Our makers never fail to motivate us, encourage our creativity, and fill us with inspiration. So, when a new design enters our assortment, we’re always excited to learn more about the people behind the product.
What gets an artist going and keeps them creating is certainly worth sharing, and every great connection starts with a simple introduction. Meet Lara Caldwell, who along with her husband Kevin, is the creator of the Ginkgo Jewelry Tree.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist/maker?
I’ve always loved being creative and making gifts for friends. As a young child there were some teachers who discouraged my love for art, so it wasn’t until college that I started to enjoy creating and learning new techniques again. I also always wanted to run my own business, but never could settle on exactly what that business would be. It wasn’t until I was laid off from my 9-5 job in 2013 that I finally took the leap.
What was the most exciting thing about becoming a professional artist/maker?
It took me about a year running our Etsy shop before I started feeling comfortable saying I was self-employed. It has been one of the hardest things and the most rewarding. In addition to the beautiful jewelry trees my husband makes for our shop, I do a variety of creations, but the most rewarding are custom baby dust necklaces. After years of infertility and pregnancy loss I wanted to create something that could be a blessing or token for others who have traveled this tough journey. I love hearing the stories some of the women share with me and it feels good to somehow give back to that segment of the community. I was also very excited to be contacted by Uncommon Goods about our jewelry trees. What a compliment that has been.
What does your typical day in the studio look like?
I can honestly say we are still growing and don’t really have a “typical” day just yet. I like to have most of our items in stock so they can be shipped out as soon as possible. If they can’t be fully assembled, then they’re usually partially done awaiting customization of some type. My husband does the metal work for our trees and recycled metal items. So, he might be out in the garage cutting, grinding and welding up several items at once. I can be found making earrings or custom necklaces, or if I’m in the painting mood, creating ornaments or little gift paintings. The creative part of the business–because it’s the most enjoyable–doesn’t seem to take as long. Doing the photography takes me the longest so I’ll sometimes wait to list items and do a bunch of photos all at once, then edit and create listings.
I can spend endless hours on the computer researching SEO, editing photos or handling correspondence or accounting. That is until our dog Shelby has had enough of being ignored and shoves her head between me and the keyboard, then it’s time to take a break. Our “studio” isn’t terribly much on the inside. I have a small home office that’s in the corner of our guest room. My husband has one side of the garage dedicated to doing the metal work. I’m lucky to have a “craft” room where we can store much of our inventory and supplies but I’ll be honest, it is most often that I will drag out a card table and paint or make jewelry in the living room so I can visit with my husband or love on our pets.
Is there a trinket, talisman, or other inspirational object you keep near? If so, what is it and what does it mean to you?
I don’t have a trinket, but our business logo is a dandelion seed or wish which has always meant a great deal to me. I have many fond memories as a child making wishes and blowing the seeds into the air. As an adult I’ve wished many times for a healthy child someday, so as a symbol it is near and dear. Probably the biggest inspiration for my husband and I comes from the property we now live on. We have over 7 acres in Southern Oregon and have a lovely view of Mount McLoughlin. Just about everything we create is inspired by nature, so to sit and work with the sights and sounds of it all around us is a huge blessing.
Imagine you just showed your work to a kindergartner for the first time. What do you think they would say?
I can actually answer this as we’ve done some holiday shows. The younger, little ones usually gravitate towards our necklaces with bottles of colored glitter and fairy charms or to my little paintings. The kids who see our jewelry trees for the first time don’t really know what they are but often ask what type of tree it is and enjoy feeling the leaves. Sometimes they’re surprised that the trees are hard metal. Because many of our items are colorful or uniquely shaped the smaller children usually just want to touch, hold and stare but don’t say much. There might be a question or two on if the fairy dust is real though.
What quote or mantra keeps you motivated?
“If something is more exhausting than exhilarating, it isn’t worth it” has been a mantra I’ve said and stuck to since my early college years. Also, on our thank you cards and correspondence we usually say “May your karma always be lucky” as a play on our business name.