Tea Talk With ‘Maqaroon’ Maven Joanna

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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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Vegetarian Goddess Quiche Brunch Recipe

As you know, I’ve blogged recipes here in the past but have never actually made it one of my focuses at all until now. Having recently become a vegetarian and focusing much of my energy on being a domestic goddess I’ve become passionate about cooking and crafting my own recipes again as well as updating my old meat-inclusive recipe box creations.

With inspiration from my love I have began to embrace vegetarianism and healthy eating so I have updated my quiche recipe to fit our diet and to give him a little tasty and healthy pampering after a long work day.

servings: 19″ pie (serves 5)
prep time:
cook time: (10 min for veggies, 30 min for quiche)
total time:

Ingredients

1 pie crust
4 eggs
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 onion diced
1/2 cup fresh chopped spinach
1 clove garlic crushed
splash of olive oil
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook the vegetables in order of firmness until tender.
3. In a large bowl add sauted vegetables, cheese, eggs and spices and mix together.
4. Pour the mixture into a pie shell.
5. Bake quiche for 30 minutes in preheated oven on middle rack and enjoy.

Ask a Healthy Life Stylist and Coach


Greetings & Salutations, Miseducated!

As your new virtual healthy life stylist, I am thrilled to be your guide through the wonderland of wellness. In the coming months, I look forward to answering your most burning health & wellness questions, but first, allow me clear up a few common questions about what I do:

What is a Healthy Life Stylist?

A healthy life stylist is like a fashion stylist for the health world. Much like a fashion stylist would help you makeover your wardrobe [getting rid of the items that don’t flatter you & giving you new items that allow your inner goddess to sparkle], I help you makeover your life. From what to eat to feel your best to what steps to take to achieve your dreams, my job is about creating health for your whole being. Health and wellness aren’t just about eating vegetables; they’re about loving yourself, loving your job, developing healthy relationships, and cultivating a spiritual practice that makes you feel enlightened & at peace. I’m here to help with all these things and more.

What kind of questions do you answer?

Because I like to think of myself as a nutritionist, a life coach, and a therapist, all rolled into one, I can answer questions about any area you’re feeling less than fabulous about. I’m here to help you feel your best.

How can I learn more about your services?

If you’re in need of more than just a few questions answered or you want to receive an individualized lifestyle plan, consider signing up for my Health & Happiness in Half a Year program. You can check out the details & pricing for individual or group sessions on my website.

That’s it for now, darlings. <3 I look forward to answering your deepest health ponderings. xoxo, Michelle Shea Walker, H.C.

Just make sure you are clear about if you mind your question/answer being published on Miseducated and if you’d prefer to be anonymous. All questions will be answered by Michelle regardless so ask away!

Photo of Michelle by Aaron Ehinger Photography.

Ordering Food on Etsy: Little Oven Bakery in NYC

ready to openOrder food from etsy? What? Have you thought about it?

Recently my curiosity got the best of me (as if often does) and I wondered if people really ordered food off of etsy.. Upon asking on twitter, I found that a lot of friends and readers a like have been wondering the same.

Thus, this article is born and I get an excuse to support an adorable macaron bakery AND munch on the cookies. (win/win!)

I decided to order a set of macarons from Little Oven Bakery in New York City. They offer macaron packages on Etsy and I was smitten enough to try one!

The macarons arrived fast, within a day, and were packed up so nice that they had hardly crumbled at all. I was absolutely surprised and excited to be receiving one of my favorite decadent snacks in the mail. I couldn’t believe how well they traveled.

I tasted them with my husband — we split each macaron in half and saved the second box for later (tea time).

The Flavors I ordered were Raspberry, Caramel Fleur de Sel and Meyer Lemon. We absolutely adored the raspberry with chocolate creme, the caramel being a close second and in third the lemon. I prefer a more tart lemon so it was silly to order it as a sweet macaron, however we enjoyed eating each and every one of them.

Nice crunch on the outside with a soft macaron cookie center surrounded by a complementary creme. Creme desserts are absolutely a preference of mine and these were just as delicious as having them in a French cafe with tea. Not as beautiful of course, but macarons carry a special beauty with them no matter where they are and they please everyone they meet.

safe traveling
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Interested in getting your shop reviewed here? Let us know all about it!

Inspired by Lovely Lovely UK

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I *love* Lovely Lovely — you may even recognize seeing some of their goods in my apartment feature — I had to have quite a few of their pop art cute, neon sugar clad brand. Years later, they’re still my favorite plates.

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If your taste is anything like mine, the retro revival food (check out the rosy gelatin mould!) and cake-inspired palettes are enough to make your eyes gleam with eye candy overload.

