Thursday 15 October 2015

Craft Conversations with the Pros | Sara Naumann

Today is the turn for one of the most gorgeous crafters I have ever met: Sara Naumann. A really talented, hardworking and not to mention super sweet designer!

When and how did you start in the craft industry?
I started in the craft industry right after graduating from university. I answered an ad for a receptionist at a publishing company in Oregon called Hot Off The Press (HOTP). My degree is in English literature; at the time, HOTP was a craft book publisher and I thought this would be a stepping stone into the world of book publishing.
 Was it full time? Part time?
I began full-time answering the phones and doing administrative work, then because the company was so small—just 25 people—I got pulled to help out in various departments. Through that, I realized I would not be happy with the tedious work of editing as I’d originally thought, but that I loved the excitement of marketing. I was lucky to discover this at the beginning of my career!

What type of job did you have at first? Did you start as a creative straight away?
Answering the phone (this was—ahem—when people used to phone companies to place an order or ask a question!), then admin work for salespeople, the marketing manager, even packing up orders. Super glamorous! After a few months, I was asked to attend an industry trade show in Chicago and help work in the booth. I couldn’t believe it…traveling to an exciting city like Chicago for work felt like big time!   
Shortly after I started, HOTP got in on the scrapbooking boom and changed from being a craft book publisher to being a scrapbook paper manufacturer. It grew at an amazing rate, basically doubling the year that scrapbooking really took off in the US. I was fortunate to be in on the ground floor of that and as the company grew, I took on more and different jobs and positions, including product design with sarabooks™, sarabinders™ and sarapapers™. When I left, 15 years later, it was as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

How do you describe your job nowadays?
I’m a freelance designer for the craft industry—as such, I’m a columnist in US and UK magazines, I design stamps for PaperArtsy, I host a weekly You Tube show, demonstrate on craft TV and write books for Search Press.

Out of everything you do and have done, what is your favourite?
I’m really lucky to say that I love it all—and love the variation. I suppose if I only did one thing, it might get repetitive after awhile. Teaching in person and demonstrating on television is amazing and really fills me up—but it can also take a lot of energy, so I’m lucky to have the chance to refuel with magazine articles and book projects that let me squirrel away in my studio and get into my zone. 
Your proudest moment and achievement in this industry?
Striking out on my own after working for HOTP for 15 years. My husband got a job in the Netherlands, so we moved from Oregon to Amsterdam and I continued to work remotely for HOTP for a couple of years until I realised we weren’t planning to got back to the US any time soon. The US economy hit the wall at about the same time, and I realized I needed a change from the pressure of sales and business travel. I decided to take a break, then began my own business as a freelance designer.
Shortly after, I became pregnant with my daughter and realized I was going to shift everything around in terms of work hours, projects and where I put my energy. Looking back, I can see that I was much braver than I felt at the time—that was an unsettling period and I’m proud that I stuck with it even when it felt so, so hard sometimes.


Is it hard to work full/part time in the craft industry? Can you name your major challenges you face working in this industry?
There are challenges like with any other industry. To be a freelance designer, you’ve got to hustle for every job—even after 20+ years in the industry, it’s rare that jobs simply fall in my lap. I send a lot of proposals, go to a lot of trade shows and networking events and have a lot of meetings in order to get work. Relationships take a long time to build up and often, an opportunity comes along years after an initial meeting!
And as a freelancer, you need to be on top of your business finances and goals. This is not the most fun part of the job but it’s so important to make sure that you’re earning what you’re worth, and spending your money and your time in the most effective way possible.

What do you think is more important to succeed in this industry: creative talent, hard work or luck?
Oh dear, I think I have to say it’s that magic combination of all three—plus a good reputation, strong ethics and a dash of humor! And you’ve got to have patience…it can take a long time to develop a career, and you must be persistent.
 One more thing: As a designer, teacher, writer…you need this unique combination of passion and pride in your work, along with a certain amount of distance and objectivity. Not everyone will love what you do, and if you work for a company, they may ask you to change some things or design to certain specifications.

If you could go back in time, what would you do differently career wise?
I’m sure there are a zillion things I could or should have done differently but I really believe that nothing is wasted. I did spend a lot of time on projects or proposals that never took off or never earned much money, but the skills I picked up or the lessons I learned from each experience added another layer to my career.  

Also, what would you like to do differently style, technique, project wise?
After many years of a vintage, shabby chic look, I’m moving more and more into clean lines and contemporary colours and lines. It’s actually quite fun to stand back and see how one’s personal style can evolve.

What is your favourite project type to make?
Anything with paper! Cards, little books, journals, you name it. And I’m a long-time jewelry-maker, too…right now, I’m writing a book on resin jewelry that includes paper, so this combination is making me really happy!

What is your favourite color in general? And to make projects with? 
My favorite color is one that PaperArtsy has produced so perfectly as a Fresco Finish paint: Mermaid. There’s something about it that instantly makes me happy. I like to use this color on my projects too—in fact, I sometimes have to force myself to try different colors that I find harder to work with, like purple. Other than that, I love incorporating yellow into the mix, since it tends to either add a punch of color, or gives a gentle glow, depending on the shade and application.

Where do you go for inspiration?
Sometimes it’s a matter of getting out of the studio and into real life. Clothing store displays, IKEA catalogs, going on a photo walk, traveling, music videos…they all give me a new perspective and get my brain going in a different way. I also journal every morning, and sometimes my writing will lead me to try new things as I think about projects I’m working on and wonder what might happen if I did X, Y or Z.
The worst thing for inspiration? Comparison will always get me down!

What is next for you? Any art or craft dreams to be explored?
My art and craft to-explore list is about a million miles long! The front-runner at the moment is video classes and tutorials. I’m doing more and more video work instead of traditional in-person teaching, and that’s been a lot of fun and very fulfilling!

And finally, Do you remember when we first met? Any good/bad impressions?
and how important it is to meet people and network and keep craft friendships.

The first time was when you worked on creating project samples for Dawn Bibby’s show on QVC. I think we met in the hustle of the craft prep room in London—that room was always so packed with craft supplies and projects in process and it seemed so fun and energetic. But there was also the time pressure of prepping for a live show, so we didn’t get a chance to talk much because you were working and I was nervous about going on live TV!
Then later we both went to Portugal for one of Dawn’s retreats. This was also a lot of work, but there was an evening party at the hotel—you sailed across the floor in the most amazing flamenco dance and everyone was in awe! 
I also remember wanting to break out my high school Spanish with you but then realized your English is perfect and that I was probably better off not embarrassing myself.  
Paula's version:
I remember seeing Sara at QVC and being so gobsmacked at how beautiful she is. Then I got to meet her over the years, and Sara is just as beautiful inside as she is on the outside!

You can find Sara here:


Kath Stewart said...

I enjoyed reading Sara's story...thank for sharing and hey you need to break out that little flamenco dress again and give us a twirl xxx

Ruth said...

Thank you so much for sharing Sara's stories. I'm really new to all this crafting and I love hearing about and from people who have been in the industry for a long time. She's clearly very passionate about it all, and that is lovely to read. Xx

Sara Naumann said...

Thank you, Paula, for such a lovely opportunity to share with your readers! :) Sara

PaperArtsy said...

Sara was one of the first people I remember meeting at 'Stitches' the first time we exhibited in 2005. Since then we have met and chatted so many times over the years. We are thrilled to have her as a PaperArtsy stamp designer over recent years. She is a joy to collaborate with and her stamps always fit so nicely into a wide variety of crafty projects which makes them easy to promote and use! Great to read about Sara's early years in this industry!! Thank you! ~Leandra

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