Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Feature | B.Hive Designs

Back in November at a local craft fair, I met Barbara Sellen of B.Hive Designs and immediately fell in love with her bags. Not only because they are hand made in Falmouth, Maine, but they have the highest quality fabrics from all over the world (even visiting MOOD in NY!) and the most vibrant patterns. I asked if I could highlight her on my blog, and she thankfully agreed. Here is more about B.Hive and how Barbara got started.

Sarah: What inspired you to learn to sew?

Barbara: I learned some basics in girl scouts and remembered after I was newly married and discovered a high end fabric store in the town I had just moved to. I thought, I need to learn how to make clothes.

Sarah: How did you start B.Hive?

Barbara: The BeeHive was the name of a "store" my sisters and I had every summer when we were in grade school. We would craft all winter and then have "the shop" one weekend in the summer on our neighbors front porch. Since getting married, I have sewn for every phase of my life - clothes, baby bedding, draperies, children's clothes - when my daughters got to high school I started making bags for them and their friends. I even taught a short sewing class at Falmouth High School. I made bags and donated them to charity auctions. Many people started asking me if they could buy one of my bags. I started my etsy shop in 2009 around the time my son got deployed. It has been a wonderful distraction!

Sarah: Your company name is great! How did you come up with B.Hive?

Barbara: See answer to the above. When I started my etsy shop, I thought I had to call it the beehive. I thought B.Hive was an updated twist (I wanted to call it B "dot" hive). It evolved into BHiveDesign on etsy because I was not allowed to add "the dot".

: Your fabric quality is amazing and unique- how do you find/procure your fabrics?

Barbara: I have found out that the younger generation (20 somethings) call what I do "upcycling" - taking someone else's discarded remnants or waste and using it to create something new. I have several sources in Boston that give me their high end drapery or upholstery remnants. I sort through it and usually use about 25% of what I get. What I don't keep, I donate to goodwill, churches, schools or salvation army. I also check fabric stores for good deals. I am not big enough to buy wholesale. Since I have been sewing for so long, I am able to distinguish the high end textiles from the ordinary.

Sarah: One of my favorite toile prints below-

Sarah: Amazing quality

Sarah: For those out there looking to start their own small business- what is your best advice?

Barbara: Believe in your idea. One of the greatest rewards I have found from doing this business is that customers want to purchase my aesthetic. Also, another piece of advice is to get to know your competition. There are many, many bags and totes available - but my concept is to make them one of a kind. Find that thing about your product that is unique.

Sarah: I know you went to NYC to see the Nate Berkus show and Project Runway’s MOOD showroom recently- what was that like?

Barbara: Really fun!!! The people at MOOD could not have been nicer. However, I did not buy anything there because it did not make business sense for me. But it was really fun to poke around and identify trends.

Nate Berkus was also really fun. And he is even cuter in person! So down to earth. Since I use many home decorator fabrics, it was the perfect show for me to attend.

(Barbara at MOOD in NYC)

Sarah: The bags are beautiful, and a great idea for weddings and bridesmaids gifts. Do you accept custom orders?

Barbara: Most definitely!! I have made wedding bags out of vintage materials that I think are very cool but I have also done custom, so that the bag coordinates well with the shade of white or ivory the bride is wearing.

(Example of custom wedding bag)

Sarah: What is the one thing you would do differently with B.Hive if you could start over?

Barbara: Start off better organized. As you can imagine, I have a great deal of fabric on hand - keeping that organized and accessible is quite a task.

Sarah: With the new year ahead, what is your vision and goals for B.Hive 2012?

Barbara: Well my son is engaged, so I hope to make a bridal bag for my future daughter in law!

Also, I recently obtained some beautiful linen fabric that I am looking forward to making into bags for spring-summer.

Sarah: What local event/shows do you attend? Where will you be next?

Barbara: I am in the process of exploring that right now! I would like to get in one show for Mothers Day gift giving. But of course, I will have many new items on my etsy shop for Mothers Day.

(Beautiful floral fabric- bag available now on BHive etsy shop)

(Handmade in Maine)

Thank you so much Barbara for sharing your stories and ideas with me. To learn more or find a perfect bag, go to BHive Designs at etsy and find her at B.Hive Design on Facebook!


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