10 Ways to Brighten Your Days

It’s easy for us to feel down with the daily grind of life. Especially if you’re working a full time job or constantly busy with school. It’s important to keep individuality in your life, regardless of your hectic schedule. It brightens up your world and makes you feel a little cheerier. So, what should you do?

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Update your wardrobe, and don’t be afraid of color. Sometimes when I peer into the depths of my closet all I see is black, gray, and more black. Color is your friend, even if you’ve got the professional hat on. Don’t be afraid to buy something that catches your eye. If you’ve got a uniform to wear, put on some bright nail polish or find some lovely under things.

Change your hairstyle. Cut? Color? Go for it. Hair grows out so don’t be afraid to do what you want with it. One of the best confidence builders you can get is a great hair day.

Are you a hard working student? Get yourself some adorable school supplies. Check out Kawaii Gifts!

Keep a little journal with you to write down all the positive things that happen in your life. You can keep another one to vent too, but keep it separate. This one’s all about the positive. You can even write yourself little love notes to read on a rainy day.

Make like a Japanese school girl and give your cell phone a makeover. Check out Strapya World.

Start working some leg wear into your attire. Take a peek at Sock Dreams.

Find a pen pal. Send each other letters and cute little things in the mail. Instant day brightener.

Plan out your meals a little better. Working hard, being starving when it’s time for lunch, resorting to some greasy fast fast food & then feeling awful about it is an ultimate mood killer. Don’t skip breakfast either! Maybe it’s time to get into the art of bento boxes.

Clean out your life! Get rid of everything you don’t need. Donate! Your first assignment: clean out your wardrobe. Get rid of everything you don’t wear. This makes room for all your colorful updates.

Stop focusing so much on “practical” and “sensible” 24/7 and start caring more about what makes you happy. Don’t let things stand in the way of your joy! Happiness is the secret to life, after all.

The Parmahansa Ballerina

At the last moment, I turned right instead of driving straight. “I think we should have some really clean food instead,” I said as I headed down the road to one of our other favorite places. Within a few minutes, we were already there.

The manager greeted us warmly and loudly. You know that comedy show, “Cheers”? Kind of like that, but instead of this place being packed with beer-bellied Republicans, it catered more to the very far Left. Very far.

As we placed our orders, my husband looked at the women on the couch next to ours. “Oh, what a cute dog,” he said. The woman was wearing an almost see-through long skirt, and a knitted hat. “He assists with healing,” she said.

She must have seen the perplexed look on my face, and she began to explain. “He works with cancer patients sometimes, or whatever is needed,” she said. “He takes on the energy of the person he is healing. I named him Buddha,” she added as an afterthought. My husband chuckled and replied, “yes, of course,” half-joking.

I asked the woman about her work. “I’m actually a nun,” she said. “Well, not really – a Swami in the Tibetan lineage, from a specific area in the Himalayas. Soon I’ll be a Parmahansa, and then a Llama after that. Well, maybe. I haven’t decided.”

“Wow, that’s amazing!” I replied. I had no idea it was so “easy” to become a Llama, as it were.

The nun changed subjects somewhat. “I think there may be a big earthquake coming, and my mother is freaking out about that. It’s true, I did predict 9/11 months before it happened,” she said. I kept dreaming about plane crashes. My friends dismissed me as nuts.” She looked vindicated in a way.

At that moment, a friend we knew from our dance class walked in the restaurant. She was in from New York, and we thought we’d missed the chance to say goodbye before she went back. I suddenly remembered my “moment of insight” when I decided to come here rather than the other restaurant, and at the same time I knew this was why the nun’s story interested me so much – life is so much richer when it is lived in the world of possibility rather than the world of the acceptable or “normal”.

While my friend and I chatted, the nun just sat and watched us, eating her food. After my friend left, I told the nun a little about our dance classes.

Her face lit up. “Oh, I dance everyday,” she replied. “I used to be a ballet dancer, you see.” Ha, a Parmahansa ballerina! What a curious mental image that produced.

I asked her about her hair, because I know that many monks and nuns shave as their religion requires. She took of her hat, and she was completely bald underneath. “It’s not required of me anymore, now that I’m a Swami,” she said, “but it’s easier to keep like this anyway!” Hair or not, she still looked nice, which made me wonder something else.

“What about having a boyfriend?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied, “it’s okay as long as you’re a Parmahansa and he is a priest in the same order. When you teach, your boyfriend must also be a teacher,” she explained. That made sense to me.

As we finished our food and asked for the check, our nun started on a new topic. “I grew up on a cattle farm…” she began, and all at once the absurdity of it all hit me. Here she was, a Parmahansa ballerina, predicting 9/11 but not the big earthquake, with a mother who is paranoid and who raised her on a cattle farm, whose dog heals the sick, and who wears sheer skirts in freezing cold weather.

