SF Etsy Store Highlights: Tete-a-Tete With SF Etsy Team Captain Rebecca Saylor about Her Upcycled Plush Toys Shop OodleBaDoodle

After having started our SFEtsy blog highlights on eco-friendly handmade stores with Birdbags, our next stop is an online shop that reimagines plush pillows and other fun stuff in a more sustainable way. OodleBaDoodle is built with the motto of creating everyday showpieces out of materials that are both reclaimed and recycled. To create such one-of-a-kind plush items out of upcycled fabric is of course not an easy task for a crafter and that’s what comes as the biggest challenge for creator Rebecca Saylor, the seller behind this eco-friendly store. The majority of materials she uses in making her crafts are discontinued designer fabric samples from the San Francisco Design Center. As shes says on her Etsy page, “I’m proud and honored to be able to take these luxurious fabrics and make wonderful items for you to snuggle in your arms.”

Coming from a family prolific in quilting, Rebecca had grown up with piles of colorful quilting squares, patterns for dresses and drapes, and scraps of fabric for Barbie clothes that developed her crafting skills and helped her turn into an expert in no time. It was a couple of years ago when her passion for pattern making reignited while she was creating Halloween costumes for friends. She wanted to make it into a handy side business and also underwent advanced lessons on fit dressmaking, construction and tailoring. Using reclaimed fabrics from the San Francisco Design Center, she was able to start her creations with felt poodle wallets, adventurous steampunk squids, and cuddly woodland creatures that eventually followed with the launch of OodleBaDoodle in 2010. Her tribute to her foremother who was the biggest inspiration behind her skill came in the form of the red cardinal she used in the logo which was her grandmother’s beloved bird.

Rebecca’s crafting adventures doesn’t stop here. Apart from being a dedicated crafter herself, she has also been engaged as a crafting teacher in local stores where she has taught basics of sewing and cyanotype printing as well. She is also the team captain of SFEtsy who has already been awarded by Ruth’s Table for connecting the SFEtsy team with Ruth’s Table events and has local involvement with Rickshaw Bagworks and FabMo, an organization in SF that collects designer materials before they enter the landfill and make them available for creative reuse by crafters. We had the opportunity of visiting her studio in the SF Bay Area recently and here’s what we learnt about her store and how she sells.

What made you think of such a creative name for your craft store?

I had spent a lot of time thinking of the name but eventually the final decision was kind of random. I didn’t really have a target product when I was choosing the name. An important consideration was that I did not want my personal name attached to it. That’s to keep it neutral incase I decide to sell my company one day. I was discussing this with my husband while travelling in the car when I’d said that I wanted the name to be really different, something like “Oodlebadoodle” when he had cut me short saying that “it’s perfect”. I googled the name and saw nothing available with that name on the web and that was how OodleBaDoodle got originated. People often mess it up though but I’m sticking with it.

What brought that spark of working with eco-friendly goods?

I wish I could say I was one of those people who are completely crazy about being eco-friendly and loving the presence of nature but in my case, the story is a bit different. It was when I saw the amount of high-quality materials getting thrown in the dumpster that I thought of working with upcycled goods. I felt a social responsibility when I realized that someone took the time to design those materials and the samples getting dumped had really good quality.

How has FabMo been helpful in visualizing the craft world from an eco-friendly perspective?

The best aspect of working with FabMo is that it brings together the concept of recycling with design. I have often seen people buying goods just because they are eco-friendly and yet they may or may not look good. The first couple of months when I moved to San Francisco I came upon FabMo, and I was truly impressed with what they were doing. FabMo has this eco-friendly mindset with founder Hannah being extremely conscious of not dumping useful materials just because they are not being used anymore. I often go out with her to do the pick-ups for the design center when I saw how expensive and valuable fabrics are being dumped for no reason. You could easily make something beautiful out of them that someone would love instead of considering all of it as trash.

In fact, this sense of eco-responsibility happened to me since I moved to California from Miami, FL, because they do such a good job here of reclaiming and recycling here. I think everybody in the world should live in San Francisco for 6 months to get their heads into thinking how much valuable materials they’ve considered as trash for all these years.

Do you also choose materials from elsewhere besides from organizations like FabMo?

It’s when you start opening your eyes and look around you’ll realize that there are reclaimed materials practically everywhere. You may find useful fabrics in vintage stores which may not be of the right size but can always be adapted into making something or the other. These high-quality reclaimed materials are amazing and hardly cost anything but with a little creativity, you can always transform them into a beautiful craft.

Do you buy materials only after visualizing how you are going to use them in the crafts or is it mostly a casual buy?

It entirely depends on the circumstances. For example, there’s this fabric I got from the opera house when they were having a big sale of costumes. I got a huge bolt thinking of the many cool things I could make out of it which has already started with a bearskin rug for my nephew on his birthday.

What’s the most surprising aspect you discovered since starting your shop in 2012?

