New Austin Chapter is Here! Welcome Leaders Brandy and Sierra

We have our first chapter outside of the West Coast-- which means world domination can't be far behind. ;) That's why I am so excited today for you to meet the two women who are heading up our new Austin Chapter! Both are talents in their own right and I know they will have a lot to share with the Austin maker community.

If you live in Austin, we'd love for you to attend our kickoff event on Saturday, May 21. RSVP on Facebook so we can make reservations for you!

I also want to add that as a native Southern Californian, I was very skeptical about Austin's breakfast tacos (FLOUR tortillas?!?!). But I have definitely been won over and will concede the breakfast taco crown goes to them.

Q: Introduce yourself. What do you make and how did you get started?
SIERRA: Hey y’all, my name is Sierra Bailey and I am the ceo and designer of Manic Trout jewelry. I create color infused statement jewelry that is often askew in design and is all handmade (mostly by me) in my Austin, TX studio. Many years ago, after graduating from art school, I was working in a gallery and pursuing being a painter. I found that I was selling more jewelry that people were buying off of my person when I went out then I was selling paintings so I decided to give it a whirl professionally.

BRANDY: My business is Pigsey Art. I design and lasercut journals and home goods out of birch wood. I started lasercutting three years ago and just acquired my own machine this year. I've been making journals in one form or another since 2007.

Q: Tell us about ways you've been working with makers already?
SIERRA: When I first began Manic Trout, it was 13 years ago, before etsy and at a time when there was not much info out there for how to do this. A year or so into it, I met a great group of women on a forum called the Swtichboards and it changed everything. We helped each other figure it out. We discussed and shared what we learned as we went and how we failed. It was really like we all grew up together.

I realized early on that I really enjoyed talking with other makers and supporting each other as we learned and grew. Sadly the switchboards lost its steam a few years ago, but I have over the years made sure to be in groups online and in person where I am part of a network of makers and small business owners that provides a place to learn and support. I also have found it invaluable to plan face to face time with women who inspire me and whom I know we can help each be better at life in general. I have found that simply by having regular chats with amazing ladies, that you can be so inspired and motivated to do great things!

BRANDY: I've always been a big advocate for creating maker communities. I helped found and run a local Austin handmade group, holding a variety of officer position for five years including president.

Q: Why are you excited to start the Academy of Handmade chapter in Austin?
SIERRA: I have found that the groups I have been a part of in Austin up to this point have been very focused on shows. I have never had shows as a big part of my business plan and some years, done none at all, so I have been looking for a group that is more broadly focused. Not only does the Academy of Handmade have a range of areas that makers are part of and focused on, but I love that supporters are also part of the group.

Although I have no problem not seeing fellow AHAS members IRL, as I mentioned above, there is nothing better then talking face to face to really get the excitement and motivation going. I’m thrilled about the possibilities of such a great mixture of people being able to connect in person a couple of times a month, I think it will mean great things for all of us!

BRANDY: Austin is a town that really appreciates art and creativity and our artists are top notch! I love being able to socialize with fellow makers to help each other and discover new collaborations.

Q: Share a little about what you love about the handmade community in Austin.
SIERRA: I enjoy that there is everything from the classic to the fashion oriented to the weird and everything in between here. So many people are not from Austin, so there is a great deal of diversity in style and aesthetics. Its quite the eclectic community here in ATX!

BRANDY: I've found that often other handmade business owners make the best friends because they really understand the challenges you face on a daily basis. In Austin, this is doubly true as people who choose to live in Austin have to be a little quirky to begin with. We have a much more casual and impromptu environment compared to many large cities and this serves our artists well.

Q: What's your favorite thing about Austin?
SIERRA: The amount of things to do. There is something ALWAYS going on here!

BRANDY: Breakfast tacos! Breakfast tacos for miles, on every corner, in every restaurant! All day long! How can you not love a town that loves breakfast tacos as much as we do? 

Q: What's the most important thing makers should remember when running their businesses?
SIERRA: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

BRANDY:  Your business is about your voice. Often, as handmade business owners attempt to ramp up or spread out, they loose sight of the heart of why people love shopping from a handmade business. Losing your voice, that twist that makes your products *your* products, allows a business to get lost in the ocean of consumerism. Keep your products aimed at your audience while maintaining your take on that product is an important focus to keep in mind.

Q: Where can people find you online?
SIERRA: On facebook, instagram and twitter as @manictrout and of course at!

BRANDY: Online website: