Fellow Artisan: Handmades By Rovena and The Chemist Tree

Rovena Tey of Handmades by Rovena and The Chemist Tree is a fellow Etsy vendor who will be joining me and many others on Sunday, October 25 from 10am-3pm and at the Etsy Marketplace in the Pavilions at Evergreen Brick Works Farmers’ Market at 550 Bayview Ave, Toronto. Her science cards caught my attention, but they actually came later to her business. Read all about it below!

(click on images to see larger versions on original websites)


Handmades by Rovena and The Chemist Tree

Products: handmade greeting cards & stationery, posters, pin-back buttons, magnets, bottle openers, tote bags

Price Range: $4-$50

How did this all begin?
I’m a scientist and creative paper artist who makes smart, punny, and nerdy greeting cards. Every piece is made by hand, one by one, with much love and care. I spent my childhood in Singapore, but am now living near Toronto in Canada. I get lost in my creative world mostly by night, as I’m also a mom to a boy and a baby girl.

Although I’ve always been creative since I was small, dabbling in all sorts of crafty endeavours from cross-stitching to silk-screening, my younger years in Singapore were mostly consumed with school, a very academically-intense 6-days-a-week of school. The paper crafting came much later, fast-forward to after finishing graduate school at McMaster University in Canada.

I studied science. I fell into paper crafting by accident, trying to recycle a lab manual cover by making a card, while job-hunting after graduating university. That is how it began. Eventually, I did find that science job, however, I continued creating art to utilize both sides of my brain.

It may surprise you that the first card I made wasn’t a science card. I think so much of my life had revolved around science that my brain just needed to do something different. With inspiration coming from all the bits and pieces of my life, I made cards by hand, calling myself “Handmades by Rovena.” My handmade cards took on a variety of styles to reflect all the memories from my past, adventures in my present, and my dreams of the future. Nowadays, my signature style has become a simple design paired with a punny or witty statement.

With encouragement from a neighbour who loved and bought my handmade cards, I started selling at local craft shows. Figuring things out as I went along, eventually making the business official in 2010. After I had my first baby, I started an Etsy shop so I could continue selling online when I couldn’t participate at shows.

So how did my science cards come to be? A few years into “Handmades by Rovena,” I made my first chemistry card, inspired by my coffee- & chemistry-loving husband – a brown card showing the molecular structure for caffeine, that famous chemical in coffee. Not only did he like the card, so did everyone else who saw it. This fusion of art and science was unique and there was nothing else like it in the stationery world.

You’ve probably heard the line that when two people get along, it means “there’s chemistry between them.” Right? So, this is true in the literal sense as well as scientifically. When we share a laugh with friends, it is because of the chemical serotonin, a happiness neurotransmitter. Our feelings of attachment with another person are because of vasopressin or oxytocin, chemicals with love and human bonding functions. Which then makes a chemistry card the most awesomely tangible way to connect with another person.

Chemistry is everywhere, more than we even realize – our emotions, what we eat, what we smell, and even the things we touch – and I’m simply showing people this through my art. Every chemical design has a true meaning because it is based on real scientific research, driven by my own curiosity for everyday things. I then simplify the science and use puns and witty lines to make it captivating and memorable (e.g., you’re so rad – shows a chemical from radish). At the same time, creating a fun way for everyone to learn about a seemingly complicated subject.

One chemistry card led to another and another and another. And before I knew it, the chemistry card collection exploded to over 100 different designs and more than 5 different product types, such that it only made sense to branch out into its own brand as The Chemist Tree, which happened in 2015.

By now, I’d also become a mom of two and my small business had grown a little bit more. It’s mostly a one-woman-show so as you can imagine, it’s a challenge to balance family, business, work, and life. So I’ve left my science job for now to focus on the everything else. Looking forward to the ride and where this new adventure takes me.

What do you do when you’re not creating?
My boy and baby girl keep me busy all the time. Most of my daytime hours are spent being a mother, taking care of and playing with my children. I usually only get to do my creating at night when the little ones are sleeping. Outside of day-to-day activities, our family loves nature so we explore conservation parks or hang out at the beach.

