Made in SLO… This Little Bird

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Making friends in a new town, when you’re 30 something, is kind of difficult. Luckily, I have met some pretty rockin’ people that have made that easier. The most rockin’ of them has been Amber Long of This Little Bird! She is as nice as she is talented, which is pretty huge. We share the same passion for all things local and we’re looking forward to working together in creating more opportunities for the local maker community!

Not only does Amber create and run her beautiful business, This Little Bird, but she is a full-time graduate student at Cal Poly, has another job, is married, and has fur children! How does she do it all? I have no idea. Oh yeah, and she’s captain of the Central Coast Etsy Team and a leader in the SLO County Sellers Team. I’m exhausted just listing it all, imagine living it! Truly awesome.

Read on and learn how you too can be like the inspiring Amber Long…

Where do you live in SLO, how long?

I currently live in Santa Maria. We’ve been here 5 years. Before that I lived in SLO and Shell Beach for 8 years, bringing my grand total to 13 years!

What do you love most about SLO?

I love the variety we have to offer here, from landscapes, to paces of lifestyle.

How is SLO different from any other place?

We have a unique mix of fast pace and SLO pace here. You can shop at a big box store or a farm stand. You can live on a ranch or in an urban loft downtown.  You can hike or surf, go to an open mic night or the symphony.

What is the name of your shop? How did you come up with the name?

My shop is This Little Bird.  This same graphic designer friend and I chatted on Google Chat for days on end trying to come up with something. I happen to like bird décor (although I’m pretty picky about it) and so I know it would center on “bird”. But it really only came about by tossing things back and forth with someone I trusted. I am the bird in This Little Bird so to me, it means “there is a piece of me in everything I make”.

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What do you create?

In my Etsy shop I sew zippered pouches, bags, aprons and seasonal home décor items.  Outside of Etsy I also paint, refinish furniture, crochet, do hoop art, and try my hand at quilting.

What is your workshop like?

I’m fortunate to have an entire bedroom in my home dedicated to my studio.  Depending in the day it is a serene spot with all the fabric in it’s place and other days it’s a hot mess!  My cats like to “help” sometimes so there is always something being knocked over. (But I keep them off the fabric, by bribing them with other fabric!)

And some crafts do find their way to the living room and dining room. They have legs of their own!

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How/why did you start crafting/creating?

Well I originally learned a lot of crafts as a child from my grandmother.  I’d spend a week with her each summer just learning.  Sewing, painting, cooking, needle point, reading. We did it all.  Fast forward many years to the recent past and I was sitting around with a sewing machine and a graphic designer friend who kept sending me links to this Pinterest thing (it was still the early days of Pinterest) and I was so inspired by what I was seeing.  I was pinning all kinds of crafts! I was also an avid Etsy shopper so an idea came to me that if I made nice enough things maybe I could sell them!

That was how, but the why is a different story. I suffer from anxiety and I was told many times to find something to do with my hands.  The entire process of sewing, from picking fabrics, to the finished product is a time of meditation and inspiration for me that keeps me grounded.

Wow, that time and those memories with your grandmother are definitely reflected in your well-sewn pieces. That love and meditation seem to be a winning combination.

Where do you find your inspiration?

A lot of times I get color and style inspiration from Pinterest and the people I follow on Instagram.  I love color and love seeing how others put together color.  We go to San Francisco a few times a year and I’m always impressed by the store displays and urban art I see, so I take inspiration there too.

What inspires you?

I’m visual so nature and other people’s art are my main craft inspirations.  I’m also inspired by people who are living a balanced and honest life.  The more balanced life is the easier it is to be inspired by the simple or mundane. Additionally, crafting in a certain sense has a very long tradition and I want to be part of that tradition and carry it on. That’s why I learned to crochet. It’s something our grandmothers and great grandmothers did. Now I do it to but in modern colors and styles.

If any, what do you struggle with or still have yet to master by having your own business?

I still have SO much to learn.  I have things to learn as a maker, as a business owner, as an accountant, delivery person, and prototype maker.  Currently my greatest struggle is finding enough time to invest since I’m in grad school and work part time.

What goals do you have for your business?

Working backwards, in 10 years I want to have my business providing me with 1/3 of my income. In 5 years, with grad school out of the way I hope to have a schedule where I don’t work 40 hours at the day job and can commit regular hours to my business. In 1 year I want to be fully invested in my local creative community.  I’ll also almost be done with grad school.

I am so glad that we finally were able to do this! Thank you for taking the time to share with all of us.

I hope that all of you have enjoyed learning about Amber of This Little Bird! She’s offering our readers 10% through the end of this month with code SLOLife! Make sure to grab yourself something wonderful at her Etsy shop.

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