A Life Sustained Sponsor: The Handmade Classroom

Please welcome A Life Sustained sponsor The Handmade Classroom!


Aly designs and makes whimsical cloth teaching tools. In her words...


Greetings! I’m so happy to be featured here. If I may, I’ll introduce myself...my name is Aly Parrott, and I am the founder, production manager, marketing director, book keeper and lead inventor here at The Handmade Classroom, a small studio in rural upstate New York dedicated to creating whimsical and imaginative art, toys and tools for classrooms, homeschool families and...well, anyone looking for unique ways to learn and teach.


I’m a recent graduate of The Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, MO, where I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to integrate my interests in literature, creative writing, art history, science and education into a unique studio practice. I enjoy searching for the best Mexican food in any town I travel to, long walks on the beach (no, really...), long walks anywhere, having every color of things (thread, markers, hairties, socks, etc.), hiking, teaching, playing board games, reading (usually in the form of listening to audiobooks), and inventing things...like Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. 

My mom, my brother, Colton (he has the tattoo), and my boyfriend, Tom (he has the beard). 
A robin's nest in the works...now you know how I sew the magnets in!

Tell us about your journey to becoming an artist/maker of things. 

I’m trying to think of a way to say this that doesn’t echo the standard “I’ve been creating things since birth,” answer but it really is true. The dependent variable in my life has been making...the purposes, inspirations and methods have evolved, but the making itself is a constant. I remember when I was in eighth grade, and the Twin Towers had just gone down...if anything really solidified making as a form of therapy and raw expression, it was the week or so following that mid-September day. I think I, and many of my peers, as New Yorkers, were looking for a way to express feelings with no name...I think a lot of poets and artists emerged that day. From then it’s been about focusing, experimenting, learning, and living as much as possible (because you have to have something to make art about, right?).

Walks are a nightly ritual...for my family and anyone else who happens to join us!

Art school was a time of abandon...I think everyone goes though the best and the worst time in their life in art school. It’s a strange place, but if you have great teachers (like I did) they will see you through to the other side, and you will have picked up a few useful things along the way. You also get the opportunity to do things you thought you would never do...I took a performance art workshop that allowed me to find a raw means of expression that was just amazing. Long story short...it’s all been a subtractive process. Chipping away at the things I don’t want to do, or don’t really work to find the things that I’m absolutely in love with. 

I've been lucky enough to be inspired by moments like this one in Paris. 
Sherlock Holmes, Star Wars, Virgina Woolf, and science books...gotta keep things interesting!

What inspires you? 

Hah! You might be sorry you asked, because the things that inspire me are endless. I try to be inspired by something at least once a day...twice on Sundays. If it really is just a day of short circuits, I watch something or listen to something to help inspire me...and this can be anything from 1970s miniseries to nature documentaries. If that doesn’t work, I take a walk. With myself, my dog, or another human. If I can’t find something after all of that, I do something completely meditative like spinning wool or crocheting...again, it’s all about chipping away. It’s in there somewhere. Here’s a list of the things that have been inspiring me lately: 

I try to keep things organized, but when I'm finished with a piece, things always end up looking like this. 

my sewing machine, my students’ artwork, the buds on my lilac trees, George Harrison’s music, my new Nikon, my rockstar baby brother (Colton Parrott...it’ll be a household name before you know it), the story of Persephone, butterfly life cycles, my Smithsonian encyclopedia of wildlife, Planet Earth, the Etsy community, Stephen King (seriously. the man has a gift for creating things that are 100% memorable), Ireland, polar bears, nursery rhymes, Joseph Campbell, Downton Abbey (oh, the costumes...), hearing about what my friends from school are up to, my Mom (an amazing fiber artist herself), The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries (which I was lucky enough to see at the Cluny in Paris), pomegranates, Icelandic myths...it really does keep going. 

Little Reds in progress...no two alike!

What do you enjoy most about teaching little ones? 

The stories I get to tell my friends on Friday nights. Everyone else is talking about who said what to whom in the lunch room and how many miserable customers they had to deal with, and I get to talk about the ‘royal ball’ we had, teaching the kids how to waltz, and the pirate-king costume I helped one of my boys make. Katie wrote her name for the first time, Max drew a rainbow (he made sure to ask which color came next each time), Nate learned how to do jumping jacks...it really makes you step back and appreciate the important things! Also (and I know its an ego-trip) it feels wonderful when a kid runs up to their mom or dad at the end of the day and says, “Hey...bats are nocturnal!” or “can we go get this book at the library?” It’s not that they know the information, it’s that they’re excited about it, and want to continue exploring the possibilities that come with it. 


Tell us about your favorite piece in your shop and describe your process in designing and making it. 

