Katy Skelton

Katy Skelton launched her collection of gorgeous, modern furniture and home accessories earlier this fall. As a self-taught designer for an Austin-based furniture company, she spent quite a bit of time traveling to overseas factories and learned how products were made. She loved her work but wanted to build her own brand, so she went to SCAD, received her masters in furniture design, and moved to New York to start her business. Read on to learn more about her line! katy-skelton-media-cabinet


It’s important to put jobs back in to the economy. Also, it’s easier to manage product development locally, and there are better standards, social responsibility, and sustainability processes in place in the U.S. My furniture is made by Amish craftsmen in Pennsylvania – we have developed a great relationship, and the makers are so invested in my pieces, which is really exciting.


I loved my work for the furniture store, but my personal aesthetic was very different from what we sold. I had a lot of freedom and started to pitch more modern designs and they did really well. I wanted to build my own line for myself, where I could control every aspect of the supply chain. katy-skelton-arrow-blanket


Danish design. Vintage furniture, translated to a modern functionality. Multipurpose pieces – I live in New York so that is very important. Wooden furniture can be so simple and classic, like a great pair of jeans. I want to build really high quality pieces that will last forever. The American-made movement is fantastic – the more people we can get on board and show how amazing American-made can be, the better.


I get out of the city. I love to take long weekend hikes and visit the Storm King art center. New York can be so hectic – it’s hard to come up with new ideas, I need to get out into nature to do so. Even a quick visit to the park can help. katy-skelton-captains-tray


My husband, he’s so supportive and I couldn’t do it without him. I have great family and friends that are super supportive. Taking a little bit of time for myself – I didn’t do that for a long time and I realized that it was so easy to get burnt out. Working for yourself, it’s really easy to never leave the house. Every time I make a sale, it’s validation.


Comfortable but cute shoes. A new pair of jeans, I love AG. Sofas that don’t necessarily look comfortable but are. Furniture that looks great and is also really functional.


The Future Perfect. Lindsey Adelman. BDDW.



From a business perspective, Everlane. They work to be transparent in their manufacturing and with their costing and I strive to do the same. The goal is to make classic things that will last – but you don’t have to pay a lot for them. Also, Emerson Fry – she is an amazing businesswoman, she works hard and doesn’t need any attention for it.


When you are trying to start a design business because you are a designer and you love to design, it turns out that you really only spend 10-15% of your time designing. Starting a business is so much more work than you thought, but so much more rewarding. You have to wear all of the hats – designer, maker, packaging, shipping.


I’d like to grow the company a little bit. I’ve expanded the product line with textiles, and I’ll be adding more furniture to the collection.

Eventually, I’d love to have my own factory and employ more people.


Thanks, Katy, for taking the time to chat! Can’t wait to see what comes next for your line! Follow Katy Skelton:

Illume Candles

I’ve always been obsessed with understanding how things work… so it’s no surprise that I love a good factory tour. After years of touring factories all over the world, learning how products are made and seeing production and take place, I’ve come to appreciate the process and the amazing amount of work it takes to produce product on a huge scale. That’s not to say that I don’t love small batch or handmade products – obviously I do! – but the dedication and commitment to quality needed to produce huge quantities of product in a responsible manner is incredibly impressive.

Even more impressive – companies that can do this, and make amazing product, right here in America – more, 15 minutes away from my home in Minneapolis! I’ve been a fan of Illume Candles for years – the candles smell incredible, look beautiful, and are affordable and available at all of the major retailers. As much as I love to seek out American-made, it’s even better when it’s easy to find. I visited the factory and met with the team last month and am excited to give you a peek into the factory… and the inspiration that leads to some of our favorite candles!
illume-burn-roomThe burn room… Illume burns candles in a controlled setting to test for safety and quality – flame height, smoke points, etc. It’s a bit of an overwhelming room (all of those candles burning at one time!) but a great example of Illume’s dedication to putting out amazing product. Did you know that candles have a cold throw and hot throw scent? Cold throw is the way the candle smells when it is not burning… hot throw is the smell when it is burning. Illume combines the cold and hot throws to create the ideal scent for their candles.

