Hi, I’m Josie Marsh, the creator and designer of Wooly Baby slippers and hats. I live in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, and work out of my spare bedroom studio. I’m lucky to have full-time help from seamstress Emily Patton and part-time help from my husband. Our five-year-old daughter often helps, too.
It’s really satisfying to turn cast-off clothing into something useful and beautiful. Some of my designs are inspired by the one-of-a-kind nature of my materials, while others are inspired by vintage footwear or color combinations that I like.
Wooly Baby slippers start from used wool sweaters and leather clothing that come from a textile recycling company. I felt (shrink) the sweaters at my local laundromat and line-dry them at home. Next, using patterns that I made, the materials are cut with scissors or a die press. The leather is branded with the Wooly Baby logo, and then Emily or I sew the slippers together. Photographs are taken of each unique design, often with the help of my family and friends. My daughter has fun taking the pictures of my feet in slippers!
Running Wooly Baby is a perfect blend of my analytical skills and creative side. I grew up on a rural Appalachian farm with parents that instilled creativity, respect for the earth, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Then I got an engineering degree and worked in continuous improvement and quality engineering roles for 12 years before staying home with my baby. In 2008, when I couldn’t find soft slippers made from wool and leather for my toddler, I made some from thrift store clothing. I started making slippers out of necessity, and then for fun. I feel extremely lucky to have found work that fits my diverse interests so well and is kind to the earth at the same time.
Etsy gives an opportunity to anyone with a creative interest to start a micro-business without much consequence of failure. Anyone can list a few items and see what happens. It’s a low cost, super easy way to show your work to the world and see what the world says. I also love that selling on Etsy makes life so flexible. If it’s a nice day and I want to work in my garden, I do it. I get to send my daughter off to kindergarten and to meet her when she gets off the bus. It’s not always easy figuring out how to spend my time, but it is wonderful to have the choice.
By allowing people to talk to and buy directly from makers, Etsy is also fostering conscious manufacturing and conscious consumerism. The average American throws away 68 pounds of clothing each year — I think this needs to change. Seeing and learning a bit about the maker helps consumers develop a relationship with their purchases. On Etsy, buyers are able to ask questions directly from the source before purchasing. I believe this allows them to buy products that they’ll love and keep for a long time.
I enjoy the process of improving my business almost as much as I enjoy creative design. I embrace the challenge of making consistently good quality product when using highly variable, re-used materials. I also look for ways to streamline my process so that I can focus my work time on the most important tasks. This has allowed me to get the most out of my little business and have time for other activities.
I didn’t know it was possible to love a job this much. I love it so much that, in the beginning, it was difficult to balance work and family. Over time, I have figured out how to dedicate certain times to family and others to work. And as my daughter gets older, there are more opportunities for her to help. I’m happy that she can learn first hand about being an entrepreneur, running a business, and being kind to the earth. And she’ll know that it is possible to love her work.
All photographs by Wooly Baby.