Sunday, December 2, 2012

An Interview With Whifferdill's Ruth Webb

Today I'm talking with budding master crafter (and awesome sister-in-law), Ruth Webb, owner and artist of the shop, "Whifferdill."

JH:  So, for those of us aren't familiar with it, tell us a little bit about yourself and about Whifferdill. 

RW:  Well, my name is Ruth. I make my home in Durham, N.C., with my wonderful husband and 3 (yes, three!) crazy dogs. We are definitely dog people, if you couldn’t tell from that whole ‘three of them’ thing…LOL.  I am a stay-at-home crafter and I’m lucky enough that I get to spend my days with my retired firefighter (and Navy Corpsman….and general all-around hero) husband. Amazingly enough, we don’t get on each others’ nerves. And we have a ton of fun together. I am blessed to be able to do what I love in my own home surrounded by people (and critters) who love me.

JH:  Where did you come up with the name "Whifferdill", by the way? 

RW:  It’s kind of a weird name, isn’t it? In my family, instead of saying “Make a u-turn” when we need to be driving the opposite direction, we say “Flip a whifferdill!”. I have no idea why we started saying it. But there you go. We’re kind of a weird family. I have heard that the term is actually German, but I haven’t really researched it. When I decided to start my own craft business, I brainstormed quite a few names. Then one day a light bulb clicked on in my head and out came Whifferdill. You see, I’d been working for a marketing company for 7 years. And I wasn’t terribly happy. Don’t get me wrong, I worked with very cool people and was glad to have a job in tough economic times. But I wasn’t being very creative. And that, in a word, sucked. It was time for a change. It was time to flip a whifferdill and get back to what makes me happy. So I embarked on this crazy journey and I really feel like I’m going in the right direction.

JH:  Was Whifferdill always in the works for you, or did it sort of naturally evolve? 

RW:  Yes and no, at the same time. I know, that’s quite an illuminating answer. Lemme explain…. I knew I wasn’t happy in my job. And I knew I needed to do something creative. I’ve always been creative and crafty, but owning my own business was not something that I’d ever really considered. I didn’t spend my childhood dreaming of owning a craft business (I dreamt of being an elephant trainer. Or a checkout lady at the grocery store. I was a weird kid.) But this past spring, finances came together and circumstances coalesced and I was able to quit my job. And all of a sudden, I knew that I could do this. That I would have the time and some resources to turn a wee little thought in the back of my head into a reality. So in July, I registered my business name, got my license, and the permission to do business out of my home. The rest, as they say, is history.

JH:  How has turning your hobby into a business changed your feelings about it? 

RW:  Good question. Sometimes crafting the same thing over and over again makes you go bonkers. I find that there are days when I think I’ll scream if I have to make one more felt flower. That’s when I switch gears, put down the felt, and grab my crochet hook. Or my quilling tool. Or a paint brush. Or hop on the laptop and write a blog post or list an item on Etsy. The good thing about owning your own business is that you know when you’ve had enough. You know when you are getting burned out. And there’s always a million and one other things to attend to or make. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. Someone needs an item made immediately and shipped quickly. So you just crank up the Motown station on Pandora and power through it while singing at the top of your lungs. I will always love crafting. I know this deep down. Having it be my livelihood definitely adds pressure into the mix and some days that pressure feels overwhelming. But to me, pressure can be a good thing.

JH:  What is your creative process like? 

RW:  I am definitely a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal when it comes to the creative process. I usually start out with just a general idea of what I want something to look like. I don’t sketch it out on paper or have every element mapped out in my head. Some folks work that way. And I give them huge props for their planning skills. I just kind of….start. As I’m going along, I’ll add in different colors or subtract colors, try out different arrangements, fiddle with stuff. And it almost always happens that I’ll just let the wreath or picture frame or whatever sit in its almost-done state and come back to it with fresh eyes. Usually I’m able to see what it’s missing. That something that gives it the personality and charm that makes me happy.

JH:  What are your long-term goals for Whifferdill? Where do you hope to be with it in, say, five years? 

