Recently I had a phonecall from an unknown mobile number. Being an introvert (plus rarely having a free hand), I usually let these go to voicemail because if it's important they will call back or leave a message. But on this occasion I answered only to be greeted with a trembling voice struggling to speak through tears. My initial assumption was that it was a client of my OT services frustrated by waiting times on equipment I had recommended to their funding body.....but it was so much better. It was a customer of Heartbeat Handicrafts who had just received their order of a custom keyring representing their beloved dog. The customer had called in tears of joy because they found the keyring was such a true likeness of their dog that it brought them joy, unlike the sadness they felt from some other memorial items they had collected.
It's actually not the first and I hope not the last time I receive a phonecall (or message) from a customer letting me know just how meaningful their pet memorial item is. The sense of fulfillment and pride I get each and every time I receive feedback or a review like this is a big part of why I have come to settle in the niche field of sculpting custom pet-themed gifts and accessories.
The history and evolution of HH
Heartbeat Handicrafts was born back in 2015 when I was living in regional South Australia. As a way to unwind from a high-pressure occupational therapy role in mental health, I would immerse myself into craft in the evenings and on the weekend.
Being creative has always been a big part of my down time and I’m lucky enough to have had the backing of my wonderful customers to grow Heartbeat Handicrafts into my main form of employment. Working from home has also enabled me to spend as much time as possible with my 2yo son and now 6mo twins, plus have the flexibility to travel without needing to request annual leave from an employer.
After experimenting with a few different mediums in the early days, I found my true passion in polymer clay and more specifically sculpting pets from polymer clay. As my skills developed and I added acrylic paint detailing, I found the outcome of the pet creations I sculpted increasingly lifelike in nature.
One of my favourite parts of business is hearing the stories of the beloved pets behind my creations and the reaction when they are gifted or received (never could I have imagined being the cause of so many tears). Pets are such an important part of so many lives and being able to sculpt a cherished memento with my own hands is so fulfilling. I feel pride in being able to design and craft the perfect gift for customers to help ease the pain of a loved one grieving the loss of a pet. I also love to share in the joy of creating a pet wedding cake topper or cufflinks to feature on such a special occasion.
Since Heartbeat Handicrafts began, I have also spent time living in rural Queensland, East Gippsland in Victoria, and now call Adelaide home again. Each move was due my husband being in quite a specific industry for work and I have come to appreciate just how mobile running an e-commerce business can be.
From OT to artist
Now some people may find a career change from a government employed allied health clinician to self-employed creative quite extreme, but there are some aspects that do overlap. Firstly, both are in essence are about attention to detail and customer service. OT in general is a on the more creative end of the spectrum when it comes to health professions, so it's not surprising that many OTs have artistic tendencies.
One of the big differences now that I work more in a more of a consultancy manner is that I rarely, if ever, hear whether I have made a meaningful difference to the client's life. Whilst this way of working is convenient for me at present, I do miss the validation of more ongoing interactions with clients and reviewing the progress achieved.
I'm giving myself the next few years to decide which direction to take my career, so for now I'm planning to continue to with a small amount of OT work whilst building Heartbeat Handicrafts.