Story and Photos by Amy Falkofske
It would seem as if Lake Ridge resident Norma Fayak’s destiny was set from the time she was just a little girl. For this photographer and designer of professional photography props, it all started with her grandmother.
“I just remember going to the basement of her home and there just being fabric everywhere. And when I was little, I didn’t really understand what I was looking at, but now that I’m older and I know about it, I think, ‘Gosh, my grandma was so cool!’ She had so much fabric and so much crafty stuff. She was always making and creating stuff,” Fayak said.
Fayak recalled the story of her grandfather, John William Casey, coming back from World War II with a silk parachute. Her grandmother, her namesake, Norma Jean Casey, made the parachute into the gown that she wore at their wedding.
Her mother encouraged her as well by giving her a mini sewing machine when she was about seven years old. But the event that set things in motion for Fayak’s passion of creating things to turn into a business was the birth of her second son, Landon, now four years old.
Landon was born in the summer at just 25 weeks and spent months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He received several knit hats to wear during his time in the NICU. Fayak, thinking these were cute, decided to start trying to make her own. After lots of trial and error and teaching herself, Fayak started her business, Couture Phantasies, with the opening of her Etsy shop the following winter.
“When I first started, I was literally going downstairs every night after I put the kids to bed and just making stuff,” Fayak said.
Today Fayak’s business is a success story. She sells her props to famous photographers, such as Rachel Vanoven, Twig & Olive Photography, and Kelly Ryden and Tracy Raver Photography.
Fayak’s props consist of floral crowns and newborn outfits and wraps that are geared toward professional baby photographers. The materials she uses are especially suited for baby photography since a baby photographer will sometimes go through two or three outfits in a session.
“I just use what I like. A lot of things that I like to use are antique laces or vintage hankies…anything soft and stretchy that’s easy to get on and off a baby without waking them up,” Fayak said.
With world-renowned photographers buying her props, Fayak’s products are obviously top-notch. “Norma always has the highest quality products. There is so much time and love that goes into each and every piece. They have just the right amount of vintage and rustic touches that I love!” said Courtney Weittenhiller of Wisconsin-based Twig & Olive Photography.
But Fayak strives to deliver excellent customer service as well: “Unhappy customers scare me. I don’t ever want to have an unhappy customer! I try to make everybody feel special.”
The comments on her Facebook page attest to her success in this area. “Norma is not only a very talented vendor but just a wonderful person. All her creations are perfectly made with care and stellar customer service. I cannot recommend her enough to all photographers,” wrote one customer. Another customer raved, “Absolutely love everything she makes! Great quality and service!”
Asked to what she attributes her success, Fayak said it’s her drive and desire: “I love [making props]. I’m very passionate about it. I don’t ever see myself not being a crafty person. Whatever I do, I always want to be crafty.”
And Fayak is equally passionate about photography and points out that it goes hand-in-hand with her prop-making business. “They both fill an area in my heart. For the crafting side, I just like to do things with my hands and make and create,” she said. “For the photography, I get to document my kids and other people’s children.”
Just like anyone else who is self-employed, Fayak has had to find a balance between work and family. She has another son, five-year-old Brayden, and a husband, Mark, also a business owner, who is her go-to person for any business questions she might have.
“Family always comes first obviously. It’s hard to find that balance until you’ve unbalanced it. You just have to prioritize,” said Fayak. “I try as best as I can to not overlap things and make sure that I’m not putting a lot of things on my plate at one time.”
One way that Fayak keeps things in balance is to make sure that she’s never doing work and trying to take care of her kids at the same time. “I try to make sure they’re getting my full attention,” she said.
And that balance is important as Fayak currently makes all of her props out of her home. She also has a storefront in Historic Occoquan where she has a studio set up to do her newborn and family photography.
As for the future, Fayak says that she’d love to, one day, have a little boutique where she can do both prop-making and photography. In the meantime, her clients await her next creation. “I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!” Weittenhiller said.
Amy Falkofske ([email protected]) is a freelance writer who lives in Bristow with her husband, two boys and two Beagle dogs. She is working on her MA in film-television with a concentration in script writing from Regent University.