Tell us about your business.Back in spring 2010, I was facing a major surgery and looking for a craft hobby to fill my recovery weeks. A coworker showed me how to crochet on a gigantic scale and I fell in love. I quickly made more rugs than my apartment could contain. Friends and family got the gift of rugs, and I started an Etsy shop in August 2010 and took the rug roadshow out for my first craft fair in 2011. The reactions people have are an absolute delight. "My grandmother used to make these!" is one of my favorites. "Can I touch it? It's so soft!" is another. The gasps, the smiles. The dogs who stop and immediately flop onto the display rug. The little kids who sit right down to watch me work. It brings me such joy to turn this mill trash into these moments. I have big plans and a small budget. In a dream world, I travel around the country in my RugMobile, visiting craft fairs, pet expos, and wholesale shows. I want to teach more people to reclaim garbage and transform it into ruglove.
What makes your business stand out?The material used is probably the most unique thing about RugEmpire. The technique is your basic single crochet, just on a gigantic scale. I teach classes so that anyone can make rugs of their own, using whatever large "yarn" they want -- old tee shirts, plastic garbage bags, worn out clothesline, ripped linens. RugEmpire rugs are made with scraps from a Pacific Northwest woolen mill. These mill by-products are made from virgin wool (sometimes with cotton or other materials but the wool is always there) and wool is AWESOME. Truly. This fiber has so many amazing qualities. It can both repel and absorb water, it resists stains and flame, it is flexible and durable, it discourages fleas and flies, it absorbs odors. Over the last three years, I have gone from writing off wool as itchy and too hot to being a huge wool cheerleader. It makes a dang fine rug.
What's the best business advice you've received?There's a quote out there about how the world needs more people who do what they love. I love making rugs. It's one part meditation and one part biofeedback, maybe -- the repetitive motion is soothing, the texture of the material is pleasing, putting the colors together is creatively satisfying. I don't sit still well, but this lets me be still and in motion at the same time. So yes. Do what you love. That is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. The second best is perhaps about marketing: that you can either spend time or money. There is no "free" marketing. If you choose to spend time, that's time lost for your craft but no money spent. If you choose to spend money, you keep your valuable creative time. I shoot for a balance between the two, because there are aspects of marketing I truly enjoy and there are times when I just want to make rugs.
Mark Your Calendar
NominationsJune 3–Aug. 29, 2014
Nominate yourself or other aspiring makers.
JudgingJune 23–Sept. 8, 2014
Judges will select finalists throughout this period.Meet the judges
Online VotingSept. 15–Oct. 13, 2014
Vote for your favorite American makers.See the finalists
Winners AnnouncedOct. 17, 2014
2014 Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.See past Award Winners
American Made EventNov. 7–8, 2014
Join us for our annual event in New York City.Buy tickets now