Mei-Ling Uliasz, Found Jewelry Artist:
An Interview & Giveaway!
Karen and I first met Mei-Ling at a craft show a few years ago when both of us had other businesses making and selling our own handcrafted goods. Mei-Ling is still spearheading her shop, Twitch & Whiskers, where she creates unbelievable jewelry pieces out of found treasures. We are huge fans of her work and adore her as a friend. She's warm and bubbly with loads of creativity to share. So we're particularly excited to be offering one of her prized necklaces to one of you lucky readers of Little Yellow Couch! You can enter the drawing below. But first, let's catch up with Mei-Ling...
Little Yellow Couch: Which came first? Collecting odds and ends and then one day realizing you could turn them into jewelry? Or knowing you wanted to make jewelry and then looking for interesting objects?
Mei-Ling Uliasz: Many years ago, I took a basic jewelry making class at a local bead shop. I was inspired by wire working techniques but not by the traditional semi-precious bead selection offered at the shop. I went home and tried using the same techniques on my personal collection of vintage odds and ends. That’s when inspiration struck and my definition of jewelry "supplies" changed forever. I first started using vintage materials that I had around the house but now I go out into the world to seek out vintage goods. When I find a piece at a flea market or consignment shop, I make sure I can visualize the object in a final piece of jewelry before purchasing it. This helps me to be mindful of my budget, stay focused on design, and keep me off of Hoarders!
LYC: What are some of your favorite items to use?
MLU: Currently, my favorite items to work with are vintage toys because they are colorful, whimsical, and you can play with them. In my work area you can find piles of tin clickers, tin whistles, Cracker Jack prizes, mini pinball games, dexterity puzzles, and Vari Vue lenticular cards. My customers enjoy how they are both interactive and amazing conversation pieces.
LYC: You also teach full time. Is it difficult to do both?
MLU: I feel like it’s an absolute gift to be able to pursue both of my passions. It’s definitely a delicate balancing act doing both during the school year. School work comes first and then I find little snippets of time to create pieces in between sips of coffee in the morning or on the weekends. I find that both jobs actually complement one another. Being around vivacious seven and eight year olds feeds my imagination and in turn, I can share my creative life with my students. When I was a second grade student, I said I wanted to be a teacher, artist, and Solid Gold dancer when I grew up. Two out of three ain’t too shabby!
LYC: We understand sometimes you help kids pursue their creative interests outside of school. Can you tell us about that?
MLU: When I was young, my creativity was nurtured by my family, teachers, and friends and it helped me to become the person I am today. Whenever I meet a child at a craft show with creative interests, I love finding out about their projects and fostering their ideas. Over the years, I have corresponded with some of my customer’s kids and have helped them to explore the world of jewelry. I enjoy sending care packages out to kids and seeing what they come up with. After school, I also run an outreach program where students take on projects to help the community, the environment, and animals. I let the students choose how they want to raise funds and awareness, and oftentimes, these projects have creative bends to them. Students are amazed when they discover that making and selling their handmade goods can help others in the world. My big push is to show kids that there’s room for creativity in every aspect of our lives.
LYC: You've incorporated vintage guitar knobs into some of your rings. Is this a nod to your musician husband?
MLU: Absolutely! Thom plays in an experimental electronics band called Burnkit2600. Thom and his bandmate Justin invent their own instruments through a process called circuit bending. They rewire devices like televisions and electronic toys, turning them into musical instruments. Like me, Thom has a unique collection of vintage components that gets repurposed into projects. One day, while I was poking through his box of old radio and guitar knobs, I thought “These would make great rings!” and the idea stuck. I find that we inspire each other all the time.
LYC: You have an incredibly full schedule of juried, highly curated art and crafts shows. What do you like most about selling directly to customers? What's the hardest part about doing shows?
MLU: My favorite part of doing shows is meeting new people. Vintage items are steeped in nostalgia, so when customers walk into my booth, they often share their connections to the pieces. It’s not uncommon to hear, “I used to play with that toy!” or “My mom used to have that brooch.” I love listening to people’s memories and stories. The hardest part about doing shows is getting there - schlepping a car full of displays and jewelry thousands of miles every year. Traveling and setting up is tiring at times but in the end, when pieces go home with happy customers and I’ve gotten to hang out with amazing artists all day, it’s more than worth it!
LYC: Where do you think your business is headed? What are you excited about making next?
MLU: I have tons of ideas brewing all the time. My newest ideas involve making larger scale pieces and creating jewelry making kits for kids. One of my goals is to get Twitch and Whiskers jewelry into more shops and strengthen my online presence. My biggest hope is to collaborate with my husband and make some musical pieces. For the time being, I am getting to know my new second graders and preparing for my 2014 holiday craft show season. Once things settle down a bit in January, we’ll see which ideas rise to the top!
And now for the GIVEAWAY!!!
We are so excited about this, folks! You can enter to win this adorable OWL NECKLACE (Retail price: $48) by doing any or all of the following:
This giveaway is also posted on the Home Work blog's giveaway link party.