Firefly Handmade Fall Market 2017 Artisan Profile - Infinitely Simple
Infinitely Simple is a handmade textiles company that adheres to the motto “Every Stitch a Purpose.” A mission we can infinitely get behind as the firm breaks through stigmas surrounding mental health challenges and provides employment for those on a road to recovery. Susan Williams, the company’s fearless founder, saw a huge void in the mental health community. She wanted to help those struggling with their confidence, provide skills that helped them become employable and have fun in the process. The result is beautifully hand-crafted textiles including pillows, poufs and meditation pillows. A full circle of healthy healing as meditation is a practice that can benefit everyone.
While society seems to rally around those with a serious physical health concern, unfortunately those with mental health struggles aren’t necessarily given the same support. A quiet struggle, Ms. Williams wanted to provide this community with the help and love they needed to succeed. She is a fierce ball of positive energy and we wanted to know more about her growing enterprise of good vibes.
Please tell us more about your mission - to help those with mental health challenges. Why is this an important cause for you?
After years of working in the mental health field, I have seen the effects isolation and lack of purpose can have on people struggling with mental health challenges. Even if they are in treatment or getting some relief from medications, not having somewhere to go for work--somewhere they can feel useful and build relationships with coworkers--can by nature increase symptoms of depression, hopelessness and loneliness. Often our Apprentices are having to relearn the soft skills needed to get and maintain a job and therefore require some flexibility and accommodations to get them started. Though stigma and our society's need for efficiency often keeps traditional businesses from hiring the people, we do. We know first hand how, with a little compassion and patience, our Apprentices grow to become reliable, productive and delightful coworkers.
How did you choose textiles as your medium for your apprenticeship program? Are you a classically trained seamstress?
I pride myself on hiring people who are trained seamstresses as that is not me! I count on the skills and expertise of experienced seamstresses who can look at a product, design a pattern and sew it to make it ours. Our seamstresses are also very patient, thoughtful teachers, encouraging our apprentices to try, learn and improve, taking pride in learning new skills and becoming part of the creative manufacturing process.
What were you doing before you launched Infinitely Simple?
I have worked in mental health for many years, most recently at Mental Health Partners as the Marketing Manager. It was there that I learned about the critical, research - based value of employment and recovery for those living with mental health challenges.
How many apprentices have come through your program to date? Any success stories you'd like to share?
To date we have engaged with 32 Apprentices! Many of our Apprentices only stay with us for a month or two due to restrictions from services or continued struggles with their health. However, the majority leave our organization with skills to take to their next job. One man came in struggling with voices and had great difficulty taking instruction, managing his emotions, and working with others. By the end of his time, he was successfully working with a job coach to complete his tasks and had improved his accuracy in tracing and cutting out our patterns. Another Apprentice came in with minimal sewing skills and, after a few months, is now participating in the final production steps sewing our poufs and meditation cushions on the industrial sewing machine.
What has been the biggest challenge of launching and running a nonprofit?
As a double bottom line social enterprise, we focus on purpose and profit- or at least striving toward a profit! Our ability to hire and provide training to Apprentices is based on how many products we sell. The greater our sales, the more hours we can offer and people we can employ.
We work to encourage customers to recognize our mission and pay a few extra dollars for our products as they are locally made. Our wares have a much smaller carbon footprint than those made and shipped overseas. Most importantly, our textiles are a way for people who want to work and become contributing members of our community to gain the stamina, confidence and skills necessary to join the workforce or return to school.
Purchasing something from Infinitely Simple is an investment in someone's life and our community! Getting that message out and encouraging support is sometimes a challenge, but worth the effort. Firefly Handmade Market respects and features the values of handmade, local goods- thank you!
What have been the biggest blessings of your venture thus far?
We have had such a warm reception to our mission and compliments on the quality and uniqueness of our products! We all know someone whose life has been impacted by mental health challenges, sometimes the stigma is so heavy. When people stop at our booth and hear about our Apprentices and their journey, they always remark on the importance. When an Apprentice graduates or tells us how much they value having a job, we are all blessed. As one of our Apprentices stated, "Working at Infinitely Simple helped me get on a plan."
How do you want your audience to feel when they interact with your art?
We want customers to feel happy, comfortable, and supported when they use our products. Our pouf ottomans, eye pillows, and throw pillows are built with the customer's comfort in mind and made with fabrics that we hope will uplift people's homes with beauty. Our yoga and meditation accessories have been tweaked over the years to appeal to the customer's eye as well as their body as they use our products to practice.
Why are you proud to be an artisan at Firefly Handmade Markets?
We are proud to have been loyal to Firefly Handmade for the past 2 ½ years because Firefly represents our community's commitment to supporting the production of quality, local products. Our Apprentices can also draw pride from seeing their products sold next to such an excellent selection of fellow artisans in popular public locations such as 29th St and the Pearl Street Mall.
Learn more about Infinitely Simple and see their beautiful wares at Firefly Handmade Fall Market at the Downtown Boulder Fall Fest on the Pearl Street Mall - Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17. In the meantime you can catch a sneak peek of their beautiful work here: