Happy Monday everyone! If the weather where you are is anything like it is here, reading this interview and seeing the beautiful hand knits will make you feel all warm and fuzzy! So grab a cup of coffee and make yourself at home.
Meet Brenda, the creative designer behind Etsy shop Phydeaux, which is brimming with hand knit scarves and accessories.
Read on to discover what inspires her, how the name Phydeaux came about, and sneak a peek at a day in her life. I just don't know how she does it all - what an inspiration!
What inspires you?
I live in such a beautiful area, right where the infamous Silicon Valley (big city, high tech!) meets the woods of the Santa Cruz Mountains. I’m continually re-energized, revived and inspired by the beauty right outside my windows and my back yard filled with squirrels, birds, the occasional raccoon, possum, and assorted other critters.
I’m also inspired by the elegant fashion from the 30’s and 40’s (my favorite period for fashion!), as well as historical fashion and costumes. A beautifully handcrafted pearl-encrusted neck ruffle from Elizabethan times will feed my creative soul for weeks!
I often have images in my head for new designs for weeks, even months, before I have the time and resources to sit down and figure out how to make them come to life. Those images can be inspired by any of the above, along with the wonderful yarns and fibers that I collect (or that I’m compelled to go buy), color, texture, the latest edition of Vogue, etc.
Where do you call home? Are you from there originally?
I live in Saratoga, which is south of the San Francisco Bay (“South Bay Area”), at the southwestern-most edge of the Silicon Valley. Saratoga nestles right up against the Santa Cruz Mountains. There are mountain lion warning signs just a couple of blocks up the hill from me! And I listen to coyotes at night. I moved to the Bay Area 21 years ago this month, which is ironic because I swore I’d never live here. I grew up in the High Desert of the Sierra Nevadas (now those are mountains!), followed by California’s Central Valley (Sacramento). Since I lived in Los Angeles/southern California up until kindergarten, I suppose I’ll need to live in Northern California next!
Name something unique to where you live.
I live next door to a house that was once a bar and establishment for working girls back in the 1800’s, serving the little community’s sawmill workers. I actually lived in that house for a number of years and it is full of history and memories – maybe even a ghost or two!
Share an interesting fact about yourself.
I was born ambidextrous (able to use both hands with equal skill), but my teachers forced me to be right handed in grade school. Interestingly, I have a permanently bent/slightly deformed ring finger on my right hand, from the way I’ve held my writing utensils (not the same as most people!).
If you had to describe yourself in a word, what would that word be?
What made you decide to open up shop?
I learned about Etsy a full year or more before I considered opening shop. I wish I remembered how I learned about it – one of my friends turned me on to it, but I just don’t remember which! I was elated that I’d found such a wonderful source of handmade, artisanal jewelry (I’m an earring junky). I occasionally would think how grand it would be to sell my own jewelry or illustrations or paintings or (fill in the blank) on Etsy, but I was swamped between work and school.
During Christmas 2007, I was knitting up a scarf for a Christmas gift, shopping for earrings at Etsy (again…) and saw that folks were also selling hand knits. I suddenly thought, “I can do this.” I spent the next week or two deciding between knits and jewelry. Knits won because (a) I had nowhere the jewelry skills that I saw on Etsy (I’m not a metal worker or caster), (b) I thought that the supply inventory for knits would be less expensive (Ha! You should see my stash!), and (c) my cats were still young enough that beads were a problem (I haven’t seriously made jewelry since adopting my two kitties, both of whom are obsessed by shiny beads and findings). I opened shop a few weeks later!
How did you come up with your shop name? Any special significance?
Oh yes! Phydeaux (pronounced “fido”) was one of my beloved kitties’ names. Little Phydeaux was abandoned at a truck stop in Montana, during the Winter, found by my Dad and brother during a trip. My brother, bless him, kept that kitten curled up in his jacket all the way home, feeding it drops of milk. I latched on to Phydeaux on seeing him (I think he was just a week old) and raised him by bottle. Such a sweet, sweet little kitty. He unfortunately met an untimely end, breaking my heart, but since that time, I’ve always used “Phydeaux” as my creative moniker.
Who taught you to knit?
I vaguely remember my paternal grandmother trying to teach me to knit when I was pretty young. What I remember more clearly is her teaching me to cast on. I’m sure I learned some knitting in home ec classes in Jr. High. I’m largely to entirely self taught.
Name your favorite thing about selling handmade.
