Take one part graphic designer and add one part woodworker. The result? A fabulous jewelry company called Miju and You. Canadian artists Judy Lawrence and Mike Giles are like many etsians—running a small passion business on the side while working full time jobs. Here’s how they make it work.
What prompted you to start making jewelry?
I am a graphic designer by day and love what I do, but the company I work for is very corporate (in other words, not alot of room for creativity).
My partner/boyfriend Mike, is a woodworker and designer. He acquired a laser machine a few years ago and at that point we decided to utilize our mutual talents to create something together and give me an outlet to vent my creativity.
Tell us about your process—start to finish.
We do all the laser cutting ourselves. I design and create the digital files for the laser machine and then pass them on to Mike who prepares the wood, laser cuts it and brings it home to me where I paint, wrap, assemble, package and ship accordingly.
Initially, we began working with acrylic plastic but found it very brittle and pieces were getting damaged too easily.
We then move on to working with walnut. With Mike being a woodworker, off-cuts are plentiful!
I find the walnut has a much richer quality to it than the acrylic and much more resilient.
Where do you work?
The lasering and wood preparation is all done in Mike’s studio. He shares that space with a number of other designers of various backgrounds which gives it a wonderfully stimulating vibe.
Most of what I do for miju is done in our home. I have a small space set up in our basement. Not the most stimulating but it keeps me focused and is readily accessible.
What is your greatest challenge?
What inspires you?
We draw inspiration daily from numerous sources but i find we are both the most creative while traveling.
There is so much more going on it the world besides what immediately surrounds us and when you immerse yourself in a new environment, ideas start to flow – for us at least.
How did you discover etsy.com? Any beginner mistakes? Is etsy your full time job?
We have a number of very talented friends that were selling on etsy long before we were. When we decided to start making our own creations back in 2008, our friends were great resources for direction and tips on making our store more visible.
Our beginner mistakes were probably most prominent when it came to shipping products. The acrylic that we initially began working with was very delicate and we had a few items arrive damaged. After a few revisions to packaging, we sorted that out but have since moved on to other materials for that very reason.
Being full time workers (we both have “day jobs”) and full time parents often makes it hard to put as much focus in to miju as we’d like although, we’ve both been tailoring our schedules to try and give it a little more time as it’s treated us well thus far.
Where else can readers find your work?
We have a few independant boutiques that sell our goods throughout Canada, USA & France.
It’s no secret I have a slight fascination with typography. My collection is constantly being added to and a steady stream of new work from Old New Again is doing nothing to help curb its growth. I first fell in love with the ampersand above: a well-design letterform—YES!—painted and distressed wood—YES!—oh, and proprietors Liz & Rick are from Wisconsin—YAY!
Liz took a moment to share a little bit about the pieces they make, the lifestyle they live and what it’s like to have an etsy business as your livelihood. Enjoy!
Tell us about your work—why do you create what you do?
I’ve always loved wood and that sort of old primitive look, but wanted something “fresher”… so I came up with our style. Rick lost his job a few years ago, so it all just sorta worked out beautifully! Now it is our only source of income, and we are so blessed!
How did you learn your craft? Tell us about your process—start to finish.
I grew up in an art family. My dad has been a full-time artist since I was a child. My uncle taught college art. My brothers are both artists. So I can’t really say when it started, because I never remember it starting. It was there from the start.
Where do you work? What type of environment stimulates your creativity?
We have a workshop that’s about 7 miles away, in the country. While it’s lovely to work there in the summer, it is very cold in the winter (it’s heated, but it’s a big place so it isn’t the warmest). And in the winter there’s no natural light (in the summer we open the huge overhead door).
I do all of my computer work and shipping in our basement. Some day I would love to have a great big shop with lots of light year-round, where Rick can do his “dirty” work (cutting, sanding, staining and varnishing) and I could have a separate area to do my work.
How has your work evolved?
I try to watch trends and see what I can tweak. My biggest challenge is finding time to do new items. We are so busy that I don’t get as much time as I’d like to do new things.
What inspires you?
Everything! I love color and texture. I am constantly thinking in these terms. When I go to the pet store and see an amazing little hamster with the most beautiful brown and white fur… I think WOW I LOVE THAT BROWN!
What’s your favorite piece or use and why?
I adore our long skinny 6 hook shelves! We have them all over, as our house is pretty small and we have two children (Molly is 17… not a child anymore and Samantha is 9). I am all about functional pieces that look great and help me keep things organized.
Tell us about your start on etsy and any beginner mistakes.
I found etsy from an amazing artist, Jenn (www.noodleandlou.etsy.com). We got to know each other on ebay when we were selling our ACEOs. Beginner mistakes: hmmm…. that’s hard to say, because all the mistakes are just sort of stepping stones. Sounds cliche, but it’s so true.
What advice do you have for new etsians?
My advice would be to focus more and not try to try too many different things at once. My second bit of advice would be to initially spend 90% of your time on getting your pictures right and making sure they fit in well in treasuries.
Where can readers find your work?
We are exclusively on etsy! ♥
Check out the Storque article about Nick and Kimber of Little Saplings Toys. They make really beautiful wood toys and games, and it’s so nice to see them get recognized for it! Congrats, guys!
Internet, I’ve been keeping a secret from you. The boyfriend asked me to marry him a couple months ago. Now that we’ve finally set a date and booked the location, a good part of the stress is over and I get to move on to the fun parts like the dress and invitations!
Anyway, for Valentine’s day, Mike enlisted his brother to make something to replace the store’s ring box that I keep my ring in each night. David is a bit of a Jack of all artistic trades — ceramicist, woodworker, blacksmith, photographer — and he turned this lovely piece on his lathe.