Maker: MIMOSA Handcrafted's Madeline Ellis
Tell us a bit about yourself — your background — what led you to become the maker you are today?
I'm a voracious learner. I read and listen to more audiobooks than might be healthy, but it's an addiction I'm okay with. When I'm making and creating, time stands still. I forget to eat or move or sometimes even take a breath. I crave that kind of focused making time — when I don't get it, I feel suffocated.
I have a degree in landscape architecture, which gave me a solid foundation of design principles, as well as a healthy appreciation and understanding of the systems our world functions in. We were taught to see spaces as a series of overlapping systems. We were required to dig deep into those layers, including but not limited to psychology and culture, socio-economics, ecology, geography, etc. Considering all of the systems, we were encouraged to design for form and function — they weren't mutually exclusive and, in fact, done well, each could make the other better.
I come from a long line of creative makers. My dad made beautiful dollhouses, and my mom was a talented seamstress. She enrolled me in sewing classes in third grade. That's that first time I remember using my talent and skills to make the things I wanted to exist in the world but couldn't seem to find. If I couldn't find the purse I wanted, I'd get some funky vintage fabric and make it. If I couldn't find the top I wanted, I'd deconstruct one and turn it into something I loved. I started with friendship bracelets, seed beads and fishing wire. My mom gave me her old Tupperware box to keep them in, and I made pieces for both myself and my friends all the way through college.
After graduation, I worked for a small landscape architecture firm in downtown Baton Rouge. I'd leave that day job and go straight home to make jewelry into the night. I spent a lot of time exploring new techniques and materials; I took classes and read lots of books. My husband, who was much more entrepreneurial-minded, encouraged me to make MIMOSA and LLC and apply to sell at our local arts market. I was slowly picked up by local retailers and added new shows and festivals to my schedule, as well as an online shop. Eventually, I left my day job to pursue jewelry full time. My background in landscape architecture prepared me for creating pieces that go beyond aesthetic adornment. Everything we designed in school had to have a "why," and we didn't include elements that weren't adding to the form or function of the experience of the space. The way I approach jewelry design is exactly the same. I consider so much more than trends — each piece is rooted in creating experience, solving a problem, telling a story or raising awareness.
In the last few years, the MIMOSA team has grown to 6 employees working full time to bring our work to more people in the most quality way.
Describe your brand in 3 words.
Purposeful. Approachable. Generous.
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
It's typically born from a desire to tell a story or create pieces that provide opportunity for conversations around topics such as culture, landscape, history, mindfulness and relaxation. When I'm working on a piece, I completely immerse myself in learning as much about the topic as I can. So, I'm listening to an audiobook about it, watching documentaries, etc. while I sketch and flesh out the design. Once I have it somewhat refined on paper, I move it to a block of wax and begin turning that 2-dimensional drawing into 3-D. We use the lost wax casting method, so once the final piece is carved in wax, we cast it, refine it, mold the finished metal "master" and then it's ready to sell.
Why is it important to you to give back to your community when and where you can?
I believe to my core that "For of those to whom much is given, much is required." To have the ability to do the work you love (that truly aligns with your soul's purpose) is a rare thing when you consider the entire history of human existence. That kind of work is one of the greatest possible gifts. That gift feels like a huge weight and responsibility to give back in whatever way I can.
You have two young children. How do you find a balance between your home life and your work life? Do you have any tips?
I kind of follow the work/life integration concept vs. work/life balance. Of course, there are times the two have to stay in their separate buckets, but there are a lot of ways to integrate them.
My husband and I work together, so we're together now more than we ever were when we worked separately. We've purposefully kept our studio in our back yard so we can sneak in work after the kids go to bed. The kids love spending time in the studio making and creating with leftover materials, and I can squeeze in work then. When I need to make clay pieces, I let them play with clay. When it's just me and my oldest, Charlie, I'll let him use my wax pen, and he feels so big building mini wax playgrounds out of my old wax scraps. Charlie joins me at almost all of my arts markets and that's become a really special tradition.
Honestly, Elizabeth Gilbert's quote "make out with your art" pops into my head all the time. She says treat your art like a new lover, even if it's just three minutes — you make out for three minutes. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you have kids, someone is going to get sick, they are going to be off school, the sitter is going to call in and you have to use the same creativity you use with your art to figure out a way to make time for it to happen. Integrate it when you can and when you can't, steal away any extra minutes to make out with it. Don't be afraid to ask for help.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
"Get outside of yourself." — My dad. When I feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, I try to remember to get outside of myself and focus that energy on helping someone else. Somehow, it keeps me from self destructing.
Any business resources you want to share for someone who wants to start their own business?
BOOKS! Anything by Seth Godin or Steven Pressfield. More recently, "Deep Work" by Cal Newport and "Real Artists Don't Starve" by Jeff Goins. There are so many others that have molded and shaped me, while allowing me to learn the business world along the way. Books are a great, painless way to learn from someone else's mistakes — take advantage of that.
Shopify is a great e-commerce platform and their customer service is the absolute best. Learn when to outsource and delegate tasks as well. It's terrifying at first, but not doing it can be the bottleneck that holds back real growth
What do you want someone to take away from a piece of MIMOSA jewelry?
Connection to people, place or story.
Just For Fun
What are you reading, or listening to, right now?
Reading — "Anam Cara" by John O'Donohue. Listening — "Paul, A Biography" by N. T. Wright.
Any favorite podcasts?
Masters of Scale. This episode is SO GOOD.
My favorite way to relax is ......
A too-hot bath with lots of oils.
What song are you loving?
"Oh Very Young" by Cat Stevens.
On a Saturday morning, you can find me ......
Selling my jewelry outside somewhere. ;)
What's one thing you want the world to know right now?
"We are all more alike than we are unalike." — Maya Angelou