Bigfork textile artist Best in Show at statewide business event

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Ladybug’s Cabin, a textile art business based in Bigfork, captured the Best in Show Overall award at last weekend’s Made in Montana Tradeshow in Helena. (Photo provided)

Ladybug’s Cabin, a textile art business based in Bigfork, captured the Best in Show Overall award at last weekend’s Made in Montana Tradeshow in Helena.

“I’m still a little gobsmacked by the experience,” owner Monica Kleinhans said. “I didn’t see that coming. There were almost 150 vendors this year and all were phenomenal. To have been awarded this honor is quite overwhelming.”

Though the award recognizes the show’s most successful presentation, Kleinhans doesn’t consider herself a salesperson. She believes her passion for her craft is what impressed the panel of 13 judges. For Best in Show, the judges rated vendors on marketing qualities such as booth design and how they tell the stories of their products.

“It comes down to how you are engaging with customers,” Kleinhans said. “The judges wander the floor to see how you’re interacting. They’re looking for the ability to talk about your product and your knowledge. You have to be able to engage and have a good conversation.”

Kleinhans, who is also a professional theater actor and director, started Ladybug’s Cabin five years ago. One of her most popular product lines is comprised of applique patterns and kits for quilted wall hangings and table runners. Her original designs are inspired by Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, wildflowers and other natural themes.

“Applique is like paint by number with fabric,” she said. “You can follow a map and create these quilted pieces, even if you’ve never done applique before.’

She also makes custom quilts for beds and wall hangings, quilted greeting cards and thread-painted spool ornaments.

Workshops in applique, quilting and other textile crafts are also part of Kleinhans’ business.

“I teach quite a bit to get others as addicted to textile arts as I am,” she said. “It’s about sharing my enthusiasm more than selling a product.”

This was Kleinhans’ second year at the Made in Montana trade show, produced annually by the Montana Department of Commerce.

“It’s an amazing event,” she said. “It’s amazing how much I’ve learned, the good policies, the ways of connecting with other stores throughout Montana, how they’re marketing, the challenges we all face.”

Sage and Oats Trading Post of Helena, owned by Major and Michelle Robinson, was 2019 Made in Montana Retailer of the Year. They sell items by Native American artisans and Montana craftspeople, and imports from Scotland and Ireland.

Hindu Hillbilly Farm aviary in Alberton won Best in Show Honorable Mention and Soil Diva of Billings, a business offering a liquid soil and plant stimulant, was named Best New Exhibitor.

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