Itty Bitty Business, Big Goals
With Oxford Maker’s Market officially underway for 2018, co-director and artist Amanda Heavner is adding more original felted animals and needlework to her booth.
Heavner, who named her business Itty Bitty Hippie Chick after getting the nickname from a fellow artist, is best known for her miniature felted trinkets. She says the original idea stemmed from her love of animals. At home, Heavner, her husband and market co-director Jason and their daughter, Lyric, tend to a small herd of Nigerian dwarf goats, a few chickens and a beehive.
“I absolutely love animals. We have a little bit of a mini farm at home,” she said. “The first thing I ever made was stuffed chickens, and I named them all after my chickens so I embroidered the back of each of them with a name.”
Heavner, a Water Valley native, says her work started out as a suggestion from her husband and turned into a colorful collection.
“Jason was already doing Maker’s Market, and he was like, ‘You should make some stuff and bring it,’ so the more stuff I started to make the more I got excited about it,” she said. “We love to get out in the woods and stuff, so if I saw a mushroom, I’d think, ‘I really want to make one of those.’”
Her miniature pieces, which range from mushrooms to cats to pastries, are all made from natural fibers and felted wool. She also hand-embroiders dish towels and creates mixed-media shadow boxes.
Heavner says relaxation is an important part of her craft, and that she avoids using sewing machines when possible. In the spirit of relaxation, she does not felt her own fabrics, but prefers to buy the wool already felted.
The self-made artist says her original motivation for sewing came from her daughter, Lyric.
“I didn’t have a grandmother who was big into sewing, so I taught myself,” she said. “The first couple things I did I made for [my daughter], and then I got into making clothes. When I make something new, she always gets the first one.”
She admits the most ironic thing about the Itty Bitty Hippie Chick business is, when she started out, she didn’t view herself as an artist. Heavner says when she discovered fiber arts, she found her niche.
“When I was in college, I was an art history major. I loved art, but I never felt like I could be an artist. I couldn’t paint, couldn’t draw,” she said. “It used to drive me crazy, because Jason is so creative. He can wake up and say, ‘Oh I think I’m going to build a table,’ and go do it. I was so jealous, and then I started doing this stuff and I was like, ‘Oh hey, maybe I can do this and actually love it.’”
Heavner says having a venue like Maker’s Market to share her family’s work is a defining mark of Oxford’s commitment to the arts. Both she and her husband exhibit and sell their work, as well as 14-year-old Lyric, who has a booth called Fairy Tail Art where she displays her fantasy inspired watercolor paintings.
Their daughter’s interest is part of what sparked the creation of Young Maker’s Market, a special corner where children can sell their own work.
“That’s going to be one of our big focuses this year, growing the Young Maker’s Market,” she said. “When we took over, they didn’t have that. So many kids would set up with their parents. We thought, ‘Why can’t they sell their own stuff, set up the table the way they want to, come up with their own business names?’
In addition to providing a way for kids to express themselves creatively, she also says the Young Maker’s Market has helped the kids develop self-confidence, social and entrepreneurial skills.
Placing the market right in the center of town gives it maximum visibility during warm months, and Heavner says it brings business not only to the market, but also to the brick-and-mortar storefronts on the Square.
“There’s so many times when businesses on the Square will cut off their music and open the windows so they can listen to whatever musician we have playing,” she said. “I think it benefits the whole community and the whole Square.”
Heaver and her family’s next project is going to be a group effort. Drawing inspiration from nature and each other’s work, they are creating shadow boxes with photographs by Lyric, paintings by Jason and Amanda’s felted mushrooms that started it all.
“We have this tiny spare room in our house, our studio,” she said. “It’s jam-packed, because he’s got all his art supplies, I’ve got all of my sewing stuff and she’s got her watercolors and homeschool stuff. We all spend time there as a family.”
Oxford Maker’s Market is held on the first Saturday of the month on the courthouse lawn or at the Powerhouse, depending on weather. For more information about the market, go to https://oxfordmakersmarket.org/. To learn more about Heavner’s work, visit https://ittybittyhippiechick.wordpress.com/.