This is a re-post of Anna Wells’ blog, Greetings From Omaha. She stopped by my home studio with her husband James, who happens to be a photographer at Stark Media Design. She pulled a great blog out of our chat, and he captured several great shots during our time together (check out Anna’s blog for more of his pics). It was fun to spend an afternoon with this adorable and inspiring couple. Thanks Anna and James!
Joy still sees EARTHENjoy on a hobby-esque level yet she dedicates almost 40 hours a week into it’s work. She loves it so much that it does not seem to be a lot of time to her. How amazing to find something that you love so much that ‘full’ time hours are nothing! I cannot even begin to imagine how much time she will be putting in once the new year comes and she turns this into more of a ‘job’ as she has said her goal is. I really found the following point that she brought up during our time in her home thought provoking. – It is so important to her to keep her prices affordable. She really want’s people to be able to have unique things that are pieces of art, people that cannot afford to go into a gallery and buy an item. She want’s people to have jewelry that is art, that expresses their personalities and so far that has really worked for her. Especially since this is something that she would be doing regardless of making money from it. While she does not want to bring down the market price for artists that really need to sell to make a living, she wants people to know that when they express their love for her work she is willing to work with them to buy pieces at a price they can afford because it is so very important to her that people have pieces of art that they love and will be proud to own.
What did you do before this career path came to be? Funny story actually… Joy was attending school and working on a degree in Art Education when on her first wedding anniversary she found out she was expecting! Needless to say no more champagne for her that night! J That led her to staying home with her baby girl and subsequently falling in love with clay. Thank you Delaney for helping your Momma on her path of making beautiful art for us all!
How did you start EarthenJoy? Art has always been a hobby for Joy, she has always been creating things on the side or when her kids are in bed for-pretty-much-ever. Two years ago her mother in law asked her if she wanted to help make Christmas ornaments so she did it and loved it. Her MIL just kept bringing her clay and she just kept on making more and more ornaments, she then started to use scraps to make jewelry and when that went well she created an Instagram page and things really just took off from there.
Where does your artistic ability stem from? Whom has impacted your starting a business the most? Her family has always been supportive of her art for art’s sake and even paid for her to take pen and ink lessons as a child. She has always been very creative but never thought that art could be a viable full time job. Her husband – Patrick – (he helps her with the marketing end as well!) and his family especially his mom have encouraged this in her often though, they are all very creative and entrepreneurial people. Also her friends, they have been so encouraging and supportive. They really got her to make more and more items and pursue selling them.
How did you end up in local stores? Once she was feeling pretty good about how things were going she asked her friends on Facebook what local shops she should try and display her work in, someone mentioned Aromas in Benson and she was really comfortable when it came to going in and doing that because she was used to going in and getting coffee at that location. She walked in and talked to Sharon one day and it went really amazingly, Sharon is also a local artist (Arbor Street Studios and Buds and Buttons are her babies.) and so supportive of other makers it was a really good experience going in and talking with her. After that she approached Paperdoll and gained confidence from the way her interactions were going so much so that she had the courage to go into Scout with some Nebraska necklaces and they loved her stuff so much they asked to exclusively carry the piece! Scout is awesome at prompting her through social media which has helped her gain followers / fans. She was even their top selling artist last year!
How are you inspired to create pieces? A lot of it is based off of things she sees on Pinterest and puts her own spin on for example the hanging planters, she saw some and loved them so here they are! Sometimes this concept doesn’t work well with consumers, if it’s not going to sell… why keep making it. Currently she is really enjoying the process of working with lumps of clay (pinch pots, beads and bangles) instead of slabs, it just feels more authentic and fun! She is also trialing matte finishes and trying to get them just right at the moment.
How does the process of creating something work for you? Here is a rough step by step… Roll out some clay. / Take a block of clay. Add fire wire to if needed. The next morning it will be the perfect consistency to carve. Once it is bone dry add some paint to it, this step can take about 2 – 3 days to reach for larger items. Then FIRE away! Done. Now this may sound simple but really each step can take hours if not days.
What did you want to be when you were a child? A mom! For awhile to be in the Air Force like her Dad or maybe do humanitarian work in Africa? She had no idea that she would be doing this, she always dreamt big but never did she think that it would really happen, social media and the internet has really made the whole process so much easier.
What has been your most trying time in business? Last Christmas season for sure, It was just so hard, she really felt like she was being a bad mom and not enjoying the season for what it was. The issue ended up being that she was taking on way too many custom orders, this year with six shows she is not going to be taking on as many custom orders so she can keep up with the shows and life, makes sense to me!
What has been the most positive time? Shows, she just loves shows! Meeting and connecting with people is great. Even shows where she doesn’t sell much just letting people see her passion behind creating is a gift.
How did you come up with your packaging? Honestly… a love of scrapbooking paper. It is a really easy way to use up old stock and buy some more.
What is your ideal working environment? Music / podcasts / Netflix. Although she is not certain that Netflix is conductive to her being very productive. Spotify sessions really where it is at, listen to the Macklemore one… it’s great.
End of the year goals? Survive? Maybe do a few holiday promos…? Not really sure.
In the future where do you hope to end up? Have you heard of Sophia Webster? Her style is right up Joy’s creative ally the colors and designs are wonderful! When she is in a creative lull she will check out her site and just become re-inspired by how fun the items are. She saw a pair of shoes once with huge gemstones, how cool would it be to send her some faceted ‘gems’ to add to her designs? Working with local artists and collaborating is really something she wants to get into more as well. She has talked to a couple of people that do really cool weavings locally (Hey! and Company / Pineapple Phi) about making dowels and / or beads for them to incorporate in.
How have you made connections with other local artists and small business owners? How have you developed friendships with these people through the process? Social media in particular Instagram has really opened a lot of doors for Joy. In certain artistic areas the threat of competition can really make it hard to develop good relationships but just being authentic makes a huge difference.
It will come to no surprise to most that her state necklaces are a big seller to the point of her father in law making her mini ‘cookie’ cutters for the more popular states those being… Iowa, Nebraska, California, Texas and Minnesota. She is able to ‘stamp’ out a rough cut of these states and then go in and add the details to make them perfect, a huge time saver with all those intricate borders!