I think as far as design, I would have to say my pear tree. It’s my favorite color green. I love the cutout leaves and the overlay. I had it in my heard for a long time...it felt so natural in the making process. As far as bringing together my diverse interests and really personifying the possibilities of my shop, it would have to be any of the cloth fairytale pieces (Little Red Riding Hood, The Fates, The Little Mermaid). The genesis of those was really my junior year in college when I did a felt board installation at the Kansas City Public Library. It was a who’s who of western fairytales...Red Riding Hood, Snow White, the Little Mermaid, Rapunzel, Puss in Boots, among others, hand drawn and then transferred onto felt. I also made little pockets listing various archetypes (ie. the Prince, the Princess, the Evil Queen, the Orphan, the Servant, etc) so the characters could be placed into the pockets by the children coming for story hours. 


I loved making it, and it was well received by the librarians and the children...three years later, I went back to it and asked ‘Ok...how can I make this my own?’ I’m good with drawing...but nothing special. I wanted to figure out how to make these drawings something that was more unique to me, and something more visually and sensorially dynamic for children. So I drew a picture of Little Red on muslin and then ‘drew’ it with my sewing machine. What came out was like 7,000,000 times better than the drawings themselves because I had added something to it that I felt comfortable with and which came more naturally to me than drawing with a pen. 


I have a hard time explaining my process...on one hand, I’m all over the place with my sewing machine...like my students, totally carefree. On the other hand, I meticulously embroider the tiny faces and add painstaking details for hours on end. The fairytale creations bring those two things together in such a way that they are still playful enough for children to use, yet I’ve had several adults purchase them for themselves. Of course all of this description is afterthought...usually when I make something I’m so lost in it that I I do my last stich, step back and go “did that really just happen?”


If you would like to connect with Aly at The Handmade Classroom, you can do so through Facebook or Twitter.

Aly is generously offering to one A Life Sustained reader a $30 gift certificate to her shop! All you have to do to enter the random drawing to win is leave a comment on this post. Comments will be closed in the evening of April 21 and a winner will be announced here shortly thereafter.

Get two extra entries! First you can add The Handmade Classroom to your Etsy favorites. Second, you can share this giveaway via Twitter or Facebook. Be sure to leave a comment for each "extra" so that they can be counted.

The lucky winner is...
KC Pagano
"Her toys are amazing! Thank you so much for introducing us to her!"

Thanks to Aly at The Handmade Classroom!

94 comments:

  1. OM- I love Ally's work- I certainly would not share it with my kids- I love the 3 fates- works of art! Thanks for the chance to win!

    ReplyDelete
  2. what fun stuff! Thanks for sharing her with us!

    ReplyDelete
  3. How lovely!! Thanks for sharing her :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, thanks Aly! You are very generous. I'm glad to learn about your work through this blog :)
    Thank you for the giveaway :)
    hurdler4eva(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  5. I heart TheHandmadeClassroom on Etsy - my Etsy name is Hurdler4eva
    Thank you for the giveaway :)
    hurdler4eva(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  6. I tweeted about the giveaway, I'm @AmberGoo, and here's a link to my Tweet:
    https://twitter.com/#!/AmberGoo/status/191631818380935168
    Thank you for the giveaway :)
    hurdler4eva(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh my! Her things are so fun and unique!!! I love this!

    thecountryblossom at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  8. I favorited her etsy shop! katy010305

    thecountryblossom at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Tweeted! https://twitter.com/#!/KatyLMA/status/191635006026825729

    thecountryblossom at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Nice work!! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh my goodness! Her work is beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I favorited her etsy shop!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Wow!! Aly's creations are so beautiful! I love them all.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for sharing! Her work looks beautiful, I would love to share some with my boys - thanks for the chance to win!

    ReplyDelete
  15. That apple tree looks like something I would like to play with!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interesting stuff. I like the cloth fairy tales pieces.

    nineteen19 at blackfoot dot net

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love their Montessori Magnetic Wool Felt Counting & Sorting Work. Apple tree. Made to Order (5-7 Business Days).
    niuniuzheng at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  18. awesome.

    sparmeland(at)optonline(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love her work and hope I win!

    sunnybrookdc1@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. I HEARTED HER ON ETSY

    SUNNYBROOKDC1@YAHOO.COM

    ReplyDelete
  21. I would love to win!

    BeckyMarie621 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love the Montessori Magnetic Wool Felt Bee and Honeycomb Work

    beckymarie621 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  23. These are so great! My kids would love them!

    hrfarley at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  24. These are really great and so unique. I think my kids would have alot of fun with them!

    megnate at telus dot net

    ReplyDelete
  25. I heart TheHandmadeClassroom on etsy (id: megnate)

    megnate at telus dot net

    ReplyDelete
  26. I tweeted: https://twitter.com/#!/zaira_faith/status/192101322588291072

    megnate at telus dot net

    ReplyDelete
  27. These items are all so wonderful
    eugeniewu at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  28. I hearted The Handmade Classroom on Etsy.
    eugeniewu at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  29. Shared on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=338829612839166&id=100000413913778
    eugeniewu at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  30. Beautiful work! I especially love the "handmade universe" section in her shop.

    marija.majerle at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  31. I hearted the etsy shop -- username bokononist

    marija.majerle at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  32. Love this artist! I am going to share her wonderful work, thank you for showcasing such a unique talent!

