The last in our series of profiles covering local crafters whose wares we think would make excellent holiday gifts.
More than five years ago, Debee Ruiz was working as a freelance graphic designer but was having a hard time finding work. She'd always had a longing to make tangible things with her hands and had a passion for crafting activities such as scrapbooking and printmaking. She even had a scrapbooking store at one point.
"Even though it was just a hobby, it sort of started this outlet to be more creative and even make a little more money," Ruiz says. "I wanted to do something that was more than just scrapbooking and about other paper products like prints and packaging."
Ruiz started Inspire Lovely, crafting handmade paper products and accessories in the hope that customers would channel their own, well, craftiness. The holiday season is always a good time of year for her, as a lot of people want to make their own custom wrapping paper, create unique greeting cards or just be more creative in the new year.
"I'm like an old lady trapped in a middle-aged woman's body, but there really is still a market for these types of products," she says. "It's very deep-rooted, but it's still there."
She started selling paper doilies when she launched her Etsy store in 2010 and things were going pretty well until earlier this year when a routine doctor visit for abdominal pain took a very scary turn.
"I'm proud to say I'm an ovarian cancer survivor," says Ruiz, who opted to get a double hysterectomy rather than go through chemotherapy. "I started documenting my experience on Instagram and it helped to connect with people who had gone through similar things or are going through it right now. I'm a pretty positive person anyway so I think that was pretty motivating for me."
The health scare hasn't dissuaded Ruiz from following her dreams. In fact, she says it's inspired her to be even more focused on getting some of her products in retail stores and to continue to be positive with the messaging on items such as the rubber stamps and prints, which have been some of her best sellers. It helps that the prints—which feature messages ranging from "Follow Your Arrow" to more playful sentiments like "Don't Stop. Get It. Get It."—also feature her fluid and unique lettering style.
"It's hard because my real handwriting is like chicken scratch," laughs Ruiz. "My husband says I have the handwriting of a serial killer, but I like it."