Name: Amber Alley Siepel

Featured Product at the Goose: Fabric Baskets and Beanbag Sets by Shagbark Studio

The Family: Husband Adam, Kids Ella, 8 and Charlie, 5

On Herself as an Artist:

“You know, I never really identified as an artist. That was my mom’s thing-she was the artist. But growing up surrounded by artistic people and handmade things, I acquired a love for art and a sense of importance about it. I just love fabric and fibers so much and as I’ve begun and continued my work with them, I’ve found myself wondering, “What am I, besides mommy?” I finally decided, “Ok, I’m an artist.”

All about the Products: “I really started out making handmade birthday gifts. I’d have my kids pick out a fabric they liked, and then do a pencil roll with a matching drawstring bag. They have gone over really well with the recipients. Then I started making the beanbags, and needed something to put them in. I remembered that when my little girl was about two she loved carrying things around, bringing them from room to room and picking things up and taking them out and putting them back in, and that’s how the baskets came to be. I was originally inspired by this tutorial on Maya*made, which I’ve now made my own. The baskets are great to make because they’re fun and quick and crafty but when I’m in the mood they can become a bit more artistic by using multiple fabrics and fancy stitching. I also do wine bags, pillows, sachets and pencil rolls, which are for sale at Terra Rosa. Another thing I love to do is fabric canvases, which I think of as sort of a moveable quilt. So far they are very simple, but I’d like to start doing some applique and fiber collage on the canvases. Currently I have canvases on display at Bev & Co. in Community Corners.  I also sell a few things at French Lavender flower shop.”

About the Materials: “I use a Babylock Grace sewing machine, which I bought from Quilter’sCorner, which is also where I get a lot of my fabric. They have an incredible selection, and provide terrific support for anyone who purchases one of their machines. I also buy fabric from Homespun, which has really good stuff, and although I usually prefer to support local businesses, I do find the occasional lovely fabric at JoAnn’s. I also love to repurpose vintage linens (they make great sachets and pillow covers). I can’t stay away from the gorgeous new fabrics that are available, but there are so many reasons to recycle, repurpose, reinvent, etc., and I need to do more of this.”

On Being a WAHM (Work-at-Home-Mama): I have a studio in our home, but I do much of my work there while the kids are at school … I’m the kind of person who needs to have a certain amount of uninterrupted work time. Unfortunately, I get pretty crabby when I’m really in creative mode. Once I’ve got a project planned out and pieces cut, pressed, pinned, etc., I do sometimes let one of the kids work quietly in my studio while I put it all together, but mostly, if my children are home, I’m spending time with them or doing things that don’t require as much concentration. Ella and I have done a few sewing projects together, including a quilt that began as a fabric collage she made at art camp, lavender sachets we made for her teachers as holiday gifts, and felt brooches for party favors. Charlie has also shown some interest and one of my goals is to get him stitching with us more often.”

How do you balance art and parenting? Honestly, I don’t, really! I’m always striving for balance-it’s so hard! I usually feel like I’m neglecting something (doesn’t everyone?). I do have a nice community of women with whom I can talk about juggling art and parenting, both in the real world and online through Etsy and Facebook. Check out the online homes of some of my favorite ladies: Dee Hay Designs, Mrs. McPuppet, Quince and Quire, Chickadee Shop and ZenCrafting.

Some Shagbark Studio goodies all ready for delivery.


Amber's daughter Ella (dressed head-to-toe in Goose wear!) shows off the quilt that she and her mother from a fabric collage begun at art camp.


Ella and Amber made these brooches as favors for Ella's last birthday party. Best goodie bag ever!


You can learn more about Amber and her work at or on her Etsy site, or you can stop by the Goose to check it out in person.  Amber also accepts custom orders, so feel free to contact her with fabric requests!

