a friend, olaria studio, and an honest q&a

since beginning my own "creative business" i've thought a lot about others doing a variety of similar things.
i've thought a lot about our need as human beings to create...
and i've thought a lot about buying more handmade stuff to contribute to other's passions.
how it feels a bit more human and connected.
and i want to support that.

so. i thought about my dear friend who does amazing work making amazing jewelry.
and i thought about you all.
and i wanted to introduce you... to my friend:
amy, who lives in boston, with husband Ashley and sweet daughter Ellery.  (her blog)
i've known amy for quite some time. (she was a college student when we met her... i was pregnant with nic!)

it's been amazing to me to see her as an art student, move into all these new roles in life, especially with what she does now.

i want you to go see her work:

and then, i want you to get to know her a bit... and feel more connected to just one person~ who is pretty much amazing~ out there making handmade. :)

so i asked her to answer a few questions about art, life and having a creative business. and thankfully, she is a genuine person and answered honestly...
(and i got to try out some product photography on some of her wears that she sent me!! which are such a small sampling of all that she makes... you really must go and see the rest!)
(this little beauty goes with just about anything... love it and wear it all the time.)

~Q&A with amy, owner of OLARIA STUDIO~
1. share about your journey as an artist from college until present. where are your dreams leading you in this realm? 

 So, I guess that's a little hard for me. I definitely studied art, took a couple ceramics classes, but the vast majority of my time was spent in figure drawing and more 2D classes. Funny like that. With all the time I spent with my campus ministry, I didn't really focus on my art like I should have. I really kind of over did the social calendar in college and I really wish I would have been encouraged to just stay on campus in the summer and spend time doing that...and getting to know the other art majors better. Alas, I didn't and feel like I wasted my degree to some extent b/c I didn't take full advantage of it. I would LOVE to get an MFA now and possibly teach at the college level. I am aware of the politics that come with faculty positions, but for some reasons it sounds ideal right now...the debt to go back and get the degree, notsomuch. When I traveled after college, to live in Brazil and such, I was always sketching...and wondering what to do with the creative part of me as well as the need to earn money. I have had approximately 25 jobs since college...and as embarrassing as that is, it only reinforces my desire to work with college kids. Funny how having an art (liberal arts) degree often leads to administrative work...the absolute last thing I/we creatives are good at. I did at least try to get such administrative work in creative places like ad agencies and then later an architecture firm, where coincidentally, I did meet the hubs, so it definitely had a good outcome. Which I think leads to your next question...
2. how does being a wife and mother affect your career?  
Being a wife was the thing that actually launched me into doing my art more regularly, then as a job. My husband supports the arts quite literally. I married a creative type who understands the need to do what you love, even if you don't get paid for it immediately. I did a lot of amateur graphic design stuff at first, and took time to paint, even get back to working on my potter's wheel. He let me have one of our bedrooms for my studio and even let me use the home equity line of credit to buy my first kiln (you know, back when people could actually get helocs...). The opportunities kept coming up for me to sell my work and eventually became so much that I could quit my other little part time jobs to work full-time on Olaria. It was scary, but up to that point, I had no reason to believe it would fail, especially with such a rise in handmade popularity and available shows, new wholesale accounts, and press...lots of press. I would say I had a good three years of being able to travel and make a great amount of money, especially after we moved to Boston. I was kind of on auto-pilot. Then the economy tanked. Then Ash got laid off (and rehired). And we had a baby in the middle of that. Now that Ellery has come along, things have definitely been trickier. Instead of a little home studio in Birmingham, AL, here in Boston, I have a separate studio space that I rent because our landlord won't allow us to put the kilns in the basement (and I don't really think I'd want to--ick). And I have to pay for childcare now, because we don't live close to family. Between the two, I have come to see that I make absolutely no profit. And the work isn't creative for me anymore as much as it's just become production. Some days I love it, but lately, I mostly hate it. So I'm rethinking things a little bit these days. I'm not sure how I can keep doing what I'm doing and enjoy my daughter and be a wife, even a friend, etc. I don't know if this season of life is going to be conducive for making money from my art/creativity. I think I'm approaching (or am in the early part of) a season where creativity may not happen where it has in the past. That's a little more than terrifying for me right now in a lot of ways. We'll see what pans out here in the next few months...

3. what does a typical week look like for you?  
Currently, Ellery, 14 mos, has just started daycare one day (or two half days) a week. So when she's there, I'm a flurry of activity. The music in the studio is comparable to my workout mix and I'm definitely cranking it out. Most of what I do is for wholesale orders, so I rarely make things that aren't on the production schedule. So you can see how over a year of this pace has started to wear on me. I can't just stop and BE creative very often. I do have a couple of shows every year that definitely require new work and are even geared for a certain crowd that expects new and different, so what little time I have for creativity has about the luster as finishing the reading comprehension section of your SATs because of the time limit. Every minute has to count while I'm paying someone to watch her. The rest of the week is spent doing the same thing during her one-nap-a-day. Maintaining my home has become a huge tag-team event and I have the most amazing husband who rarely complains about a to-do list. I even go to the studio early and come back in time for Ashley to go to work, sometimes I even work in the evenings and on the weekends. Even as I type, this kind of schedule is becoming less and less desirable as it has in my head over the last few months. Thank God we have a vacation coming up.

4. Where do you think you're heading with your work?

 I think I'm in for a transition, especially as we consider the possibility of more children happening over the next few years. Whether or not I come back to this particular arena, I'm not sure. I found a quote last year that keeps rolling through my head, especially now as I'm starting to feel like the business as it is at the moment is 'failing': "Failure's hard, but success is far more dangerous. If you're successful at the wrong thing, the mix of praise and money and opportunity can lock you in forever." Po Bronson. I feel like this offers me more hope than I've really imagined. That I can do something else...I really can. I'm not defined by what I do...am I?

5. why do you believe in handmade? (does that sound goofy?) 
 That's not goofy. What's goofy are some of the vendors you run into at handmade shows. The life of doing retail handmade shows is so much like what I imagine being a carnie is like sometimes. That would be an entire blog post unto itself.
I believe in small business in general, part of which is handmade. I try to keep my dollars in my community as much as possible, and I really love being able to support someone's creativity and attention to detail, and tell a story when I give a gift or have someone over. I have one problem with handmade and that is people who copy others. Everyone loves a good idea and we are all accustomed to being wowed by something one season and then seeing it over-killed the next season. I think you should really look at the items you are buying and ask yourself if it seems like this artist is owning their own creative process and ideas. Have you seen a lot of similar looking products in the market prior to when they came onto the scene (you can look at history of sales on etsy)? Is the quality of their work very good? I love the idea of etsy and I did have a shop on there for awhile. I'm sure I would have more sales were I to load more product on their site, but I think I would be seeing less sales over time as more porcelain jewelry or similar items would pop up. It happens, and though imitation can be read as a compliment, it's also stealing...okay, stepping down from soap box. Go buy handmade! Buy local! Let's build our economy back up with quality products made here in the USA...even down the street from you. 

Here are some of my favorite artists and cool people I have met in the process of doing life as an artist over the past few years:
and my own site:


thanks for hanging in there and reading...
i have so many thoughts (wish this blog could transform into us having conversations in my living room sometimes!!), but i'll leave you with this for now:

encourage one another to create...
encourage those who do create (like amy) with words, purchases and support.

and go shop!! because amy is giving all of you a discount!! 
(just in time for christmas! woohoo!!)

25% off for "a bit behind" readers! 
just enter code: KPP2510

happy handmade shopping peeps!!