We got up to leave, and she invited us to come to the temple to see her. “I teach classes there, you should stop by!” she said. We hugged our new friend and then made our way to the car.

As we rode toward home, we speculated what it would be like to create an entire new teaching lineage. Maybe you could begin as a Llama, and then as time went on you would lose rank, let your hair grow, get a boyfriend, and then… eventually you get to enlightenment and completely release from the self! California is amazing!

Indiana Wineries and Wine Reviews

I’m a huge fan of wine, and nothing tastes better than a cool, crisp glass made right in my home state: Indiana. Indiana boasts a number of wineries which puts all our fabulous breweries up against some stiff competition.

Whether you like white wine, red wine, sweet wine or dry wine to spice up those nights with friends or peers, Indiana is the place to come. The prices are inexpensive and affordable and you’re sure to find the perfect wine for you and your occasion. Here are four of my personal fav’s:

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Easely Winery

Downtown Indianapolis
Easely’s has 14 wines in addition to an American Champagne, all of which are sold at their winery located in downtown Indianapolis. They provide free tastings every day, wine tours on the weekends and a great, homey-feel. In the summers they host live music and offer cheeses and wines – making it a great place to take even your kids!
*I recommend the Reggae Red (mix it with a little coconut rum!). It’s a sweet, red wine with hearty flavor. Great for dessert!

Chateau Thomas Winery

Plainfield, Indiana
Chateau Thomas is an award winning, nationally recognized winery. The winemaking process of each wine (from fermentation to bottling) takes place in Plainfield. The grapes are grown in California, Oregon and Washington vineyards, crushed on the west coast and then shipped to Plainfield via refrigerated truck (to ensure the best taste).
*They’ve recently introduced a new “Slender Wine” branch which is wonderful. They offer white, blush and red wines that have zero sugar, carbs and fats! How’s that for a sweet treat?

Oliver Winery

Bloomington, Indiana
Oliver may very well be my favorite winery (and not just in Indiana). It’s nestled in the heart of Bloomington (where Indiana University is located) and it’s a great place to bring a date, your family or just a friend. Buy a bottle of wine, some cheese, and find a place to call your own on the 15 acre rolling green premises!
*Try the new SkyDog line – the packaging is great and the taste is even better.

New Day Meadery

Elwood, Indiana (near Anderson)
Because I grew up in Northern Indiana and my family still lives there, my fiance and I would often drive from Indianapolis to Goshen about every other month before moving to Korea for a year. Every time we take the road trip we pass, ‘New Day Meadery,’ a tiny wine shoppe that offers meade wines (wine that is made with honey). They have their own bee farms and get the honey from there. The wines are all great – you can try them all with an inexpensive wine tasting. The wine is slightly more expensive than the other wineries on this list, but totally worth it (and it’s great to support small business).
*Try the “Dry Blueberry Honey Wine,” – it’s a great treat!

For more Indiana wineries, check out indianawines.org.

Miseducated Competition Sponsored by RE-MENT

Grand Prize Winner

Miseducated/RE-MENT Contest Winner

“I don’t have space for a dollhouse, so I can set up the “Studio” on the kitchen table and play for an afternoon, dreaming up new combinations, mix and match items, and take notes for my eventual future dream dollhouse. I am NOT too old to play with dolls!”

Runner Up

Miseducated/RE-MENT Contest Winner

“I live in a small apartment and my bedroom has become my studio to work on my design. My favorite furniture (my teak dresser) is now used to store sugar creatures and my bed (covered in plastic) is used for air brushing. I like getting the quiet, relaxing bedroom vibe while working although I would not say no to a large, spacious studio where I can make more mess.”

The Contest

re-ment contest
This contest is sponsored by Miseducated and RE-MENT Japan, featuring prizes from their new series ‘Flirty Pink.’ This series does not go on sale until December 15, the winner will receive a ‘Flirty Pink’ limited edition blind box of rare archived products hand selected by the RE-MENT company. This contest is only open to registered members.

To enter
1. Send 2-3 photos of your own miseducated space that you enjoy imagining in. What special space makes you smile? Radiates your personality? Strays from conventional mores into a new kind of room?
2. 1-3 sentences about why this room is miseducated (strays from conventional mores and speaks especially to you).
3. 1-3 sentences about why you like RE-MENT and RE-MENT’s miniature series (include your favorite series if possible).
4. Your Name, Age, Location and URL (if any).
5. Email to: miseducatedlife@gmail.com

All entries must be received before December 15th. Winners will be announced December 20th (date restrictions are due to the release Japan, this is a Japan only release). The grand prize winner will receive a limited blind box from RE-MENT of the new ‘Flirty Pink’ series. Runner up will receive a random selection of a RE-MENT blind box series and limited edition postcards.

RE-MENT also has official Flirty Pink cell phone wallpapers free for fans.