Making a living doing what you love doesn’t just happen. It is the result of dedication and commitment. In this series of artisan features, we are focusing on what it takes for makers to live a committed creative life.
Kari, of Mile High Beads, creative journey was present from childhood, but the form in which she supported herself creativity wasn’t always a straight path. “I majored in Studio Art in college, specifically painting, but I was never really sure how to incorporate that into a career after graduation.”
Kari waited on tables to make a living after finishing college. She eventually worked her way up to restaurant management. Even with her success, her calling for a creative life was still present. “As much as I loved painting, I knew that I needed to accept that I couldn’t make a career of it. I turned my focus to other artistic passions like photography and jewelry-making.”
When a store manager job at a local bead store opened up, it seemed like the perfect way for Kari to get her foot in the door to returning to a creative life. For several years, she learning the ropes of the bead store business and honing her beading and teaching skills.
After a move to Colorado, Kari started working towards opening up her own bead shop. In January 2016, Mile High Beads opened for business on Etsy!
I enjoyed learning more about Kari’s life and creative process during her interview. She, like many of us, navigates a creative career while being a full-time mother. Her path now is clear, but as you will read, it is one that she dedicates herself fully to.
Becky: Thank you Kari for taking the time to tell us about your creative life. Was there a memorial moment when you knew you wanted to make art and being creative a full-time job?
Kari: Funny enough, when I was in kindergarten and they asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up, I said “artist!” But other than that, there wasn’t really a single moment of realization. I struggled a lot trying to figure out my career path. I knew I wanted to do something that made me happy and art always made me happy, but making a living with it just seemed so implausible! Moving from California to Colorado was definitely pretty pivotal in pushing me to make the leap into creative entrepreneurship, though! We were already making big changes in our lives and I felt that if I were to start up a new job I would get settled and stuck and never actually venture out on my own, so it was kind of now or never!
Becky: In the beginning, what types of choices did you need to make in order to live a committed created life that also supported you financially?
Kari: My original plan was to own a brick & mortar bead shop and just sell whatever jewelry I made for a little income boost. When I scratched the idea of a physical shop and went online, creating jewelry became more and more of the focus of my business. But I’m so glad I still sell jewelry-making supplies, too! It helps keep sales steady when Jewelry sales fluctuate and takes a little pressure off the creating aspect because I have a bit of a financial base to rely on.
Becky: Did you have a mentor or a role model?
Kari: The owners of the bead store I worked at were certainly influential. Not only did they teach me the ropes of running a bead shop, it was so instructional to watch them get creative with their business and keep evolving in order to make things work.
Becky: Was there ever a time where you weren’t sure how you were going to keep moving forward with your commitment to living a creative life? What did you do?
Kari: Honestly, the thing that worries me the most is the physical aspect of making jewelry. I started having pain and tingling in my hands and wrists last summer and it definitely drove home the fact that I rely on these two hands for so much! I went to physical therapy and have to continually remind myself to take brakes, stretch, and keep up with the exercises they gave me because if I don’t, surgery could be devastating!
Becky: What does a typical morning routine look like for you?
Kari: The kiddo wakes me up, far too early for how late I was up working the night before. He plays while I post on Instagram and finish getting packages ready for the morning mail pick-up. After breakfast, I’m mostly focused on childcare and activities with my son, but I’ll grab little moments to respond to messages and handle smaller business tasks where I can. I also mentally plan what I want to work on once my husband is done with work or the kiddo goes to bed. Evenings are when most of the creative magic happens, but a weekend morning when my husband and son are out and I have a quiet house all to myself…that’s a little slice of creative heaven!
Becky: Do you have any particular habits or practices that you routinely practice to help you stay creative?
Kari: Cleaning and organizing my beads and my studio space is the best thing I can do to stay creative. If I’m stuck and don’t know what to make, tidying up helps me because I’m reacquainting myself with all the beautiful goodies I have to play with. Eventually, things start to click and I have too many ideas and not enough time to bring them to life! In that case, packing materials up together, sometimes with a little sketch, helps remind me, “Oh yeah! I wanted to make that thing!” and then it’s ready and waiting when I get another chance to create!
Becky: How do you motivate yourself to be creative?
Kari: I don’t usually have a problem being motivated to create. Between all the other tasks involved with the business and being home full-time with my three year-old, I’m usually starved for some time to create! The trick is keeping track of my ideas whenever inspiration hits so I can get right to work when I have the time.
Becky: What would you say your top three strengths are?
Kari: I’m pretty self-motivated; I rarely struggle to stay busy and working. I’d also say I have a pretty good eye for color and an attention to detail that borders on obsession!
Becky: How does living a life of being creative enhance your level of happiness?
Kari: Creating something beautiful with your own two hands is intrinsically joyful and fulfilling. To know that “I made that!” is honestly the coolest feeling in the world! There’s also something so peaceful and meditative about the creative process. I sit down, focus on the task at hand, immerse myself in color and gems and sparkles, and when I’m done I have a tangible object that I’m proud of and other people enjoy. It doesn’t get much better!
Art brings beauty and balance into not only our own lives, but into the lives of others. Our role, as creative people, is essential.
Thank you Kari for sharing your journey!
To see more of Kari’s work, visit:
Shop the Mile High Beads Etsy site: etsy.com/shop/milehighbeads
Follow on Instagram: @milehighbeads
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