What advice do you have for artisans just getting started?
If you have a vision, just go for it and take that first step. Nobody knows everything at the beginning – you will figure it out along the way as long as you keep at it. Sometimes your path may change but just roll with it, as you will learn from every single experience. It is truly an adventure.

You can find Chemist Tree on the web, and Rovena’s Etsy shops: Handmades by RovenaThe Chemist Tree, Twitter @HandmadesRovena & @chemisttreeshop, Instagram @HandmadesRovena & @thechemisttree, Facebook handmades.rovena & chemisttreeshop and do come see her work in person at the Etsy Marketplace at the Brick Works Farmers’ Market on Sunday, October 25!

(All photos used with permission)

Fellow artisan: Heart’s Haven

Katie of Heart’s Haven will be joining me (and many, many others!) at 2 upcoming sales: Danforth East Arts Fair at East Lynn Park (just west of Woodbine on the south side of Danforth Ave) on Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20 from 10am-5pm and at the Etsy: Made in Canada Day at MaRS Discovery District (University & College) on Saturday, September 26 from 10am – 6pm.

(click on images to see larger versions on flickr)

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Heart’s Haven

Products: upcycled scarves & cowls, infinity scarves, hand screen printed tote bags, driftwood brooches, embroidered notebooks, coffee cozies

Price Range: $5-$50

How did this all begin?
Great question! Probably as a young child watching my mom sew clothes and quilts. I used to sit on her studio floor and sew buttons onto fabric. I’ve always loved textiles arts, and spent years knitting and sewing for myself and friends. I frequented many craft shows and always wanted to be a part of the Toronto crafting community. It was just a route I needed to take!

What inspires new products?
Anything & everything! I’m inspired by a wide range of things; life experiences, emotions, wildlife, as well as purely visual & tactile stimulation. One of my favourite things is walking through yarn or fabric shops. My most recent collection, “Wanderlust,” is inspired by recent travel experiences to South East Asia & New Zealand.

What makes your work unique and truly your own?
I like to think that my work really encompasses my own personal narrative; that every piece tells a bit of my story.

What’s the most challenging part of your work?
Finding time to immerse myself in it!

What’s the most fun part of your work?
So many aspects are both fun and fulfilling. I love the initial struggle of working out a design and fine tuning my ideas. I love stepping back from a finished piece and feeling proud of what I’ve created. I also love interacting with shoppers & fellow artisans at craft shows; I love being a part of that community and hearing feedback from people about my work.

What do you do when you’re not creating?
I work at a veterinary clinic, spend time with my animals, try to enjoy the great outdoors when I can, and love to immerse myself in a wonderful novel.

What advice do you have for artisans just getting started?
Just do it! Seriously, just get yourself out there. And have fun with it! Make the art/craft you want to make, apply for the shows you want to be in, and interact with your community.

You can find Heart’s Haven on Etsy and on Twitter @yourheartshaven, and do come see her in person at these two fantastic events in the coming weeks!


(All photos used with permission)

Fellow artisan: CandiWare

I knew Candice Ware virtually via Etsy and the Toronto Etsy Street Team long before we met in person at one of their member nights. Candice makes the cutest and most delicious looking (and smelling!) polymer clay food jewellery. Recently it struck me that my son looooooves creating with polymer clay and he would benefit from sitting down with Candice. Candice makes awesome youtube how-to videos but I knew he would need a little extra push and then he would start using the videos on his own. So I set up a skills exchange and Candice came by last week and I taught her how to needle felt and she taught my son how to make a polymer clay cherry pie and I taught her how to needle felt a cupcake, which was new for me. (Instagram images: setup for polymer clay; working at needle felting, and the results here and here.)

(click on images to see larger versions – and I encourage you to do this to see the fantastic amount of detail Candice puts into her pieces!)

apple pie by Candiware waffle by CandiWare icecream by CandiWare


Products: Scented miniature food jewelry

Price Range: $6-$30

How did this all begin? I started making the mini food jewelry for myself. (I love so many different types of food, but most of all I love SWEETS!) It wasn’t long before people started asking me where I got my jewelery and that was when I decided to share my creations with the world.

What inspired you to do this work? Polly Pockets and Asian culture

What were your goals when you started? Have they changed?
I just really wanted to share my work and make people smile. I have to say that its the same as back then.

Were there doubts and resistance when you started up? How did you move past them?
To tell you the truth I think the only person that believed in me was my twin brother. Everyone else in my family thought I was wasting my time. I just didn’t let what anyone said bug me too much since I really enjoyed what I was doing. Now everyone in my family loves my work.

What inspires new products?
Photos of food to tell you the truth I have a lot of cookbooks haha

What makes your work unique and truly your own?
I think it would have to be that I scent my jewelry.

What’s the most challenging part of your work?
Wanting to work on jewelry after a full day of being creative at work.

What are your best hours (when you are most attentive, most focussed, most creative and work the best) in the day? Are you able to use them for this work?
I find the morning I am the more focussed. But with a full time job that is hard. So weekends work best.

What advice do you have for artisans just getting started?
If you want to do it then just do it! As long as you are in it for making people happy with your work and you love what your doing thats all that matters.

What do you wish you knew when you got started?
Just keep making!

Best small business tip you’ve received: social media is your friend don’t feel like you need all of them just work on the ones you enjoy!

Best online business tip you’ve received: post often on your shop and adding the most important tags in your title not just in your tags.

Best artisan tip you’ve received: Its ok to take some time off for some you time. 🙂

Best art show tip you’ve received: Always say hi and smile. Don’t be doing other things when you have a potential buyer at your table.

Find CandiWare online on EtsyFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterestTumblr, and YouTube



(All photos used with permission)

Fellow Artisan: queenie’s cards

I don’t have any upcoming shows until fall (I don’t like trying to sell wool stuff in summertime) but I didn’t think that should stop me from doing a fellow artisan post, so here is Queenie Best, of queenie’s cards, whom I met at the 2013 Danforth East Arts Fair when she came by with her daughter and picked up some dryer balls. We have kept in contact, doing some of the same shows and more recently I introduced Queenie and a friend of hers to needle felting. Queenie’s work is full of humour and pun, brightness and charm.

(click on images to see large versions)

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queenie’s cards

Products:  Greeting Cards, Art Prints, Notebooks, Pinback Buttons, Magnets, Keychains, Tote Bags (more to come!)

Price Range: $3.00-$20.00

How did this all begin?
I unofficially launched queenie’s cards in 2008, but it wasn’t until I was on my mat leave in 2012 that I realized it was my true passion and I wanted to make it a full-time business. I quit my 6-year long position as a graphic designer/photographer at a children’s toy company and queenie’s cards became official in January 2014.

What inspires new products?

What’s the most challenging part of your work?
Not having enough time in a day to go through my to do list

What’s the most fun part of your work?
Compliments from customers 🙂

What are your best hours (when you are most attentive, most focussed, most creative, work the best) in the day? Do you work during those?
My work hours are when my daughter is in preschool. From 8am to 3pm is when I’m the most productive because I get the house to myself, which is where my office is based. However, I’m the most creative at night when I’m supposed to be sleeping.

Tell us a little about your creative process.
When an idea hits me, I write it down right away so I don’t forget. My designs are inspired randomly, there’s no process, really – it just happens!

What do you do when you’re not creating?
Running, rock climbing, playing with my daughter, walking the dog, brushing the cats, reading or eating ice cream.

What do you wish you knew when you got started?
File every single document neatly and in an organized folder! Also, trust your gut.

What’s the best art show tip you’ve received?
“Don’t forget to eat.”

Queenie’s website is at queeniescards.com and queenie’s cards can also be found on Etsy, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

queeniescards_photo_greeting card_avocuddle_product_1
 All photos used with permission. 





