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September 26, 2021
Want to get to know the creatives behind some of our most popular products? Read on to hear the stories of the makers behind some of our best-selling made in Nova Scotia gifts.
How long have you been making pottery and how has your work evolved over the years?
Evolution: I took a detour for several years, met Paul, and we worked and travelled in a completely different field. I had the opportunity to come back to studio pottery in 2017, and I started Old Barn Pottery. I think over the years I developed the willingness to commit to specific forms, rather than continually changing what I produced. Working with Robin Hopper gave me grounding in functional form with well-made glazes, but choosing what to make, and making those forms well and repeatedly with my own hands took a lot of practice. The development of consistency takes a willingness to smash lots of bad pottery and I think I am much better able to let go now than I was when I was young. Paradoxically, the more I became willing to smash bad pots, the fewer bad pots I made. And making thousands of mugs in itself reinforces skill.
What's it like working with your sweetheart?
I honestly wouldn’t want to work with anyone else! We worked together in training and consulting starting in 2001 and have sought out chances to work together ever since. We complement each other in so many ways, and have learned how to navigate the usual minefields of relationships quite intentionally, because we knew we were better workmates with each other than with anyone else. We sought out and learned how to make that really positive and effective, and we both joke now about how excruciating it would be to work with anyone else. And, from a skill and temperament perspective, I couldn’t make this business work without him. While I make things and manage the production side, Paul looks after all of the “non-potter” aspects of the pottery, including customer communications, website and online shop management, and bookkeeping and taxes, tasks that I’m not as suited to as he is. I’m grateful every day that he’s on this journey with me!
How did 2020 change things for your business?
The pandemic initially brought a lot of uncertainty, but we were delighted to experience a healthy shift from selling at markets and craft fairs, to wholesale and online sales. I now make a majority of work for customers I never meet in person! We also had many repeat customers come back, which was lovely, and we got the chance to be part of some very special gift giving. We found staying home suited us, and we were glad not to have to pack up all the pottery, and our booth, and schlep it to and from the market every week, and brave the craft show crowds in summer and Christmas. We did miss the friends we made at the local market over the years, though, and missed the chance to meet our customers in person. In balance, the past two years have given us some new opportunities we’ve been glad to embrace. And we are looking forward to making lots more for Cheerfetti!
Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started Duckish.
I’m Carolyn and I’m the CEO and Co-Founder of Duckish Natural Skin Care, based here in Halifax. My partner and I started Duckish for a number of reasons, but really it stemmed from my frustration with not being able to find concentrated products made with great ingredients, that weren’t diluted with water and fillers.
For those who aren't familiar with Duckish, what makes this line of skincare unique?
Well, first, the name is inspired by my home province of Newfoundland. Duckish is a Newfoundland expression for ‘dusk’ or ‘twilight’ which is my both my favourite time of day, and the perfect time to spoil yourself with a warm bath and a bath bomb, or sooth dry feet with some decadent cream. We’re unique in that on top of using great, worry-free ingredients, our products are water and filler-free, minimizing the amount of packaging needed and the energy required to transport them. By creating products that are compact and concentrated by design, you get more value for your money and reduce your environmental footprint. We think great things can come in small packages!
Duckish has been around for a number of years now. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen the business go through over the years?
We’re going to be 6 years old this coming October, so we’ve seen and gone through a lot of changes. The biggest hurdle thus far has been navigating COVID. It was incredibly tough on a number of levels, but we already had an e-commerce store up and running before things shut down, so thankfully, we were equipped for a big increase in online shopping which really helped. COVID also really showed us that our products can really bring joy to people. We got so many emails and reviews saying how our Mini Body Balm Sticks saved their hands after all the handwashing and sanitizing, or how under lockdown our Bath Bombs helped people escape their stress, even if it was just for 20 minutes.
What's your favourite Duckish product?
Great question! I think the Body Balm Sticks, but a close second would be the Bath Bombs.
Tell us about yourself and how Hello Sweetie came to be.
My name is Crystal Picard and I'm a graphic designer & content strategist based in Halifax, NS. Hello Sweetie actually had its beginnings when I was still in school for graphic design. I was using hand lettering for a lot of my projects, and when I was asked to switch to digital typography, I started hand lettering on Instagram in my free time. I tried every traditional lettering tool I could get my hands on and it really kept me creatively invested in my work. I graduated with the highest recognition award and continued lettering for fun after school. It wasn't until years later that Nicole from Duly Noted mentioned that she'd seen my work online and would like me to make some cards. I went home that day absolutely simmering with excitement and had a few cards drafted by the next week to show her. From there it was a lot of fumbling through the steps to learn how to wholesale and a lot of help from the local card marker community to make Hello Sweetie what it is today!
What's your favourite part about running Hello Sweetie?
I love interacting with people on Instagram. I post a lot of stories that show time-lapsing of my work or little snippets of my life while I'm working on new projects and I love when people message me to ask questions or make suggestions. Especially over the past year or so when it was so easy to feel alone.
Your work involves a lot of creativity. Do you have any tips for inspiring creativity when you're just not feeling up to it?
Take a break and watch a skillshare or youtube of someone else doing their work. Nothing inspires me like learning new skills or new techniques to try to work into my own style. Selling your artwork is a lot of cycling between doing the work you want to sell, and then doing the actual selling. So get used to working mini-breaks from both into your schedule to keep your creativity going.
Working as a freelancer who also has a greeting card business, how do you stay organized?
I freelance as a content strategist and designer for small business owners who need a team but can only afford to bring on a single assistant, so I've gotten really good at managing projects. The key is time-blocking. As soon as something comes in, block out the time you think it'll take plus 1 hour. I track all my clients work and also Hello Sweetie this way. Due to the nature of my work, the things I want to do with Hello Sweetie sometimes get pushed to make room for pressing work, but I know exactly what is being pushed and I can decide if I want to move it to another day of the week, to the weekend or to skip it and move on to the next thing. Knowing your capacity is key.
Any tips you have for others who might be thinking of starting a side hustle?
Start it like you intend for it to be your only job. Understand that having a side hustle means you can either carve out a whole day for it during the week (for me, it's Fridays) or you'll be working on it in the evenings, on the weekends, and more. Talk to your family about what you want to do because they will be sacrificing time with you in order for you to pursue your passion. I don't know what I would do without my partner on board, helping me package orders and do deliveries for me to help balance things out. I'm glad I talked to him early on about what I wanted to do and got him all-in at the get-go.
What's in store for the future for Hello Sweetie?
Currently, I'm looking into enamel pins and box sets and I'm working my way toward building out my offerings and going to a trade show once they're back on.
Tell us a little bit about how you started Axe to Grind Foods and how it's evolved.
Axe To Grind began in 2018 as a fundraising effort to help offset travel costs for Canada's National Double Bit Axe Throwing Team to participate in the 2019 World Championships in Sweden. I have a culinary arts training and ran butcher shops over the years so I developed 4 recipes initially for the fundraiser. We included spice blends in the gift packs we gave to our Team Sweden hosts. I decided to keep making the blends for sale to offset other competition travel for team members. When the pandemic hit, I was laid off and then lost my job so with the blessing of the team, I registered the business and made it my full-time job. I still give a portion of sales of the blends to support the team for when we travel again to competitions.
What's the best part about running Axe to Grind?
My two favourite things about running Axe to Grind are 1) The people. I love to talk food, so at the farmers' market I get to see what is in season and give #spiceadvice. So many people are just now learning the basics of cooking so I get to share my passion with them and help them to make simple and tasty meals. 2) Product development. I am a pretty creative individual and I totally enjoy the process of discovery and have a boundless sense of wonder. I love to try combinations of spices and herbs and see what comes from the experimentation. It is such an amazing process to go from a flavour sketch to a final blend. I spend so much time in the commercial kitchen, but it definitely feeds my creative side and I get such joy from hearing all the positive feedback.
What's your favourite spice blend?
Whoa! That's like asking a parent who is your favourite child. My most popular blend is the Spud Spice (for fries, homefries, mashed potatoes, double stuffed potatoes, shepherd's pie and so much more). The Steak spice is so versatile (because it isn't a Montreal Steak Spice) and goes well with Chicken, White Fish, Roasted Root Veggies and more. At this moment in time, the Keto Memphis blend and the Ranch Dressing/Dip are my go to blends. In the summer I love to have wings, ribs, pulled pork and I like a smokey and savoury blend for those things. The Keto Memphis blend is the sugar-free version of the Sweet n' Savoury Blend and is a flavour match to that recipe. The original is made with brown sugar and the Keto version is made with Swerve (which caramelizes like sugar but is a natural sweetener). On chicken, pork chops, ribs, pulled pork... I put that blend on everything, including on boiled eggs as a seasoning! The Ranch Dressing/Dip can be used in pasta salads, tuna salads, chicken salads, as a sauce in wraps, and when mixed with cream cheese and stuffed into chicken breast... WOW!
Where can people find your products?
Photo credits go to Old Barn Pottery, Hello Sweetie, Axe to Grind, and Duckish.