Tea Talk With ‘Maqaroon’ Maven Joanna

joanna

Joanna is a Miseducated Eyecandy Girl through and through! Not only is she obviously adorable but she is a talented and successful business woman who owns and runs her own company filled with cuteness called Maqaroon. She creates jewelry, accessories and art inspired by Japanese fashion and unisex-friendly kawaii. She even blogs on her website and features female bloggers (most recently myself, so honored beyond belief) she feels drawn too in her super sweet, kawaii colorful and unique style of illustration. I am very happy to get a chance to chat with her and to share a bit of her world with all of you.

When did you start focusing on art and design as a hobby or passion and why?
I first discovered manga style when I was 8. I was in a tiny stationery shop in Beijing and found a Sailor Moon card showing all the characters wearing evening gowns. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen and became obsessed with wanting to draw like that! I was a very geeky teenager and loved video games, animes and RPGs so drawing fanart fit perfectly into that scene.

When and why did you decide to take it online?
I became very involved in the online manga community (Deviantart, Animexx, Livejournal) during high school because it was a great place to post work, get feedback and stay motivated. During university I learned enough to create a portfolio website and several years after that, after working as a web-designer, I finally had enough experience to design and set up my own online shop.

What is most challenging about starting a business on and offline?
The hardest offline part was finding the right third party contacts who help your business work. These include web developers, event organisers, couriers, photographers, printers, bloggers, financial/tax advisers and countless suppliers in Europe and Asia. Each one involves a financial gamble and you only know if that pays off after you receive the product or service. I invested (or wasted) a lot of money in the process but unfortunately there’s no way around the process as each business is unique and you need to try out everything to find what works for you.

The biggest online challenge is maintaining a constant presence on all your social media, including coming up with relevant, unique and interesting content for each platform and meaningfully interacting with other people. This is a full-time job for most companies, but if you’re doing everything alone then you have to fit it in around all other tasks! I have utmost respect for bloggers/vloggers who manage to post every few days as editing content is so much more time-consuming than anyone could imagine.

What would you tell an artist starting out marketing and selling their work online?
Start with as low quantities of each product as possible, then participate in craft fairs/pop-up markets where you sell a lot in a short space of time. Once you discover what people like to buy, go and design a batch of new things based on the bestselling product or theme. Then repeat with another event, and keep streamlining your products based on sales.

I have to emphasise participating in offline events because I found this was the best way to get a lot of feedback in the shortest space of time. When you first start out, online sales can be incredibly slow so it might take months if not years to get an idea of product popularity and you don’t want to wait that long! Once you know what sells, it will automatically drive your sales up both online and off.

Another good tip for any online shop is to choose light, flat products which are cheap to ship and not easily breakable. And always keep a very close eye on profit margins. I made an early mistake of offering keyrings and items with very small margins (e.g. 2-3 dollars). If I ended up miscalculating shipping by a tiny amount, or having to replace the parcel if it got lost then I would have negated that sale or even made a loss.

Lastly, don’t worry about comparing yourself with other brands or businesses. Just like how people make their lives look shinier on Facebook, a lot of brands may present a successful façade but that’s no reflection on how well they’re actually doing. Some companies simply buy fake Facebook and Twitter followers, others plough tons of loaned money into their start-up but are actually in debt. From talking to many people behind the scenes, I learned that many small businesses that are professionally represented at trade shows are still only being done part-time, and the owner(s) still rely on other sources of income.

So in short, don’t doubt yourself if it appears like everyone else is more successful. Even if you’re selling a few handmade items a month, you could still be making more profit than a shiny start-up with several employees that’s actually being funded by investors or a bank loan. The only thing to focus on is how your business is performing compared to itself, and work on steadily increasing sales. If it does become stuck, then try to change direction, products or audience until you discover what works.

What inspired your brand?
The original inspiration was my overwhelming love for Japanese street fashion. Ever since university, I’d been fascinated by street style and collected a huge amount of research through books, magazines, blogs and two trips to Tokyo. I wanted to create an illustrated resource for all those styles, both for myself and for others so people can see at a glance what the typical characteristics of each one are. This image is actually from the cover of a book pitch but I never heard back from the publisher, so I re-used many of the character designs!

The inspiration behind Maqaroon’s jewellery is a blend of Japanese “sweets deco” scene with classical European design. I live in Vienna, Austria which is a very traditional and baroque city. There are horse drawn carriages all over the streets and people take black tie ball season extremely seriously. There are also tiny boutiques everywhere selling amazingly delicate necklaces and bracelets made out of precious metal and diamonds.

So considering the two big influences in my life, I imagined Maqaroon to be a classy re-design of kawaii style. I wanted to create things that are very cute, but would still fit into an elegant wardrobe or upmarket occasion.

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Where do you find inspiration when you feel exhausted?
I really value spending time with my friends, family and boyfriend. I think when you’re in the presence of people you care about, your mind unblocks easily letting ideas and inspiration flow. I definitely believe in ‘leisure investment’ for creative people i.e. prioritising things which make you happy in order to produce higher quality of ideas/art, which in turn generates more sales. I also love yoga and find it’s an excellent way to reboot you mind & body when you’re stressed.

What is your favorite work to do these days?
I like simple hands-on work the most, which includes making jewellery, gluing boxes, packaging products. This is what I missed most when working as a freelance designer/illustrator because I’d spend 10 hours a day in front of the computer. I developed bad neck and shoulder pain as result so that was another reason I decided to change careers. Now I really relish evenings where I can just sit in front of the TV and make things with my hands, almost like back in school!

Do you craft your own jewelry and if so do you have a glimpse into your workspace or studio? How does the space work for you?
I design my jewellery on computer and then have the raw components (necklace/bracelet chains, earring bases) manufactured in gold-plated stainless steel. Then I make additional elements such as resin clay macaron shells by hand and assemble everything in my studio.

Unfortunately I have a really small apartment so I usually work on my dining table or coffee table and have to take out and clear up all the supplies before and after. This is also why I don’t have any workspace photos as it looks quite messy and uninspiring :P. Though I’m in the process of moving in with my boyfriend and will have a studio room just for myself so I’m really excited about that!

I’ll finally also have space for a larger computer and plan to start making videos and craft tutorials on my YouTube channel.

Do you use inspiration boards or have any to show?
Yep, I’ve been using WeHeartIt long before Pinterest came out so I still keep everything here!

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Favorites
Drink: Starbucks Iced Chai Soy Latte
Food: Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry
TV Show: Girls
Book: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Song: Everything by Michael Buble
3 words to describe yourself: Fun, Hyperactive, Artsy

What do you feel you communicate within your work?
I really want people to be happy when they look at it. I try to show all the creativity and happiness that still exists in the world through all the styles that young people choose to express themselves in. In addition, I believe strongly in diversity, tolerance and respect. This is why I decided to use animals instead of humans in Maqaroon, as it makes the issue of race and gender less contrived but still visibly present.

In terms of product and pricing, I’m a big believer in making good design accessible to many people. Graphic design is making things for the masses, whereas art is for the elite. Obviously having been a designer all these years, I don’t consider my work ‘artisanal’ or ‘special’ in any way and therefore don’t want to price it as such.
In this sense, I want Maqaroon to be a beautiful but fun and down-to-earth brand. If it were a person it’d be like that fabulously glam friend who you can always rely on as well! I didn’t want the brand to feel like an expensive, aloof and snobby girl who you sort of aspire to but feel you have to act slightly fake to be accepted in their clique.

Where do you plan to go next with your work/brand?
I plan to concentrate on jewellery and work on expanding the range to include delicate choker necklaces, bracelets and possibly rings. My dream would be to be stocked in stores that I love to shop at myself (like Topshop or ASOS). I’m also hoping to increase the non-sales side of the brand with a Youtube craft channel and more collaborations/portraits with bloggers!

