There is no end to the beautiful books out there, nor to the number of them currently lining my shelves! I feel so lucky to be surrounded by printed pages filled with inspirational thoughts and ideas from the talented people whom I admire. The ultimate experience, outside of owning and flipping through a book, is to have an autographed copy from the author. That is why when “Dottie Angel” signed a copy of her book for me recently, it immediately came home and found a special spot on my shelf.
I recently had the honor to give the keynote speech before a group of 450 people in St. Paul, MN at The Creative Connection alongside Cristina Ferrare (how lucky am I?) and as part of TCC, there was a brilliant handmade market downstairs that I had a few hours to peruse. My chance to meet the makers, how lovely! One such maker really stood out with her quirky handmade booth adorned with pendants and doilies and that was the very gracious, down-to-earth and very English Tif Fussell.
Currently residing in the Pacific Northwest, Tif attended TCC with her publisher, Janine Vangool of UPPERCASE in Canada to share her handmade wares and her new book printed in a limited run to fans of her work and blog. Tiff, like most bloggers-turned-author, is a very charming and humble lady who found her name on the internet through her blog and the alter ego that she created called Dottie Angel. Tif is a fortysomething wife and mother of four and Dottie is a crafty lady who exists through the virtual pages of her blog and now through her beautiful book which is part of the Uppercase Suitcase Series as #2.
I thought I’d share a few of my own thoughts on her first book along with some photos and a special interview that I had with Tif about Dottie Angel, homespun “granny chic” style, her success as a blogger, advice to others who want to write a book, etc. But first, my thoughts about her book…
This book is well done. Really well done. Bravo!
I appreciate the attention to detail (each cover is hand embellished with thread) and comes with a small envelop containing a few of Dottie’s favorite things. The writing style is the same as her blog, which I appreciate so much… And the overall style is the granny chic retro magic that so many online and off are into these days so it’s a timely book in that this style is currently a huge trend.
I love the spreads in Dottie Angel, Janine did a wonderful job laying out everything so that there is nice pace to the book. There are tons of photographs, all snap shots taken by Tif herself, and lots of text talking about her favorite things along with people she loves and the items she uses (and calls by name) in her home studio. It’s a quirky and charming book that, in a world where so many publishers seem to rely on a standard template to toss together yet another title, this one really stands out in the sea of crafty decorating books for sure. I will cherish my autographed copy for years to come and I can’t wait to finish reading it though I must confess, I’ve not gotten too far beyond the first section because the visuals are so distracting in a very, very good way!
I’ve interviewed Tif, the lady behind Dottie Angel, and would love for you to sit in with us to have a listen… so gather around and join us, won’t you?
Holly: Homespun style is all the rage at the moment, and for good reason, it’s accessible, personal and soul-filled and that seems to be what so many gravitate towards now when it comes to decorating their homes. What do you think are some of the key elements of homespun style?
Tif: For me the key elements would be handcrafted and vintage. Both elements are relatively easy to achieve, perhaps requiring a bit of time either to make them for your home or to source them. The brilliant thing about homespun style being popular is the wealth of talented folks out there making fabby things for the home. If indeed you are not super crafty yourself or perhaps just really do not have the time to make, then you can still decorate your home in a homespun way, whilst supporting handcrafters. The vintage side of things is my favorite pastime and most addictive. Hand-me-downs from family, forgotten souls stumbled upon at the thrift store or the flea market can still be picked up relatively cheaply. If you are handy with paint, fabric or vintage wallpaper even the saddest looking piece of furniture can have its moment to shine again. For me there is no wrong or right way. Over the years I have learnt to trust my instincts when faced with a slighty odd or ugly secondhand find, and I am never disappointed upon returning to Mossy Shed (our home) with said peachy find in hand and spending some happy moments with fabric or paint resulting in a spiffy looking piece of furniture unique to me and my home. Homespun style or as I like to call it, Granny Chic, is such an easy style to live with and one which you can put your own stamp upon, making it unique to your own creative soul.
Holly: How do you define homespun or granny chic style?
Tif: Homespun “Granny Chic” style is an eclectic mix of furniture and knick knacks which have a story to tell, and when put together thoughtfully and organically over a period of time, creates a place to call Home. A place which is easy to live in, embraces family and critters alike and provides on certain days when perhaps it appears the world outside your door is a little nutso, a place to feel safe.
Holly: So many now want to make the things that you make, so I wonder, why isn’t your first book a how-to sewing/craft book? Any particular reason?
