thimbletreestudio (Homewood and Brevard, North Carolina)
The Makers: Kyle Wick and Camille Webb
When Kyle Wick sits at her sewing machine in Homewood she imagines her daughter Camille Webb is doing the same thing hundreds of miles away.
It’s a connection that goes beyond mother-daughter. The two are business partners in thimbletreestudio, producing sewn and knitted goods using everything from repurposed fabrics to leather.
Although they started the dually located business four years ago, the pattern was cut long before that.
“Camille, our oldest daughter, and I have always loved to create. We love the process of creating, of making. We love working with our hands,” Wick said. “For years we would make things and give them to family and friends – year after year until family and friends were kind of saturated. We knew it was time to expand our audience.”
By this time, Webb was living in Colorado while Wick was in Alabama. They determined collaboration would be easy online through an Etsy shop.
But setting up an Etsy page meant they needed a name for their business.
Because they love working with their hands and sewing, “thimble” made sense as part of the name. Their love for nature brought “tree” into the mix and their artistic expression comes in with “studio.”
Thus, thimbletreestudio was born.
They worked with a UAB art student to design a logo and the business was up and running.
They started selling decorative and special occasion banners they would sew, but it wasn’t long before they wanted to branch out into other things.
Wick and Webb agreed if they were going to take it to another level they needed to set some ground rules. They agreed that thimbletreestudio would be all about joy, practicality and responsibility.
“We must always be happy while we’re working,” Wick explained. “That way those positive feelings go into our products and out to our customers. And we continue to enjoy making.”
“We love pretty things, we love attractive things, we love color, we love texture and we love to make,” Wick said. “But we also love things with purpose.”
That’s why thimbletreestudio’s products have a function. They make aprons, totes, potholders, blanket throws, baby blanket scarves, leather clutches, purses, portfolios and more.
Responsibility means they can repurpose fabrics such as old tablecloths, sheets, shirts, ties and the like to make new creations. They also use scraps for potholders, bags for the business and anything else to avoid throwing anything away.
The connection through thimbletree studio has always been about more than business.
“When Camille moved out of state, it was a way for us to communicate in a different way and work together,” Wick said.
Webb agreed she loves having the link to her mother.
“Having thimbletreestudio as a part of my life is a great way to remain creative and work toward a fulfilling goal of making products and constantly growing our brand,” Webb said. “It’s also a wonderful excuse to keep in regular contact with my mom, and to be able to share this love of creating and the drive to succeed and grow.”
Wick said they have business meetings over the phone and get together for markets and shows.
Branching out into markets has changed things.
“We always thought we liked the anonymity of Etsy,” Wick said. “But over time, I realized we were missing out on something. We want feedback. We want other people to touch and tell us and share.”
When they set up and sold at their first farmers market, Wick said it “flipped a switch.”
“To be able to connect with the public, connect with other vendors and makers and farmers and artists has changed everything,” she said. “We both welcome critique, suggestions.”
Spending time together and connecting with the public are among the things Webb loves about markets as well.
“There’s such great energy at markets and festivals,” she said. “We get to talk with people we’ve never met before, and we also get to catch up with fellow artists, friends and regular customers. It’s my favorite when my mom and I can both be at an event because we get to experience this process together and really enjoy the customer aspect of having a business.”
You can find thimbletreestudio at the Market at Pepper Place, Moss Rock Festival, West Homewood Farmer’s Market, Cahabazaar, Handmade Art Show and others. Webb is also working to add other shows outside of Alabama.
“Thimbletreestudio has grown as a business each year since it’s been created,” Webb said. “That’s definitely a trend we want to keep up. We’re adding new events each year, and we’re expanding outside of Alabama for shows. We’re having a lot of fun, so as long as we’re enjoying the creative process, we will continue to grow thimbletreestudio.”
That creative process is something Wick picked up watching her own mother and grandmother sew.
“I come from a background of very talented seamstresses,” she said. “I was not taught by them, but I admired their work. I’ve always loved fabric – touching it, looking at it, pairing it.”
It wasn’t until her daughters gave her a gift several years ago that Wick decided to start sewing.
Although she’s obsessed with aprons today, Wick never wore one until her daughters gave her one as a gift.
“What I realized when I wore it was that I was always smiling,” she said. “It didn’t matter what I was doing, I was happy.”
Wick used that apron to create a pattern and started making aprons to give to family and friends.
“It had to happen because aprons could make others happy, too,” she said.
That original apron still hangs in her studio as inspiration.
While Wick’s work uses bright colors and patterns, her daughter’s work is different.
“Camille has an amazing aesthetic,” Wick said. “(Her work) is very clean and … unfussy.”
One area Webb has grown is working with leather to create clutches, purses, portfolios, computer bags and other items.
“I’ve always been drawn to leatherworks, from the feel, smell and the wide variations in leathers,” she said. “I like that leather is so durable, and with wear and regular use, it evolves beautifully.”
Wick said more and more people bring them personal items such as old sheets, tablecloths or blankets and ask thimbletreestudio to create something new out of them.
Webb loves where the work has brought them.
“Thimbletreestudio allows us to share our passion for creating handmade items with others who we probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise,” she said. “It also keeps us in check when we have a new idea about way to create a product, or to create new products altogether; we have to evaluate whether this is a productive way of growing our business and to take into consideration what the reaction will be from our customers.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)