illume-waxJust a little bit  of wax… hard wax is melted and then colored and scented. To add perspective, I believe there were 4 vats of liquid wax running when I visited.

illume-wicksI can’t say I ever thought about all of the different wick options that existed… Now I find myself checking all of our candles and trying to figure out the difference!

illume-metal-capWick tabs hold the wick in place and ensure your candle is as safe as it is pretty.

illume-candles-pouredCandles are poured by hand! Seeing this never ceases to amaze me… so much takes place before we bring products into our homes.

illume-factory-candlesCandles after they have been poured… the ombre effect is due to the wax drying. Jenny, Illume’s Marketing Manager, has far better instagram skills than I do and shot this little video that day – it’s amazing!

One of the most exciting aspects of my tour was the contagious excitement and passion everyone had for their work. I had the opportunity to speak with the Creative Director and CEO after my tour and their belief in American manufacturing and the positive impact it has on the business was incredibly motivating and inspiring.

Illume has tons of gorgeous candles, but I’m currently obsessed with the seasonal options.  Everyone I spoke to raved about the combination created by burning a balsam + cedar candle with a woodfire – and after testing it for the last month or so, I agree!

If you are still on the hunt for holiday gifts, I highly recommend the following:

Inspiration for next season…. Trust me, good things are coming!


Thank you so much to the amazing team from Illume for letting me visit and learn for the day! Thank you for all that you do!

Be sure to follow Illume for more behind the scenes information.. and tons of great sales and discounts! (even a contest!)

Polka Dot Club

I’m a VERY proud auntie, but I struggle when buying my nieces and nephew presents – for one, the kiddos tend to be more interested in the box than the present itself; so many toys seem to be either disposable or fragile – which is not ideal for my rambunctious nephew, and lastly, most kids toys just don’t feel as special as I remember my own toys being – and what good is a gift if it is not special?

I met Jennifer Murphy, the founder of POLKA DOT CLUB, at Mille (one of the many amazing makers I’ve met at Michelle’s shop!) earlier this year when she was preparing to launch the PDC and I fell in love with her unique teddy bears and rattles… heritage toys that are meant to be played with. Special, durable, and something your kids will have forever – basically, these are the perfect present. AND it seems that the parents (at least my friends and family!) love them just as much as the kids do!


When I was seven years old my Grandmother taught me how to sew. A year later my mother began making teddy bears and before I was eleven years old I was using her scraps to make my own bears and animals. Now, nearly thirty years later I’ve begun to put this lineage into perspective and discover why after all this time I’m still so completely engaged in the act of sewing and making objects. I think it has something to do with constantly inventing something out of raw materials. The process of making- be it in textiles, ceramics, wood is so deeply satisfying. I love to get my hands on beautiful materials and create something that has function to be loved and used.

That has always driven me, but today, it also has very much to do with my children. I make things now because I want them to see that everything in our home -is made- it doesn’t just appear on a shelf ready for us, it came from someplace and someone. I like to illuminate that we can be the makers of our things, it takes time and care, but I hope that knowledge imbues everything around them with new value. Plus, it’s just flat out fun to hand them something that makes them want to play and keying into that always keeps things fresh.


I’ve always been really drawn to natural fibers. I like the way they feel, age, and have been used historically. I love that old bears made 100 years ago were stuffed with wood shavings and the fur was simply mohair (from the goat) woven into cotton. Mohair ages very differently than the contemporary alternative synthetic plush- it ages with dignity showing it’s years but gracefully and begs to be passed on from one generation to the next. I use these materials to make the POLKA DOT CLUB along with 100% cotton stuffing and safety eyes- but with the exception of these few tweaks for safety the PDC Bears are made using the same techniques, materials, and processes as stuffed toys were 100 years ago… I’m so passionate about making toys that will not be tossed aside when the child outgrows it, because of the quality of the fibers and craftsmanship these toys value is not diminished by the years of love and play, rather they become more special over time. I’m excited to be making modern heirlooms for now and forever.



