A Dawson County boutique owner has been using her online presence to spread joy and creativity to her followers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barb Lewis, founder of The Shabby Tree, has loved making crafts for years. And for many years, Lewis sold her handmade items exclusively in local antique stores, until one day she decided to take an online class on how to turn her crafting into a business of her very own.
Lewis started a Facebook page, began putting up DIY videos showing her followers how to make the crafts themselves, and watched as her passion took off.
“It just kind of took off,” Lewis said. “The follower count just went crazy, and I ended up with it becoming a full-time business.”
Lewis named her business The Shabby Tree because of her love for trees combined with her love for shabby chic. In addition to Facebook, she started pages on Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, all of which gained followers quickly. When her followers began asking about where she got her clothing and home decorations, Lewis decided to start an online boutique where they could buy the same items she showed in her video.
“People were asking about my clothes and home decorations in my videos, so I started up a store where they could get it themselves,” Lewis said. “I now have a warehouse and an online store, and I go live every day with tips on decorating and how to make craft items.”
Lewis would walk through craft stores and thrift shops and document the best places to buy crafting items, all while streaming live on social media.
“We create a lot of things with lace and doilies, so before the virus hit I would do live videos in Goodwill and other thrift stores or Hobby Lobby, showing people what to buy and where to find good deals,” Lewis said.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lewis shifted the focus of her videos.
“The crafts we’ve been doing recently use stuff that you have in your home, and I try to find things they can make out of stuff they already have so they don’t have to leave the house,” Lewis said. “I just want to keep everybody positive and give them things to do, and right now it seems to help a lot of people.”
Lewis’s daughters, who are 21 and 23, work with her full-time, and since school classes have been closed her son, who is a senior at Dawson County High School, has been helping with making live videos of crafts for younger children who are also out of school.
The Shabby Tree’s followers are all over the world, and her crafting videos have helped to spread cheer to countless people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Donna Baker, one of Lewis’s followers from Florida, the videos have provided a bright spot in the depression left by the virus.
“Although this pandemic has not reached my world personally, other than staying at home, it still is a sobering thought when I wake in the morning and remember what is going on in our world,” Baker said. "Then, I remember what I want to work on this particular day and get excited about my new craft. It keeps my mind off of the outside world for a short while, at least, and I have so much satisfaction in creating something new for my home or for my great-grandchildren.”
Baker says that she, along with thousands of others who follow The Shabby Tree, love to see Lewis and her family in the videos and that the upbeat videos and creative crafts are a joy to watch.
“Barb has been experimenting with new ideas using things from home that one would never imagine using for a decorative piece,” Baker said. “She is upbeat every single time she does a live post, she has a lovely family and has now incorporated each one of them into her live posts. She has truly been a light through this darkness for thousands of people.”
For Lewis, her thousands of followers are just as much a blessing to her as she is to them.
“The followers are amazing,” Lewis said. “I have boxes full of letters from them, and we get thousands of PMs online every day.”
As her business’s name reflects, Lewis loves trees. One of the things she encourages her followers to do is to keep a tree up all year long and to decorate it with handmade ornaments for each season.
Because of this, her followers send her dozens of their own ornament creations that they’ve designed and created. Lewis showcases each creation she receives online and gives a shoutout to the crafter who made it.
When the danger from COVID-19 has passed, Lewis hopes to be able to pass on the joy that the handmade creations have brought.
“I’m hoping that when the virus passes, that we can put up a tree at local nursing homes and decorate them with the creations from everybody around the world,” Lewis said.
The Shabby Tree’s followers are all supportive of one another, answering each other’s questions online and sharing their own ideas with each other. Some of the people within her followers own their own small businesses, and the other followers make sure to support each other by supporting these businesses as well.
“The Shabby Tree isn’t just me, it’s all the followers,” Lewis said. “It’s like a family.”