Super excited to share with you my first interview of this new series, Women Who Make! I’ll be profiling a creative woman whose work I admire monthly, and to kick it off we have the lovely, talented, and oh so natural Katie Mills.
Katie and I first met at Lillstreet Art Center (an awesome place to start making). We hit it off, and I’ve been admiring her style ever since. I think you’ll love it too! Also, don’t miss the giveaway contest and a chance to win earrings from Lady Faye Jewelry! Details on Instagram @clairerose1212, the contest runs through Sunday 4/5/15 – 12pm CST.
Name: Katie Mills
Current title/company name: Lady Faye Jewelry
Years in operation: 3.5 years
What is your first memory of making [art]?
My very first memory making art was working sitting on the kitchen floor making a paper mache globe. My first memory working with metal was during 2nd grade when I made a cuttlefish casting of a fish (editor’s note: see the adorable pic below).
How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business?
I’ve learned from each and every job I’ve had. My first entrepreneurial stint was making fimo jewelry in grade school (ha!) and selling it at my grandmother’s clothing shop. She’d display my jewelry in the front case and every so often I’d get an envelope with a few dollars from sales! During college, I was a waitress and barista (customer service skills are key) and then it was onto design and craft internships. Also, regarding metalsmiting specifically I took my first class in college and was immediately captivated by the process of working in metal. I was inspired by my professor who ingrained the importance of craftsmanship and stressed the idea of “measuring twice, cutting once”.
When I first moved to Chicago, Jen Farrell Starshaped Press hired me as an intern. The experience was very inspirational and influential to my development in small business and the creative community here in Chicago. It also led me to my job teaching classes at Columbia College. With my variety of work experience, my desire to start my own creative business, and my experience with metalsmithing I felt confident enough to start something on my own.
Tell us about the process of launching your own business, Lady Faye Jewelry. Best parts? Biggest challenge?
You might say I went about it backwards. I started making my glass button rings and decided on a whim to apply to a large craft fair. To my surprise, I got in and had a few months to develop a small line to go with the rings. It’s been a pretty natural evolution, and I’ve been figuring it out along the way. With a few novice years under my belt I’m excited about what the next couple of years might hold.
- Best parts: Having found an outlet to focus my creative energy. I also love the process of developing a jewelry line that represents me (and the ever evolving me). I love the idea that my line can evolve as my interests evolve.
- Biggest challenge: Managing everything! Maintaining a balance between the creative time (designing, studio time, making, reserving time/space for inspiration, skill development) and everything else (promotion, marketing, events, emailing, business development side of things).
What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?
- Inspirations: the everyday, travel, nature, simplicity, wanderlust, city living.
- Favorite part of the creative process: Spending hours in my studio working, making, designing, and getting my hands dirty. Sans computers!
What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs/artists?
The advice that I often give myself is to just get started! Whether I’m sitting down with an idea or no idea. I sometimes struggle with getting the ball rolling on a new project, and have found that experimenting with the materials usually jump-starts the process. Things usually fall into place from there.
Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?
I like the notion that jewelry can have a story, remind you of a time and place, playful, like something you picked up from a market in a foreign land. I also value a high level of craftsmanship and affordable prices.
Imagine Lady Faye is five years, how would you like to grow?
My goal for Lady Faye Jewelry is to continue to develop the product line, producing jewelry that maintains a small-batch collection. It is important to me to maintain a personal connection with everyone involved in the everyday process such as, vendors, coworkers and customers. I would love to establish a boutique storefront that functions both as studio and retail shop, while developing a strong online presence. I would love Lady Faye to become my full-time gig as well; I’m still juggling multiple jobs.
Do you have a most popular item?
The most popular items are my Czech glass button rings. The color and intricate hand painted detail of the glass button speak for themselves. I like making a simple bezel setting to showcase the glass. Also, pieces from the Volcan rock series are very popular as earrings and rings.
What do you enjoy most about the creative community here in Chicago?
Being part of a local creative community is priceless. I’m inspired and in awe of the Chicago creative community that spans across all mediums. Everyone works so hard! From the first day I arrived in Chicago, through the letterpress internship and Columbia College community, I’ve felt the love from the Chicago creative community. Nine years later, and since beginning Lady Faye Jewelry, the network continues to grow larger and stronger. I love running into my neighborhood creative friends and business owners in Ravenswood.
Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?
I love the name of your business and idea behind it. Yes, I find so much inspiration, calm and focus from my surroundings. My home definitely centers me, as do my long studio days where I’m lost in the process of making sawing, hammering, filing and soldering.
KATIE’ S CHICAGO FAVORITES:
Favorite spot to get inspired:
Generally speaking: the great outdoors: fresh air, sunshine and greenery a must. I also find camaraderie at Union Handmade, where I’m surrounded by a lovely and inspirational group of women working in a variety of mediums.
- A New Leaf
- Alapash for terrariums!
Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture:
- Scouring Wisconsin flea markets for home treasures.
Favorite place for coffee:
- Intellegenstia in the Monadnock building. Love the historic feeling of the building and shops (hat maker, florist, barber…).
Favorite place for a sweet treat:
- Hoosier Mama Pie Company
You can view more of Katie’s work at her website, and shop in-person at great local stores like Lillstreet Art Center and Union Handmade. I hope you are inspired to MAKE something today!
XOXO – CLAIRE
photo of Katie credit: Nicole Radja / Time Out Chicago
all other photos courtesy of Lady Faye Jewelry