What other jewelry designers do with clay, wire and crystals, Marissa does with thin strips of paper. Her quilled earrings and necklaces are both intricate and airy. When viewed from a distance, you'd think they were made of more traditional materials but close up you can see the magic. This week, we handed Marissa the mic, so we could learn more about what drives her, what inspires her and why she took up quilling in the first place.
Please welcome Marissa Agnew of Sweethearts and Crafts.
Tell us everything we need to know about you in 2 sentences.
Marissa: I am a Chicago girl; born, raised, currently residing. I grew up thinking the art gene skipped over me so instead of being artsy, I learned I could be crafty.
What kinds of items do you make and sell?
Marissa: Paper quilled jewelry and whimsical decorations. Paper quilling is not a well known art form but it's an oldie and a goodie. It basically involves taking strips of paper, rolling and curling them into shapes for decorative purposes. I make jewelry, ornaments, and art pieces with my strips of paper.
Why did you choose that field or did it choose you?
Marissa: I had been into origami since I was a child. My aunt bought me a quilling starter kit, thinking I would enjoy another paper craft and boy was she right! I started out making greeting cards but found my passion in the jewelry making side of quilling...so although it really chose me, I made it work with my interests.
Tell us about your favorite piece either currently in your store or in the past.
Marissa: My favorite piece is a set that started as just a necklace. When it became popular among both professional women as well as hard working moms, I knew I had to add the earrings. It's a great set that can be worn to the office and translates to an elegant night look. It's somehow modern and whimsical at the same time. I now offer it in several color schemes.
Talk about the decision to start selling your work? Was it a difficult decision to make? What, if anything, was holding you back?
Marissa: I decided to become a selling artist at the encouragement of my family. I made several quilled cards for my mom, aunt, and mother-in-law who each told me the cards were pretty enough to frame. When my father actually took himself to the craft store to buy a shadow box to display the birthday card I made for him, I knew my work was good enough to sell. It wasn't a hard decision at all.
How do you market your business?
Marissa: Oh boy...that's a loaded question. I try to do everything. I am quite active on social media and work on building my following pretty much on a daily basis. I do some paid promotion, within reason, because there is a lot of competition. I participate in a lot of local craft fairs and galleries to sell and gain exposure as well. Just like everything in art and business though, I do a lot of experimenting with what works and what doesn't work. I know more now than I did before and I continue to learn every day.
What inspires you?
Marissa: My Aunty Cathy has always been a creative inspiration for me. She actually introduced me to many of the crafts I love, including quilling. She is a very talented and passionate quilter; having made countless works of fabric art for me over the years. When she gave me a starter quilling kit, I misread the label as “quilting” and thought “oh dear, I am never going to be able to do this like she does”. Thankfully, my quilling kit lead me to something I loved and was good at, something I can use as a creative outlet for my ideas, something to be proud of, some way to share the love. I do not always have the privilege of knowing the person for whom I am creating a piece, but I am always inspired by the idea of making someone happy. That is why I call my work sweetly inspired and lovingly hand-crafted.
What frustrates you?
Marissa: When I decided to become a selling artist I hadn't considered all of the "non-art" part. There is so much that goes into being able to not just create but to successfully market and sell your work. Social media frequently frustrates me. SEO frustrates me. Metadata and analytics frustrate me. No matter how much I read and put into practice the things I've learned, there is always something new because technology never stops. It's hard to stay on top of it all.
What’s something you’ve kept since you were a child?
Marissa: My brother, my sister, and I all took Italian classes in grade school. One of the great things about this was once you reached eighth grade you got to go to Italy with your class. Being the eldest of the three of us, my sister got to go first. When she returned she had bought me a gorgeous Venetian glass heart necklace. I was 11 years old when she gave me that necklace and I still wear it today. I guess I've always loved hearts and jewelry!
If you could get up tomorrow and do anything at all, what would you do?
Marissa: I'd go up to Heaven and give my brother a hug.
Your friend is going to sign up with IndieMade tomorrow (while you’re off doing whatever you wanted to do). What advice do you have that will help her be successful?
Marissa: Take advantage of the absolutely amazing IndieMade support team! (Why thank you, Marissa!) I have wanted to do a lot of things to make my site more personal, tweaking features of the template I chose, and didn't always know how to do it by myself. Every single time I wrote to the help team with a question or request, they responded promptly and were very respectful of my design choices and knowledge base (or lack thereof).
Is there anything else you’d like to add or say to our audience of creative people? Feel free:
Marissa: Just a little more about quilling...
Quilling is also known as paper filigree. It involves curling, rolling and scrolling thin strips of paper into various shapes for decorative and artistic purposes. It is an art form dating back to Ancient Egypt and popularized during the Renaissance. Nuns would use the gilded edges of the Bible to quill intricate religious pieces and decorate book covers. The name "quilling" comes from the old practice of coiling paper strips around goose feather quills, rather than the nifty quilling tools we have available today.
All of my quilling work has been hand painted with several layers of special paper sealants. The sealant soaks into the paper, making it stiff, sturdy, and suitable for everyday wear. The sealant I use also makes my work water resistant and UV resistant. It will not fade over time and can simply be wiped off with a cloth if it gets a little wet.
See more of Marissa's work at her website: Sweethearts and Crafts
And be sure to follow her on social: