Featured: Michelle Rollinson-Berry of Cynical Redhead

Michelle, handstamping jewelry maven behind Cynical Redhead

Fun, smart, edgy, and chic are just a few of the adjectives that come to mind when I think about Michelle Rollinson-Berry's line of jewelry and guitar picks.  With a business name like Cynical Redhead, you get the vibe I'm talking about.  That kind that makes you want to grab a coffee (or a beer?) with this girl.  While I didn't get to partake in a bevvy with Michelle for geographical reasons, she was kind enough to answer some of my questions about her creative business.  Read on for a glimpse into the life and biz of Cynical Redhead.

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creations.

My background and education is actually in psychology.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psych and a Master’s degree in Counseling.  I worked in the mental health field for almost 20 years before deciding to make my jewelry business my full time career.  I’m completely self taught as far as jewelry making and pretty much anything else creative goes.  I love books more than just about anything in the world.  Much of what I make is inspired by my love of books.  

Why did you start your creative business?

I have always loved making things and I always felt that I had the potential to turn it into a business.   I don’t have a problem working with others, but I do generally prefer to work alone.  I had worked in mental health for a long time, and I had reached the point where the low pay, demanding schedule and stress level were making me consistently unhappy.  I had been doing both my Etsy shop and my day job for a little over 3 years before I decided to take the leap into doing it full time.  

Tell me a bit about your creative process.

I generally work in a small extra bedroom that I staked out a corner of for my studio space.      I am not a day person, definitely not a morning person.  The bulk of my work gets done between 9p.m. and 4a.m. (though during busy seasons, it is more like 12p.m. to 4a.m.).   I have always loved being up late at night when everyone else is asleep.  I like the lack of distraction.  I love the quiet.

The items I make vary in the time they take.  I can do a simple bracelet in maybe 10-15 minutes, but some of the more intricate pieces can take a few hours each.  

What do you absolutely need to fuel your creativity?

My main necessities for motivation to actually make things are:  coffee, kitties, travel, and Netflix/DVDs.   I don’t really watch TV as I work, but I love to listen as I work.  Last Christmas season, I listened to my Game of Thrones DVDs over and over again as I filled orders.   This year it’s Sons of Anarchy.  The kitties (I have two) are the best stress relievers I’ve ever encountered.  They show up to interrupt me periodically and let me know it’s time to put down the hammer and spend some time snuggling with them.   Without them, I’d probably end up completely burned out because I am bad about taking breaks.   I have a hard time leaving anything unfinished.  

What is your favourite part of the creative process?  

My very favorite part of the creative process is when an idea strikes.  Sometimes it is after reading a particular sentence in a book or seeing something unexpected when I travel.   A lack of ideas makes me uncomfortable.  I always like to have something new on the agenda that I am excited to make.  A lack of new ideas feels a little like being dead inside.  

What challenges do you face in your creative business and how do you overcome them?

One of the challenges is the juggling of all the different parts of running a one-person business without making any major mistakes.  Everything from ordering jewelry and packaging supplies, designing business cards, staging and photography, promoting and advertising, customer service, shipping, etc. is my job, on top of the actual creative process and making of the items.  Sometimes it feels like there is little time left for creativity.  

It’s sometimes hard to prioritize when every part of what you do is important and necessary.  

Luckily, my jobs in mental health required me to be extremely organized, handle multiple things at once, and to be very deadline oriented, which is a huge help.   

Where would you like to see your creative business in 10 years?  

In 10 years, I would love to have brand recognition on a global scale.  I would love to be featured in a major magazine/website by that point, definitely.  

Who are your creative inspirations?  

I know it sounds odd, but I don’t really have anyone that comes to mind for that.  I have always kind of followed my own instincts when it comes to what I want to make and wear.   I love both art and fashion and can happily spend entire days in museums, but I also don’t want to be too heavily influenced by anyone else’s work.  

Where can we buy your super cool creations?

I sell primarily through Etsy at http://cynicalredhead.etsy.com   My jewelry is also available at Vintage Karma in Tuscola, Illinois.  It is a wonderful little tattoo/vintage shop that sells both vintage and handmade items.   

Thanks SO much to Michelle for letting spend a little time her world.  To follow Michelle and her work, check out the links below.

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All images courtesy of Michelle Rollinson-Berry

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