The satisfaction and delight of knowing that something hatched from my head, my heart and my two hands is being enjoyed by someone on the other side of the world or country or town! I think my life would have been very different had the internet and Etsy been around when I was much younger.
Do you have a day job or sell on Etsy full-time?
I have a fulltime day job, managing finance and administration at a medical school. I get to use business education and experience every day in my business! I also get to use it for the weekly column I write for papernstitch, craft venture (every Monday morning – stop by!).
Give us a little glimpse into what a typical day in your life looks like.
I’m currently on a leave from my day job, so I’ll give you a typical day as of recent: wake up between 8-9 am (no alarm clock, yay!), feed kitties/get dressed/fire up computer, answer convoes and fill pattern orders from previous night, check stats, renew a few items, eat breakfast while reading favorite blogs and sites, work on orders or marketing efforts until early afternoon, post office if needed along with appointments and errands through mid afternoon, new product photos and listings, work on orders and/or marketing to 4pm, go for a nice energizing and healthy walk, make and enjoy dinner, finish new listings, package new orders since the previous day (or consignment or wholesale orders), knit and write/schedule blog posts while watching TV or movies, bed anywhere between 11:30pm and 1am.
Share with us a favorite Etsy purchase or shop.
Oh man, it’s nearly impossible to pick just one shop or purchase – I’m an avid Etsy shopper! But the one shop I come back to time and time again is Savor Soap – fantastic whipped soaps and body butters!
List a few of your most favorite pastimes.
In addition to knitting … I love to cook (hope to write a cookbook one day!) and bake! I also enjoy walking, gardening, reading (haven’t done that in too long, though). Love playing videogames! I think I have every Legend of Zelda game now. Maybe I’m missing one or two …
Read any good books lately?
I never have time to read anymore, which is heartbreaking to me; instead, I now listen to audiobooks. I’m currently listening to John Adams by David McCullough: brilliant! Prior to that, I listened to The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, which was pure genius.
What is your most prized possession?
Not counting my two kitties, it has to be my beloved “Mom Dog.” (I can’t believe I’m saying this outloud!). Mom Dog is a stuffed pink dog that was given to me as a baby, and I still have! More than 40 years later! I keep her stored away now to keep her from crumbling to ashes; suffice to say that she is a very very well loved and more bald than plush member of my little family.
What are three of your favorite foods?
Even though I love healthy, holistic, delicious foods, pizza has to always be on a top three list. What would we do without pizza!? Especially Hawaiian (Canadian bacon and pineapple)! I love Vietnamese food, particularly spring rolls or shaken beef – I could eat both three times a day for a month. Ooo, and chocolate! Dark chocolate!
What would you like to learn to do?
I’ve always wanted to learn to make stained glass. One of these days! I’m learning to spin my own yarn, but would also love (and plan) to learn to dye my own yarn.
What are you listening to right now?
The orchestra of birds in my back yard and gentle snoring by two conked out kitties. Better than any music on the planet.
Name one place you must visit in your lifetime and why.
Another tough one – so many places! I so want to go to France or Scotland or Ireland or Egypt. But I think the one place I’d regret not going is Alaska – or anyplace up north so that I can see the Northern Lights for myself. I’m absolutely fascinated by them!
Brenda, I have so enjoyed getting to know you better! Thank you for stopping by and sharing with us. I'm sure everyone has enjoyed reading your inspiring interview.
I just love perusing Brenda's shop. Everything is so lovely! Her product photos are beautiful - it was hard to narrow it down to just a few to go with this interview! To see more of Brenda's work, visit her shop Phydeaux. You can also catch up with her at her blog or on twitter.
Time for a Giveaway!
Brenda is so generously offering one (very lucky) winner their choice of one of her fabulous soft neckwarmers!
Keep warm in style this winter!!
Tell us your favorite winter accessory! To enter, leave a comment on this post with your answer and contact info - name and email address or Etsy username.
For extra entries you can:
Tweet this giveaway: 2 additional entries
Follow my blog and/or Brenda's Blog: 5 additional entries
Blog about this interview/contest: 7 additional entries
Purchase from Phydeaux: 10 additional entries
(Please include this info, if applicable, with your comment for additional entries. You do not need to leave separate comments for additional entries. Important: Don't forget to include your name and contact info!)
Contest ends Sunday, October 25th at 11:59 pm EST. Winner will be chosen by traditional drawing and will be announced Monday, October 26th.