Tif: For me making things is just one part of who I am. For almost 20 years I have been a mother of four children and I also like to write, I have never actually called myself a writer, but my love of creative writing started long ago at school. In recent years blogging has allowed me to find myself again in the written word and play with my imagination and therefore I felt a dottie angel book should include all aspects of my life. Before Janine, I did have several offers to produce a ‘how-to’ book but I decided this was not the right choice for me. If the opportunity were to come my way I would very much like a book to reflect not only my creative work, but include our home Mossy Shed (which is my canvas), my life and also my blog, which has played such a large part in making my work a success… a diary of sorts.
Holly: How did a book about the Dottie Angel style come to be?
Tif: When Janine’s and my path crossed it was the perfect opportunity, here was someone who not only was an independent publisher but a talented designer. Janine was able to see inside of my head and create the book I visualized. Details such as hand stitching on the cover, little snippets of vintage fabric and postcards depicting forsaken thrift store souls, are just a few of the wonderful elements she made happen for me. The book contains a sprinkling of ‘how-tos’ throughout, simple little happy ones and my hope is, when the reader has tried them out, it will inspire them to go on and develop their own style of patching and piecing vintage fabrics together. All these elements perfectly add up to book I think my readers and others who stumble across me, will see as unique and perfectly dottie angel.
Holly: What are your career goals with your Dottie Angel brand, can you imagine more or are you simply peachy just as you are?
Tif: Well firstly can I mention that I never set out to make a brand, all I knew at the time was I loved to make things, dabble in interior decorating of my home and writing, when I came across Etsy and the crafting community I knew I wished to be part of it. Having been a stay at home mum of 4 stranded in suburbia abroad (in the USA, I am from England), this was my life line. It was not until I started styling and taking photos of my wares, our home and also writing about day to day life in Mossy Shed that a brand emerged. As for career goals, I have dreams for sure, things I wish to achieve but sometimes when you get carried away thinking of what could be, you end up missing the very thing you have right now. So for that reason I imagine down the road a little bricks and mortar shop with my business partner and soul sister Debbie, filled with handcrafted, secondhand and booky goodness, but for now I have given myself a good talking to and told myself to enjoy the moment I am in, and most importantly the last few years I have left before all my children will have flown the nest.
Holly: What inspires you?
Tif: Certainly for my work I am inspired by vintage fabrics, secondhand finds and certain love affairs I have with color. When it comes to our home I am inspired by the Scandinavian way of decorating, preferring plenty of white to showcase our bits and bobs. If I stumble across a home in an interior magazine painted white with vintage furniture and handcrafted elements it can certainly inspire me to beaver away with Miss Ethel (my trusty sewing machine) and rustle up a new cushion cover for the couch.
Holly: Now who are some creatives out there that inspire you?
Tif: I am inspired by folks who are passionate about what they do and do it so well, continuing to be genuine and kind whilst doing whatever it is they do. I would have to say Emily Chalmers from Caravan (who kindly wrote the forward for my book) would be a perfectly perfect example. Her book Flea Market Style was a defining moment for me when I found it upon the bookshelves a few years back, suddenly I no longer felt alone in my love of secondhand finds for there, amongst the pages, were other equally obsessive vintage fabric lovers. She is talented, quirky and generous. Another grand example would be Janine Vangool, the talent behind UPPERCASE and indeed designer of my book. I am actually in awe of what she does and how she dedicates her working life to showcasing creative folks around the globe.
Holly: You mentioned when we met that you are also inspired by small stores. Can you tell me more about this?
Tif: Yes! I’m inspired by independent shop owners who, despite the mass produced things on the high street and the current economic times, continue to offer up unique and individual wares from by-gone years and hand crafters. Supporting the community around them and offering consumers the opportunity to shop ‘non mass produced’. When I travel I always make a point now to search out these little stores, to go off the beaten track and I am always rewarded by the wonderful stores I find, their spiffy window displays and always lovely genuine owners.
Holly: Can you think of a lovely shop owner and shop to recommend?
Tif: Oh yes, Anna in Amsterdam and her beautiful store Het Grote Avontuur was the last one I visited and to be honest I wished to move in and stay forever.
Holly: What is your jumping off point as I call it, or the source of inspiration, for the many projects you make and the decorating ideas that you have?
Tif: Usually it is kick started by stumbling across a vintage fabric in the most wonderful color/floral combination; yes every time, this will get my creative cogs turning. On occasion flicking through an interior magazine and coming across a home which makes my pulse beat a little faster. An interior filled with an eclectic mix of vintage and handcrafted elements always makes me happy. I find this can inspire me to look around my shed and start shuffling things around. However the results of my shuffling never ends up looking like the home I spied in the magazine, and quite rightly so. It is more of an inspiration for me to look with fresh eyes at what I have to play with in front of me and see an alternative way to arranging things.
Holly: Your work is very imaginative and creative – have you always been like this or did you have to train and practice to develop your aesthetic?