Fellow Artisan: Minouette (EtsyMIC & OOAK)

I met Ele Wiloughby last fall at the Danforth East Arts Fair. She is an east ender like myself, one of the fantastic captains of the Toronto Etsy Street Team, and the main organizer for the upcoming Etsy: Made in Canada at the MaRS Discovery District. Ele will be at MaRS next Saturday, 10am – 4pm with her art and textiles.

(Click on images to go to Etsy listing and view larger image)

things from secret minouette places

Products: linocut fine art and textiles

Price Range: $15 – $200

How did this all begin?
I’ve been printmaking since I was a small child. I’ve always loved art on the one hand and science on the other. I started selling on line in 2007.

I view my shop as a Cabinet of Curiosity, filled with all sorts of specimen of flora and fauna, with the odd imaginary creature thrown in, much like in historical wunderkammer. I find the intersection of art and science, or science and magic to be inspiring. I am also making my own idiosyncratic history of science – in linocut form – focusing particular attention on some of the underappreciated heroines of science. I am work science in to the media I use and have started making prints which are thermochromic and change colour with temperature, or which employ electrically conductive ink and electronics.

What advice do you have for a first-time One of a Kind Show vendor?

I like the advice I got from Lisa from Girl Can Create which was to give it three years to really evaluate how the show works for you. It takes time to grow an OOAK audience. From my own experience I would also advise to make as much as you can, and yet do not crowd yourself into too small a place. The days are long and you don’t want to be squished!

Do you have a favourite OOAK show moment/memory to share?

My favorite part so far has been putting faces to shop names and meeting my fellow artisans! There’s a great OOAK vendor community.

You can find things from secret minoutte places on Etsyblogspot, Twitter @minouette, Facebook, and Pinterest.

(All images used with permission.)

Fellow Artisan: carolyndraws (EtsyMIC)

Carolyn Verkuyl will be at Etsy: Made in Canada in booth #102 at the MaRS Atrium in 9 days!

Products: Letterpress stationery, handmade Super Magnets, calendars, art prints and other fun paper goods featuring my illustrations and quirky life observations

Price Range: $5 – $40

How did this all begin?
I am trained as an art director (advertising) and for years used my illustrations to create engaging campaigns for a variety of clients. But I always drew in my spare time too. Making for friends turned into a full time job when I got an antique letterpress and began using my illustrations to brighten cards and other paper goods.

I am a hockey mom, a realist and an illustrator. Put those three together and I find I have all the inspiration I need in the every day. I love coming up with new ideas for cards and magnets and putting marker to paper. Those scribbles in turn become paintings, illustrations and plates for my press. I find there’s no shortage of people out there who love a uniquely Canadian and caffeine-deprived point of view on this life and I enjoy making them smile (and meeting the like-minded online and in person at shows). When I’m not hurdling piles of laundry or hockey equipment, I draw. And draw. I test my ideas on family and friends and the “not bad” ones join the fray in a booth or online soon enough. I print all of my stationery myself, one colour at a time, on my antique letterpress using my own fonts and illustrations and my magnets are all made by hand in Toronto Canada.

www.carolyndraws.comInstagram & Twitter * etsy.com/shop/carolyndraws

What advice do you have for a first-time One of a Kind Show vendor?
My best advice would be to pack as much enthusiasm as you do product. Go in organized and prepared to learn a lot about your customers, your product and other Makers. Take notes on everything. Also, you cannot have enough lighting or snacks. And comfortable shoes.

I did this blog post about my first time at the OOAK.

Do you have a favourite OOAK show moment/memory to share?
I love the moments just before the Show opens every morning, when the floor is quiet, my booth is set up, my tea is hot and the promise of the day ahead is great. It’s my favourite time. But so is the end of the night, when I can finally get off my feet, tell my husband about all of the people I met and get ready to do it all again the next day 🙂

(All images used with permission.)