-Meryl at the Goose


Johanna van der Sterre, children's book illustrator and Mama Goose customer

You know how sometimes kids tell you what they want to be when they grow up, and then they name something so clearly out of reach that you just want to gently pat their hands and say, “Oh, honey, let’s maybe think about a back up plan.”  Or maybe you don’t react like that —- maybe I’m just naturally a pessimistic crusher of dreams, but that’s how I respond whenever a kid wants to be a professional basketball player, or a ballerina, or a rapper.  Until recently, children’s book illustrator was on that list too — the kind of job that some people somewhere get to do, but nobody you actually know, so it doesn’t seem like a realistic option.

Johanna van der Sterre, real live children’s book illustrator, has changed that for me.  Johanna went from a kid who liked to draw to a student of fine art to a grown-up honest-t0-goodness published children’s book illustrator.  Her work includes Mendel’s Accordion by Heidi Smith Hyde, The First Christmas Present by Marilyn Sommerer, Fievel’s Flying Horses by Heidi Smith Hyde, and, most recently, Why Do I Have to Make My Bed? by Wade Bradford (due to be released next month!)  When she’s not working on a book, Johanna spends time with her husband and two children, and fits in some shopping at Mama Goose whenever she can!

Johanna’s illustrations are whimsical and engaging — grown-up art for a child-friendly environment, and are currently on display as framed prints for sale in the back hallway Goose Gallery.  If you’re interested in purchasing one of Johanna’s original pieces,visit her Etsy shop. Check out some of her illustrations below, and then stop by the Goose to see our entire selection.  (Look for “The Goddess” — it’s my favorite.)

"Little Flower"

From "Fievel's Flying Horses"

From "Why Do I Have to Make My Bed?"

-Meryl at the Goose

Mama Kirsten Marsh in front of her handmade cloth diapers on display at the Goose. Ever wonder about the real Mama Marsh? Check out the interview below.

Tell me about your family.

I have three children — two daughters, one who is 5 and one who is 1, and
a 3-year-old boy.  We live in Harford,  NY.

When did you become Mama Marsh?

I started in March 2006, right after my oldest was born — I was doing
bedding sets, and a friend suggested I started making cloth diapers, though I
wasn’t personally using them at the time.  My son was 14 months when we
switched over.

What do you sell as Mama Marsh?

I started with custom bedding sets and then expanded to cloth diapers.  I’m
just getting into hair bows and crochet goodies as well.  I sell mainly
online, but also do the occasional craft fair and, of course, my diapers
are at Mama Goose.

How did you create your cloth diaper pattern?

I went through several test rounds on my son to make sure they didn’t leak,
and then I made some adjustments with inserts once my daughter was born,
though the general design remained the same.  Now, I just play around with
fabric patterns and seasonal colors.

How long have you been selling at the Goose?

Since August/September 2008 – one of my sister-in-law’s daycare moms who
shops at Mama Goose suggested I check I it out.  Once we ran out of
hand-me-downs from my nieces, I became a customer as well,
shopping for clothes for my oldest daughter!

Were you working outside the home before being a WAHM* (Work At Home Mom)?

Yes, I was working at SUNY Cortland before daughter was born.

How do you manage your time at home being working/mom?

It’s a lot of juggling — sometimes you have to let things slide.  Some
days you work mostly on work related items and other days you don’t do
anything work related and just concentrate on household chores.  Since my
sewing room is also the play room, when I’m working/sewing, the kids usually
migrate to where I am.

Do the kids know what to touch and what not to?

They have their own craft box, and I’m teaching my oldest how to hand
sew — she has her own scissors and knows how to cut fabric.

What’s the best thing about working from home?

Spending time with my family. Being there for my kids when they are need me,
and getting to spend time with my husband when he is home for meals.

Worst thing?

Not very much adult interaction … just my husband, and he’s at work most of
the time any way.  But, overall, I like what I do.

Any tips for other moms looking to be WAHM moms/start businesses?

It’s important to remember that it takes time – you can’t turn a profit
right away, and whatever your business, it will take more hours than you
think— computer  time, driving, plus time spent planning and figuring out
how to juggle family time.

Are you on Facebook?  Do you Tweet?

I have FB and Twitter, but I don’t use Twitter very often.

Do you have any other links you’d like to share?

