Makers to Know: Samantha Leung of HandmadeSam*Made

This week, I'm thrilled to talk more with Sam, the maker behind Handmade SamMade. She creates modern interpretations of the traditional Himmeli, which often become a new home to air plants and flowers. Her designs are versatile, minimalistic, and lighthearted - a perfect addition to any space. Fun fact: the geometric mobile that she created for me has hung above my bed for months, and I'm certain that this is why geometric lines have made their way into my work!

BB: For those of us who are meeting you for the first time, tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started?

SL: I have been a maker my entire life. And to be totally honest - I thought it was absolutely normal to wood burn, solder, and do carpentry before the age of 10. I remember being 5 years old and building my own playground set with my brother and my Dad. I dug post holes, poured and mixed cement, and helped measure and cut wood. It wasn't a chore - it was exciting. We didn't get those fancy package play sets. We went to the lumber yard and bought wood. As a result, we were the only kids in the neighborhood to have a bridge, and to have closable windows in their tree house. 

I got my first real job when I was 14. And I started my first creative entrepreneurial business when I was 16 - we got together in between clubs at school and my other job. With two friends, we made custom costumes and clothing. People would e-mail us a photo of what they wanted and their measurements and we would make our own patterns.

And I started Handmade Sam*Made after a cross country move. My husband and I relocated to Seattle from Chicago. I didn't have a job, and I didn't know what to do. So I started selling things that I made, and here I am.

BB: You make brass geometric mobiles, aka, himmeli. What drew you to himmeli? Can you tell us a bit about their significance to you?

SL: I was initially drawn to himmeli because they were these beautiful complex, geometric shapes. These mobiles were so complex, intricate and layered. Historically these himmeli mobiles are made out of reeds or straw in Finland and Sweden. They hang them over their dining room table during the holidays, and believe that the larger the himmeli, the larger their rye crop will be in the coming year. 

The reeds or straws were made from a previous harvest, used to make something new to foreshadow the future.

Like the history of these pieces, I initially utilized a lot of the original shapes from traditional pieces, and have helped to create something more. Something new. New designs that have been brought into the modern world.

BB: What has been one of the biggest challenges for you in choosing to have a creative career, and how have you worked to overcome that?

SL: The biggest challenge, by far, has been to continue to evolve. To keep pushing myself to make something original.

Collective consciousness, being inspired by others, and incorporating traditional styles and techniques are all very real things. Taking all of that - or even trying to shut all of that noise out, and creating something original is where the magic is.

BB: Do you have any big dreams for your shop? Where do you hope to see yourself & your work 5-10 years from now? 

SL: For long term goals - it might be a bit abstract, but I think that I just want to be happy. Either doing this, designing and making Himmeli, traveling the world with my husband, owning an alpaca farm. Life is a process of continuous evolution. I am simply happy to see where life takes me.

BB: What does a typical work day look like for you? 

SL: First of all, I am a night owl, so I wake up between 8-10AM and start out by checking on all of my plants and air plants. The best time to water and care for them is early in the morning. It regulates their life cycle. Right now my husband and I are also growing mushrooms - so I like to ensure that the substrate is looking good.

Then it's off to work in my office. I begin by evaluating what has come in overnight. And I respond to messages, e-mails, quotes and custom requests for the first 2-5 hours of my day. I take breaks to post to social media, to respond to comments, DMs and PMs, drink about 3 cups of coffee, and have lunch.

The rest of the day is determined by what needs to be done. I have a few notebooks and planners that I utilize to keep me on track and to ensure that nothing is missed. Right now I use the Simpified Planner by Emily Ley, the planner by Craftsposure, a continuous to-do list by Bison Bookbinding, post its, and a bulletin board.

If I am scheduled to build, I then prepare all of the materials for what needs to be made that day, and build himmeli.

My husband and I love to cook, so each night we take the time to make dinner from scratch. It ensures that we have time that we are not only together, but that we are being mindful, focusing on what we are doing and spending time together to make something delicious. We had the most incredible Miner's lettuce salad last night. The recipe for the dressing was by Matt Dillon - and we're slowly making our way through Chrissy Teigan's cookbook "Cravings" and all of Fuchsia Dunlop's cookbooks.

And then after dinner, it's back to work. I'm fortunate to have my husband do my accounting for me - so each night he works on accounting, while I work on orders, or whatever is on my schedule.

He heads to bed around 1 or 2AM, I will continue working until around 2 or 3AM, and then I catch up on news and read in bed until around 4AM. Right now I am reading "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert. It's absolutely wonderful so far. 

And then it's rest, and repeat.

BB: You clearly have a love for air plants, why do you think that these plants make the perfect pair for your geometric creations?

SL: Air plants are one of the easiest plants to take care of. They add such a beautiful natural element to my geometric pieces. From the solid, straight minimal lines of my himmeli - they contrast so nicely with their bright coloring, free and wild leaves.

BB: Aside from himmeli, wall sconces, and mobiles, are there any creative side projects that you're working on?

SL: I have several collaborations in the works right now. I love working with other creatives, especially when their mediums are so different than mine. I have been fortunate enough to meet and get to know so many other artists both on-line and in person that I am happy to call my friends. Their artistry inspires me to look at my work differently.

Right now I have a beautiful and truly collaborative piece with Nalani of Knottybloom. We have woven together her modern macrame with my modern himmeli into a stunning and original piece called "Cascade". And with Kate of The Cobra Lily, this week I have released our limited run collaboration with her elegant and hyperreal paper peonies with an original himmeli bud vase. Bud Vase & Paper Peony.

Besides that, my husband and I have been learning to slip pour, wheel throw, and hand build pottery and ceramics for a few years now. I am teaching myself to weave whenever I make the time. And I just received a Melanie Abrantes Spoon Carving Kit for my birthday - which I am ridiculously thrilled about.

BB: If you could give one piece of realistic advice to anyone starting out in their own creative business, what would you say?

SL: Owning and starting a business is hard work. Incredibly difficult, time sucking, isolating, hard work. But if it's what you want to do then you should not wait for that "perfect" day when all of your ducks are in a row to start. Get in there, get messy, and make your dreams come true, because no one else is going to make them come true for you.

Find more of Sam's work here: 


Instagram: @handmadesammade