card me cards”. These were designed to be filled in and handed out to new people as an easy way to make new friends. I sold these at the 2005 Renegade Craft Fair; back when it was in Wicker Park.
As someone who enjoys learning, I have tried my hand at a number of different arts and crafts but screen printing is truly my favorite method of making products with ceramics being a close second. It is also very fun to photograph my hedgehogs so I sell photographic postcards of them as well.
I continue to use my beloved Print Gocco to print my Veggie Vampire, Fanged Fruit, and Chari-Twee kitchen towel lines. I spend a lot of time at Penguin Foot Pottery working on a line of ceramic home goods to add to the Rhymes with Twee catalogue.
Has it been a smooth road?
It has been a relatively easy path for me. I like staying busy. Rhymes with Twee is my side hustle and it’s wonderful. Having the framework of a 9-5ish job allows me a great freedom with my art. I can take a chance making a Werner Herzog love greeting card and not be worried if they don’t all sell within the first year of me printing them. In-person at craft fairs, meeting someone who really connects to a more obscure item I’ve made is the best feeling for me.
This was about 10 years ago but the worst experience I’ve had was when another maker stole one of my designs and sold it as her own. When I called her out on it, she wanted to arrange a profit share – say what!? This type of theft is rampant today and it’s one of the biggest challenges that artists face. Support your local artists. They need you!
We’d love to hear more about your business.
When asked what I make, I call my products fanciful home goods. I am a collector but I like making things that have a purpose and are not just a tchotchke that is going to collect dust. Once in a while, a customer will tell me they are buying my towels to hang up as their nice kitchen towels – please use them! The Veggie Vampires and Fanged Fruits want to work!
I am most proud of my line of towels I called Chari-Twee Towels. After the Presidential election, I wanted to do something that would give back to those in need. I started off by giving half of the towel cost to Howard Brown Health Center – Broadway Youth Center but now I split the donations equally between Howard Brown, Assata’s Daughters, Girl Forward, and Trans Lifeline. Our government should be taking care of these people and, because they’re not, I want to do my part to help.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Chicago is a paradise for makers but with so many craft fairs and pop-up events, all of them cannot be successful. I’ve sold at my fair share of duds but I never look at it like that. I make new craft buddies and awesome customers and gain experience. I’m whatever the highest D&D level of crafter there is.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone starting to sell their handmade goods, don’t rip off other artists. You have your own voice – use it! I also recommend visiting a handful of local fairs and talking to artists about their fave shops and fairs to sell at. Some artists are tight-lipped answering this type of question but most artists want others to survive and thrive and will be pumped to chat about this.
- Kitchen Towels – $10
- Greeting Cards – $4
- Hedgehog Postcards – $1
- Address: 60647
- Website: http://www.rhymeswithtwee.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rhymeswithtwee
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rhymeswithtwee/
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/rhymeswithtwee
- Other: http://rhymeswithtwee.etsy.com