Welcome to Our Blog


My name is Penny Cheng, Chainmaille Artist and the Owner/Designer Of Jewelry by Saniki Creations. I am lucky enough to work on my designs at home while taking care of my three girls. Life is hectic, but fun...

This Blog is about my life, my business, and my creations plus I enjoy promoting my fellow Artists.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Meet Donna Wilson of Brapples - Featured Artist

When I was in grade 11 (back in the 80's.. oops, just dated myself again), one of my Social Studies project was to invent something new.  I had two ideas.  The first was an automatic toothpaste dispenser that you put the paste in the toothbrush handle, press a button, and voila, the toothpaste comes out from the bristles..  I used that idea and got an A for it.  Decades later, someone made a toothbrush that basically does what I thought of... Dang.. I could of been a millionaire.

My second idea for the project..... well, let's just say that idea has now been done by fellow The Artisan Group member Donna Wilson of Brapples.  Interchangeable bra straps that is both functional and decorative.

How and when did you discover your love for your craft/art?
I remember always being crafty. I was the type of child that would make all needlepoint presents for Christmas one year, and jigsaw figurines the next. And on top of that, I am always trying to improve upon things, make things function more, make them more stylish and appealing. For 11 years now I have designed and created custom curtains so a challenge, style, and creativity has always been a part of what I do and who I am.

So one day when getting dressed I was frustrated that I couldn’t find a bra with a strap that would somewhat match the tank top I was intending on wearing that day. I noticed my cabinet open that had all my necklaces hanging on it and I thought how cool it would be to wear something stylish like that I my shoulders instead of some ugly bra strap. Or even if it was a solid strap, that I could just grab a strap off the cabinet door and place it on my nude color bra without the everyday struggle of finding something suitable. The seed was planted, and over the next few days I began to experiment with the concept. A few months later, Brapples Sassy Bra Straps became reality.

Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
Yes, I took a plain strap and added a really cute ribbon trim to it. I wore it out to a Derby party and had so many people responding they liked it that I thought well maybe this shoulder jewelry can become a new accessory item. Soon after came the beaded the options.

Every Artist has a creative process, can you explain yours?
Well, many people aren’t aware that my shop is on the 3rd floor of a church attic space. It is serene and quiet, and really allows my mind to creatively think out of the box. So always having a great space to work in should be the first start to any creative process. Anything I create will have a unique purpose in mind. I want to take everyday accessories and make them more functional and stylish. Take for example my faux fur neck wraps:
I added a hidden magnet so that you can easily put it on over your head. And because of the shape it can also be worn on your head. I like things to have multiple purposes when possible. There is patent pending on my design so I am excited about that.

When people start doing their craft/art, they tend to try a lot of different things before settling down to something that resonates with them. How has your work changed since you began?
Honestly, my work is always changing. I add new ideas and tweak old ones. My unique accessories line is always evolving, changing, and growing. Coming soon is fabric belts with really cool belt buckles. I can’t wait. I think it, make it, and launch it. I then hope that people love it as much as I do. I make things that I would want to buy, that I love, and hope that my style of taste will resonate with others.

What inspires you creatively?
Everything inspires me. I look at necklaces for ideas for my bra straps. I look at color trends in the boutiques. I look at what doesn’t work right with certain accessories like scarves, and I make it work with more function, more warmth, and more style than before. And adding a little bling to anything is always a good thing.

Can you tell us about some important goals you have achieved with your work?
Well my biggest goal was just taking the chance on what I thought was a good idea. Anyone who has launched such a venture knows that having an idea is one thing, but having the determination to follow it through is a whole other thing. Despite the monetary investment, the learning curve, the missed out family events, and the stress of deadlines and multiple rejections, I am really happy that I jumped. I don’t want to look back on my life and think that I had what I thought was a really good idea (which like all of us, we have a few in our lifetime) and not have the courage to see it through. I have learned a lot, met a lot of fascinating people, and love what I do.

What are some of your favorite artists and crafters and why?
My favorite artists/crafters would be both of my Grandmothers. One was a painter and one taught me to sew. Without their encouragement in the early years of my life, and taking an interest in doing crafty things with me, I wonder if I would be so crafty now. Probably, but knowing it early helps.

Any goals for the future you would like to share?
I would love to see my Brapples products in thousands of boutiques and stores across the country.

What do What do you do in your spare time?
I am a mom of two very active boys who loves going to their baseball and football games. I also love to do woodworking projects for my home and meet up with my girlfriends for lunch.

If you are displaying or selling your craft/art? Where?
You can find Brapples’ products in boutigues in Chicago, Fort Meyer’s and Jacksonville Florida, and have I reps in Ontario Canada and Minnesota just getting started.

If you sell online or at physical store. How many hours per week to you spend in the creative side versus the business side?
Lately, I spend many nights looking at trade show information and lamenting on which ones I want to invest in this year. This will be the first year I do them. At this point it is probably 65% creative, 35% business. Although that percentage changes and fluctuates depending on the season and what is going on.

What advice would you give to someone who want to start out or start a business in their craft/art?
I would say start out slow. Utilize as many free resources as you can. When I started out I used the local college in my town and was amazed at the support and networking that I received. I even joined a entrepreneur network that was just being formed. I used weebly.com for creating my free website on my own and really spent a lot of time figuring out search engine optimizations, and such. With the beauty of Google you can learn everything you need to start a company. Sure you can pay someone a lot of money to do all this for you but I really encourage people to know how to do it first. As your cash flow starts to increase then you can allocate some of these things out but I prefer to be the administrator on certain things. It is never good in business to have to wait in line for someone to help you with your business “to do list”. Keep your craft a hobby until you are ready to go to trade shows and at which point you can create you corporation. And you can do that on-line also. And the best thing always is to just ask people who have gone before you. I asked lots of questions and people are always eager to assist you. Even now, I go to boutiques and ask them where they do their buying, if they think my products would do well in that market, what kind of booth attracts them when they are at market—and why? The owners/buyers are my market and why wouldn’t I take the opportunity to engage them on what they know and like.

If there is anything else you want to add, please feel free to do so.
I am always eager to help others because I feel that as artisans really need to look out for each other. When I go to sell at a boutique I also try to sell them on my fellow artisan’s stuff also. We become each other’s reps. It is a great way to help out your community and I have noticed that boutiques are much more inclined to give us a chance because their customers are more encouraged than ever to buy local. Boutiques are about the unique, and they know that their customers are willing to pay more money for something that has a story tied to it. Networking for each other really helps us get our products out there.

Thank you Donna!  To find out more about Brapples, be sure to visit:

Penny Cheng

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Penny for such a nice article. I really do like the toothpaste idea also.


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