Maker Monday: Hemleva

As a small woman-owned business ourselves, we at Candelles are so passionate about lifting up and supporting our fellow creative lady bosses who are making waves in the world by following their passions and creating their own paths.  After all, in the great words of Lizzo, "When I'm shinin', everybody's gonna shine".  With this in mind we are so incredibly excited to shine a light on a maker that we absolutely love, who is following her passion and crafting her way forward, one beautifully plant inspired product at a time.
Samantha Leung is a life long creative and plant loving lady based in Seattle Washington.  In 2013 she took her love of creativity and plants and launched her business, focused on bringing plants and greenery into our daily lives.  Since it's beginning, Hemleva has now gained over 300 stockists, selling her handmade brass mobiles and plant inspired enamel pins and keychains all around the world.  Even at this scale, Samantha has her hands in every part of her business inspecting each plant and packing each order by hand in her Seattle studio.  

We have been longtime fans of Samantha's, recently working together on an
exclusive Candelles x Hemleva Garden Collection, which is available now!

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about the background of HEMLEVA:

Hello hello! My name is Samantha Leung, and I am the Creative Entrepreneur behind HEMLEVA. Launched in the Autumn of 2013, HEMLEVA is focused around bringing greenery into the home and into our daily lives. HEMLEVA is currently based out of Seattle, Washington.

Originally launching under the name Handmade Sam*Made, my company and brand launched with a mix of both traditional and original handmade brass mobiles, wall sconces, ornaments and more. I share my passion for plants through my Air Plant Dating Profiles, General Plant Care, and through my original Plant-inspired Enamel Pins, Keychains and accessories.

As both the geometric and botanical pin collections grew, the number of stockists grew as well. You can now find my handmade brass mobiles and plant-inspired enamel pins and keychains in over 300 retail stores around the world.

To this day, each and every mobile and wall sconce is handmade by me. Every plant is hand-inspected and cared for, and each pin and keychain is designed and packaged by me out of my Seattle studio.

How did you come up with the name for your business?  Does it hold a special meaning to you?

When I was rebranding, and moving away from my original company name, Handmade Sam*Made, I wanted to come up with a name that reflected the direction of my business. I reached out to a friend of mine, who is an amazing artist in the Seattle area. She is Swedish, and with the help of her brother, who was living in Sweden at the time, together we came up with the name HEMLEVA. HEM is a Swedish word that means "home" and LEVA means "life". Together they do not create a new word, but instead, it gives you a feeling of warmth, like that of a warm, cozy cabin in the middle of the woods. That feeling is exactly what I wanted my business to evoke, and was a step in the right direction for the evolution of my business. 

What inspired you to take your love of making and turn it into a business?

It was following a car accident actually. I have been a maker my entire life. I was crocheting at the age of 4, wood-burning at 6 - I started my very first business at 16 with two friends where we hand-sewed bespoke costumes - but it wasn't until after that car accident that I started my business. My husband and I were driving cross country from Chicago to Seattle during a relocation. We were in a pretty bad car accident where we ended up totaling our car. I was in Physical Therapy several days a week for a few months and during that time, I couldn't get a "traditional" job. Not one to sit still, I decided to start a business, a shop on Etsy where I would sell things I made by hand. And while the products and even the company name has changed over the years, 9 years later I'm still enjoying each and every day.

What are the biggest inspirations for your work?

A lot of my designs are intuitive and inspired by someone, something, or a moment in time. For example, both my Protea and Bird of Paradise Pins were inspired by my very first trip to Maui. It was incredible seeing so many tropical plants thriving in that lush environment, and I wanted to capture that feeling in some way.

I also enjoy visiting Botanic Gardens, local parks, and Conservatories to learn about new varieties of plants and flowers. 

How would you describe your aesthetic, and how did you work to develop your style?

I would describe my aesthetic as minimalistic, yet intentional. I have always strived to create things that will live beyond a solitary moment in time, to have pins resemble that of classic brooches that you could use to accessorize regardless of the situation. I have pins worn at weddings, graduations, special occasions, and of course, every day.

Do you have a favorite design to create, or specific product that you enjoy making the most?

In the past year, I have worked with 8 other small businesses on collaborations - and I would have to say that they are one of my favorite things I've ever done as an artist and an entrepreneur. From hand-etched mugs to rubber stamps, the sweetest little earrings to this upcoming collaboration with Candelles and the Garden Collection!

What is a typical working day like for you?

While each day changes based on what I have planned and what I have coming due, my typical day starts around 10 AM and I will continue working through to 3-4 AM each day. From responding to e-mails, reading contracts, updating my website, designing products, fulfilling orders for three retail sites that I manage and the 300+ wholesale accounts I support, taking product photos, and posting and sharing across social media, I have very full days and love every single moment of it.

Can you describe your workspace?  Where is it, how have you designed it, and how does it support you in your craft?

So I currently work out of my home, and my office accounts for a very large portion of our square footage. It is full of plants, grow lights, and the best napping couch, ever. I spend a lot of time in my office each day so I try to make it as comfortable as possible for both my husband and me. Right now I have a 8' long desk so my husband and I can work side by side. My business is quickly outgrowing our current apartment though, so we are looking to purchase a home in the Seattle area very soon. If you're familiar with this market, you'll know how vicious it can be, so wish us luck!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a maker and small business owner?  What did you learn from it?

I think one of the biggest challenges I have faced as a maker, artist, and small business owner would have to be the constant copying that happens. I have unfortunately dealt with my fair share of copycats and counterfeiters, and know that this is an uphill battle. I have had to sue two large corporations, and while I won each one, it is not something that all artists and entrepreneurs are ready for. What I learned from my experience is what my rights are, how helpful registering copyrights can be, and basically reminding myself that I can and should continue to stand up for myself and for other small businesses who have to endure the same obstacles. Consumer awareness is so important, and I am so fortunate to have so many truly incredible friends, customers, and supporters that continue to look out for me and my small business.

What does being a maker mean to you?

Being a maker means being a creator.

What are some of your other hobbies and interests?

I absolutely love to bake and to cook, and all of my current hobbies have to either do with plants and gardening or fiber arts. From embroidery, to punch needle, sewing, weaving, and crochet - I adore all of it.

What do you feel is the most fulfilling part of being a career creative?

My absolute favorite part of this current journey of mine is being able to connect with so many amazing people - artists, fellow small business owners, and human beings around the world. I have made so many friends through my small business journey, and am so grateful for their friendships and support.

What advice would you give to other creatives looking to turn their passion into a business?

One of the most important things you can do is to find your own distinct creative voice. That is where you will find true joy and satisfaction in your work. I also like to say that you should always find at least one other person that believes in you - because when the days get longer, and the work gets hard, knowing that even one other person believes in you and your journey - that can be enough to keep propelling you forward.

We are so grateful to Samantha for taking the time to share a peek inside of her world with us.  To see more of her work, you can check out her website, Hemleva, and follow along with her on Instagram @hemleva.  And of course, be sure to check out our exclusive Garden Collection!


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