Indie Artist Spotlight: Mia Nieminen of HandmadebyMia

Felted birdie bag
Mia’s felted birdie bag

It’s always a good day when you find something lovely that makes you stop, smile and wonder who created it.

I was instantly taken with Mia’s hand knit, needle felted purses, bags and cozies with their charming big-eyed birds, adorable animals and colorful flowers. How could you not smile at something like this:

Felted cat&birdie
Felted cat and birdie bag

or this:

orange

Using 100% Finnish wool and vintage fabrics, Mia designs, knits, sews, felts and decorates each and every piece herself. The birdie pouch and bunny cozy I ordered arrived on my doorstep zippity quick.

You can just feel the love and care she puts into her work. Holding one of her cheery creations is like getting a warm, joyous hug from the Land of the Midnight Sun.

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Mia’s cozies are perfect for smart phones or smart bears.🙂

I’m so glad Mia agreed to visit us today all the way from faraway Finland. Yes, she does take custom orders and also makes a few Moomin items. Enjoy!🙂

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♥ MEET MIA ♥

Mia

Name of shop or business:

– HandmadebyMia

Year established: 

– 2007

Items you make: 

– Unique felted creations: bags, pouches, cozies. I design, hand knit, felt and needle felt-decorate everything myself.  I use reused fabrics to line my bags and to sew purses and totes; my biggest favorites are the colorful cottons from 80s and 90s and wool-blends like tweed.

elephant

elephantinterior

Studio Location: 

– Joensuu, Eastern Finland

Online: 

– My shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/HandmadebyMia

– My blog: http://miashandmade.blogspot.com/

– Pictures of my crafts from the start: http://www.flickr.com/photos/handmadebymia

Three words that best describe your art: 

– Woolen, whimsical and handmade. Handmade is really important to me, I want my work to look just that: hand knit, hand sewn and hand decorated as much as possible. And when I send my pieces all over the world, I try to include a handmade & written card too.

Handmade notecards
Mia includes a handmade notecard with each order.
Needle felted animals
Needle felted animals

Self taught or formal training? 

– Self taught definitely, I have no background in designing or textile-studies.

Tools of the Trade: 

– Wool, knitting needles, washing machine (for felting), barbed needles and brush base for needle felting, sewing machine, reused fabrics and bits and bobs like buttons and ribbons.

tools of trade

Studio&tools of trade

handsewing the bag lining
Handsewing the bag lining.

Inspirations and influences: 

– Nature and animals! I am a big fan of cats and birds and I love plants, and the season changes also inspire me. I love colors, and love experimenting with unusual color-combinations. I also get big inspiration from my thrifted finds: sometimes a whole bag is designed to complement a certain beautiful fabric or an old ribbon.

Studio&inpiration

Three significant milestones in your career: 

– First is definitely opening my Etsy shop in July 2007! It took a lot of courage to list the first items online, even though I had dreamed about it for a long time. The second was an e-mail from Japan: I now have a reseller in Sapporo, and we’ve worked together for some years already. That collaboration has taught me so much, and my needle felting skills have developed tremendously. The third and very significant step was leaving my kindergarten teacher-job in 2010 to be able to concentrate on handmade-business in full.

Bags for Japan
Bags for Japan
work in progress for Japanese customer
Work in progress for Japanese customer

Food that inspires your best work:

– Anything you can pick from nature: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mushrooms. We have a large garden with many bushes of red- and blackcurrants and gooseberries, and some wild strawberries and raspberries too. Woods nearby we have tons of blueberries and mushrooms. These nature wonders appear in my needle felted designs, and I also keep finding berry-inspired fabrics in my thrifting-sprees. Berries are also a big part of my creative-day: I eat berry-shakes and smoothies during my day, and treat myself and my family with berry-pies many times a week. We just stocked our large fridge with berries for the winter to come!

strawberry inspired
Strawberry inspired

Bestseller: 

– This is a tight call between my felted bag and my felted cellphone cozy! If one design is chosen (the bags come in all possible shapes and sizes), it’s definitely the phone-cover. They were my first bird-items too, and the little tweet has become my signature-design since, and it appears in bags, pouches, coasters…

What is your earliest memory of being creative? What is the first thing you ever made as an “artist”?

– This is such a cliché, but I have always been creative. I loved to write and draw as a child, and remember wanting to be an author when I grew up. As an artist that I am now I made three felted bags with dark brown wool (all I could find nearby back then) in spring 2007, slowly decorated them during the summer, and to my surprise sold first in my Etsy-shop pretty soon after it was opened. I have come a long way since, but that dark brown wool is still in my stock!

My first ever bird cozy
Mia’s first ever bird cozy.

How did you get interested in knitting and felting?

– I started knitting again after some 15+ years in beginning of 2003 or so. It was a very stressful time at work, and I started knitting at evenings after work to relieve the stress, and I haven’t looked back since! It started with usual hats, mittens and socks for myself and my family and friends, and after a while I started experiment some more. I also discovered Etsy around that time, and started reading handmade-blogs, and saw the first felted bags there. It still took quite some years before I made my first bags, it was spring 2007.

My first ever felted bag
Mia’s first ever felted bag.

Tell us about your favorite creation so far, some of the challenges you overcame to make it, and how it influences what you’re doing now.

– I’d have to say my felted bags and pouches as they are entirely my own creations. I have written the patterns myself from the stitch-calculations to washing machine time and temperature. I am pretty proud of myself as there would be many patterns available in the internet, but I wanted to make it from scratch. Those early designs are still in use, and all the little details are in my precious sketchbooks even though I know every stitch by heart.

felted cat bag

Striped pouches
Striped pouches
Elephant pouches
Elephant pouches
Felted flowered bag
Felted flowered bag

Please select a popular item from your shop, tell us what inspired it and how you made it.

