Minding Our Business

Randy Kraft
Randy Kraft

Crafting a Culture

Leanne Cairnes manufactures eco-friendly handbags as a cottage business, Belyn Designs. She works closely with fabric designers to evoke natural settings like tree branches and flowers, and last season scored a holiday order with retailer Anthropologie online.

Cairnes sews more than textiles. She stitches together creative entrepreneurs through a new venture called Craft Culture, a support and networking enterprise for crafters of items for sale such as jewelry or clothing. She differentiates her target audience from other innovators, like painters, writers or techies, by virtue of product functionality. Such products are often made by women for women, many of whom are hobbyists or have embarked on second careers.

Craft Culture will launch its first workshop Sourced in Laguna Beach, on Sunday, Feb. 9, an all-day symposium featuring panel discussions on goal setting, branding and social media. The event will feature other crafters and business coaches, even a yogi, and, as a first effort, Cairnes will limit the crowd to 25 participants. The workshop will conclude with a group discussion with 31Bits co-founder Jessie Simonson about the challenges of entrepreneurial businesses. 31Bits helps women in underdeveloped parts of the world to rise above poverty by producing and marketing fashion and design products. Cairnes has plans for another workshop in April in Arizona, her home state, and a summer program in Portland, Ore., the town she calls “the mecca of creatives.”

Sourced in LB will be held at Sourced Collective, a crafts-dedicated collaborative that provides shared workspace for enthusiasts of interior design and fashion, and with locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, as well as Laguna. Both groups are emblematic of a resurgence in crafting, stemming from the DIY movement of the last decade and fueled by a recessionary economy, as well as the ease of setting up shop online.

None of these endeavors constitute Cairnes’ day job. She is a full-time civil engineer at Irvine’s HDR Engineering, having earned that degree at the University of Arizona. While working at her first job, she completed an MBA at Arizona State, and she designed bags even then on the side. She says she had no formal education in textile printing or sewing, and owes her artistic development to books on crafting and inspiration from her grandmother.

Cairnes migrated to Laguna three years ago and took a booth at the Sawdust winter festival, selling well enough to secure a spot for subsequent summer festivals. She also takes custom orders at www.belyndesign.com. She created her own business website, and another for Craft Culture, and both are visually interesting and user-friendly.

“My wheels never stop turning,” Cairnes says, and she hopes, in five years, “to have instilled the confidence in thousands of passionate creatives to bridge the gap between a hobby and a profitable business.” Perhaps she ought to teach classes in productivity, in her spare time.

For more about Sourced in LB, go to www.craftcultureevents.com.


Randy Kraft is a freelance writer who previously covered the city for the Indy and pens the OC BookBlog for www.ocinsite.com. Her first novel “Colors of the Wheel” will be published this month. www.randykraftwriter.com

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