Six years ago, on the very last day of April 2011, I opened Heartfelt. The retail business I owned with two partners closed at the end of February that year, victim of the economic downturn and ill-timed expansion. 

I was not ready to stop being a retailer with a small business though. At my husband's suggestion, I began calling everyone I knew, along with several people I didn't know very well, to ask them to lend me funds to start again. Asking people for money was very hard--I quickly realized that if I was willing to make those difficult calls, I must really have wanted to do this thing that became Heartfelt. In the end, I had thirteen lenders; I signed promissory notes, agreeing to repay the loans over a five year period, at 5% interest. The total amount I borrowed was not quite enough to open my business but I did it anyway.

Flash forward six years--Heartfelt is still in business; my lenders were paid off in 2015. I am very fortunate that my husband has "a real job" as a financial planner. Without his support, Heartfelt would have remained just a someday dream. Instead, when I look around the shop on a busy Saturday or during a "crafting tsunami"  on school release days, I can't quite believe it. It's so gratifying to enjoy the hubbub of families crafting, kids playing in the tree, dogs visiting--it's a wonderful life. 

And yet, too often these past few weeks, I have felt on the verge of tears as I close the store at the end of the day. Some of it has to do with my inherited mood issues, yes. But some of the grief and fear are bigger than that. I breathed a sigh of relief when the health care bill was pulled for lack of votes--that the uber conservatives didn't think it went far enough was a disturbing but seemingly small wart on the failure of that mean-spirited bill.    

But since then, there has been one blow after another--gutting the EPA; bailing from the climate accord; a supreme court nominee who thinks it's reasonable to fire a truck driver who left his trailer behind in order not to freeze to death; a frightening budget blueprint that takes from the poor and gives to the rich, while abandoning support of the arts. And then there is the investigation into possible (probable) treason by Trump and others.

There are many recommended actions to voice our objections to these policies and we must stand up for what is right. Equally important though is living with the people around us in a peaceful, loving way, to feel a sense of connected-ness. Let's help each other to stay grounded in the face of crazy. Let's love all the children, even as it seems their future is in peril. My hope is that the current debacle that is our federal government will lead to better things in the not so distant future. We can't let the bad guys win.

Making bunnies helps me, it really does! As does the feel of the warming sun on my face. And fairy gardens too--I am pleased to share our April Crafts with you. We've kept the best of our March projects and added others--how about a cute hollow egg with tiny eggs inside? Or paint a wooden dolphin family. And our popular Bunny Festival this week and we still have space available both days. Come on into Heartfelt to craft with us!


It's hard these days to manage mood and keep going forward with hope--I often feel like a storm-battered boat, trying to navigate through choppy waters.There is so much going on that is just plain wrong. For example, what do I say to the mom on my staff who is afraid to send her kids to their Jewish school? Have we humans learned nothing from history?

I love spring crafts in particular so I guess March came along at just the right time for me. I was able to escape reality a little while making bunnies, painting eggs, designing a little chicken coop. Making a peg doll fairy won't fix what's wrong but it does bring comfort in the present time. 


What will become of us all? I find myself thinking that a lot these days. As a history buff and current affairs junkie, I watch with horrified fascination as "our" newly elected, mentally-ill president signs order after order, each worse than the next. And that's just what we know about--who knows what else may be happening within the White House cabal?

My current day to day life is still so wonderful, especially compared with those in or fleeing war torn countries.Yet the fear and worry is mounting. Social media is packed with posts and information--some reliable, some perhaps not (alternative facts anyone?). It's so easy to be pulled into this unending stream. Yes, it's important to be informed--I think it's actually one of the duties of citizenship. Yes, it's crucial to protest through all available avenues--marches, phone calls, organizing--but how do I/we carry on from day to day? 

In observing my wonderful staff and myself, I am realizing that we are turning to art, each in our own way. For one, it's listening to jazz, preferably live. For another, it's making time for a quick sketch or watercolor study. For yet another, it's creating mildly subversive peg dolls. Making a felted polar bear soothed me yesterday. 

At Heartfelt, it has been my goal to to make a safe place, a creative space, where all are welcomed with love. Love is the answer, I know for sure. Bring your kids or just yourself--come be with us as we try to make sense of the history unfolding before us. Make something or just snuggle on the couch--we would love to see you.  

Calm After the Storm

We are living in unusual (and often upsetting) times.This makes me more grateful than ever for  Heartfelt. My staff and I so enjoy chatting with customers, old and new. The quality of these interactions is startling sometimes, with intimacy established in just minutes. This, and being with your children are balm for the soul, which many of us very much need right now. And the crafts! With talk of post election PTSD, we can all use the calm that comes from creating with our hands.


I read an article recently (can't remember where, I am a reading fiend) about the pursuit of happiness. If ones aim is happiness, we are bound to miss that mark; but if we try for and can achieve a measure of mindfulness, happiness can flow in. Yes, I know mindfulness is trendy but think about it. Taking a walk in the now very cold weather is a challenge and definitely not an easy prescription for happiness. But seeing a tree branch with its coating of snow brings a moment of pleasure during said walk--dare I call it happiness? 

During the holidays, expectations can run high--the season is supposed to bring happiness. Back when my daughter was little, I did my share of "Martha Stewarting"--baking, making, rushing to finish it all, hoping for more and more happiness. I exhausted myself, trying to have a crafty Christmas each year and in the end, was too tired to fully join in the celebration itself. Instead of happiness, I felt relieved it was over. If I had done much less--staying present in the moment, rather than driving towards the finish line--I suspect my whole family (and I) would have been happier. 

Some of my happiest moments these days are when I spend time with your children. Yes, I love my business and all my customers--yet the times I feel the most connected are when I sit with a child, discuss their vision, and help them create a toy they can play with proudly. Those small interactions make me bloom inside.  
And it's not all about making things--we strive to offer a selection of products that are beautiful, useful, enlivening. The smell of beeswax candles, the cuteness of a felted fox ornament, a wooden top that spins and spins, a new book discovered--these can also bring appreciation and calm in the moment, whether purchased or not. 


August 2016

Whoosh--that's the sound of summer speeding by. It's been great fun at Heartfelt, with our Craft Camps, Birthday Parties, and lots of drop-in crafters too. We have had more projects than ever on our summer menus and there is still time to make August Crafts


My Colorado trip is but a memory--two weeks basking in mountain sun and wind were indeed balm for the soul. We loved our cottage in Buena Vista, and brought home lots of wood, rocks, and pine cones for the shop. And more travels are coming up: a visit to Cape Cod over Labor Day weekend, and then our second annual fall trip to Grand Marais later in the month. I want to soak up all the nature I can while the sun still warms me.  

I hope your summer has been lovely, fun, satisfying. 

I can't wait to start making fall crafts!


May 2016

Since 1997, May Day has had particular significance for me. On May 1st 1997, my father Joseph Lawrence MacMartin died from complications of Alzheimer's Disease. He had been sick for a long time, so his death felt like mercy. Sad, yes, but a relief to have him freed from the prison of his body.

He was a creative guy, my dad. This picture here captures him perfectly: jeans and sneakers, perched on a log, concentrating on getting his sketch just right.  

I learned how to lead a creative life from Dad. Although he worked at a sales job he did not love, he made up for that with the many hobbies he enjoyed, including sketching, watercolor painting, and woodworking. 

In my early 20s, I worked in a bookstore that was very close to my father's office. He would drop by occasionally, in his trench coat and fedora hat, which he would doff to me and my coworkers. He would always ask "how is business?". It was fun to chat as two business people, not just father and daughter. As I type this, I just realized that I do that too--not the hat part but the inquiry, when greeting fellow small business owners Linden Hills and beyond. 

