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  • Writer's pictureJulie Finlayson

Creator of the Month: Debra Simpkins

Meet Debra Simpkins. Artistic crafter and Dog Mom, among other things.

Debra and I got together recently to chat about her artistic creations. After we chatted about her Golden Retriever, Berkeley, [you can read about her dog, Berkeley, here] we started to walk around the house to look at some of her creations. We started with the globes.

 What drew you to creating these glass globes?

I wish I knew. I think one of these was one of the first ones that I ever did something like that. And then they just morphed. I was getting requests for themes, like sports teams. (I'm a huge Steelers fan and so I have a little gnome that I found--a little Steeler gnome.) That kind of took off. So I was doing not necessarily doing custom work but people would say "Can you do one for the Buffalo Bills?" or something like that. And I was doing the dogs for a while. And it just kind of morphed into that. I have no idea why or how I started doing it. Maybe I saw it on Pinterest.

So you sold some of your globes then?

Yes. The globes I did for quite a while. But the problem is taking them to and from craft shows is so hard because I've got to have everything bubble-wrapped. It has to be packed and unpacked and it's just labor intensive. And I don't really like craft shows to begin with because it's so much work and you don't do it for money. You do it because you really like what you've done and you think somebody else would like it. But then you get the people that will walk past and say, "Oh, I could do that." Oh yeah, then go home and do it!

And a lot of people don't also appreciate the cost that you put on something because it's not just the cost of materials; it's the time and the craftsmanship, right?

It's the time, and that's the thing. It's the time that it takes to do something. You know, people would say, "Well, that's really expensive. Would you take X amount of money for that?" And then I'd say, "No, I really can't." I know how much the cost of it was to make. And I know how much my time is worth. So no. I mean I obviously don't charge my aesthetician rate. (I have my own business over at Harbour Aesthetics.) So it's not my hourly rate for there. But I know how much work that.

I'll do three or four craft shows a year, and they usually start after Halloween and go until Christmas, which is great. That's a great time to sell things, you know, and people will buy these little gifts. This year was different because my husband had passed away, so my girlfriend had a craft show In her house and that was easier. I brought my stuff. I did OK with that. But you're not going to make a living out of it, you know? And that's fine for me because all I wanted to do was play with it.

It's just so hard to move them and, you know, and I made so many. I love making them. I love the creating part. You're putting your heart into it but I hate the selling part--that's not my personality. One time I was at a three-day show but couldn't be there part of one day and my husband was there. He sold more than I did! He sold more than I ever did!

But if someone came to you and said, "Hey, I would like to buy one of these resin seashell pieces" are you open to having people contact you about buying any of your creations?

Absolutely! And that's a purpose. That's like, "Will you make this for me?" And I would love to do that. It's different making something for somebody else. You know you want it to be perfect and you want them to really love it.

What do you get out of this process of creating?

I lose track of time doing it, which is nice for me because my mind is always spinning. I can't sit still. I'm kind of like an Energizer Bunny. So this is good for me because it it forces me to sit for a while. I have a a table upstairs where I can sit and create. And I can close the door and walk away from it and not have to clean it up, which is huge for me because I don't like things all strung out.

And then this is the book I wrote with our first Bernese mountain dog because he was such a counter cruiser [a dog who steals food from the counter]. He was exceptional at sneaking food. We used to say that he could get a jelly bean off of the top of something. It's written in first person like the dog wrote it. It's written actually to other dogs. On the back of the book there are pretend reviews from other dogs. It's a book teaching dogs how to be bad, really. It's a dog's guide to getting away with stuff!

Do you ever have times when you get a block in creativity? What do you do when that happens?

I just walk away. Best thing for me because I don't want to beat it to death, and if I'm just not feeling it, I'm just not feeling it. When I wrote the book, I would go through periods of that, like. But that dog would sit with me in our office and I would just look at him and remember things that he did. So that was easy.

With the shells it's easy: going to the beach. That was easy enough to do, and I love the beach. I have a guest room that is all beachy stuff, so, but that was more of an inspiration for that.

Don't force it.

Of all the things that you create what's your favorite?

Whatever is right now. In the summertime, I was having more inspiration doing the shell art and the pixie plant stakes. I don't know. It's whatever hits me. And whenever Berkeley's allowing me to do things like that instead of saying, "Take me for a walk!" all the time.

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