Crafters in Wonderland: Renee Garner and Wonderland Retreat

Marimello sent out the word about Wonderland Retreat back in April and we're happy to report that Alison of Wonderland Q is doing well and the Etsy benefit was a huge success. Of course the sad news is that Alison isn't the only crafter in need, so recently Wonderland Retreat started helping out Elijah Wyman who needed a kidney transplant.
We recently caught up with Renee Garner of Wolfie and the Sneak and chatted her up about creating Wonderland Retreat, the altruism of crafters, and the scary leap from a steady 9-5 to full-time crafting. We also did a little shopping and picked up that cute bear on the left. (Get it? it's a kidney bear from Sappy Moose Tree)

How did you decide to start up Wonderland Retreat?

RG: I've always been a firm believer in the "it takes a village" philosophy, in a more general sense, not just with raising kids but in the sense of community spirit. We all have to give in the ways we can. When I heard about Alison Gordon, a fellow crafter and entrepreneur extraordinaire, having surgery without health insurance I felt like I needed to give, but I wanted to do it in a way that would have a greater impact than the little monetary help I could offer. The name came as a spinoff of Alison's great shop, WonderlandQ, and voila! Wonderland Retreat was born.
Setting up a shop seemed like the way to go, that way people that are less inclined to give a donation of money could buy an item, receive a great handmade product, and help out a great cause.
Etsy was a given, it's so easy to set everything up and get it going in relatively little time. It's an affordable option and offers less hassle and red tape than setting up a benefit through somewhere like eBay.

M: Who are the brains behind the op? Do you have help?

RG: What a tough question! The main team is Ileana of India Romeo, Marie, the Sampler's Queen Bee, Neesy Pea of Heyday Fashion, Tess of Made By Tess, and me. But we had about 300 crafters offer their wares as in-kind donations to the shop so the "profit" went (and now goes) to the crafter-in-need. Of course, then there was Etsy and all of the great bloggers out there who spread the word. Without going on too long like an Oscar recipient, all of these people helped out in a very essential way!

M: Is this your first time organizing a craft charity?

RG: This was the first time doing a craft charity of that magnitude. I'd never imagined how wildly popular the shop ended up being! Like I said before, I'm a big fan of contributing as much as possible towards community, so I usually try to do a little something when I hear of a need that hits close to home.

M: How has the customer response been?

RG: Originally the response was incredible, the first few days were a juggling act for all of us to get things listed and keep up with sales, despite the fact that as an organizational group (I'll brag a bit here) we were an all-star team. We've had over 200 sales in just a few months, people have really been so supportive!
Since then, things have slowed down drastically. Alison is much better now, so we've switched gears and all the sales benefit a different crafty fellow named Elijah, who underwent a kidney transplant (can you imagine?!?).

M: How did you choose Etsy as your shop window?

RG: Etsy is just so dang easy to set up, affordable and very visible. It was a natural choice. The funny thing is lot of people thought it was Etsy that set the shop up; I'm here to dispel the rumors! ha ha ha!

M: How do you pick your sponsees?

RG: The sponsees have both had problems that hit so close to home. I'm trying to transition out of the 9 to 5 world, and the biggest thing keeping me from doing that is health insurance. In the mean time I'm walking around like a zombie working 2 full time jobs (the 9 to 5er and my own creative business) looking for a safe solution. So obviously I can relate to issues surrounding being an artist/craftsperson, and, in the US in particular, health care costs are so exorbitant, not just procedures or doctor's visits, but the cost of medicine. So far both of the recipients have had surgery (=$$$$$$), subsequent treatments and follow up visits. You're talking a lot of money at that point, and, as I've said before, we all gotta pitch in and help out in what ever ways we can!

M: Obviously there are a lot of freelancers/crafters out there with out health insurance. There are also a lot of altruistic crafters running around out there. Where do you see this type of effort heading?

That's such a foggy area, it's hard to envision. As the field of crafts gains respect as a viable career, I'd hope more insurance companies would realize the trend and offer suitable options for crafts people. Some do, and sometimes it depends on the state laws (again, here in the US). The Graphic Designer's Guild offers great insight into the laws and options available. So I guess part of the effort is to educate and share information about options so crafters aren't stuck neck-deep in debt when health care issues arise.
At the same time, I hope more non-profit groups rise up as a collective (even simply grassroots efforts like Wonderland Retreat) to help the crafting community out when one of "ours" is in need.


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