Although my dad was long gone when I opened Heartfelt, I often feel his blood in my veins. I inherited his extroversion, his willingness to speak up, and his artistic sensibility. I have a feeling he would love the shop--I wish he could stop by to sketch and paint! 

Crafting with Kids

March 2016

Recently, two of my staff commented separately that they were feeling more comfortable with all the different craft projects we offer each month. They need to know how to make everything we offer--it can feel daunting at first but like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

Now that my business is well established as a place to bring children to create, one of my goals this year is to invite more adults to take part too. Whether they make something along with their children/grandchildren, book a private skills class, or plan a private party with friends, making things with our hands can be trans-formative for us grown-ups too. If we can get out of our own way.

This week, a grandmother decided to make our Felted Chicks in a Nest project, while her granddaughter made the Bunnies & Hutch.The eight year old dived confidently into her project, choosing paint colors quickly to suit her vision. 

For her grandmother, it was a much more difficult process. She found fault with her first chick (too big), sighing that she would have to make the remaining two the same (too large) size. She made the nest, then took the chicks home to add eyes and beaks. She bought additional wool, so she could make additional sets for her other grandchildren, saying that she likes to practice on her own to get things right. My hope is that she can find some pleasure in making these gifts for her grandchildren, rather than the judgement and perfectionism I witnessed, all too aware that her granddaughter heard it all. 

This is by no means uncommon when adults work with their hands. What happened to us that we judge ourselves so harshly? Why must we worship at the altar of perfection? I have written about this before, so it's not something new. And some children have these tendencies too, crying when something doesn't turn out the way they wanted it to. But mostly, children enter into the making with confidence and joy. We can learn something from this, if we are relaxed and open enough to let it in. Let's try.

February Snow

Beautiful snow! It's freshened up the landscape considerably and greatly improved sledding and skiing prospects, that's for sure.

I am fortunate to live just eight blocks from the shop; my four-minute commute home on Tuesday took seven minutes instead. I took advantage of the quiet day at the shop to catch up on various tasks, while watching the blowing flakes through the big front windows. 

Around 3:30, I noticed a group of youths huddling under the entry overhang. I poked my head out the door and asked them to come in. Four teen boys piled in the store, SWH sophomores. They had waited 40 minutes for the city bus home to Uptown before giving up and walking to Linden Hills.No boots of course, nor hats/gloves that I could see--but at least they weren't wearing flip flops! 

 One boy called his mom and they settled in to wait for their ride. Polite kids, they chatted with me a bit and talked with each other, while staring into their ever-present cell phones. Around 4:15, a van pulled up and they were off, thanking me, and tripping over their feet a bit like adolescent puppies. I enjoyed their company, and especially getting a glimpse of the men they were becoming. Welcoming folks who visit Heartfelt is so rewarding for me and my staff. Amazing conversations and connections often stem from me asking "how is your day going?". 

April Showers

What shall we call this season we are in? Spr-inter? W-ring? The 2012 "ice out" date on Lake Harriet was March 18th. And I had planted pansies in the pots at the store by the end of March 2012. That was a rare year. This year is more normal, I guess--dang it! I love spring whenever it decides to come. My rites of this season include buying product for the store at the Gem Show (more rocks will be ready for you by this weekend!), attending the Shepherd's Harvest Sheep and Wool Festival (Mother's Day weekend--more info to come) and making all kinds of fairy crafts. Now that the snow has melted, I plan to install a fairy house and garden under the Linden tree in front of the store. Watch for progress as May approaches.


I opened Heartfelt on the last day of April in 2011--these two years have flown by! I feel really happy with the way the shop is evolving. We are getting busier too so others seem to share that feeling. Looking ahead to summer (it will come), I am considering expanding store hours once school is out; this would include being open Mondays and all day Tuesdays and possibly extending our close time to 6 pm. Let me know what you think about that!


Subscribe to RSS - blogs