The Orange Resident Behind Dear Handmade Life and Patchwork Show

Nicole Stevenson is the CEO and creative director of Dear Handmade Life, a blog, podcast, and organization behind the long-running Patchwork Show—a community event featuring local makers.
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

What began in 2007 as a small crafters market in a Santa Ana parking lot has evolved into a biannual, multicity modern makers festival. Stevenson, the woman behind Patchwork Show, likens it to being able to walk around a physical iteration of Etsy. Dozens of vendors selling everything from handmade greeting cards and candles to clothing and home goods are joined by food trucks, live music, DIY stations, and even a special section for under-18 artisans called Patchwork Junior. “When we began,” Stevenson says, “there really weren’t any local craft shows in Orange County. I had my own handmade business, and I used to have to sell at church bazaars and flea markets.”

Her focus at the time was a handcrafted clothing line called Random Nicole, a venture that began on the Venice Beach boardwalk and became a six-figure business. As the Patchwork Show grew over the next four years, Stevenson launched a complementary conference for makers called Craftcation, featuring four days of more than 200 crafting and business classes as well as networking events. “Eventually, I felt much more drawn to serving other creatives, and I did less and less of my own handmade business until I finally let it go.”

With the launch of a blog and podcast, the brand came together under the umbrella of Dear Handmade Life in 2013. The blog offers resources to help artisans with their businesses as well as DIY tutorials on projects such as marbled wood bead keychains, photo mobiles, hand-embroidered necklaces, and more. On the “Dear Handmade Life” podcast, Stevenson chats with guests about topics ranging from building brand awareness to imposter syndrome and everything in between. Makers also can enroll in a virtual summer camp, an idea that was born out of the necessity of social distancing but proved to be a winning concept.

“When I first started this business, I started it with my aunt and partner Delilah Snell. When she moved on from Dear Handmade Life in 2018, I had to pivot and think about things differently. It was going awesome, and then boom, COVID-19 happened, and everything had to change again. Plus, I had just had a baby and was dealing with postpartum depression. Coming out of that and moving forward with the virtual camp and getting back into the live events—it has renewed my passion for it and made me realize this is where I really want to be: sharing what I’ve learned with other people to help shorten that learning curve.”

Handmade goods and fairs are much more ubiquitous in Orange County these days than they were when Stevenson started Dear Handmade Life. “There are a lot more craft shows now. I think that some people in my position might feel like that’s bad because there’s more competition, but I don’t feel that way. The more people are into buying handmade, and understand what goes into making handmade items, the better. You can’t compare something handmade with something you bought at Target. It’s a completely different thing. And I just want to support those businesses as much as possible.”

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