Why does the “maqaroon” have a mustache?
Hehee this actually has an explanation behind it! I had two rules from the very start of the brand, which is that Maqaroon should not appear too childish and that it should lean towards being unisex. The risk with any kawaii brand is that it’s extremely easy to slide into using loads of pinks, creams, strawberries and flowers. I wanted Maqaroon to be cute but not over-the-top frilly and feminine.

So I decided on a neutral green as the main branding color, with virtually all backgrounds kept in white. When I was designing the logo I tried out loads of different facial expressions. I realised a typical kawaii mouth made it look too childish so I decided to use a moustache to show that the macaron is an adult male (this sentence is starting to sound a bit ridiculous XD). This again reinforces the unisex aspect, and not making it overtly girly.

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Lastly, are you Miseducated and why?
Yes definitely. Miseducated is about non-conformity, creativity and inspiring readers to follow their dreams, express themselves and live their best life. Too many people lose sight of these values when chasing after superficial things or trying to live up to other people’s expectations.

Growing up, I was always eager to please and would try to do everything right at school. I believed that you need to get good grades, get a degree, get a good job and somehow life would reward you. I spent many years doing different jobs and even though the experience was really valuable, I felt slightly disillusioned. I was working crazy hours yet barely making enough money to cover my living costs.

As it happened, in 2010 I became very ill and took several months to recover. During that time I had a serious think about my priorities and my conclusion was that I wanted a career with unlimited creative freedom, lots of leisure time and the potential for a much higher income. So here I am, three years later and doing what I’ve always dreamed of. There’s still a long way to go but I’ve never felt happier and more fulfilled!

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Mood Board: Lock my Heart and Never Part

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Mew for Today because I really was going through a painfully overwhelming period in my life that I am slowly navigating out of. I am happier and healthier than I have ever been before and I owe it to my one true love, spirituality and sobriety. Thankfully as more time goes on I have started feeling very much inspired and overwhelmed with ideas again and I would love to share some eye candy that is oh-so-Miseducated and catching my attention on tumblr tonight…

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Step into StoopidGerl’s Delicious World of Wonder

Bang Bang

Kim (aka StoopidGerl) is one of my closest online friends. We are both colorful artists that had adorable baby girls very close in time to each other, her Chloe Pearl was born several months before Colette Fawn and we learned a lot from each other along the way. Our pasts share many similarities as well so it’s no wonder that we hit it off immediately once upon a time. I’ve been planning a feature on Kim and her amazing creations and splendid aesthetic for WAY TOO LONG and here it is!

So as you’ve probably noticed I’ve been featuring a lot of my favorite artists and handmade mavens. I feel Kim (stoopidgerl) fits with the Miseducated way of life as much as anyone I know, her work reminds me what earth would look like if many of our rainbow-obsessed, candy-coated brains puked all over the place. Her style is no ones but her own and if you look into her world you’ll never want to leave. Please visit her gorgeously kitschy shop to purchase any of her works of art.

How long have you been crafting your world (your intoxicating-eye-candy photos and dazzlingly-saturated-with-color pieces of jewelry)?
I got started a few years ago. Working from home has been a dream come true!

When did you decide to turn that hobby into a business?
After I graduated from school I somehow ended up working a super crappy job at a Sears Portrait Studio. Going to work there made me want to kill myself! It was HELL on earth. I got pretty fed up with it and ended up quitting one day. I needed something to do and I needed money. I had been selling on Etsy for awhile and then I decided to take the plunge and try to do it for a living. I don’t know how it happened but it was magical! My shop took off quite quickly. I really love what I do and I think that is the key to my success!

All of us reach creativity blocks at some time.. where do you find inspiration when you reach a block?
The nearest candy shop~!

A lot of my inspiration comes from the past… movies I’ve seen, people I used to hang with, places I visited, my childhood…

Sometimes I find that browsing Flickr is inspirational. I love to just get lost in Flickr. I could spend hours browsing photos and adding them to my faves! There is some phenomenal shit out there!

Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry that you have made?
Oh my goodness it is hard to pick just one but if I had to choose my absolute favorite I would go with this~
Rainbow Bright Heart
It is impossible to be in a crappy mood when you surround yourself with so much color. This necklace is a sure pick-me-up when you need one!

Do you have any exciting stories about the purchase of one of your pieces?
I shit myself with glee when Courtney Love purchased a necklace from my shop several years ago.

Miss World - HOLE resin necklace

What inspires you when decorating your space?
…the pursuit of happiness! I love all things that are sweet, rainbowy, clownlike, kitschy, and cool.

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What sort of things are must haves on display in your home?
I have been a collector of cameras ever since I went to school. I took a short break from collecting for awhile and recently got back into it. I have a neat little collection of minty green vintage cameras that sits on a shelf in our living room.

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I also have to have clowns… lots of clowns.

Do you have any tips for readers trying to design their world?
Don’t worry about sticking with any sort of theme… just go with the flow and hoard all the things you love!

Eat Cake

You can purchase Kim/StoopidGerl’s amazing creations at her rad Etsy Store.

Eyecandy Girls: Jamie Sucre and Minnie Mouse

Guess was happy to be our next EyeCandy girl? I’m so happy to show you Jamie’s version. She is so cute in this photoshoot, please enjoy!

“Last week I fell in love with the beautifully delicious Miseducated feature, EYECANDY GIRLS: WENDY AND THE SPRINKLES so of course I was beyond honored and stoked when I was asked to participate in the EYECANDY GIRLS series myself! I had recently bought some Minnie Mouse ears and gloves for no reason whatsoever. I instantly realized why I had bought them! For this exact reason! I had been feeling a little nostalgic and they reminded me of my childhood. Disney has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching the Mickey cartoons on the Disney Channel for hours upon hours. Minnie has always been an inspiration to me. She’s so cute, feminine, and dainty but in an instant she can turn into a diva bitch that gets shit done! My kind of girl! I’m still drawn to red and white polka dots, frilly circle skirts, oh and Mickey is a total babe, right? The girl has some impeccable taste!

Above all else, what Disney has taught me is to always follow my dreams and to remember that everything is possible. Be true to yourself, and never stop until you get to where you want to be or you become who you want to become.”
~ As written by Jamie Sucre

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” ~ Walt Disney

Photography Jamie Sucre
Photo Design Amber Renee

Do you want to model in a photo shoot exclusively for Miseducated? Just contact us to apply.

Camilla d’Errico is No Ordinary Love of Mine

As is pretty obvious by my own work and features here, I am involved in and very supportive of the Pop Surrealism movements in Los Angeles and Tokyo. Having seen Camilla d’Errico‘s work at Hello Kitty’s 35th VIP Aniversary Party in LA I just had to promote and feature her work and really wanted to understand a little bit about what makes such a beautiful mind, as communicated on canvas, tick.

How long have you been painting?
I’ve been painting (exhibiting) since 2005.

Did it ever become your main focus?
No, painting has never actually been my main focus, though it took center stage in 2007-2008. I’m a comic book artist, first and foremost, but after I first started showing in galleries, and my work was well loved, I was propelled into the Pop Surrealism movement in Los Angeles and I went with it!

What has been your favorite exhibition?
My favorite would have to be the Hello Kitty 35th Anniversary show in 2009. It was fabulous and so many artists interpreted Hello Kitty (I love HK btw) and it was a very well organized and fun show.

What inspires you most?
I’m mostly inspired by manga and anime.

What has been your favorite painting you’ve created?
No Ordinary Love because it has very special meaning for me. It’s about love, and not giving up on love, but holding onto that hope so dearly … until you are able to be reunited.

Do you have any crazy stories about one of your pieces?
It’s not crazy, per se, but I find it hilarious. My painting, Mountainhead, is a Helmetgirl with the biggest helmet you’ve ever seen. There are bits and pieces of everything on that helmet, completely overpowering her small frame. I painted that for my sister AdaPia because she is always thinking, plotting, planning. In fact, she’s my business partner! So I always like referring to her as Mountainhead.