RW:  Hmm. I really think that I would like to be doing what I’m doing now – selling on Etsy and attending craft fairs. I didn’t go into this wanting to become a multi-millionaire or some crafting mogul. All I really want is enough money to pay the car payment each month and to buy more supplies. It would be really cool to do enough business to hire another employee to have help with the day-to-day running of the business. Plus, I could pawn off all the stuff that I’m not a fan of doing onto that person…. Like bookkeeping. And accounting. And doing taxes. Really, anything involving numbers.

JH:  What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting their own craft business? Specifically, what's the most important thing they should know going into it? 

RW:  Be prepared to wear every single hat that you can think of involving running a business. Customer service, shipping guru, creative director, photographer, editor, copywriter, accountant, tech support, brand manager, janitor, sales clerk, marketing director…the list goes on and on. You don’t have to like all of these aspects. There are some that really aren’t my favorite things in the world to do. But you have to do them. And most of them really are doable for the average crafter. I guess you have to ask yourself if wearing all those hats is something that will make you happy.

JH:  Okay, enough about the business end of things. Wait, that didn't sound right! Anyway... With Whifferdill, what particular craft would you consider to be your greatest achievement so far? 

RW:  I think my wreaths are my greatest achievement. I haven’t really seen anything like them anywhere and I really enjoy making them. I also am proud of the crocheted lace necklaces. When I first started making them, I had never crocheted lace. I only knew the basics of crochet and had only ever made scarves. But I sat down with my tiny crochet hook and thread and came up with the patterns all by myself. Feeling that accomplishment is a great thing.

JH:  What are you most skilled at, craft-wise, and what craft skills would you like to be more skilled at? 

RW:  I think I’m most skilled at making felt flowers. I’ve made hundreds and hundreds at this point. I would really like to become a wiz at my sewing machine. I am kind of intimidated by it and I’ve never made anything more complicated than a pair of pillow cases. But I have made myself a promise that I will make a quilt in 2013 from start to finish. All by myself. Well, with a little help from tutorials on the Internet.

JH:  What are the crafting tools that you simply can't live without? 

RW:  Number one would have to go to my hot glue gun. We have a love/hate relationship (I’m surprised I still have fingerprints considering the number of times I’ve had scalding glue burn my fingertips…), but I would be lost without him. Yes, the glue gun is a ‘he’. My sewing machine, on the other hand, is a ‘she’. I don’t use her that much (because I’m easily intimidated by seemingly complicated machinery), but I want to make her a tool that I can’t live without. She and I will be besties one day, I just know it.

JH:  What do you do when you're suffering a creative block to "unblock"? 

RW:  I simply step away from whatever it is that I’m making. If I’m getting frustrated and flustered, I know that it won’t get any better just staring at it. So I’ll go do something else. Usually something that doesn’t require creativity. Sometimes it takes just an hour or two. Sometimes it can take a week. But I eventually come back to the item and start fiddling with it and presto change-o, the ideas have started flowing again.

JH:  If you could be any crafter or artist – past or present – for a day, who would it be and why? 

RW:  You know, I’ve never really thought about this. It would be cool to have the brand recognition that other crafty people have. But I really don’t think I’d like to be anybody else. I like me. And I like how crafting has defined a part of me. I have a unique and particular style that says “Whifferdill” and that really is deeply satisfying.

JH:  Last but not least, let's talk Christmas. Do you have anything special going on with Whifferdill leading up to the holiday season? 

RW:  I actually just started a Christmas promotion – the 12 Days of Christmas. If you go to my Facebook page, you can find the coupon code to receive 12% off your order now through Dec. 12th!

JH:  Awesome! Speaking of Facebook and Etsy, where can we find you on the Internet? 

RW:  You can find me lots of places! Here’s some links….

The Etsy shop: 


Twitter: @whifferdill2012


I'm also starting to do some local craft fairs. The details of where I'll be and when can be found on my Facebook page. 

JH:  Great! Well, thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to speak with us today! 

RW:  Thanks for having me! And thank you for being an awesome bro-in-law :) One more thing....could you possibly tell Mary to hurry this whole baby-having thing up so I can meet my nephew??? Pretty please??? 

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