The Woven Path: Celeste Johnston

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Today in our Woven Path series we talk to Celeste Johnston. The first step into the unknown is always the hardest, but she is living proof that as nerve-racking as it is, it is often worth is. Deciding to take a break from being an elementary school teacher for eight years, Celeste turned to embroidery as a creative outlet though it wasn’t long before she started making a professional career out of it. Celeste took it one day at a time and her Etsy Shop is flourishing now. We had a chat to find out more about Lemon Made Shop, and the interesting path that led her to it.

Tell us about your background and what led to you choosing embroidery as a craft. My whole life I’ve had crafty hobbies and I come from a family with quite a number of talented makers.

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Growing up I loved making jewelry, painting, working with clay, making collages, and sewing. I picked up embroidery just a couple of years ago on a whim and I loved it from the first stitch. What drew me in was the therapeutic and rhythmic process of filling in a drawing on fabric with stitches. I love the texture and warmth a finished piece of embroidery brings to a space. On the practical side, it’s a portable craft that you can pick up and leave off whenever you need. As a mom of young children, I realised that it could easily fold into my sometimes hectic or unpredictable schedule.

What made you want to take your passion to the next level? What began as a hobby and much needed creative outlet quickly turned into a source of income for me. I had a beloved career as an elementary school teacher for eight years before my husband, son, and I moved from the Midwest to Texas. I decided to take a break from teaching and at the same time I picked up embroidery. A friend commissioned me to make a cactus and succulent embroidery hoop and she encouraged me to sell my work. Right around this time in Spring of 2017, I had a sweet baby girl and exactly one month later I opened my Etsy shop. I wasn’t sure what I was doing but I just thought I’d take it one day at a time. I’m so glad I did.

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Tell us more about your Etsy Shop, Lemon Made Shop. I design, stitch, and sell pieces of embroidery work with houseplants, animals, or uplifting words and phrases. My most popular pieces come from my 50 states collection, where I stitch an outline of a state and fill it with colorful plants and scenery unique to that particular place. I mostly sell online through Etsy, but I’d get out to an occasional market or pop up shop here in Austin. Most of the time I will stitch on my couch, bed, or outside. I tend to sell finished pieces, but I’m just beginning to offer PDF patterns and maybe kits later on this year.

What kind of materials do you like to work with? Right now I love soft cottons and linen blends for my fabric. I use the ever popular DMC cotton embroidery floss, though I am starting to experiment with different types of floss.

What is your favourite piece of finished product and what inspired you to create it? My most recent and new favorite design is the ruby-throated hummingbird. Reminiscing about my childhood summers on my grandparents’ farm in Iowa, I thought of the bird-watching and other simple and peaceful activities to pass the time. The hummingbird is surrounded by nectar-producing flowers, which reminds me of warm summer days on the farm, and I enjoyed filling it in with vivid colors. Nowadays I often get too overwhelmed with orders and don’t have time to experiment or create new pieces, but I’m aiming to incorporate that into my time more often.

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How is the yarn scene like in Texas?
There are so many kind, inspiring, and talented makers and stitchers in Texas, especially in Austin. I’ve had the joy of meeting several of them and there is endless inspiration for creating art here.

Is there any interesting or particularly memorable/interesting moment in your career as a professional maker? There is a popular blog, A Beautiful Mess that I’ve always read and one day early in my embroidery endeavours, they unexpectedly featured one of my first pieces, Greener by the Dozen, which has 12 potted houseplants on shelves, on Instagram. The post blew up and was met with such enthusiasm. That was so fun and exciting for my husband and I to watch. I got tons of orders through it that week and that’s when I felt a little more confirmation and confidence that this could be more than a hobby for me.

Advice for those wanting to make the switch into crafting full time? Find your authentic voice, because there is room for what you uniquely have to offer. Discover what you are good at and work hard at your craft. Allow yourself to rest and step away from the business side of your art too. Making an income from a creative outlet where you are the boss, the creator, the marketer, and everything in between is not always easy, but if you strike the right balance, you may find that you’ll love it.

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EARLY RISER OR NIGHT OWL

Both! I have kids, so I love the quiet on both ends of the day

A SONG TO GET YOU INTO THE CREATIVE GROOVE

Right now it’s “Love is Light” by Yola

WHAT DID YOU ASPIRE TO BE WHEN YOU WERE FIVE

I loved my kindergarten teacher, so I wanted to be just like her

3 ESSENTIALS WE CAN FIND IN YOUR BAG

I’m the friend who has everything in her bag, ready for anything you may need

IF YOU WEREN’T AN EMBROIDERER, YOU WOULD MOST PROBABLY BE DOING ….

I would most likely continue down the path to becoming a teacher

Thank you Celeste!

Photo Credits: Celeste Johnston

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