Fellow artisan: Red Thread Design (DEAF & OOAK)

I’ve known of Devorah Miller for a while through a friend, and I’m pretty sure I bought one of her lovely dresses many years ago at the One of a Kind Show for my niece as well. We met in person this past weekend at the Cabbagetown Art & Crafts Sale, had a great weekend, and are looking forward to another great weekend coming right up at the Danforth East Arts Fair this Saturday and Sunday from 10-5 at East Lynn Park near Woodbine Station. Come on out and check out the art, handmade goods, food, children’s activities, music, and pick up a Red Thread dress for your wee one!

Caterpillar Dress Corduroy Shirtdress Summer Breeze Dress

Red Thread Design

Products: Children’s clothing, most of which is designed to be multi-season and to last for years. I also make baby quilts, mostly using the scraps left over from my dresses and tops.

Price Range: $20-$64

How did this all begin?
I grew up with a textile artist mother who taught art classes in my house, so my interest in creating with fabric started very early. Red Thread was born in 2004, while I was working full-time as a writer for an architecture firm. On maternity leave with my second daughter, the desire to quilt and sew again overtook me. I started making patchwork dresses for my daughters, like little living quilts that we could use and enjoy, but soon started designing more simply, to enjoy the beauty of wonderful fabrics without such time-intense labour. I love the creative design process, the satisfaction of making things by hand, the connections with my customers, and the challenges of being an entrepreneur. That’s kept me happily working away at this for ten years!

The name “Red Thread” was inspired by a lovely Chinese proverb I discovered when I adopted my daughter Samantha from China in 2003: “An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break.” I love the image this conjures of all of us being interconnected.

I don’t design clothing because I love fashion. For me it’s all about the joy of gorgeous fabric and colour. Children know instinctively what they like, and they’re not self-conscious about pattern and colour. I love the freedom that designing for children gives me to use wonderful vibrant fabrics, and the challenge of making clothing last a long time, even though it’s designed for active, growing bodies. I believe that for all of us, surrounding ourselves with colours and textures we love, and wearing well-made clothes that make us feel great, just make life better.

I’m currently designing my first line for women (to launch in Spring 2015) and am trying to capture that love of beautiful fabric and colour in a way that’s really wearable, even by more self-conscious grownups!

What advice do you have for a first-time One of a Kind Show vendor?
Preparing for One of a Kind Show for the first time can be very stressful. My advice is to take some time and calmly think through everything a potential customer will experience from the time they approach your booth. What do they see? Is it well lit, so your product stands out? Is there some product close to the aisle that they can touch or admire to entice them to step in? Are there beautiful images showing your work in action, to reinforce that your work is valuable/luxurious, or practical, or adorable?

Once they’re engaged by your product and you are helping them find just the right thing, where will you reach to grab exactly what they want (is it out on table, stored under a table, in a bin), and how will you complete the transaction? What will you put in their bag? What does that bag look like? (hint: branded bags, even just with a sticker or stamp, are a very good idea)

Last but not least, how will they find you again? If you are able, capture their email address so that you have a way of communicating with them in the future. This is immensely valuable and should not be overlooked. You can do this with a book to sign, ballots for a giveaway, whatever works for you. Don’t forget to email your list of wonderful new customers to thank them after the show!

If, when thinking through all of these things, you still have questions, get in touch with a current exhibitor. I’d be happy to answer any questions about the show and I know many other exhibitors would too! This is a very supportive community and there is a wealth of information being shared and discussed, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Do you have a favourite OOAK show moment/memory to share?
I have so many one of a kind moments. I have had customers buying clothing from me for children soon-to-be adopted, and then meeting those children and seeing them grow. I have met amazing people who do charitable work and have collaborated with some of those people on fundraising projects. And I have met generous vendors who stepped in to help when another vendor needed a hand – sometimes in a big way. I have customers who have followed my work for ten years through this show, and some customers and vendors who have become close friends. Sometimes tears are shed in my booth, when a customer catches up with me about the past year’s events. These connections are my favourite thing about doing this show.

Red Thread’s website is www.redthreaddesign.ca. You can also find Red Thread Design on Facebook Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and on her blog.

Baby Twin Set

(Images from Devorah Miller used with permission.)