It's time to start sharing the love! There are many handmade artists and business owners out there who deserve to be in the limelight. Naturally, we are starting local! Get to know your talented Arizonan neighbors! Our very first Handmade Brilliance feature is of Patti Smith with Succulent Designs. We are absolutely honored to share her remarkable and elegant work with you.
Tell us your story. What brought you to now?
My name is Patti Smith, and I’m a creator of living succulent wreaths and topiaries. I live in Arizona in the Superstition Mountain foothills with my hubby Rusty and our two crazy dogs. Robin and Ryan are our amazing kids who are out of the nest, but they do visit us pretty regularly. I think home-cooked meals might have a little something do to with it.
I had a career in the public sector for 25 years, and although the money was great, it took a toll — not only on my health, but on my spirit. “Life is too short” may be a cliché, but the older you get, the more you realize how true it is. I decided to take a huge risk, forego the big paycheck and jump into Succulent Designs head first.
Apart from creating, what do you do?
Cooking for my family is something I love to do, whether it’s tacos and pizookies on Sundays or gathering together in December for our annual ravioli-making day.
We’re outdoor enthusiasts. Since we live so close to a wilderness area, we’re able to walk to hiking trails and camp. We also really enjoy watching birds and local wildlife. There’s a koi pond in our front yard, and we’re always receiving visits from coyotes, deer, and bobcats that stop by for a drink.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade is an act of intimate, heartfelt expression.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My most cherished handmade possessions are the box of Christmas ornaments that my children made when they were little. Every December we pull the boxes out of storage and decorate our hodgepodge tree with these precious trinkets, and it brings back memories for all of us. We always take a moment to mourn the loss of the pretzel ornaments that were eaten by one of the dogs back in the ’90s (culprit unknown to this day, although we have our suspicions).
What's your secret in life? Any words to live by?
Don't be afraid to take risks! One thing I've learned over the years is that you'll never get anywhere unless you step out of your comfort zone and take chances. If you're unsuccessful, consider it a learning experience rather than a failure. It's much easier to be persistent and maintain a positive attitude that way, which is absolutely essential, in order to pick yourself back up and try something else.
Where do you draw inspiration?
My inspiration comes from nature. When I’m designing a piece, I think about all of the hundreds of outdoor experiences we’ve had. Whether I’m on top of a mountain looking into a canyon, or crouching down to marvel at lichens growing on a tree stump, the random beauty of nature constantly amazes me. Plants in the wild are not lined up in rows or perfect circles, so I don’t use formulas when designing. Even though I place everything carefully, the idea is to make it appear that it’s just naturally growing that way.
I’ve always felt the need to express myself in a creative way, and my love of flowers and plants has provided the artistic niche for that expression. My first recollection of playing in the dirt was in Chicago back in the ‘60s, helping grandma plant marigolds and Johnny-jump-ups in her garden beds every spring, and harvesting tomatoes from mom’s veggie patch. As time went on, every apartment and house I lived in would be packed with plants on tables, shelves and hanging in all the windows. Relocating to the southwest 35 years ago allowed me to discover the very different world of cactus and succulent plants, which was my path to creating succulent wreaths.
Where do you sell your items?
Most of my items are sold through Etsy, although many people have found me through the Phoenix Magazine feature article that was published in 2010, and through the succulent wreath tutorial that I wrote for Birds and Blooms Magazine. In January 2012 I will be hosting a booth at the Arizona Bridal Show in the Phoenix Convention Center, so that anyone who would like to see my creations "in person" will be able to do so.
Give a shout-out to a fellow handmade artist like yourself!