Favorites
Color? teal
Food? steak
Animal? pug
Music? really into Dubstep right now
Magazine? Shojo Beat
Movie? Spirited Away

Do you have any advice for readers interested in turning their hobby into their main focus?
It takes a lot of determination, focus and willpower to move from hobby to professional. I suggest doing a lot of research about the specific artistic field you want to go into. That’s easy nowadays with Internet, but it’s good to also meet people in person – go to galleries, talk to the curators, owners, directors. Get a good feel for what’s going on. Also, make sure you know and define your own style. Be confident and comfortable with what you are creating. And in the beginning, it’s always a good idea to start slowly; don’t leave your ‘day job’ until you’ve built up a good client base or a collector base. And never give up, even when things seem bad; it’s just a learning phase and you’ll come out stronger.

What do you feel is a recipe for success?
Skill + talent + passion + determination + work ethic and a good dose of people skills!

Are you Miseducated?
Totally! When I was growing up, and even throughout college, everyone tried to persuade me not to go into comics because it isn’t a lucrative career. It’s barely enough for anyone to live off of, unfortunately. But I was obstinate and I wanted to be a comic artist above all else and I persisted in my dream. So first of all, I’m Miseducated because I didn’t do what I was told would be best for me, and also because I’m a self taught painter. Some of my fine art teachers told me I had no skills as a painter, no style … and as much as I am humble, I do get a kick out of knowing I’ve proven them wrong!

Gallery

Indy Three Dog Bakery is a Perfect Pooch Patisserie

Three Dog Bakery (that’s right — it’s a bakery for dogs) is one of my favorite little shops in Indianapolis, Indiana. I happen to be lucky enough to live right in between Mass Ave and Broad Ripple Village which are two of their three Indiana locations. The 3rd is located in Hamilton at the Hamilton Town Center and is the largest of the 3 locations. Both of the Indy district locations are in the perfect spots to catch any number of human and canine foot traffic out for a daily walk or jog. Not only do they cater to dogs but dogs are always welcome to come inside to shop and have a free cookie and some attention from the super sweet employees. Often times owners claim their dogs drag them the whole stroll upon realizing they’re anywhere near the dog bakery. It’s no secret that Three Dog Bakery happens to be many Indy dogs’ absolute favorite spot to wag their tails.

Three Dog Bakery offers dog and cat foods and treats with all-natural, holistic and human-grade ingredients that contain no chemicals, artificial ingredients or by-products. They are not connected to nor affected by the expansive Pet Food Recall.

“As part of our commitment, we have gone to great lengths to ensure that all products are produced in a clean, inspected facility in order to prevent harmful toxins from tainting ingredients. Ultra Premium is the standard we set. For instance, the wheat in our food is manufactured in the heart of the U.S. Wheat Belt at a facility that makes human-quality wheat. In fact, all of our ingredients come from the U.S., and most are produced right in the heart of the Midwest. Even our chicken is 100% USDA approved, human-quality chicken.”

Their mission is to fresh-bake the world’s best dog biscuits and give dog lovers everywhere a healthy, all-natural, bone-ified treat to give their favorite four legged friends.

So don’t hesitate to grab a leash for your pup and stop by a Three Dog Bakery today to enjoy their excellent products and customer service first hand.

Indiana Locations

Broad Ripple Village
844 Broad Ripple Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46220

Mass Ave (Downtown Indianapolis)
444 Massachusetts Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Hamilton Town Center
13904 Town Center Blvd.
Suite 200
Noblesville, IN 46060

Website | Indy Website | Twitter | Facebook

Sunshine, Painting and Friendship

Lately things have been a bit crazy for me! Hard to get caught up and still keep my office/house as clean and organized as I would like to.. I always say I’m going to do better when things settle down but they never settle down. I’m going to have to become a workaholic and blog everyday whether I feel like it or not!

