Not every young adult wants to pursue their parents’ profession, but for many handcraft artists it works just fine! Today we’re featuring two Sugarloaf families who’ve found ways to make it work.
Paul and Irma Miller started their furniture business, IP Designs, 33 years ago when their children were 1, 3 and 5 years old. After just one arts and crafts show, Paul left a secure engineering job to make furniture full time. Although their family thought they were taking a big risk, they felt it was the right move and have never regretted it.
During their children’s primary school years, Paul and Irma took a 10 or 12 year break from doing arts & craft shows. This made it possible for their children to participate in school sports and other activities.
All their children are grown now and their youngest son, Ryan, works full time alongside his father. Paul says that Ryan will sometimes encourage him to take it a little easier and let Ryan handle the harder physical tasks. Paul jokes that Ryan is anticipating his father’s retirement and “He smells blood in the water!”
Paul started his furniture business making just chairs and over time he’s added tables and other items in response to customers’ needs. He credits Irma for keeping abreast of the latest trends in furniture design such as popular colors and patterns, so that their line is current with what’s selling. Their new island table design is quite popular and Paul said Irma designed it from the ground up.
Ryan’s wife, Lexie, uses her Marketing degree from Penn State to promote the business. She set up their website a few years ago.
Daughter, Brandy, worked in the business for 18 years and nowadays helps out with pet and home care while her parents travel to shows. Her 19 year-old son, Freddie, has been working in the shop for the last 2 years. He makes many of their tables.
In their booth at Sugarloaf Crafts Festivals, they have a family photo of the whole gang!
Callie Miller got her start with craft shows younger than most handcraft artists. She started working in her mom’s jewelry business when she was 11 years old to earn money so she could be on the ski team.
For the next 3 years, her main task was to hammer thousands of tiny tick marks for edging on her mom’s jewelry pieces. Callie enjoyed the upbeat atmosphere in the studio and credits this early work experience for teaching her how to interact well with adults.
But this inside view of the rigors of running a craft business convinced her she’d rather do something else with her own life. However, by the time she was an adult, she started to enjoy the challenges and complexity of running an indie business.
Callie and Marcia worked well together and prior to Marcia’s retirement, they ran Q. Miller Handmade Jewelry as full partners for 12 years. Callie says sharing the same business goals helped them work through any conflicts. They realized they had to communicate well and clear the air quickly so tension did not build up in the studio.
Callie runs the business as a solo operation now while Marcia is enjoying the beach in Hawaii and riding horses in Montana. But Callie knows that she can always call on her mother to act as a sounding board about new jewelry designs or other issues.
And Callie is extremely grateful to her mother for teaching her all aspects of running a small arts and crafts business.
Stop by and say hello at the next Sugarloaf Crafts Festival!