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    Interview with Madeline Ellis of Mimosa Handcrafted : : Raising Global Citizens, Designing Pieces that Tell Stories, & Working with her Husband

    Photo Credit: Jason Cohen Photography

    In today’s interview we explore three important topics: 1. Living Slow, even when the rest of the world is overcommitted and exhausted. 2. Using your creativity to bring awareness to issues you’re passionate about. 3. Raising children to respect diversity and learning to live life alongside those of different cultural backgrounds.  

    I often hear women share that they feel their skill or passion isn’t valuable because it doesn’t directly meet a need or “serve the poor”. But I truly believe that we are each gifted with certain desires, skills, and life experiences, that are meant to help us affect change in our own unique way. And for those of us with kiddos, it begins in our own home. We each fill a vital role within society and can affect change the best when embracing our own gifting.  

    While I’m so passionate about living a life of intention and purpose, a few years ago I also began to recognize the value of good design. I didn’t initially realize that the way something was created and presented, could change the way someone felt on the inside, help to better solve a problem, or simply articulate an idea in a more clear way. But over the years I’ve met more and more creative women who’ve shown me that good design is often at the heart of articulating a meaningful message. Without good design, people don’t pay attention.

    During this current season, where I’ve been feeling anxious about attending midwifery school and adjusting to life back here on the mainland, I found this piece from Mimosa Handcrafted to be especially encouraging. It does what I believe amazing design is supposed to. It causes me to stop, reflect, and proceed with hope.

    Below you’ll find my interview with Madeline Ellis. She is the founder of Mimosa Handcrafted. She shares how she began creating jewelry, her philosophy on designing meaningful pieces that go beyond trends, and how her and her husband have chosen to step away from the rat-race of society. I KNOW you’ll enjoy it. Grab a cuppa’ and let me know your thoughts in the comments.

    AM: What’s motherhood like in Louisiana?

    ME: Oh goodness! It’s wild but I think motherhood is wild everywhere… There absolutely are cultural norms that influence how I mother or in some ways how I don’t. 

    Private schools are a big cultural norm where we live and choosing to send our kids to a public school felt a little like swimming against the current.  We wanted our kids to grow up in a diverse environment where not everyone looked like them or talked like them or even spoke their same language.

    We’re More Alike Than We Are Different

    My time in China and our time in Costa Rica proved to us the value of speaking more than one language. Our time in the South proved to us that true diversity is the only way we’ll learn to know that we are as Maya Angelou says “More alike than we are unalike”. People here spend so much time on their own “side of town” or “side of the tracks” that they start to think the people on the other side are something other than just like us at the core.

    I find living here you absolutely have to be intentional about crossing those invisible boundaries otherwise you could live in two very different worlds in the same city. My point is, we wanted that to be different for our kids. Our son is in french immersion at one of the most diverse public schools in our city, they teach Mandarin, Spanish and French.  He is taught all of his subjects in French all day and gets about and hour of english. It’s incredible to think in the deep South he’s in an environment where he is literally immersed in more cultures, races and languages than some people in this town experience in a lifetime.

    There is also a huge pressure to have your kids in 1283904 activities! I read Kim John Payne’s book Simplicity Parenting years ago and ever since then I’ve given my family the permission slip to skip out on all of that and just be. His book talks in depth about the over-stimulation of kids in America today, rushing from this to that to this to that constantly with no break.

    Breaking Away From the American Mold

    He talks about working with child patients in middle class america, involved in all the activities who had the same post traumatic stress symptoms as post war survivors in Cambodia. Kids here are just experiencing their trauma in tiny little doses constantly every single day. They never get the chance to just be, to play in the dirt to live slow. He says it’s vital for our health for our kids health, for our kids creativity to get bored sometimes. He says over and over that boredom is the birthplace of creativity, if we don’t schedule them to death or prepared-activity them to death they’ll never get a chance to get creative with that empty time and invent their own games, build their own imaginary worlds, create artistic “masterpieces” etc that are all so vital to their developing brains.

    So yeah, I’d say we take it a lot slower, we don’t commit to all the things the other kids are signed up for and we are really intentional about doing nothing 😉

    AM: Please share a bit of your background.

    ME: 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 was the first time I remember using my talent/skills to make things I wanted to exist in the world but couldn’t find. 

    Intentional Design

    I studied landscape architecture at Lousiana State University. The LA program has hovered around #1 in the country for the last 10 years. It’s a fantastic design program that gave me a solid foundation for 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 on 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.

    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 an LLC and apply to sell at the local arts market. Eventually I left my day job to pursue jewelry full time. My background in landscape architecture prepared me for creating pieces that went beyond aesthetic adornment. Everything we designed in school had to have a “why,” and we didn’t include things 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.

    AM: What’s it been like to work with your husband?

    ME: Dawson and I did a short internship in Costa Rica right after graduation and then went on to our separate jobs once we came back to Louisiana. Fast forward to about 2015, he sold his part of his company to his business partner and joined me full time. It was a little rocky learning to work together at first but it wasn’t our first time and even though it wasn’t landscape architecture I know our background in it gave us a really solid foundation for speaking the same language when it comes to the work we do.

    We have not-so-great days for sure, and spending that much time with anyone would hit bumps at some point, but for the most part we pinch ourselves because we can’t believe we get to do this (in our backyard, together!!) We’re more like “oh man when is the gig going to be up and we’ll have to go do real jobs?

    AM: What is the lost wax technique of jewelry making?

    A Modern Take on a Traditional Technique

    ME: oh goodness, this one is complicated 😉 Usually when we try to answer this one people glaze over pretty quick but I’ll do my best. Lost wax casting is actually an ancient way of creating 3 dimensional metal pieces. You start by creating whatever it is that you want out of wax, so I’ll carve a piece of jewelry out of a plastic-like chunk of wax. It’s hard, not like candle wax so you have to use special tools to work with it. Although there are softer waxes and we do use those depending on the project. Once I have the piece exactly as I want it to look in metal we mold it with a plaster like mold material. Once the plaster hardens we heat it up and melt the wax piece out through a vent hole, then you are left with a void of exactly the wax version of what you carved. Next you heat that mold up roughly to the temperature of the melted metal and pour the metal into the vent hold the wax was melted out of. Once the metal cools you dunk the whole mold in to water and it dissolves leaving a perfect (hopefully) metal version of the wax piece you carved. The metal filled the void of the melted wax (lost wax). I hope that makes sense!

    AM: What is your favorite piece in the Mimosa collection?

    ME: I’d say it’s the Pelican cuff, it embodies so much of what I’m trying to do and was my first big piece when we started lost wax casting. She lived in my mind for so long it was a really special day when I could finally hold her in my hands.

    I consider so much more than trends; each piece is rooted in creating experience, solving a problem, telling a story or raising awareness.

    AM: What are you currently reading?

    ME: Beauty by John O’Donohue (again). He’s my absolute favorite author. I read a lot but I always come back to him.

    AM: What do you do to relax and unwind?

    ME: Funny you should ask, I was just talking about this a lot today! A warm bath, good book, essential oils (worn or diffused or in the bath!) lay in the grass and stare at the sky, decaf chai tea,  great dark chocolate, walk around Whole Foods mindlessly ;), Get a massage, saying “no”…

    You can discover more of Mimosa Handcrafted on Instagram and shop their gorgeous pieces here.

    You can also visit Madeline, Dawson, and the Mimosa Handcrafted team at the Mid City Makers Market, once a month in Baton Rouge, LA. The market is packed with over 80 local makers, live music, and locally made food.  www.midcitymakers.market

    Thanks so much for reading!! I hope this post encourages you along your mothering journey.