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Meet Joelle Schorr of Mother Fern Embroidery in Atwater Village

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joelle Schorr.

Joelle, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Mother Fern Embroidery started out of a desperate need to create after I quit my full-time job to be the primary care-taker of our daughter. I had worked full time since I was 16, and have always run at a pretty fast pace schedule-wise. I worked full-time until she was nine months, and while I was excited for the freedom to be with my daughter all the time, I felt the need to embrace a part of me that was outside of being a mama.

I grew up doing a lot of different crafty things, learned to use a sewing machine and made complex quilts with my grandmother at a young age, but after moving to Los Angeles from Washington state at the age of 17, my schedule and living spaces held no capacity for any type of artistic/crafty things. My primary creative outlet has always been writing, but for years I hadn’t even given that the time or emotional energy it required. Being a mom of a young child living in a small LA apartment, I knew I couldn’t jump into big projects that required ample blocks of time or take up a large amount of space, and I had really enjoyed cross stitch and embroidery when I was younger.

The beauty of an art medium like embroidery is that it doesn’t take much space, and can be picked up and put down quickly, pursued in 5 minutes or 5 hour chunks. I ordered an embroidery kit with the basic supplies and asked my husband who was a fine art major in college to draw me some simple tattoo flash designs to practice on. After finishing those designs, I was fully hooked and couldn’t stitch fast enough to keep up with all of the things that were inspiring me. I’d sit in a movie theater and think about how I’d capture the texture and details of certain characters, and would find great color palates from my surroundings. I never intended to sell the hoops, but I couldn’t stop making them and would give them to friends as gifts, and then friends started to ask me to make custom pieces, and then I just started posting what I made for sale on my personal Instagram to rationalize the time and money I was spending making them.

After six months of committed stitching, my Art Director/Graphic Designer husband created the perfect branding for me, and I started a separate Instagram account and opened an Etsy shop. I had the hardest time initially coming up with the name, thinking of funny or sassy stitching/embroidery puns, but as I’d search the names I’d find an existing account or shop. One day we were randomly walking around the California Science Center with our daughter and I was geeking out on these gorgeous ferns in a courtyard. I’ve always loved ferns; being from the Pacific Northwest, they always make me feel nostalgic. There was a tiny sign with the name of the ferns, and I instantly knew it was the perfect name for the shop. A mother fern is a really beautiful, soft, feather-like fern with amazing texture. It felt representative, connecting to where I’m from, this new stage of life called motherhood that brought me to the craft in the first place, and the beautiful texture that I wanted to create through fiber art.

I had pretty small goals for what I wanted to do with the shop, but in the last couple of years, I’ve been blown away by the support and encouragement I’ve received, and have been really proud of the growth I’ve experienced on a number of levels. I’ve come a long way since asking my husband to draw some simple shapes for me to stitch, and I’ve stretched the boundaries of my comfort level with my own drawing and found tools and resources to make up for what I lack. I’ve got a long way to go in terms of development, but I think that’s what keeps me interested in continuing, what keeps me fighting for the small pockets of space, and the desire to grow this little baby business into something more.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has definitely not been a smooth road getting off the ground, and my capacity to give what I desire to the craft is very slim, but the beauty of it is that it’s just mine, and while I’d love to give full days to creating and developing the ideas that are always spinning in my head, I don’t have the external pressure of creating more than I can/want to.

Some of the biggest challenges for me personally have been time and confidence as a maker. As a mom and caretaker of two very small humans (one of which is two weeks old and sleeping on my shoulder as I write this), it’s a challenge to find more than brief moments to create and I always have 50 projects I want to start. I’ve also started doing more commissioned pieces, and I always pressure myself to complete those projects faster than the promised timeframe, and I find it hard to rest until they are done and shipped off. As far as confidence goes, it is a very new thing for me to create something that gets put out into the world to be critiqued, and it is especially hard putting a price tag on those creations. I might know how many hours go into a piece, or the cost of supplies, but to translate that to a cost that seems reasonable for someone to purchase is actually so hard. It’s still difficult for me to be confident of the price of items, while at the same time I know I’m underselling for the value of my time. Early on I decided that if I was going to sell my hoops, I’d price them at a cost that if my friends wanted to buy them they could easily afford them, and because I enjoy making them, I rationalize the lower profit margins. Maybe that’s bad business but it’s just how I roll.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Mother Fern Embroidery – what should we know?
Mother Fern is a modern handmade embroidery shop. I primarily specialize in embroidery hoops (the classic framing), but also offer embroidered apparel and accessories. Some of my favorite pieces have been unique vintage silk scarves that I up-cycle and add some sass to. I think what sets me apart is the diversity of style that you’ll find in my shop. I’ve got really simple minimal pieces, bright and colorful pieces, realistic botanical pieces, and also portraits (people, including in utero, and pets). I’ve got sassy, NSFW pieces, and also pieces you could give your mother. Most people find a style and stick with that, finding their own signature, but I feel like my signature is that you never know what you’ll find next. I get bored easily recreating the same piece or sticking to one style, so when I’ve finished a big project, I usually need a palate cleanser and make something in a very different style. Basically, I have design ADD, which means I have something to offer anyone! I also think my pricing sets me apart from a lot of other modern fiber artists, and have positioned myself to stay in a “giftable” price range so that someone could get their hands on a rad piece of art for much less than a lot of options out there.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My biggest advocate, cheerleader, teammate, and moral support has been my husband. He has always been the creative in the family, with a fine art degree and a job that utilizes his creative ability, and penmanship 1,000 times better than mine, he has really encouraged, supported, and pushed me to grow. We’ve partnered on a ton of pieces, where he will create an original design and I’ll stitch it, he created all of my branding and logo, and he has spent countless hours patiently enduring me bouncing ideas off of him or asking him to look at the progress of a piece or talk me off a cliff when I’m obsessing over something not coming out like I’d hope. He has encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone in participating in markets, reaching out to local businesses to be a pop-up vendor, and teaching art classes. I’m lucky to have his support and love as I continue to grow this business!

I’ve also been so encouraged and supported by my friends, from buying early designs, commissioning pieces as gifts, giving me space in their businesses as a vendor, sharing my work on social media, and overall championing me in my endeavors. I’m rich in friendship!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Alec Megibben (family shots)

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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