Bay Area artist runs unique business inspired by her grandmother
on February 1, 2016
Among the many unorthodox tools Cara Corey has used to make her handmade artist line unique are knitting needles made out of PVC pipe and merino wool fiber (the material before wool becomes “wool”) shipped from the Ukraine.
Corey moved to Richmond, California, in 2010 after spending over four years as a newspaper reporter in Des Moines, Iowa. She had written a wide variety of stories about people who owned their own businesses, and at one point, she had her own column covering DIY (“do it yourself”) projects. When layoffs began at the paper after the 2008 economic crisis, she decided shift gears and focus on her art.
Inspired by her grandmother Mary Marie, after whom she named her line, she started to sell her candles and knitted wares on Etsy, an online platform for artists to sell their goods.
“My grandma was the most amazing woman. She herself was not a knitter, but she was always doing something with her hands,” says Corey. “She was inspirational. Sadly, she passed away last year, but I am glad her name can continue to be used to carry on her extraordinary love for crafts.”
Corey started off in Iowa, attending local art fairs and shows selling her candles and her knitted hats and scarves. When she noticed that her knitted goods were selling much better than the candles, she decided to make knitting her top priority.
After moving to California, she began to find new patterns for things to knit. She came across a pattern for a knitted “pouf,” an ottoman of sorts, and it became her top-selling item on her Etsy account.
“I started to experiment with different materials as well, “ says Corey. “I began making my own rope, so it was not as rough to the touch, and working with thicker materials. That is when I made my own UVC pipe needles to handle that amount of yarn and cord.”
The process of making her rope begins with purchasing regular 100 percent wool yarn. She then hand-twists it, until it becomes a cord. She felts it in the washing machine, and then she has her final material to knit with.
The products Corey sells include cable knit hats, which are comfy and soft berets offered in more than 20 colors of wool-blend yarn; rope baskets, which are hand knitted with cotton rope and come in three sizes; and arm knit cowls, which are knitted by using the arms as needles. She uses this technique to create big scarves that you wrap around twice over your neck.
Corey runs her one-woman business out of a remodeled backyard shed she designed to be a workshop. She keeps it filled with all her sewing tools, knitting needles and yarn, and her computer where she can take orders and place shipments. As for working at home Corey says, “It can be tough to get work done with all the distractions at home, so I usually either work out in the workshop or I knit when my kids are asleep. I always keep some project in the house so I can work on it when opportunity strikes.”
She also works part-time at a local artist boutique in Sausalito, called Studio 333, where Corey says she enjoys the atmosphere of being able to sell artisan goods. She perhaps sees herself opening her own storefront some day in the future.
Corey credits the Bay Area as a big factor in how she is able to do what she loves and have her knitting business become her career. “California is very supportive of its local artisans and the local artists here support each other,” says Corey. “When you purchase a local artist’s work, you are directly supporting their livelihood. You can actually meet the person and get something customized, and you form relationships that way.”
Corey considers her business as more of a part-time job than a full-time one. Her husband’s job provides the main family financial support, but Corey says her family is supportive of her creative pursuits, for which she is extremely grateful. “They provide encouragement, ideas, babysitting — whatever I need to make the business work,” says Corey.
With a two-week old baby and a thriving business, Corey says she is fortunate that her work is something she turns to for comfort and relief. “Some people may find knitting stressful because it can require some skill or because they lose interest fast, but for me it is the opposite. Knitting is calming and satisfying for me. I am doing what I love in a place that can appreciate it,” says Corey.
To learn more about Mary Marie knits visit: https://www.etsy.com/shop/marymarieknits
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