A small group of highly skilled crafts people in Minneapolis help me to make each POLKA DOT CLUB bear by hand, from start to finish. I design, gather all the materials, and then hand each bear off to be cut out, sewn, and stuffed. Once those detailed tasks are done each piece goes back into my hands. I add all the finishing touches- embroidering the nose, trimming the fur, hand sewing the ears in place, and choosing colors and clothes to make each piece unique and very hand made. It would be so much easier and cheaper to send it off someplace over seas to be made, but I can’t wrap my head around that idea. I want my hands and my care to be all over these toys. It’s deeply important to me to keep the whole process right here.



I started making and selling my bears when I was so young, it was a business that slowly turned into my living before my eyes. I sold one-of-a-kind mohair pieces under my name: Jennifer Murphy Bears, that looked like toys but were made for collectors world wide. I started a webshop before most artists were selling on the web back in 2001 and I keyed into what so many individuals found- the internet was a magically place to connect artists with patrons. I was so lucky to have my mother there to help me figure out how to make a go of it, but even after running a successful business for so long, basically making toys that weren’t meant for kids, launching the POLKA DOT CLUB was such a huge challenge. It took about 4 years to nail down all the details and legal issues not to mention the millions of little details I couldn’t ignore. I’m still working through all the little pit falls any new business runs into having launched earlier this year, but I’m wading through it all. It’s funny to think I’m basically doing the same thing I was doing, but repositioning myself within the “market” has been surprisingly hard.

I’m not sure what my piece of advise is. I’m still in the thick of trying to figure it all out, but from the beginning I knew this business wouldn’t work the way I thought it would. I knew that the only way I would be able to figure it all out was to do that from the inside. I had to throw myself head first into this new venture because I couldn’t wait any longer to do what I was so passionate about. The verdict is still out about the success of the PDC. But this work makes be happy and I feel it’s right. I’ll follow that any day of the week and advise everyone out there to do the same.


In the last month amidst all the rust to get holiday pieces out to stores and fill the studio for the coming rush, I’ve been day dreaming about new designs. I’ve been working on a handful of linen rabbits, cuddling toys, and thinking about making a doll. I like that the POLKA DOT CLUB comes directly out of heritage teddy bear making, but those principles can be applied in so many forms. We’ll see what the new year brings.


Thank you so much, Jen, for making amazing toys for my favorite kiddos and for taking the time to share your inspirations and advice with me! Be sure to check out the POLKA DOT CLUB and follow along!


High on my list for New York was a visit to Mociun – owner and jewelry designer Caitlin Mociun’s work and online shop are my go-tos for inspiration and gift shopping, so I was super excited to finally visit in person. Lucky for me, I hit a quiet moment in the day, and the team allowed me to spend (way too long!) some time taking pictures to share. Incredible vignettes fill every table, line the windows, and sometimes overflow onto the floor… everywhere I turned, I discovered new favorites, and even better, new ideas.

mociun-storeThe Mission

Mociun was founded in 2006 with a small collection of hand print womens garments. Over the past five years the company has expanded adding digitally printed fabrics and fine jewelry. As Mociun continues to grow sustainable production and business practices are always considered, as they are as important as good design. Mociun strives to use recycled, organic and alternative materials. Whenever possible all Mociun products are made using local production in hopes to give back to the economy and community that has helped Mociun thrive.

mociun-apothecaryThe apothecary wall of my dreams… featuring a TAE favorite, One Love Organics! Also, those Saipua soaps were gorgeous and I wanted to fill my bathroom with them.
mociun-indian-bangleDecidedly not American-made, Caitlin brought this Indian bangle back from her trip to India… I grew up wearing these (and still often do!) – it’s always fun to see something traditional where you least expect it.
mociun-baggu-More Doug Johnston baskets and Baggu colors than I’ve seen anywhere. Made me realize that a Doug Johnston basket vignette is 100% what is missing in my office. And I was oddly drawn to the floral Baggu despite the fact that I don’t wear florals or pastels.
mociun-jewelryCaitlin’s gorgeous jewelry. I wanted ALL of it. The middle ring in particular will be mine, one day! mociun-business-cardWithout question, this is my new favorite business card.

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