Help, my business is taking over my house!
said Mary Sweeney.
In 2006, Mary stumbled upon a stash of forsaken wool sweaters in a local thrift store, and visions of pretty ponchos for her three year old daughter danced in her head. It seemed to Mary that these forlorn wool sweaters could be rescued and repurposed into stylish, durable fashions for kids. A marathon runner who back in the day, qualified for Olympic Trials. Mary was not running quite as much and when she got this inspiration she sprinted into inspired motion and started cutting and stitching. Other moms started asking Mary to make these lovingly handcrafted ponchos for their daughters and Felted Heart was born.
This “green” business resonated with the resourceful lifestyle Mary adopted when she decided to stay home with her two children. She is committed to nature and to sustainability, “I love knowing that these old sweaters are getting a new life and that the process of using old wool to felt, treads lightly on the planet”.
Each evening, after the children were in bed, Mary would go into a small alcove off their Atlanta cottage where she set up her work space and sew like a maniac. Before long, her work spilled out into the living room and then threatened to take over. She called me, her sister, designer and local developer exrtraordinaire, and said “Yikes, I need to find a studio space”. I scoured around and happened to come upon a fifties warehouse in the Old Fourth Ward for sale. It had been divided into three live/work spaces, where the units were already leased and bringing income. It was perfect since Mary could buy the building, lease out two of the units and keep the third for her studio and have the building almost pay for itself.
When the third tenant moved out, Mary hired me to renovate the space which needed among other things a window. In keeping with the recycled ethic, I found two old steel factory windows and had them installed in the main room. We also did a very thrifty redo of the bathroom and the kitchen and repainted the space which had been altogether pretty nasty. I combed the flea markets and junk stores and found several old farm tables to use for sewing and cutting and some old lab tables that we re-purposed to use as ironing tables, desks and even used as a bathroom vanity. The coolest thing I found was a primitive cupboard, 16’ wide 7’ tall at a local flea market that really set the tone for the space.
Mary believes in the concept of abundance and has invited others to use the space. One of Mary’s friends and fellow crafters with a company called Mama who makes body lotion, soap and candles also needed a space to make and store her wares so Mary rented a portion of her work room, which includes a kitchen to Emilie which has created amazing aromatherapy as well as helps to defray the costs of the space. Another friend is using the space to conduct evening sewing classes.
The Sweeney family has their living room back and Mary has created a vibrant studio for her business to spread out in and also serves as meeting place for other crafters to get together and share resources and ideas.