Retired Linn-Mar Teacher Explores New Venture

 

You’re never too old to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Suanne Huffman of Marion is proof of that. At 74 years young, Suanne, a retired English teacher from Linn-Mar High School, has decided to begin a  new venture; making, printing, and distributing greeting cards nationwide.

“I just love making things, and people seem to like the things I create,” she said. “I don’t like to sit around much. Working on my projects keeps me active.”

Suanne uses clothing and other items to make upcycled art, altered books, and greeting cards. She also paints and restores shabby chic furniture, repurposes children and adults’ clothing, makes purses, pillows, jewelry, vintage linens, and “unique crafty projects of all kinds.”

“I love making the cards,” said Suanne. “I use fun little objects to decorate the outside. I add a quote, and leave the inside blank for a handwritten note. I think it’s really important to write what you feel inside to make it more personal.”

cards
Suanne hopes to market her greeting cards nationwide.

Suanne grew up in Marion and graduated from Marion High School. She attended Iowa State Teachers College, which is now UNI.  She went on to earn her BA from Upper Iowa University in English Education, and her M.A. in English Education from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA.

“I think I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I wasn’t sure what kind,” she said. “I thought I might like to be a German teacher, but they didn’t offer it Upper Iowa. And then English teacher popped into my head. That’s when I realized it’s what I really wanted to do all along. It just made perfect sense. I don’t know why it took me so long to see that.”

She and her husband, Max, lived in California for seven years.  Suanne’s first teaching job was at Edgewood High School, a Los Angeles suburb.   The couple moved back to Marion, where she taught English at Linn-Mar, retiring 15 years ago.

“Both of my kids (Julie and Mace) were in my English class, and they both did fine. They didn’t get any special treatment, of course, even though my son joked about it sometimes,” she said with a chuckle.

After teaching for 30 years, Suanne decided it was time to retire. “I was getting a little burned out, I think, and I loved doing crafts, so I started making things for my friends and family.”

One day she was working on a project for her friend, Mary Campbell, when Mary suggested they open a store together.

Suanne creates art out of books; altered books
Suanne creates art out of books; altered books

The two ladies rented several rooms on the 2nd floor of The Perfect Blend in Mt. Vernon. But three years later, Suanne decided the hours were too much for her and opted to stay home and work on her projects.

She started a half-time position at The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art as a Museum Educator, which involved training docents (tour guides), developing programs and tours for schools.

Since then, Suanne has taken part in the McGowan House Artisans, Serendipity, Next Page Bookstore, the Cedar Rapids Art Museum, as well as Iowa Artisans Gallery.  Suanne also attends artisan shows in the area, including at Prairiewoods events, as well as out-of-state.

Crafting isn’t Suanne’s only interest; she is also very active in the community. She has served on several boards, including the Marion Arts Festival. She also works periodically supervising events at Lowe Park, and she and Max are both members of the Friends of the Marion Parks. 

The next few months, however, will be spent producing, marketing, and distributing the greeting cards.

“I am already talking to a printer to try to get prints of the cards sold nationally. We have also stopped at several little shops during our travels to see our daughter in California. I give them a few cards to try out and my contact information. I keep hearing, ‘I’ll let you know after the holidays,’ so I guess we’ll just wait and see.”

Suanne said she wants to keep the cards affordable, so she has decided to reprint them, rather than producing each handmade card individually. “It takes a long time to make just one card, so I would have to charge more.”

Suanne came up with the name of her business ‘Goody Two Shoes,’ in honor of a fable that explained where the term came from.

“As a variation of the Cinderella story, the fable tells of a poor orphan girl who goes through childhood with only one shoe. When she is given a complete pair by a rich gentleman, she is so happy that she tells everyone she now has two shoes … she tries to greet all she meets with a joyful heart.”

“While it might be difficult today for us to follow such a path, it emphasizes that each of us can make a contribution. In an effort to promote the true spirit of caring for others, a portion of the profits from Goody Two Shoes products are given to charity.”

The complete story can be found on Goody Two Shoe’s Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/pg/whimsicalwares, as well as on the back of each card.

Though Suanne enjoys traveling, displaying her artwork at bazaars, and getting out in the community, she said her crafting tends to take over, and uses much of her downstairs to store all of her creations.

“I have always had a passion for crafts and to create things,” she said. “This is just something I want to do. And despite what some people think, you’re never too old to start something new.”

Suanne’s greeting cards can be found at Next Page books, The Cedar Rapids Museum Gift Store, The Perfect Blend, and Iowa Artisans Gallery.

For more information, contact Suanne at suannehuffman@gmail.com.