    ReplyDelete
  33. These teaching tools are amazing! takes me back a few years.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Tweeted the giveaway! :)

    @MunchTalks
    http://munchtalk.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  35. Added it to my etsy favs!

    SoliloquyShoppe
    http://munchtalk.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  36. Very cool stuff!
    tara.huff(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  37. These items would be great in my homeschool classroom! makenna.held@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  38. Favorite-d her to my etsy! makenna.held@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  39. What a great giveaway!!! I have my fingers crossed! Thanks.
    yanuzo at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  40. Nice work! Thanks for the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
  41. i tweeted
    https://twitter.com/#!/yanuzo/status/192610980142919682
    yanuzo at hotmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  42. What gorgeous creations! Thanks for the chance :-)

    ReplyDelete
  43. THC is on my list of favorites at etsy :)

    ReplyDelete
  44. incredible work! I would love to win!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Her toys are amazing! Thank you so much for introducing us to her!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Excellent work! Love the three fates at the top.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Such beautiful work! Thanks for the giveaway :o)

    ReplyDelete
  48. Added to my Etsy favorites, too!

    ReplyDelete
  49. And just shared the giveaway on my page on Facebook!
    https://www.facebook.com/FeatheredNestStudio

    ReplyDelete
  50. liked on FB :-) the fruit trees are too cute!

    ReplyDelete
  51. also favorited on etsy - love your shop!

    ReplyDelete
  52. Lovely giveaway! Thanks for the chance to win!

    ReplyDelete
  53. I'm a proud owner of two of Aly's pieces - they're even better "in person"!
    Really loved the writing/ideas/photos in the "Life Sustained" piece above.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Wow, Fantastic, got my fingers crossed!

    ReplyDelete
  55. I have shared on Facebook!!

    ReplyDelete
  56. And added to my Fav's on Etsy. Thanks :)

    ReplyDelete
  57. The description of the chipping away to find your creative voice has been a truth of mine too. Love your stuff.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Absolutely gorgeous and inspiring stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  59. So great! LOVE the art, inspiring.

    ReplyDelete
  60. it's a no-brainer, she's an etsy favorite!

    ReplyDelete
  61. this stuff is awesome! thanks for the generosity!

    ReplyDelete
  62. Favorited you on etsy (I am bubba pickle's market)

    ReplyDelete
  63. Oh My. Thank you for the spotlight On Aly's work. It's amazing!

    ReplyDelete
  64. I have of course have shared this generous giveaway on my facebook page.
    http://www.facebook.com/HinterlandMama

    ReplyDelete
  65. I don't 'tweet' however, I am more than happy to like Aly's facebook page. I'd love to keep up to date with what she's up to.
    Same goes for her etsy store.
    Thank you again ღ

    ReplyDelete
  66. Pick me ! Pick me ! They are all wonderful, great for homeschool.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Thank you for introducing me to such a talented artist! I love everything about her store and this interview.

    ReplyDelete
  68. I added her shop to my etsy favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Love your blog, (or whatever it is.)Bit jealous, though. I can knit, have done since I was 5(dolls needed clothes!)and love counted cross stitch, little bits. You start with blank cloth, and end with a picture. Knitting? you start with a ball of wool, 2 needles and end up with a usable thing. Don't sew, but love your ideas.
    All the best.Marilyn Craig (Baby boomer and proud Australian.)

    ReplyDelete
  70. wow! her stuff is amazing! i love it!

    ReplyDelete
  71. OMG love her work! It is AMAZING! If I won, I would totally get the Stormy Weather -- Wool Felt Felted Embroidered Storm Garland (Made to Order. 5-7 Business days)!! Love it!
    http://www.etsy.com/listing/82519509/stormy-weather-wool-felt-felted
    Angie
    14earth at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  72. I faved/hearted them via Etsy as FotoMacro.
    Angie
    14earth at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  73. I tweeted here: https://twitter.com/#!/MsTofuFairy/status/193437250657337345
    Angie
    14earth at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  74. I am in love with the apple tree! http://www.etsy.com/listing/82516569/montessori-magnetic-wool-felt-counting

    ReplyDelete
  75. I favorited The Handmade Classroom on Etsy!

    ReplyDelete
  76. krisj_27@hotmail.com

    You are very talented! I would love to win some stuff for my goddaughter, she is such a hands on learner.

    ReplyDelete
  77. Thanks so much for the giveaway!
    mummytocharis{at}yahoo{dot}com

    ReplyDelete
  78. Added The Handmade Classroom to my Etsy favorites {Sarah Jane}.
    mummytocharis{at}yahoo{dot}com

    ReplyDelete
  79. Shared the giveaway on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/mummytocharis/status/193805612063268864
    mummytocharis{at}yahoo{dot}com

    ReplyDelete