Made By Hand: Free Range Mama

A few months ago we began seeing the cute and colorful hand painted designs of Lindsay Stewart’s Free Range Mama shop on Instagram. 

We adored the customized designs Lindsay was adding to Minnetonka booties and couldn’t wait to learn more about her Minnetonka connection and inspiration behind her Free Range Mama Etsy shop.

What’s your Minnetonka story?
I have  worn Minnetonka since Day One. My mom was familiar with the brand from growing up in Starbuck, Minnesota and throughout my childhood my mom, dad and I all wore them.

When my husband Josh and I had our first son, Maxwell, my parents gave us my first pair for him to wear. As he grew out of them, we packed them away – only to bring them back out when our second son, Magnus, was born. The fact that they’ve lasted 33+ plus years is definitely a testament to the brand.
 

Tell us how Free Range Mama came to be.
After Magnus grew out of my infant Minnetonka booties I sealed them into a Ziploc and placed them in the bottom drawer of the boys’ dresser. A year or so later, I was reorganizing and emptied the drawer and was so excited to see them again. They were squashed flat but as I pulled them carefully from the bag, the texture of the worn suede felt so reassuring to me.

The soles of the moccasins were worn, but showed no age. I wondered if anybody found their Minnetonkas to be such a keepsake the way I did. Folks used to wear white leather booties and would later bronze them – that’s pretty special, I thought. But I wondered if anybody would want a birthday or a name painted on these moccasins. To keep and hand down. And add names later, maybe. Sort of like a lineage of moccasin-lovers.

I did love to paint but hadn’t in years. So I took a leap and ordered three pair of Minnetonka booties and some sets of new paints. For three Saturdays, I painted. With three, simple pair of custom, hand-painted moccasins, I opened my Etsy shop. First under the name “Magnus ‘n Maxwell” – unsure what the heck one actually does with an Etsy shop.

Several months later, I sold my first pair. I was so excited I texted a friend. She had no idea I had painted some moccasins! I sent her the link to my Etsy shop and she wrote back: “I’ll take three.” And then another friend caught wind: “I’ll take three.” And from there it sort of snowballed.

What inspires your designs?
Well, the music is always on. Also, album art and poster art, 1960’s photography books, flora/fauna guides, a plane ticket.

What’s your process?  How long does it take for you to create a new custom pair?
Free Range Mama is a free-hand, hand-painted, entirely custom brand. No stencils. No tracing. No sketching beforehand.  Once I’ve ironed out what the client has in their heart and it’s production time, I can have the moccasins painted and ready to roll within a few hours.

What is your most memorable (or favorite) pair that you’ve ever painted?
I have so many. Two faves are the Spaceship and Planets pair with the navy blue capped off toes and also the Psychedelic Tie Dye Swirl “Cosmic Friend” pair. Anything with owls is requested all the time, too. Luckily, even repeating styles keeps things interesting around here since they are all one-of-a-kind. Every, single pair is unique.

Sometimes clients want something they don’t see listed and then we can collaborate on a specific design.  All Free Range Mama moccasins can be personalized with names, birthdays, quotes – even music notes. A recent pair included the actual music notes for “Everybody’s Talkin’” by Harry Nilsson. My favorite words to paint are “Be True.” “Be Brave.” Such a sendoff for the moccasins; from my silly little paint brushes, to the soles of the feet so precious in your life.

For more of Lindsay’s designs visit her Free Range Mama Etsy shop.

 

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