Today I was taking some photos of my new paintings and someone wanted to jump in the shot. He always wants to be exactly in the middle of whatever I’m doing, haha. (Sorry to those of you who saw this on my portfolio already!!)



this is in progress~

This coming month is going to be a big one for girly fun. I can’t wait! Do you have big plans for the summer?

Rainbowlicious Starbright Gumdrop Surprise Cake

Today I had the pleasure of having lunch with my my mom.
We usually discuss all sorts of off the wall things but today she told me about my first birthday..
I don’t have a lot of memories from my childhood (and I surely could have never remembered my first birthday).
You see I’ve been planning Colette’s first birthday, I’m not sure where I want it to be but I know I want it to be as colorful and magical for her as my mom always tried to make life for me.
My mom loved rainbows and unicorns when I was a little girl so they flood my memories of my youth and I learned that on my first birthday I had a star-shaped orange cake with rainbow gumdrops baked inside.
Doesn’t that sound splendid?

So now I’m on a mission to find a recipe to such an amazing, kitschy sounding cake that must have made my day once long ago.
It wasn’t a fruit cake which most gumdrop recipes tend to be (yuck).. so I’m thinking a tasty lemon or orange cake recipe with a cup of gumdrops (cut them in half and *discard* the black licorice ones!) added would do the trick!
Use a star pan and viola you have your very own rainbowlicious surprise cake!

I can’t seem to gather my thoughts long enough to write a sensible entry~ I apologize for all the wonkiness.

Do you have memories from your childhood (either heard or remembered) that you believe shaped who you are today?

Mew for Today: Pink, Blue and Cute All Over

You can often get a nice scoop of inspiration and eye-candy window shopping at ebay and other cute shops online. One of my favorite past-times is window shopping both American and Japanese auction sites with friends looking for the cutest stuff. Shops on both auction and craft or indie sites, such as Refuse to be Usual and Bang Bang Crash, tend to have a low stock of items so you can be sure that everyone’s not wearing your outfit.













Add More Whimsy Into Your Life

If you’re reading this blog you’ve probably already found lots of ways to include more whimsy into your lifestyle but here are a whole lot more. Most importantly you should enjoy every single day because every day is special. Find ways to make your days special and you have a key for more happiness.

1. Sprinkle your cocoa froth with stars sprinkles.
2. Hide sweet fortunes (found in cookies) in boxes, cabinets and drawers to be found throughout the day.
3. Adorn your walls in whimsical prints from Etsy and local art gatherings.
4. Use cherry icing as chap-stick.
5. Burn a fruity candle and a dessert candle at the same time but different areas of your living room. Feel free to include fizzypop fragrance oil in one room and vanilla in the other. Walk through your home and enjoy the candy aroumas, imagine you’re in a candy store or soda pop shop!
6. Purchase frames, paint them your favorite colors with acrylic and hang them on your walls filled with art and favorite posters and clippings.
7. Dip your finger into a container of cool whip and then stick it into your mouth. Yum!
8. Purchase some sand and a sunlamp.. place the sand in a container large enough for your feet and heat it with the lamp overhead. Feel the warm sand with your hands and stick your toes in it as well!
9. Don’t toss the sand! Add a bit of water and build a sand castle.
10. Tea party! Bake cupcakes, make small sandwiches cut-out with cookie cutters and brew your favorite tea. It doesn’t matter if no one else is able to come, enjoy your tea party! Have daily tea parties.
11. Take a bubble bath with candles and tea. Read in the bath. Relax.
12. Listen to Rockabye Baby Lullaby renditions of your favorite songs while you relax for a nap.
13. Sketch out ideas and images that cheer you up. Add color with pencils or paint. Start going with it and see where you end up.
14. Top your pancakes with ice-cream syrup topping and sprinkles for a cute and sweet dessert.
15. Turn your toast into fairy bread (see below).


Fairy Bread Recipe

  • Toast bread.
  • Spread lightly and evenly with butter.
  • Top heavily with sprinkles.
  • Cut into 4 triangles. (or use cookie cutters if you’re REALLY feeling whimsical!)