On Weaving with Saffron thread: Meesha Farzaneh of Saffron Soul Textiles

this spring, our theme is: synergy.

It’s time to invest in relationships, projects and people that will help us grow. It’s time to create a little synergy.

synergy (n.): the benefit that results when two or more agents work together to achieve something either one couldn't have achieved on its own.

It's the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. In life, at work and in our communities, synergy is that space where the magic happens—where things fall into place, values align and our ideas find a home.

So, what does professional and personal synergy look like? How do we reject cultures of comparison and approach collaboration? How do we protect our own energy as we navigate opportunities, success and failures? This Spring, our programs will serve as a moment to hear from and amplify women and nonbinary leaders in our community who create synergy through their work.

As we prepare for craftHER Market Spring ‘19, we’re interviewing some of this market’s featured makers to learn more about their businesses and the ways in which they create synergy through their work. Read on for a peek into their process.

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about today’s featured maker:

Hi there! My name is Meesha Farzaneh (but you can call me Meesh). I am a self-taught fiber artist based out of Austin, TX. This journey started when I was faced with the misfortune of undergoing 3, very invasive, foot surgeries starting in 2017 and was forced to stay indoors and limit myself to activities that involved minimal mobility. I began teaching myself how to weave and macrame, which eventually became an outlet for me to help redirect my feelings of depression and struggles during that time. 

Over the course of 2 years, my hobby has grown into a small business here in Austin! My specialties include macrame, punch needling, and polymer clay jewelry, but I also dabble into weaving and also rug tufting when I have time! I will be offering fun workshops at The Lemon House (check us out on IG @lemonhouseatx) that will be perfect for both beginners and intermediate students who are wanting to learn macrame, polymer clay jewelry making and punch needling.

When I'm not busy making, I enjoys traveling with my boyfriend Mischa (yes the have the same name!!) and snuggling with my little pups, Milton and Naynay.

I was born and raised in Texas, but my ethnic background is Iranian. I wanted to incorporate my cultural background into my fiber art practice. The name Saffron Soul circles back to my Persian roots, where 90% of the Saffron used today is derived from. By the 10th century BC, ancient Persians were weaving infused saffron threads into textiles, and would ritually offer them to divinities. I love the rich history associated with the word saffron and it is also said to help ease feelings of depression! I hope that my products can evoke the same feelings of happiness and inspiration in others as they do for me.   Click here to learn more.

Tell us the background of your business:

In october of 2017 I had to undergo a very invasive foot surgery that left me unable to walk/put pressure on my left foot for several weeks. I had slowly begun to feel depressed and isolated so I started looking for something I could do to take my mind off of it that didn't involve standing or moving around much. I ordered a kids beginner loom off of Amazon and started youtubing videos on how to weave. At one point, I had realized that I had been going at it for 6 hours and hadn't even noticed the time go by! I clearly had found a passion for something I had never considered before. Unfortunately, that would have been the first of a total of 3 foot surgeries on the same foot to correct errors and healing issues over the next 2 years. Fortunately, I had lots of time to experiment and try new forms of fiber art and jewelry making and I began getting interest from friends wanting certain pieces for their homes.

What first began as a distraction from life struggles quickly transformed into a passion and now my business. I am a first generation Iranian American and I identify very strongly with my culture. The name Saffron Soul circles back to my Persian roots. Today, 90% of the Saffron used worldwide comes from Iran. As early as the 10th century BC, ancient Persians were weaving infused saffron threads into textiles, and would ritually offer them to divinities. I love the rich history associated with the word saffron and it is also used medicinally to help ease feelings of depression. As of March of 2019, I have transitioned into a my role as a full time maker and couldn't be happier!


How big is your business (employees, storefront, etc)? And where do you sell your work? In-person, online, only at markets?

I am still a one person show, but I have a small shared retail space at my east Austin studio, Lemon House ATX,  that I share with my two studio mates Rebecca Borelli and Allison Launius! I primarily sell my work through my website, instagram, markets in the Austin area and at our shared storefront space at Lemon House ATX.

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How do you approach collaboration within your work? When and where do you collaborate on making products?

I actually love collaborating with other makers! I usually fall in love with their work and want to incorporate an element of it into mine. It's usually something that doesn't involve what I do, which I think makes it more special.

If I have an idea, I will reach out to a maker and pitch that idea to them. A great example is when I contacted Allie Launius (@stampworthygoods), and wanted to collaborate on making a macrame wall hanging with the same mud cloth that she uses to reupholster her furniture. We created a shibori home collection and it turned out so cool because it was the same gorgeous fabric, but as an accent piece and a furniture piece! I have another friend who is an awesome woodworker (@growlerdomestics) and makes custom furniture in Austin that wants to incorporate my fiber art element into his bedroom furniture pieces. Coelina Phillips (@shopseephillips) and I have met to discuss a gallery focused collaboration as well! I also work with a manufacturer on certain piece that had become so increasingly popular that I had run out of time to make them and still maintain quality. I worked with the manufacturer to make sure that my design and the quality of the piece accurately represents my work. These pieces should be ready to release to the public very soon! I will be making an announcement very soon on IG (@saffronsoultextiles) so stay tuned!!