I spend a lot of time on Diaper Swappers, and my online store, Mama Marsh Creations , just reopened in time for Black  Friday.

*Blogling note: WAHM is one of those crazy abbreviations that has emerged from the mama blogosphere that, like all internet lingo, struck me as completely bizarre until I suddenly found myself using it one day.   Blasted cyberspeak.  LOL. JK. LOL.  LOTFMAOEKDJFALKSJDJFABCDEFG.

Julia is both a member of the Mama Goose staff and a Mama Vendor for the store. Julia’s interview includes questions about her work at Mama Goose and her love for the clay.

Julia at the wheel.

Julia at the wheel.

How long have you worked for Mama Goose and what do you do?

It will be 2 years in February. I buy, sell, arrange, rearrange, design and implement the window decor (with lots of help from the team).

How did you land at The Goose?

We moved to the area 2 years ago and after a couple of months of being alone in my studio every day, I was going stir crazy.  I applied for two part time jobs and was offered this one on my birthday! I took it as a sign and quickly accepted.

What is your favorite part of the job?

The endless opportunities for creativity and change of scenery.

Do you have a favorite or funny Goose moment?

I find that our staff is fairly comfortable with each other and we break out some seriously funny spontaneous dance moves when customers aren’t looking.  There are also some moments of clumsiness behind the scenes that can bring us to our knees in laughter.

Do you have a favorite children’s book?

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss & The Root Children by Sibylle Von Olfers

What is your favorite business in Ithaca other than MG?

Greenstar.  I can’t get enough of shopping the bulk section!

Describe your art/work/product….

I have been making, selling, and teaching functional pottery for 12 years. I also dabble in stained glass, lampwork beads, painting and paper collage.

Julia's pottery studio.

How has the Mama Vendor experience been for you?

Wonderful. I’ve never had an outlet for my work where I can get customer feedback so often. I love it when I can introduce myself as the artist when I check a customer out at the register!

Carefully, fire the kiln.

What is for sale at the goose?

Stoneware baby sets and paper collage cards.

How did starting a family change, enhance, interrupt your creative work?

Having a baby put much of my production on hold until she went to daycare a couple of years ago. I find I’m slowly getting more time in the studio the older she gets.  She often joins me and stays focused on her own creations for sometimes over an hour. Still, most of my work gets done when she’s at school.

Tips for mamas wanting/aching to do their art and be good parents?

As much as your medium will allow, give yourself set hours to work just like you were at a job. Communicate well and in advance with your partner and/or childcare provider. Use your child’s naptime and bedtime to work. Carve out a little space in your house for just your creative work.  Treat it like your sacred space and always remember that your creative time is filling you up so that you can be the parent you envision yourself to be.

Julia organizes her studio.

You talked about your art moving in the direction of sculpture, was that influenced by motherhood?

Yes. Having an infant was a difficult experience for me and I was forced to take a good hard look at my Self.  The inner journey I’ve been on over the last 5 years has lead me to many discoveries, visions, and dreams.  My new sculpture work is the manifestation of these.  It’s a very exciting process for me to see my work move in a conceptual direction.

How do you talk about and experience art with your family?

I generally confide in and bounce ideas off my husband, Tim, about my work; whether it’s hurdles in the function of a design and asthetics, or the deeper concepts of sculptures and images. He is a deep soul and I appreciate that he’s the one person who has been on this journey with me.
Experiencing hands on usually happens with Ella.  She typically sits at a table and happily handbuilds in the studio while I work on the wheel.  She loves making carved tiles for her grandparents. And occassionally I guide her through working on the wheel.
We love to go to art shows and galleries together. First Friday here in Ithaca is a great art event for kids. Ella is still ususally more interested in the refreshment table at art openings, but then again, sometimes so am I!

Is your work for sale outside of the Goose?

Yes, my funtional work sells at Silk Oak & Friends on Seneca Street in the old Mama Goose building, and stores in Kentucky, North Carolina and Baltimore.

The finished product!

Look for this Spring and stop in to the store to meet the artist, you won’t be disappointed!

-The Geese at The Goose