Pillow Talk

A Conversation with Leslie Leedy, Owner of Leslie & Co.

Today I would like to introduce you to Leslie Leedy, a multi-talented artist whose artful pillow creations are featured at LTD2, our Rowe location. I love a good pillow, not only for the design elements they bring to a room, but also, many times, for the messages and scenes and colors they depict. A pillow is huggable art to me!

Leslie is a hairdresser by trade and just recently added a very special member of her family to her team. She also tells me she is branching out in her business. We are proud to introduce you to Leslie Leedy, owner of Leslie & Co, and another wonderful member of our Dream Team!

Living the Dream,

Lynne

 

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“What’s your story?” Tell us about your family and where you are from.

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 I come from a family of artists – art and sewing have always been part of my life, from my grandmother’s carvings, pen & inks, and yarn work to my mother’s painting and quilts – but I have been working towards becoming a serious “wanna be” full-time creator within the last 10 years.

I’m originally from New Jersey but I say I grew up in Virginia, moving here when I was seventeen. The influences of my youth have help mold my love of art and marketing. Taking in the vibes of NYC are a large part of those influences.

I understand you are in business with your mother in law and that you are a hairdresser by trade. That’s an interesting combination.

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Leslie & Co. pillows just recently came to be when my mother-in-law moved in with my husband and me.  I casually mentioned my yearning to create some pillows. My mother-in-law was extremely excited to use some of her time and expertise and meticulous sewing talents.

As of now, Leslie & Co. is a small one person hair studio with a part-time home-based pillow factory (meaning my house is a mess).  The positive side of our recent move from Virginia Beach to this area, is the time I have had to explore my true passions.

Tell us about your company. How did LTD 7 come into play with your business?

Leslie & Co. pillows are new being sold at LTD 7.2 in Staunton off I-81. I feel this shop is a great fit for us as they attract many travelers from throughout the country. Also, the loyal shoppers to LTD 7’s sister store in another part of Staunton are encouraged to visit both locations.

I met Lynne, owner of LTD, by chance – I had been searching for a store in this area that I felt met the “fit” for our pillows and art.  I had a large bag of pillows in my vehicle.  I was making cold-calls…pillow peddling, I call it.  Lynne wasn’t quite sure if we were a fit, but I pushed until she gave me an, “Ok, let’s try it.”  The Rowe Rd. location seemed a great fit for me – everything from management to LTD7’s dream team seemed right.

 Do you dream of branching out? What are your long range plans?

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 I recognized the older I got, the more important my inner creative spirit drove me to become a more complete me. Leslie & Co. has recently dived into another creative avenue – recycling and painting furniture, and incorporating paints with fabrics and home décor to the pillow line. Things such as banners and vintage wallpaper art are all part of a whole vision

What would you like to share with dreamers like you? What one piece of advice would you say pushed you the furthest in your dream?

I read once that a true entrepreneur keeps moving toward a goal no matter how large or minimal it may seem to others. If your passion is real, the fruits of your labor will present themselves in a positive way for all the universe to enjoy.

 

 

 

The Tale of the Shamrock

 

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Today’s featured vendor is a very special lady, a talent extraordinaire, and a wonderful person, both inside and out. Anyone would be pleased to call her “friend.” Her work never ceases to amaze me and is always inspiring.  I am so pleased to feature, Ms. Demetra Turner. Enjoy her story!

Living the Dream,

Lynne

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Even though you express yourself through your art, our readers would love to know more about you.

  1. Tell us where you are from, if you are married, any children, grandchildren.

I was born in Salem, Virginia. I now reside in Waynesboro. I am divorced and I have two wonderful grown boys that live in Dallas, Texas.
I also have a special little 6 year old in my life. His name is Sean, and I’m his “Mimi” and he is my heart!

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  1. What is your special dream business and how did you get started in it? What’s your “story?” When did you first know that you had a special gift?

 From the age of 3 I was interested in art. I used to draw family members on my chalkboard that my family raved about, so I quickly became “the artist in the family.” My mom was very good at sketching, although she never took it seriously, but whenever we had to wait at the bus station or in a doctor’s office she would give me a pad and pencil and we would sketch together, to keep me occupied.
At the age of five or six, I loved watching “The Jon Gnagy Show,” on our black and white TV. I watched it every time it came on. I was enthralled with the drawings he did, so that year my parents surprised me with my very own Jon Gnagy drawing set! I also loved “I Dream of Jeanie,” so I drew her a lot!

When I was in high school, my classmates would get me to draw their pets or their boyfriends or girlfriends and sometimes ask me to illustrate a story from class. I charged $5.00 each for those drawings. My first sales!

When I got married and started a family my art went on the back burner until 1989 when a friend and I were asked to hand paint some sweatshirts and canvas bags for The Belle Grae Inn’s gift shop. We divided them up and started painting, but my friend couldn’t finish hers and went to bed, so I stayed up all night long and finished all of them! I was tired, but I was driven! We delivered them on time the next day and got a nice check in return! I think that was my first realization that people might actually pay money for my art! It was a good feeling!

 2.Tell us about the variety of products you work with and what is your favorite.

 After the family drawings and high school portraits, I continued painting canvas bags and shirts, and I sold them all. But then, I discovered gourds! I bought some at a yard sale. They were moldy but I thought I would clean them up and set them around the house for decoration. After they sat on my porch for six months, I decided to paint on one and I hated it. I didn’t like the way the paint felt on it at all so I left them alone again for another six months. Eventually, I tried again and this time it was magic!

I painted everything from farm scenes to Santas and I decided to take them to my friend’s workplace. The ladies in the office went crazy over them and I sold $165 worth that day alone!

I painted gourds exclusively for a few years and then added slate into the mix. I especially liked the irregular nature of slate. It was like I could see what needed to be painted on it, from it’s shape alone.

For five years, in the mid 90’s, I hosted a Christmas Open House at my home in Middlebrook. We lived in the old Shamrock Farm home, up on a hill. I sent out 95 invitations the first year and by the 5th year the list had grown to over 500 people! People came from far and wide to enjoy the ambiance, eat the delicious food that my friend, Sheila Ishee, catered and buy my artwork!

  1. This is not a full time job for you. Do you think some day it will be? Why or why not? What is the biggest obstacle/hurdle you have to pursuing this special dream of yours?

I continued painting and did several local shows for a time and then went through some personal valleys and didn’t paint much at all for about eight years. Fast forward to several years ago, I decided to get serious about my work. I had started making jewelry and was now doing mixed media incorporating fabric and paper into my paintings. I was doing some shows again. Lynne Breeden contacted me after seeing my art on Etsy and asked me to be a vendor at The MaDee Project benefit! I said “YES!”

I eventually came on board with LTD 7.

 My mission on this earthly journey is to take this gift I’ve been given and use it to the best of my ability. My desire is that I will, one day, be able to do this full time. In my mind it already is full time, because I’m constantly thinking and creating. It never stops.

  1. Where does your inspiration come from?

I get inspiration from everything…everywhere! I can get lost for days on Pinterest!

  1. Is there a spiritual reference in your artwork?

 Many people don’t know this; I get asked frequently about the shamrock that I always put beside my name on my paintings. When all of this started with the gourds I was looking for a recognizable symbol that I could use, that would have a special meaning and would be easy to paint. I knew that the shamrock had been used in times past to explain the Trinity.  I wanted to give God the glory for blessing me, so every piece of art bears a tiny shamrock. It’s my way of recognizing His hand in all of this.


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Tell us a story about the one item that a customer may have purchased or ordered that touched you in a way no other has.

There have been so many special moments with my products over the years! People come up to me all the time and tell me that they still hang my ornaments out each year or tell me a story where something I painted or created meant so much to them.

Just recently Anne Whitehouse, the manager at LTD 7.2, told me about a lady that came into the Rowe store and was looking a long time at one of my small mixed media paintings that had a quote on it. She told Anne that she had just come from burying her sister and with tears in her eyes said that quote reminded her of her sister so she bought the painting.  It’s moments like that that I’m most grateful for, knowing that the Lord is using this gift He’s given me to touch others lives. 

 8. How do you get your artwork out to various outlets? Do you have an agent, do you recommend another artist getting one and why?

 I think having an agent is certainly helpful for things like licensing but it’s not something that happens overnight and it’s not a “get rich quick” process, for sure! I think the exposure I get from having my work in LTD 7 and now, both locations of Absolutely Outer Banks in Nagshead, and Duck, North Carolina  makes me happy.

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My story of getting an agent goes like this: Mainline Art and Design, saw my art on Etsy, and they wanted to be my agent! Does this happen for real? I couldn’t believe it! I always thought this was something I had to pursue! I thought it was a hoax at first.

After I came down off my cloud and four long years later, I finally got a call from an international art licensing agency about a painting I had done of three witches around a cauldron. (I make canvas prints of it and have cards available at LTD 7). They wanted to mass produce that image and I was over the moon with excitement!

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They needed it to be a certain size and for some odd reason I could not send it to them in the size they needed! My agent tried, also unsuccessfully, and I even enlisted the help of a fellow vendor and her expertise-all to no avail.  I was beside myself. To make a very long story short, it didn’t work out and I was devastated. I had waited four long years for this and then nothing!

After I recovered from licking my wounds, I gave it all to the Lord. I realized that I had put way too much emphasis on that milestone and if it was going to happen, it would, when it was time. And wouldn’t you  know…the very next week my Frosty Friends snowman painting was licensed and was put on small and large garden flags and sold nationwide through Toland Home and Garden!

I learned a big lesson in that whole fiasco, and that was to keep my focus on what I’m supposed to be doing-creating-and the Lord will take care of the rest!

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I’ve since had another painting licensed by Manual Woodworkers and that image, Colorful Costa, was put on bedding, rugs and shower curtains.

 9. What is your favorite store for supplies?

 I’m always gathering supplies from Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Dick Blick, Etsy and even yard sales.

  1. What advice would you like to share with dreamers like you? What piece of wisdom or lesson learned would you say pushed you the furthest in your dream?

People tell me all the time that I’m so talented and they they don’t have any talent at all. I disagree! I believe the Lord gives all of us gifts. Your gift may not be artistic, but whatever it is,  it’s still a gift that’s just for you. If you have a passion in your heart for something, just do it! Even if it’s small or seems insignificant, just take that first step and don’t ever ever give up! Taking that step may just open up a world of possibility!