Tif: My imagination and creativity have been there for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I let it out to play and other times it stays hidden away. Over the past few years, as my clan has grown older and I have more time to myself, allowing my imagination out to play more often has in turn led me to developing a stronger aesthetic. not intentionally mind you, I just think I have given myself more time to focus on what I make, how I style my products and indeed my love of writing, together this has developed into a recognizable style which is ‘dottie angel’.
Holly: What is your business background? Did you go to college and if so, where did you study and what was your major?
Tif: I married young and had 4 children in the space of 6 years. I am a self taught crafter and despite in the beginning thinking perhaps this was something to be a little ashamed of, I found in recent years it has defined who I am, how I make things and today I am happy to say I am proud to be a self taught crafter. Did I ever think I would have a book one day, or sell what I make? No not really. It is a little surreal to say the least. However what I hope is, others who perhaps like me, for whatever reason never went onto college will see, if you are passionate about what you love, work hard and are original, then anything is possible and you do not need a piece of paper to define who you are.
Holly: What is your advice for others who are being copied – how do you suggest people protect themselves and also deal with it when it happens?
Tif: Yes I have had my share of dealing with such crappity crap things. Your heart sinks, you feel so completely gutted to see another taking advantage of your work. However one thing I have learnt over the years is, fretting over such things only causes negativity and in turn one’s creativity suffers. A copied piece of work always lacks soul and others will see that too. My advice to others would be, as I tell myself on days when perhaps I have stumbled across something I wish I had not. Yes they may copy your work, but they will never know what you will make next, the wonderful ideas in your head, the scribbled bits of paper on your desk, the very pieces of work which slowly build your portfolio and put a stamp on who you are. This is what makes your work and your style unique to you and no one can take that away from you, for it comes from deep within, from your own original creative soul.
Holly: What are some of your pet peeves about the internet and being so public with your work online?
Tif: Ha! This is quite funny because actually I have never thought about having pet peeves before this question! Sure I probably on occasion felt a little fed up about something, (see question above) but to be honest it is having the internet and my work publicly online which has in turn allowed me to continue creating, selling my wares and now being published. Sometimes I wish the crafty world around me was not quite so cyber dependent, but then again, if it was not, I would not have met so many nice folks from around the globe. Finding a balance between the internet world and the real world can be a tricky one, so I do try very hard to not let it consume me. I am pretty crappity crap at twitter and indeed facebook. Some days I wish I was better at this whole internet cyber social world, but at the end of the day my family and my critters are important and I wish to spend quality time with them too. Yes, it is all about the fine art of balancing.
Holly: What are 5 of the greatest blessings of the internet – like so many, it seems to have launched your name and brand, besides that, what else do you love about the web?
Tif: Ah well let me see.
- The friendships which have come my way, I like to think of them as modern day pen pals.
- Never having to feel alone, does not matter what corner of the world you live in, how remote your home is, there are friends to be found who will share your interests, for me that would be the crafting community and indeed the lovely readers of my blog who never cease to amaze me with their kindness.
- The sheer volume of creativity out there, so many folks being able to share their talents and have a voice.
- Cyber window shopping on eBay and Etsy for vintage finds when the thrift store is closed and I need a fix.
- Being able to connect with my daughters, one lives in England and the other in North Carolina, just a short message or a skype call is all I need to know life is okay and I need not fret about them, out and about in the big world.
Holly: And finally, what is the best advice you can give to others who want to write a book about their passions – can you give us some tips on how you suggest someone break into book writing if they also have a successful blog and online brand? What should they do next?
Tif: Well as I said early my publisher found me, and actually for most things to do with dottie angel, folks have found me, I have just continued upon my path of blogging and crafting and feel most fortunate to have folks like what I do. Certainly being passionate about what you do and having a unique voice and style will in turn make you more appealing to publishers. I really do not have any top tips of how to break into the publishing world as that has not been my journey, however I do advise if you are approached or indeed approach a publisher be sure to have a clear idea of what type of book you are wishing to write, your style and how it will be different to what is already out there on the book shelves. If there is one piece of advice I would offer up to anyone whether they are thinking about writing a book, perhaps only just begun with blogging or opening up a little online store. Be yourself and be unique. Do not worry about what others are doing or saying. Stay true to who you are and your creative soul, do it because you have a love for it and it makes you happy and chances are, others will find you soon enough.
“Be yourself and be unique. Do not worry about what others are doing or saying.” – Dottie Angel
What a nice chat we had, don’t you think? To purchase Tif’s beautiful new book, please visit UPPERCASE online. It’s stunning and I’m sure you will adore it as much as I have! It’s perfectly peachy.
(images: holly becker for decor8)