This week, I have such a fun Shop Small Saturday Showcase feature for you! Jonnie, the delightfully quirky girl behind Grey Theory Mill is sharing a bit about her work and life. Actually, when I say a bit, I mean a lot! I love how much thought and detail she gave in her interview, which reflects the same amount of attention she gives to each handmade creation. Also, when I say quirky, I mean it! Check out a couple of the funniest maker photos that I've ever featured below. :)
Seriously, I am in love with just about everything in her store. The jewelry is an awesome mix of geometric designs, fun colors, and sweetness, plus her notebooks are just as pretty! Seriously, when I first saw her booth at Patchwork, I could not decide on just one design. Well, luckily the winner of the giveaway won't have to make the same decision because she is giving away $45 to one lucky reader! And for all of my readers, she is giving a promo to save 15% off at her store.
Stay tuned for that at the end of the interview, but first check out some amazingly creative handmade gems and hear more from Jonnie herself!
Tell me a little bit about yourself!
My name is Jonnie and I’m a doer-maker-creative-learning-reading-watcher sort of person (or whatever that means). My favorite pastimes include reading, tea-drinking, learning, listening, dancing, being, creating, sharing, cooking, baking, daydreaming, dreaming, pretending, writing, photo-taking, walking, exploring, shopping for supplies, hanging out with my other half/friends/family, and many other present progressives.
I’ve always been rather creative and have always enjoyed an established relationship between my mind and hands. As a very young child (so young this is my mother’s memory), my first masterpiece was a portrait of my mother’s face on the bathroom floor. I had gotten rid of the throw rug and collected every last bit of her makeup and went to town on my linoleum canvas. When she woke up, I was just finishing her piece and I excitedly squealed, “Look momma! It’s you!” She was bummed all her brand new make-up was now diminished, but she said it was really well done. I was also really good at drawing on the walls. So, with that said, I would say I’ve never been too nervous to try out new mediums. If an idea comes to me (whatever it may be) I just figure out how to do it until it can be done. If it can’t, I chalk it up as a learning experience and move on.
I did drama in high school, dabbled in garage bands, and wrote quite a bit. “Art” was something I did on my own time (which was usually collages for my school binder). It wasn’t until my sophomore year of colleg--as an English major--that it struck me I needed to major in art. So I left that college, went back home, completed all the undergrad art courses needed to transfer to a new school and then decided to change my major to Human Development. I started Grey Theory Mill sometime in between and would say that in starting a business, I created my own classroom where I have learned about myself, art, design, online marketing, etc. It wasn’t a clear cut training program, just a conglomeration of personal experience and existing.
Where did the name of your store come from?
Grey Theory Mill (GTM) was a dream I never had time for due to full-time college and full-time work. My journals were riddled with possible logo ideas, store names, and idea-upon-idea of designs for all sorts of delicious goodies. After looking over my final semester schedule at Palomar, before my transfer to Cal State, I decided to fit in a Special Projects class through the Art Department. This way I could rationalize the time needed to set-up my etsy shop and start executing the ideas that I was itching to do. Thanks to that Special Projects class, Grey Theory Mill officially opened April 3, 2010 under the whimsical made-up name of Windeymoor. The name-change-bug struck in the early part of 2012 as I no longer felt that Windeymoor fit my vision. I tossed and turned, coming up with a few names I loved, but they had similar problems to Windeymoor: no one could say it correctly and it was difficult to spell.
I can’t distinctly recall how Grey Theory came to me. I know that I finally got myself set on some sort of name with the word “grey” in it, and my journals/psyche from way before the launch of Windeymoor, certainly made that clear. Grey is a very significant word and thing to me. Growing up, I was surrounded by a lot of black and white thinking. Things, issues, and choices that person X or group Y wanted me to choose between. One was right and the other wrong. This sort of thinking(if you can call it that) has always made me very, very uncomfortable. I would journal about these things, these pressures, and bleed out my anxieties…bleed all my thinking, my grey. I could never really commit to a side…I could never be that true black or that true white. I may have looked it, a deep-dark grey, but a lot went into why I was such a dark shade of grey…I thought through every layer, every shade, and could understand why I thought about X, Y, or Z the way I did.
Grey became even more significant to me a few years ago when I went to visit my aunt and uncle in Michigan. It was towards the end of my stay when my uncle and I got into a philosophical conversation about religion, labels, and thinking. The quote I took from that discussion was, “when people label things, they stop thinking, or at least I do”. My eyes got big…this is that state of grey!! The state of comfortable uncertainty!! I know our minds desire to categorize and understand everything, but some things in life are just not meant to be understood. I’m not talking about the obvious categorizations here, like food groups, animal types, etc. I’m talking about those hard moral and ethical issues, those “where do I go”, “what if I’m...”, and “what is the meaning of life” questions. My whole being resonated with that non-labeling statement, that state of grey put into words…to label something is to stop learning, to stop asking, to stop truly understanding.
Grey is the place where thinking happens…
where you work out all the kinks, unwanted curves, and fill in the gaps………
or at least, this is my theory…my grey, grey theory.
And the “Mill”, well, I needed it to sound like there was a product being offered...not just my thinkings...thus Grey Theory Mill was born (officially on September 30, 2012).
Why did you start making goods for Grey Theory Mill?
I think my subconscious new all along I still wanted to major in art (I freaked out when I was about to transfer to an art program with the thought, “I can’t major in art!! What will I do when I graduate?!”) so I tethered myself to the idea of having an art store. I loved the handmade movement and even more so the idea of being able to create practical art and wares for others (my favorite kind of art). It has evolved many times since its initial creation and I couldn’t be happier!
What is your favorite item?
Oooo. What a tough question! Well, it’s a tie, but to not make it a tie, my shirts! I love a good t-shirt (or tank)!! I bought a dream big stamp from Michaels a few years ago and fell in LOVE. I knew I wanted to incorporate that motto into my life and my business. I designed my dream big shirt in March of this year and just love how it looks, love what I hear when people see it, and love that so many people have their own meaning for dreaming big in their lives.
What is your most popular item?
Earrings and prints online, and in physical shops I believe the necklaces and shirts do the best.
Where do you get the inspiration for your work?
I think the more appropriate question is, where don’t you get inspiration for your work? With that being said, I think I have inspiration ADHD. I am inspired by so many facets of living that it’d be hard for me to say just one. I wish I could just say “nature” and be done with it, but I think for me, human culture is my biggest muse. I love science, I love words, I love learning, I love dynamics of relationships, I love watching, I love dreaming (and have been given a few ideas in my dreams!) I always keep a notebook on me because I never know when inspiration will hit.
What makes your store unique?
Well, I don’t believe that my store is unique. I am unique as a person, we all are, but as for handmade stores, I am a huge proponent that there is nothing new under the sun. Sure no one had thought to do emoji earrings on etsy yet (as far as I am aware), but I in no way designed emojis. Not many people decide to use Grade A titanium so their earrings can be worn by anyone. Yes, I designed the dream big logo and put it on a shirt, but that is not a new motto that is unique to Grey Theory Mill. One of my most favorite art professors once said that she sees art as a river. You add to the river and take from the river and it always is a variation of river water...maybe some rocks..maybe some sand. I think what makes handmade stores unique is that you actually decide to go for it. You decided to go to the river, take some water and in turn, put some water back. The uniqueness is the doing. Not many people “do”.
What is the toughest part about making your goods/your artistic process?
Well, the toughest part for me is that I am all over the board. I make necklaces, earrings, notebooks, prints, shirts, and am always looking at other mediums because I like being able to make a lot of different things. It’s become tougher because in addition to etsy (which can be challenging to maintain in and of itself) I sell through 8 physical brick and mortar shops...aaaaaand I also work at Trader Joe’s 4 days a week. So, it’s just tough...but I know I would be bored otherwise :) I love the quote by John Piper, “If you are sufficient for your task, it’s too small.” I like to be challenged.
Do you take custom orders?
Yes! On most items. Earrings, necklaces, notebooks, and prints. I believe shirts are the only items that are “as is”. Turnaround time varies, but usually are completely within a week and shipped promptly upon completion.
Are you going to be at any shows soon, so I can see your work in person and say hello?
Yes! Makers Arcade in North Park, San Diego, CA on March 21st <3
For other events you can visit my events calendar: www.greytheorymill.com/events.
Where can I see more of your work and buy a gift?
Now you see why I love Grey Theory Mill so much, right? Besides feeding my addiction to pretty colors and polka dots, any shop owner who jumps for joy and replaces her hand with an animal prop is a-okay!
Before we get to the giveaway, Jonnie is offering 15% off at her Etsy shop by entering the discount code VINTAGEZEST15. Yay! Now to the giveaway! Enter using the widget below and...