If you've been snooping around the PillowCubes blog the past two months, you've probably seen our recent "Customer Spotlight" posts. We love providing our blank canvas pillow inserts and fillings for shop owners, designers, and crafters from all backgrounds. It is always exciting to see our handcrafted pillow forms transformed into something beautiful!
Many of our customers take part in our wholesale pillow program, which provides them with further discounts and rewards them for both frequency of purchase and quantities purchased. This gives artisans and designers across various industries the ability to create beauty with quality, handmade pillows at even better prices. Today, we're excited to share the story of Jo Cohen of Sawmill Camerretti, a crocheter with unmatched talent and brilliance!
1) We want to know your background story... fill us in!
If a Haystack can be a craft school, I can be a sawmill. There is more to the story of the inception of the name Sawmill Camerretti than just that. I wanted a name that did not pigeon-hole me to one particular craft or business idea. I felt that "sawmill" suggested something solidly hand crafted and that "Camerretti" was a good, solid family-sounding name. It has an "old school, old world Italian craftsmen" kind of feel. Thus the domain name was purchased, although it was not purchased with any particular business in mind at the time. I figured my daughter would start some kind of business, but it was me that stepped in to claim it!
How it All Began...
I remember starting off at about the age of seven. I recall sunny summer afternoons when my mother and aunt would sit outside in the sun, crocheting the afternoon away. I guess when you continually interrupt the internal stitch counting with multiple “What are you makings?”, it's easier to finally give up and hand you a crochet hook to play with!
My grandmother was married to a baker and they owned a bakery in New Jersey. Like any good wartime wife, nothing went to waste. Grandma took the flour sacks and embroidered them and crocheted the edging on to them to make the most lovely kitchen towels that I still use today. She passed her talents on to her daughters (my mother and aunt), and they both crocheted, knitted, and sewed.
I can’t say I had a robust relationship with crochet until recent years. Between ages seven and now, I’ve dabbled in the yarn and fiber arts. I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology, majoring in business. Even with a business major I just could not get away from dabbling in design! My highest grades were always in the textile classes... I just couldn’t get away from it…nor should I have….I later came to realize…it is in my gene pool to be involved with fiber!
So, as an adult I’ve come to embrace my genetic inheritance and delve in to the fiber arts. Although, I would consider myself primarily a crocheter I can count myself as a Knitter, Weaver, Embroiderer, Sewist, Needlepoint/cross stitcher, Woodworker, and a Precious Metal Metalsmith.
What I Do Now...
I’ve come to embrace fully my crochet talents in many ways. I teach community classes at the local library, mostly, where I have an ongoing spot two evenings a month. It is a beginner crochet class, but it usually culminates with a simple beginner project. I spearhead charity projects to give back to the community by making newborn and chemo caps. As a designer, I also create my own crochet patterns. Surprisngly, crochet has also given back to me in ways I did not expect! For instance, the arthritis in my thumb is gone and I retain a sense of calm no matter what. Crochet has given me perspective and has brought some pretty great people into my life. (That notable knitter in the mid-west and I had a 35 year reunion at Vogue Knitting Live in NY in 2016 and now I act as his Vanna White when he teaches knitting classes when in New York.) I consider myself lucky to do what I love (in addition to my day job) and to be able to share that love with others!
Where to Find Me...
You can find my merchandise at my exclusive retailer at Nest On Main in Northport, New York. I love to create pillows and table runners in addition to the fun, embroidered flour sack towels that I embroider and add crochet trim to. My work can be viewed on my website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
As an artist, designer and maker I focus on simple shapes and ideas beautifully executed. I enjoy focusing on housewares, and while I love amigurumi and embroidered tea towels, I consider pillows as my weakness! Pillows can be as simple or as complex as you want to make them. They are also an easily portable project, OR you can "supersize" them. Really, there is no artistic limit when creating a pillow!
2) How long have you been in operation? How did you start?
My business started three and a half years ago when my daughter started college and I felt like an empty nester! I was always a crafter and thought it would be fun to teach people to crochet. When I was looking for non-copy write protected handouts suitable for a beginner crochet class, I wound up in touch with the Craft Yarn Council. When you become a certified instructor and then teacher with CYC, you then have n access to their copy-write protected work sheets and handouts. I found that I had a knack for teaching beginners…..it ALL snowballed from there!
I’ve tried to follow my business instead of forcing it into what I thought it should be. Doing it in that way has led me on a better, less stressful path and allowed my business to grow at a pace that is probably faster than if I had mapped a plan out. As my teaching expanded, I found that I needed original designs to teach from, so I started with the simplest shape a square. A popular shape for pillows are square and circle! It is great to be able to manipulate those simple shapes into pillows with different feels. Simple stitches with textured yarn, complex stitches in outstanding colors. The students then have a project that is easily completed and looks more complicated than an observer may think. Additionally, their projects are a bit different than the usual hat, scarf, hand warmers that beginners are usually making. I found pillows to be very satisfying personally, plus they are fun to decorate with surface design, too, as they act as a blank canvas. I am beginning to feel a change in my business again with just a bit less teaching a much more original design!
3) What is your mission and vision?
My mission is to teach the fiber arts to those who desire to learn. If I am not successful as a teacher, then not only have I lost you as a student, but I’ve lost you to the craft as well. So, I do feel responsible to teach both the technique and the love of crafting. As a teacher, my specialty is working with beginners and those new to their chosen craft. I enjoy sharing my professional knowledge and providing a deep understanding of the techniques being learned, as well as some "insider tips" that can transform a project from "so so" to Pinterest and magazine quality!
4) What sets you apart from other small shops and pillow providers?
When I decided to become a teacher I set out to set myself apart by becoming a certified professional. I most consumers these days are very savvy and careful with how they spend their retail dollars. To give myself the credibility that I wanted to instill in my customer I chose to certify first as an instructor and then as a teacher with the Craft Yarn Council. I aligned myself with other professional associations as well as it was always important to me that my students and customers understand that I stand behind my work and abilities. On an esthetic level many crochet pillow designers tend toward cables and fancy stitches. My esthetic tends toward floral designs and going forward some vintage looks. Many of my designs are one of a kind. I’m generally a one and done or got that design out of my system type of creator. Although I have revisited some designs by request! I feel most pillow designers are of the upholstered fabric or knit genre. Crochet is one art form that can only be hand done…there is not machine that can replicate crochet yet.
5) Why did you choose PillowCubes inserts? Please share a little about your experience working with the PC team.
I chose PillowCubes because as my business grew, I knew I would need to source a better quality insert than what is currently available in the big box retailers. I love that PillowCubes is Made In America (In one of my favorite states…Tennessee!). I am very pleased that PC also sells pillow stuffing, as I am also an amigurumi designer. I love the eco-friendly options, the customer service is super attentive, shipping is really fast, and the website easy to navigate. I love the selection of products that are ready made. The fact that they can do a custom order as well just proves that they put their customers first!
6) Anything else you’d like to add? Do you have any new products coming soon or plans for growth?
Oh yes! I have some vintage looking items that will be out within the next 6 months, just in time for spring. I’m expanding my amigurumi line with PillowCubes insert shapes specifically in mind to include some kid friendly pillows in fun designs. I’m happy and excited to soon be working on these new items very, very soon!