I think the biggest fear when making crafts is the fear of being rejected because you generally have no clue about how people are going to react to it. Being a technical recruiter for 15 years previously, I was already used to a lot of rejection. I never took it personally and that was the same thing when I started my own business. It was scary though as I didn’t know if people would think my creations to be weird or cheesy. I’ve also been surprised at the growth of my wholesale business. I was not inclined towards planning on it as there’s a significant portion of the income you need to share with store owners.

However, with time, I just loved the relationship that I had with the store owners, many of whom are makers too. They appreciate what you make and are an encouragement booster at times which makes me feel happy that they exist and are confident enough to take the leap of faith by giving makers like us a space to sell. To have a personal store is not possible for me right now so this entire aspect of being able to sell in the best parts of the town such as the Castro, Hayes Valley, the Mission makes me feel really good. At the end of the day, my creations are about making people feel good by giving them a hug virtually. To date, all the stores I sell in have found me at different events as I haven’t had the time to outreach. I want to explore that aspect more in the future.

How did you get started with selling on Etsy and what was the initial experience like?

I was working in a start-up in the creative space, an early competitor to Shutterfly (later acquired by Shutterfly). That’s when I got bit by the entrepreneurial bug which later followed with my Etsy shop. I was one of the early shoppers on Etsy since 2006. There were people selling handmade items on eBay but I really liked the concept of a platform totally dedicated for handmade items. I was also impressed by how quickly you can set up a store. At first, I used to sell these powder coated spoon rings on my Etsy shop. I always liked the concept of merging technology with traditional items and that’s why I used laser to cut out my crafts but they are still handcrafted. Every time I posted a product it would sell. It was later when I moved to SF in 2010 that I saw the competitiveness of selling jewelry which made me think of other crafts I could make. That was exactly when the thought of working with recycled goods came upon me which eventually led to these plush dolls you see around.

What made your current product line of plush pillows tick?

I was extremely inspired with the men’s fashion lines in SF and the way they wear these cool glasses, bow tie and vest. That inspired me to make owls that had this kind of fashion embedded in the design. My friend was having a baby and my first owl went to her as a gift which she wanted 10 more so that they could be sold at her friend’s shop in Marin. That was the first time I came across a bulk order. In May 2012, someone from the SF Etsy team asked me to do a team gallery show for which I had made 5 owls, all of which were sold the day when the show opened. By the first two weeks of the show, I had sold about 25 of my owls which gave me a lot of encouragement to work on more designs. Today, the iteration is completely different from what I used to make. There were demands from people for different types of animals which started my water animals series like that has the whales, the squid and sea stars (mostly the water animals that live in the Bay area).

How did the team captain for SFETsy happen and what’s it like to be a leader?

I had met Jen, the former team captain of SFEtsy at one of the craft museum panels when she had asked me to join the team. I am a relatively shy online person and don’t comment on forums regularly. But once I did the team show they asked me to be the community liaison which was a perfect opportunity for me as I had been into recruiting for a long span of time. So I took the initiative of connecting large businesses with those who are trying to establish one and got involved with programs from Ruth’s Table, FabMo and Rickshaw Bagworks. The award for the collaboration we did with Ruth’s Table was a big honor for me. It was after these collaborations when they nominated me to lead the SFEtsy team which has a leadership group of around 14 people taking responsibility of different areas in the program, for in-person events, to social media and blogs.

Which social media channels do you prefer using for marketing your crafts and why?

My favorites are Facebook and Instagram. I wish I was more on Twitter because I joined Twitter really early back in 2006, but being the kind of visual person I am, Instagram is more preferable.

What’s your ultimate goal?

I love working with the stores which is more like an emotional experience for me when I find people buying my things in-person. But my real focus lies in building my online store. The internet is a vast universe by itself and you can reach out to so many people at one time. Apart from the physical stores and the shows I do, the aim will be about growing my business online because I feel that it will provide me the ultimate avenue for creativity.

With that being the interview we had with Rebecca, it’s time now to look deep into some of our favorite creations from her store.

Huggable one-of-a-kind custom Owl Pillow

This is a custom built huggable pillow which is primarily made in the image of your occupation. Completely made from recycled fabrics, it’s a unique gift you could give your professional friend any day.

Huggable one-of-a-kind custom Alligator Pillow

For that ultimate crocodile hug, this piece from OodleBaDoodle comes with a leather monocle, jaunty bow tie and signature heart. Warm hugs from the world of reptilia is what you’ll get from this custom built eco-friendly pillows.

Huggable one-of-a-kind custom Squid Pillow

Another creation from the oceanic world which concentrates on a custom made squid pillow that comes with a leather monocle and signature heart. Perfect to have on the couch during a squid dinner with friends and family.

Hashtag Pillows

This is one of her upcoming creations which concentrates on highlighting the hashtag world of social media in your everyday plush pillows. It surely does look like an interesting concept you could have to flaunt your social side on the couch.

If you’ve liked Rebecca’s creations and would love to stay in touch for more, find her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For those living in and around the SF Bay Area, you can find her with her plush pillows in one of these physical store locations.

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Originally published at blog.boxtiq.com on August 28, 2014.

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