How do you balance the creative side and the business side of your work?

That's a great question! I still struggle with finding this balance, but for me, it has become easier because of how I divide my time. My most productive hours of the day start at 8 am and end around 5. So from 8 am till 10:30, I focus only on the business side of things such as emails, website updates, tracking margins in my spreadsheets, etc. From 11-2, I work on whatever my heart desires. This is when I allow my creative juices to flow! From 2-5:30, I work on commission pieces for clients. Of course this isn't always as cut and dry, but what I have found from past mistakes is that if you only focus on the business side of things, you lose the fire and the spark that draws people to your art. You have to allow yourself to have that creative time to continue to grow as a maker.


What resources have helped you grow your business? What resources do you need more of?As a WOB what would you like to see more of?

I love seminars and self help events. I think that panel discussions and events that are focused around starting your business are so incredibly valuable and really help boost confidence and networking!

Events that are either free, or under $20 dollars to attend. Being a new business owner means tight funds! I also would love to find more podcasts that are focused around women in business. I hear about different podcasts from random sources, but a dedicated page or list would be so amazing.

More female focused panels and events that create a safe space for vulnerability and discussion. Sometimes, business seminars and social networking events can seem very male dominant and intimidating for a new female entrepreneur. I think it creates negative feelings and thoughts around starting your own business if you are in the early stages and looking for support from sources that you can relate with. Boss Babes ATX has some pretty incredible events that I can honestly say that I am so lucky to have had access to thus far. It made me feel like I wasn't the only one having these thoughts of self doubt running through my head and feeling lost when it came to the technical aspects of self employment. I strongly urge anyone who is seeking a community atmosphere, knowledge, and a boost of confidence to get back out there and make shit happen! You will seriously feel a surge of energy and confidence after you leave!


How do you handle perceived failures within your work?

I have a basket full of unfinished “failures”. I never throw them away though. Sometimes, I will go back into that pile and find something that I considered a failure before, but have a new perspective of skill that I can apply to make it something great. Those failures can turn into a new form of inspiration. It's impossible not to have failures, that's how you grow as an artist. It allows you to learn what you like and don't like about the work that you produce and how to make it better next time.


Who is your target audience for your product and how do you connect with them?

My target audience is primarily women of all ages, and some men as well! Instagram is where I reach 95% of my audience and communicate and meet new people on that platform as well.

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Tell us about the production process required to make a single product.

Macrame pieces usually start with inspiration. I find inspiration when I look at certain decorating styles that involve texture and natural elements. I then begin sketching ideas on my ipad using my Apple Pencil and the ProCreate app that Rebecca Borelli (@beccaborelliatx) introduced to me and I am so in love with this! I used to sketch on graph paper with pencil, but I find this new method to be much more effective as far as using colors, erasing and starting over, and trying new things with less time wasted in between each trial. This typically can take anywhere between 1-3 hours. After I have a game plan, I either pull out some cotton rope that I have in the studio, or I order my materials online through wholesalers that I trust. I then begin measuring and cutting each strip of rope. The rule of thumb is to cut 4x the length of rope based on the length of your finished product. Thats a lot of rope!! But the worst thing ever is to get to the middle of the piece and run out. This process takes about an hour to do. Then I start the knotting process on a dowel or wooden branch. Depending on the piece and the complexity of the knots, this knotting process can take anywhere between 5 hours for a small piece to 30 hours for a mega piece! Then the fun part is the final trimmings at the bottom, styling, photographing and editing. This final part usually takes around 2-3 hours. I think it’s so important to break down the process for people that aren't familiar with different forms of art because it reveals the heart and soul that goes into them and builds appreciation for the craft.


What is a good leader to you?

A good leader thinks of themselves as another member of the team, not so much focused on being “above them”. They use words like “we” and “us”, and create a space that makes the team feel supported, involved and heard. Any leader that operates this way gains respect and love organically, and is perceived as a natural leader.


What do you wish you knew before starting your own business?

I wish I knew more about time blocking, taxes (holy cow, like an entire course on taxes actually), how to calculate formulas that allow me to price my pieces the right way, understanding how to work with a budget and manage my time better.

Would you like to meet Meesha in-person? Come out to craftHER Market on April 14, 2019 at Fair Market and stop by her booth. Click here to learn more.