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Artist Profile: Swirly Designs

Lianne and Paul Stoddard of Swirly Designs {Swirly Designs (2013

Artist Profile: Swirly Designs


Swirly Designs is the husband and wife team of Lianne and Paul Stoddard that produce hand crafted ornaments for all seasons. From their home studio in Reading, MA they create the most wonderfully whimsical ornaments using polymer clay. I had the pleasure to interview them, finding out more about their creative process.

TTT – You and Paul met at The New England School of Art & Design. What artistic pursuits did each of you have in mind when you enrolled?

LIANNE – When we began attending art school neither one of us had a specific creative direction other than we both loved to draw and wanted to do that for a living. College life really exposed us to so many creative career paths. My path was Graphic Design and Paul’s was Illustration

TTT – What inspires each of you?

PAUL – Listening (podcasts) and learning (following blogs) from other creative people. Hearing their stories and identifying with their struggles and successes.

We also love celebrating the holidays with our kids, family and friends. Seeing the holidays through our kids eyes have helped us in our work and creativity.

LIANNE – While we don’t get to do it much, but visiting art museums was also a great source of inspiration for both of us. With little kids in tow you’re more likely to see us visiting craft stores, bookstores, and antique shows to get some inspiration and new ideas.

TTT – What are some of the podcasts and blogs that you follow?

PAUL – We both enjoy Matthew Mead, The Decorated Tree, Stephen Brown’s Glitterville, Escape from Illustration Island, Smart Creative Women, and Makers in Business with Liz Smith.

Swirly Designs Studio {Swirly Designs (2013)}

TTT – What other artists do you each identify with/look up to?

LIANNE – For me in the early years, Martha Stewart was a huge impact on me. Her sense of style was so unique at the time and something that I always loved and wanted to emulate.

PAUL – I have to admit I didn’t really know who Martha Stewart was until Lianne exposed me to her show and magazine. I did (and still do!) love her sense of style as well but was fascinated by her entrepreneurial way of life. Learning that she started small and grew her business to a worldwide sensation was something I loved learning about.

TTT – How long does it take to take a design from 2D to 3D?

PAUL & LIANNE – It’s hard to pinpoint an exact length of time. Every design we create has been sketched and sketched until we get it just right, as well as color breakdown sketches multiple times before we create it in clay form.

Swirly Designs Creative Process {Swirly Designs (2013)}

TTT – How many of each design do you typically make? How long does it take to produce a production run?

PAUL & LIANNE – Depending on the Holiday—we produce 4-5 collection a year: Valentine, Easter/Spring, Summer/July 4th, Fall/Halloween/Thanksgiving and Christmas—each collection could have anywhere from 15-20 ornament designs and each design we usually make between 20-50 pieces each. 6-8 weeks is usually what a collection from sketch to launch will take us to create.

TTT – Can you describe the moment you sold your first ornament to someone you didn’t know?

PAUL & LIANNE – Our first Holiday craft show we did was back in 2004. It was a huge venue. It was either a 2 or 3 all-day show which was scary for us not know anything about selling our stuff. And I can’t remember exactly, but I’m sure that first sale was awkward! Before that show, we were selling exclusively through word of mouth and barely had a website up. Thankfully the feedback from doing these show is so important for a handmade business. You could sell online all day, but to actually witness the joy people are getting looking at our designs, and the stories they share and their interpretation of our work is really why we still do a few shows a year.

Swirly Designs Mushroom Owl and Pinecone Ornaments {Swirly Designs (2013)}

TTT – Other than your own designs, what other styles of Christmas decorations do you enjoy?

PAUL & LIANNE – We make ornaments because first and foremost we LOVE celebrating and decorating for every Holiday. We actually find joy when Christmas items hit the stores in early September.

Our style changes year to year when it comes to decorating. Some years we will favor a more traditional décor, and other years we will add more paper decorations. We are always on the look out for something new that adds to our décor collection. We usually have three trees for Christmas that we decorate for our home. (In our studio we have collected over 20 trees!!) One tree is dedicated to our children’s creations; our main large tree we focus on a color theme for the season whether it be in tones of green and gold or reds and oranges. The third tree we’ll use for our old vintage bulbs and mercury glass ornaments.

TTT – How do find time to create and raise a family?

PAUL & LIANNE – We would be lying if we said it was easy.

We have two very energetic kids (4 & 8 yrs old) that keep us very busy. It was understood with our third baby (Swirly Designs) we would have to keep the studio based out of our home because the majority of the Swirly work is done late into the night after the kids are asleep.

Swirly Designs Santa Ornament {Swirly Designs (2013)}

TTT – You collaborated with Dani Fiori on two designs. How was it working with another creative mind? Would you like to collaborate with others in the future?

PAUL & LIANNE – Collaborating with Dani Fiori from Sweet Dani B. last Christmas was such a treat for us. We knew of her whimsical and yummy work from watching her on the Martha Stewart Show and we were thrilled when she contacted us. Our style was a nice fit and it was great to offer something new to both our fan bases. We are always open to collaboration with other creative people if it works with the Swirly Designs vision and brand.

TTT – How do people react when you tell them you design ornaments for a living?

PAUL & LIANNE – Honestly we get a lot of confused looks when we tell them we design holiday ornaments for a living and then trying to explain that they are made from polymer clay. We do show them a business card that has a picture of our work and that seems to help.

Swirly Designs Ornaments {Swirly Designs (2013)}

TTT – Do you have many diehard fans who collect your creations?

PAUL & LIANNE – We are so happy to say YES!! Our Swirly Fans are the best and we are so appreciative of them all. Most have been ordering from us from the beginning and continue to support us with each and every collection we launch. That inspires us to continue to create new and original Swirly Designs each and every Holiday.

TTT – What question(s) would you ask other designers of holiday decor?

PAUL & LIANNE – How do you get inspired to design for the holiday when more often than not you are creating not in the season – (like creating Christmas designs in the summer)?

Swirly Designs Silly Swirly Clown Ornaments {Swirly Designs (2013)}

TTT – Anything you would like to add?

PAUL & LIANNE – Visit us at www.swirlydesigns.com and if you would like to be notified about our upcoming collections join our mailing list: http://www.swirlydesigns.com/newsletter.shtml

Visit and like Swirly Designs on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Swirly.Designs

To purchase Swirly Design ornaments visit the Swirly Designs Online Shop.

Images courtesy of Swirly Designs.

Additional Information
Geek Factor

Bakelite, an early plastic, was popular with designers but the phenol base of uncured Bakelite was flammable and thus was eventually discontinued. Polymer clays were first formulated as a possible replacement for Bakelite. One of these formulations was brought to the attention of German doll maker Kaethe Kruse in 1939. While it was not suitable for use in her factory, Kruse gave some to her daughter, known in the family as “Fifi,” who successfully used it as modeling clay. The formulation was later sold and marketed under the name “FIMO” (FIfi’s MOdeling compound).