Hey friends, Denise here! My story starts with photography. I first picked up a camera in 2007 in an effort to take better photos of my son. My business started in 2009, and I've been photographing my whole life since.
Over Easter break in 2019, I was creating flat lay images for Instagram when I had the idea to photograph a vintage camera surrounded by pressed flowers.
I liked the effect so much that I tried it again the next day with fresh flowers.
Over the next several weeks, I built up my camera collection and continued to develop the style. One day, while listening to Hamilton, I heard the lyrics "Click Boom", and I knew my art project would be named Click Bloom.
That Summer, after several requests, I opened an Etsy store to sell my art prints. They didn't make the splash I had hoped for, but I kept it open for the occasional supportive friend or family member.
Several months later, I was looking through my own enamel pin collection. I thought, "Someone should make one of the Gilbert Water Tower." The Gilbert Water tower is a popular landmark in a town with rich agricultural roots. I thought "I bet THOSE would sell on Etsy."
A few weeks later, I listed them on Etsy, and wouldn't you know it, they did start selling! They started selling so well, in fact, that the Town of Gilbert messaged me asking if they could buy them, first for their employees, and then their Centennial, which was happening the following year in 2020.
Around that same time, I was working on another Gilbert-Inspired project. As a wedding photographer, I loved invitation photos. I loved styling the invitation with silk ribbon, vintage stamps, wax seals... and my favorite wedding invitations were those with a little watercolor map of the venue and surrounding landmarks. So I contacted an artist who specialized in these kinds of maps, and I asked if she would collaborate with me on creating a map for Gilbert. She said yes, and by December, our map was ready.
We celebrated the New Year, and a few weeks later, I reached out to a local farm store to see if they would be interested in my two Gilbert-themed items. They said their store was full, but that we could join their weekly farm night.
Farm Night was just supposed to be for fun, a way to connect with the community, but photography, photography was my whole income. I sat at home, patiently awaiting the end of the pandemic. March passed, and April came, and my anxiety started to rise. Raffi was dutifully going to work each day as a mail carrier for the Postal Service, but I stayed home, wondering what there was to even begin to do.
April was the month everything changed. April was the month that Etsy sent out an email to all of their shops:
If you can make masks, we need you to.
To my surprise, he said, "yes"! We borrowed his mom's sewing machine, and we set up an entire mask-making workshop in our dining room. We bought 3 designs of fabric in one yard lengths, and made a series of tie-back masks. I styled them on one of my styling boards, decorated with spools of thread, and a tape measure, twisting through the border. Because my photos were good, our listing landed on the front page of Etsy when you searched for masks. We watched our first batch sell out within an hour, then our second batch, then our third. We graduated to 3 yards, then 5, then entire bolts. We set up in the living room for ironing, and the dining room for sewing. While Raffi was at work, I would cut, iron, and pin straps while watching TV and snacking on goldfish, and when Raffi came home, he would sew until dinner while I packaged orders. After dinner, we would cut fabric together for the following day.
I knew sooner or later, mask sales would come to a grinding halt, but not before we made and sold over 2,000 masks on Etsy.