Barb Lewis has been crafting for as far back as she can remember.
When she got married and started having children, Lewis embraced her new role as a stay-at-home mom but knew that she had to find a way to keep herself busy. So she started making crafts to sell at local antique markets and decided to record herself crafting to post on Facebook.
Lewis’ Facebook live streams started off with a grand total of one, maybe two people watching, but before long, she started gaining followers. In October 2018, Lewis officially began her crafting channel and boutique The Shabby Tree. Now, almost three years later, the Shabby Tree is almost at a million followers and continues to grow every day.
Every day, Lewis does crafts through the Shabby Tree, both on Facebook live streams and through the Shabby Tree blog. She said that her inspiration a lot of times comes from looking at an everyday item and imagining what else it could be.
“A lot of it is just looking at the craft supplies and coming up with something,” Lewis said. “I kind of just go in the dollar tree, look at stuff and see what we could turn it into.”
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A recent example of Lewis’s craftiness was making paint rollers into carrots for an Easter decoration. She said that this idea came to her when she saw the orange-tinted rollers and thought of carrots. This way of thinking is something she encourages her followers to do too.
“What I tell everybody is to look at it and don’t look at what it’s supposed to be used for,” Lewis said. “We tell them all the time, try to look at it in a different way and turn it into something else.”
Inspiration for craft ideas also comes from the Shady Tree’s followers.
“The followers will send us ideas too, and I’ll give credit to the follower when she sends me an idea,” Lewis said. “So we’ll make it and say ‘so-and-so sent us this idea and we’re gonna try it out today.”
Some of Lewis’s favorite craft items to make are banners, message boards and ornaments. She especially loves making decorations for every holiday, but she says that the Shabby Tree crafts are for all year round.
“We do everything, it’s not just holidays,” Lewis said. “I always try to teach them to make unique fashion items, jewelry and home decor.”
Another important thing Lewis does through Shabby Tree is showing her viewers how to turn trash into treasures, as well as showing them how to hunt down the best craft supplies in the most unexpected places.
“Before the virus hit we would be in Goodwill every day on live and I would show them how to just buy all that Goodwill stuff and turn it into something,” Lewis said. “We haven’t done that as much lately, but a lot of what we’ve done during quarantine is showing people how to make crafts out of stuff they already have around their house.”
The Shabby Tree also has a booth at Antiques and Collectibles of Dahlonega, showcasing clothing and home decor items from the boutique.
While doing her Facebook Live streams, Lewis said that she’d often get questions about where she bought the clothes she was wearing. Because of these questions, Lewis came up with the idea to start her own boutique so viewers could order their own clothes like the pieces she was wearing.
“A store was not in my intentions, it just kinda happened — everybody kept saying ‘where’d you get this’ so we just opened a store so when they ask they can get it off the boutique,” Lewis said. “And as far as the clothing in the boutique, we try to keep it unique; not something that you’re gonna go in Walmart or Target and find.”
Lewis sells clothing and home decor through her boutique and is continually expanding the items she offers through it.
Lewis said that she is constantly impressed by her followers’ creativity in the crafts that they send her.
“They spend a lot of time; they really love crafting,” Lewis said. “They’re very creative and there’s a lot of them that are all very special. They just love the Shabby Tree and they’re very sweet people.”
But the fellowship among her followers is more than just sending the crafts to Lewis. She said that her followers are always finding ways to interact with and support one another.
“The Shabby Tree followers are really a family; like there was a family whose daughter was in the hospital and they loved the doll I had in my video, so another follower bought the doll and sent it to them,” Lewis said. “Or like other people will say ‘I have Covid and I want to craft but I don’t have this’ and someone else will send them a big box of crafting supplies.”
One of the ways Lewis and her followers support each other is through her “prayer thankful room”, a room that is completely filled with paper tags with prayer requests or things to be thankful for. The followers send in the tags to Lewis, who reads them on her channel and hangs them up in the room.
“We get on and we read their tags out loud, and all of these were sent in by followers,” Lewis said. “And they’re all praying for different things or thankful for different things — this is one of our most popular rooms the followers talk about and it’s just beautiful.”
Not only is Lewis now able to make a living through her business, but it has grown so much that now her entire family is able to work alongside her. Her husband Wally and her daughter Hope managing shipping, and her daughter Joy manages the boutique side of the business. Lewis’ son Bo attends college full-time but is able to help with the online orders while he is away at school. Even Hope’s dog, Opal, comes into the warehouse with the family when they’re filling orders or filming videos.
The Shabby Tree keeps growing more and more each day, and Lewis has plans to keep increasing what she does with it.
“When we get to a million then we’re gonna do something fun — I’m not sure what quite yet, but something fun,” Lewis said. “And one day we’re gonna do a meet and greet if the virus ever goes away; we’re gonna pick a different state and do kind of a craft event where we’re gonna craft and there will be soo many tickets to buy.”
Lewis said that she loves what she does and that her followers are the biggest part of what makes up the Shabby Tree.
“I love them and I love crafting with them,” Lewis said. “I could never do this on my own and I could never do this without the followers — it’s a full-time job so it’s all day every day, but I love it.”