– A striped phone cozy! I knit a lot, and there are always small balls of wool left, not large enough to make anything with just one color. I am very thrifty, and do not wish to toss anything, and one day got an idea to try making a phone-cover with these wool-remains, and my striped cozy was born! Since then I have made many smaller pouches and even some larger bags with stripes, and they have been quite popular. And now all the wool-ends are in good use!

Striped cozies
Striped cozies

Love that you have some Moomin-related items in your shop! Please tell us about some of your favorite children’s authors and/or books. Are any of the animals on your pieces inspired by children’s stories?

– My Moomin-items have been very popular over the years, and it seems, that there are many people all around the world who love them, and have known them since childhood. I remember Moomins from an early age too, but the most inspirational books for me were Astrid Lindgren’s the world’s strongest girl Pippi Longstocking (Pippi Långstrump) tales and Gösta Knuttson’s Peter-No-Tail (Pelle Svanslös) cat-stories, and I am sure Peter and his friends have inspired my cat-designs!

moomin
Moomin pouch and keyring set
pippi
Pippi pouch!

Describe your studio. How have you fashioned your work environment to enhance creativity and maximize productivity? 

– I work from home, and am in happy progress furnishing and decorating a new, bigger studio in our newly renovated home! My creative process takes a lot of space as there are many stages: some pieces just knitted, some are felted and drying, some I already have started to decorate, and then there are the sewing machines (two) also. On top of all this there are piles of fabric, jars full of buttons and beads and a big stash of wool I use every day. I would call my studio a creative-chaos!

studio4

– I do not listen to music while I work, but as my creations take a lot (a LOT!) of hand knitting and needle felting, I often have television on in the background. I do not watch the daily-soaps that much, but I have a large collection of DVD’s I watch (read: listen, I need to keep my eyes on my work most of the time). I am a big fan of 80s books and television-series, but Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and Revence I enjoy too. I also love English detective-series and Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple and Inspector Lewis have made my needles click over the years. I also have just discovered the wonderful world of audiobooks!

Studio1

studio2

studio3

How do you chart your growth as an artist? How do you define success? 

– As an artist I feel I have grown a lot over these few years! I love my first creations still, definitely, but I also see how much my style has become “recognizable”, and “me” – and I have found the things I love to make, and I think those also sell best. I also have gotten much better and quicker sewer; me and my sewing machine didn’t exactly love each other in the beginning. Success to me means a possibility to make something you truly love and enjoy, and to be able to make a living out of it too. Money is something we all need, but I am happy to live with less if I can spend my days loving what I do.

pencase
LOVE this pencase!
Ladybug pouch
Ladybug pouch
Reused tweed coasters
Reused tweed coasters

What do you like best about the creative life?

– The best thing is to wake up in the morning, take a cup of coffee and start thinking the day ahead: what I would like to do? There are some deadlines for the custom-orders at times, but otherwise I am free to start creating again every morning! It can be stressful at times, yes, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Summery pillowcases
Summery pillowcases

Any new projects you’re especially excited about? 

– I have plans to open another Etsy-shop for my “not-felted but still-knitted” handmades; the exact date is still open but during this autumn definitely. This is so exciting: I have dreamed of making wool-accessories for a long time! I have done a lot of designing, drawn new patterns and knit-knit-knitted during this summer. It’s been a slow process, but also oh so rewarding. I wish to show all of this to you all soon!

Reused tweed keyrings
Reused tweed keyrings

Upcoming events/appearances/shows:

Because of those big plans to open another Etsy-shop soon, and the upcoming holiday-season I haven’t signed up for any craft shows for this remaining year. I’ve slowly learned that less is more sometimes!

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♥ AUTUMN 25% OFF SALE! ♥

squirrel

If you’d like to receive your very own hug from Finland, zip over to Mia’s Etsy Shop, where you can purchase most of the items in this post. She just happens to have an Autumn Sale going on right now — 25% off everything! It’s never too early to begin your holiday shopping. But hurry, the sale ends Wednesday, September 11, 2013.

autumnbag

THANKS SO MUCH FOR VISITING, MIA!!

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heart tree edit
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Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

26 thoughts on “Indie Artist Spotlight: Mia Nieminen of HandmadebyMia

  1. Sweet! I went over to Mia’s shop and kept thinking “This is my favorite! No, there’s my favorite! No, this one!”

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  2. It sounds like Mia has ‘crafted’ such a wonderful life. I love hearing about the history and the changes that have occurred through the years. The artistic looks of everything are simply beautiful, especially those strawberries and birds! Thanks Jama for sharing about Mia’s shop and work.

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  3. I was just toodling along, getting through my Inbox without paying attention to the sender, when the email for this post popped up–and, as so often before, I saw the photos and thought, “This MUST BE from Jama!” Sure enough, yes, of course. You are so consistently right-on in spotting the most irresistible stuff!!! I’m buying a few for gifts before the rest of your fans snap them ALL up!

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    1. How exciting! So glad you like Mia’s work, Janet (you have exquisite taste :)). Lucky friends/relatives to be receiving one of her pieces from you.

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      1. I bought two pieces this morning and Mia and I have exchanged a couple of emails about a custom piece, too–I’m so excited!!!

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    2. Mia is so friendly and accommodating — it’s such a pleasure to communicate with her. She’s one of the best sellers I’ve dealt with on Etsy. Kept me posted on when my order was ready, when she took it to the post office, etc. I appreciated such personalized service (rare these days).

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  4. Hey! As I was looking over Mia’s lovely creations, I realized that I have one of her piece of my own: a Moomin coin purse that I use as a pitch pipe/capo holder for my ukulele. Thank you for yet another lovely, vibrant Artist’s Spotlight, Jama.

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