This interview was originally published in the November 2015 issue of Happily Hooked Magazine.
The MadMadme line of crochet patterns, and the brand’s clay-handled crochet hooks and notions all have a unique, distinctive style. That style is a direct result of the Mad Queen behind them, Charissa Ragsdale. Charissa loves colour, is passionate about her work, and is a strong, positive force for other makers around her. I got to interview her recently!
Charissa, you seem to be a crafty person in general. How did that happen?
I grew up in a family of crafters and artists. Yarn, paint, and fabric were just a part of my life. My Auntie taught me my first crochet stitches when I was nine years old and I’ve often turned to yarn to keep my hands busy. I cannot stand idle hands and I think all humans need a creative outlet. The portability and diversity that crochet offers was just too alluring to pass up. I’ve been stitching since I was a kid.
What led you to turn that long-term relationship with crochet into a business?
I didn’t intend to start a business at first. Just before my fortieth birthday, I moved from San Diego to Tennessee, 2,000 miles away from my friends and family. In preparation for that time away, I started MadMadme.com as a place to share with them all of the stuff we were doing as a family and as handy folk.
It turns out that a few more folks were interested in our activities than just the family and friends. Today the blog is a combo of my crafting, cooking, and our new lives in Tennessee.
After the move, I turned to crochet and Facebook for some company. Some of my yarn doodles were interesting enough to people that I wrote my first pattern. That pattern was soon followed by another. Both were pretty successful – far exceeding my expectations. This launched my social media presence. Soon the Facebook page was growing, as well as the blog readership.
Shortly after I published those patterns, I started sharing my clay work, and that is when things really started happening for MadMadme.
Is MadMadme your full time job?
Sometimes it is! And I don’t really want it to be, not right now anyway. I still have three kiddos at home (albeit 19, 16, and 10… not babies by any means) and they do require a full time mom. I love homemaking; it’s my first love. Something about a well-feathered nest is more satisfying to me than just about anything.
I work alone, but with the support of a great group of other small business owners that I’ve known for a few years (shameless plug for Mad Mad Makers). I never feel alone in what I do: I have help marketing, I get advice and encouragement from others that are in the same stage of business, and though I may produce my items on my own, it’s still a team effort.
What is the technique you use to make your famous hooks?
Are they famous?! That is great to hear!
The technique is called Millefiori, and is borrowed from Venetian glass work. It consists of layering colors to make canes or logs. It’s a technique that was also used in wood marquetry and even in ancient Greek floor tiles.
The clay allows me to offer a variety of items! I now offer crochet hooks, beads, buttons, hair sticks, stitch markers, tins and jars, pens, and even blocking pins. And of course, I am still writing crochet patterns. I’ll be doing that when I’m 90.
What inspires your designs?
Color! All of my designs start with grouping colors of clay, mixing new colors, and letting the colors determine the design. For instance, I put blues, greens and translucent bits together, and it reminded me of dragonfly wings. Eureka! A dragonfly cane is what I made.
What are your favorite yarns to work with?
I’m a variegated yarn addict. I love rich colors, and long color changes. I use a lot of acrylic and cotton yarns. I really do love the way cotton yarns bring out the texture in the stitch work.
Share a mishap, learning experience, favorite part of the adventure, something personal, etc with readers.
Mishap? Heh. I’m near-famous for my mishaps. From nearly setting my yarn on fire in a photo shoot, to forgetting to mention my own name or the name of my business in an introduction video for Design Wars. I like to blame these things on my being a creative person.
Where do you hope MadMadme goes next?
This is a tough one. I have BIG ideas but I have no idea how to implement them! I’m figuring it out as I go.
I would LOVE to start my own line of yarn. I know, sounds crazy, but I just love color and I adore yarn. If I could have any Mad wish come true, it would be to start a line of yarn, have total control over colors and fiber, and invite amazing designers to work with it and write crochet and knit patterns for it.
Do I see it happening? Yes. I certainly do, but the timeline and path are a bit foggy at the moment. It is my deeply held belief that we cannot accomplish our goals alone. We need to connect with others, mingle with a whole pool of creatives and be open with each other. I love supporting the work of others and I will continue to do that as I pursue my own dreams one baby step at a time.
Thank you, Charissa!
You can follow the Mad Mad Queen and all of her mad adventures on these platforms: