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Three Female Artisans Discuss Juggling Their Passion With Full-Time Jobs

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In the Winter 2017-18 print issue of Sass, we showcased the rise and return of artisan trades and highlighted five local creators who successfully turned their artistic passions into full-time careers. Luckily, Frederick is a hub for ingenuity and also offers opportunities for artists who share their talents in addition to working elsewhere.

Downtown Dog Apparel

“I began making dog leashes solely for my own purposes. I wanted a leash that didn’t hurt my hands. Rope leashes aren’t as rough [on my hands] as nylon,” shares Katie Weaver of Downtown Dog Apparel. “Friends started to request them and the business was born.”

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Katie began making her leashes in March 2016. By April of 2016, she had an Etsy page up and running.  She now also attends local craft shows nine months out of the year. If that doesn’t keep her busy, Katie works full-time as a band teacher in Baltimore, spanning six schools and four grades. “I would love to expand [the business] to bigger markets and possibly have mom and pop dog stores carry my leashes and other items….Luckily, I am working towards a more manageable school load with my job which should allow me to have more free time to work on my leashes.”

Marney and Swa

Local jewelry artist and owner of Marney and Swa, Sue Leveille, also knows a little bit about staying busy. “Each of my pieces is unique. I have been making jewelry for twenty years, and while my style has changed, I am committed to sourcing good materials and providing a unique piece to my customers.” This past year, Sue decided to invest even more and expand her business into two areas she loves, teaching and philanthropy, by creating Swa’s Give Rise Project.

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The Give Rise Project, which currently partners with the Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership, aims to create change through teaching people something new – in this case, making a piece of jewelry. Sue offers jewelry making kits, classes, and workshop tables throughout the community at local businesses and organizations and donates a portion of the proceeds from kits and jewelry sales at each event. “I enjoy teaching so much. People come in and say “oh, I don’t have a creative bone in my body” and I love to help them find that bone. Watching what happens between class attendees is fascinating. Being able to give back and create a sense of community is more than rewarding.”

Currently, you can find Sue’s pieces at The Muse, as well as pop-ups at local businesses such as Gravel and Grind, Attaboy Beer, and the Frederick County Libraries. Yet, Sue has big plans for Marney and Swa’s future as well. As a current customer service representative at The Common Market, Sue hopes to one day have a brick and mortar shop. Even more immediately, she hopes to transform her classes into an after-school program version and expand The Give Rise Project to other nonprofit organizations in Frederick.

Becky Jane Sews

Becky Harrington of Becky Jane Sews knew the side gig hustle well until just a few months ago when she decided to go “all in.” “Over the last few years, I had slowly been reducing my hours at Venus on the Half Shell, where I worked for six years. I slowly transitioned and now am 100% invested in the future of Becky Jane Sews.”

Becky discovered her passion in San Francisco where she studied pattern making, the backbone of her ability to make custom pieces. “Sewing is a lost art. So are [clothing] pieces made to fit. I like being able to bring that to the people of Frederick.”

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You can find everything from fanny packs and kitchen accessories to men’s flannel and even wedding dresses on her Instagram page. Becky also hosts three to five workshops each month to teach others how to begin with small sewing projects. “I have off days, but on those days I go back to what I do best. Working for yourself is hard and there are many variables you don’t see coming. But I am enjoying perfecting my skills even more.” Becky is currently prepping for her seven pop up shops in the month of December.

These three local artisans beam with enthusiasm for their businesses and the opportunity to bring their talents to fruition. Even more impressive is their desire to teach, share, and use their passions to solve, inspire, and specialize…all while managing other commitments. With Katie, Sue, Becky, and other creative artisans, Frederick community will undoubtedly continue to foster a community of discovery and benefit from the generous sharing of skill and possibility.

All photos were provided by the artists mentioned in the article. Feature image by Sue Leveille.

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