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.

maqaroon

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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Geometric Collages, Crystals and Neon Tribal Art

You might have noticed some familiar yet new styles being tossed around while we continue to be inspired by the aesthetics of the 1980s in all areas of art and design. A few of my current visual obsessions are geometric collages, all forms of crystal shards and neon tribal art. The use of triangles, prisms and neon color addictively draws me in like no other. It’s almost like my brain has been carefully drained and the contents put on display for my complete decadent delight. The use of these styles in design both with artwork and with jewelry/fashion is a delightful rainbow of eye candy, a complete visual orgasmic experience that I find I urn for again and again. I never tire of watching previous styles of expression become revamped and recreated by contemporary artists and designers. Thus, I decided to feature some of their works and designs and my own prints have finally been being re-added to our shop.

I suppose my obsession with neon light, color transitions and geometric collage dates back to my 80s childhood. I’ve had a lifelong obsession with crystals and as a young child I often carefully selected and cleansed my own crystals mainly for visual enjoyment and perhaps also a bit of the health, energetic and spiritual benefits they provide. The current interest designers have with crystals and working them into their jewelry and artwork is exciting for me to say the least. I’ve gotten quite an impressive new collection of crystal jewelry that would have put my former youthful self at shame. I’ve even been both cleansing and moon soaking crystals that will soon be for sale in our shop as pretty pendants for you to adore. So let’s step back to take in the clusters of deliciousness and enjoy the visual adventure that our eyes and spirits are able to enjoy.

Emily Hoy

Kris Tate

Nutcase Fashion

Angel Aura Quartz

Angel Aura Quartz is quartz that is permanently treated by fusing platinum and/or silver crystals with heat and vacuum to give it its gorgeous angelic coloring. Mystical lore counts it a stone of high spiritual energy. It is said that it is very helpful to the aura which it can protect, balance, cleanse and bring an energetic health. Angel Aura Quartz Crystals act to stimulate and clear all of the Chakra Energy Centers.

Intuitive sources say Angel Aura Quartz helps bring one into the higher realms in meditation, facilitating conscious contact with angels, spirit guides and inner realm teachers. It is said to assist one in communing with Angels, accessing the Akashic records, channeling higher knowledge, remembering past lives and gaining insight into one’s spiritual mission in this lifetime. ~ Celestial Lights

Everything is Changing

I’ve been working like crazy lately and unable to respond to many of your messages but I am getting them and I will catch up eventually. Everything’s changing from winter to spring now and it’s caused quite an overload of work. I understand wanting to start anew and get new collections out, whew so much to do and so little time to blog!

Speaking of collections I’m collaborating with one of my dearest friends, Chelsea of Paper*Cakes on a new project that will be out soon~

I miss the days when I could sit and produce several visual blog posts in no time. I feel like all of that drive has to be focused on Colette and work right now and I just cannot find that same inspiration for blogging. That explains all the rambling diary posts.

Did I tell you my schedule totally changed? We all have to get up before dawn now due to my husbands new job. I’m still trying to get motivated in the early morning but so far I’ve just been sketching, working and chugging lots of tea and vanilla coffee. I’ll get the hang of this!

Miseducated is also going through some changes.. I’ve been reorganizing and there’s much more to go so stay tuned.

Mise En Snap: Skins: A Teenage Wasteland

through the rabbit hole

I recently overheard another journalist saying that this is the first generation that has no hope that the future will be brighter. It makes me instantly imagine the wreckage this is causing to the beautiful people in our world. It also makes me consider what one would do if they had no hope for the future.. I know by experience that drugs are the easiest ways to leave the scene and to botch up your life. Is that what future generations are doomed to obsess over? Isn’t that what all generations did when they were young?

Are we just doom and gloom because of the poor economy? Are we insisting to each other that things are horrible and that they are not going to improve? Is it hopeless?

So I decided to do a feature on one of my favorite Shows from the UK, skins. Since MTV had ripped it off for an americanized-version I have an idea we’ll be seeing a lot more skins on the screen. Cassie was always my favorite character and not only because my best friends claimed she was me slapped into the UK drama. I love her and her general unapologetic way of dressing cute and kitschy. She doesn’t match and she doesn’t care. That’s my favorite club. She makes me feel like I’m not alone.







Decadently Decorate your Camera

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Once I saw the milk chocolate camera on Fuji’s official website, I knew I had to decorate it with sweets and delicious desserts as much as I could! haha

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Here I bought some very cute plastic sweets (cabochons) from shops at Yu Chau Street in Hong Kong. The street is very popular for its accessory shops. You can find a broad variety of components with different styles, which can be used in DIY (such as earrings, brooches, etc.) or to customize anything you like!

WOW… yummy!!!

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This is my nude camera and the components.

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Finally I squeezed all the sweets and cream on it! haha!!!! Love it so much! 😀

My boyfriend nearly cried after seeing the new look of the camera (that HE had bought me). He thinks it is to abnormal for one to carry such a cluttered, exaggerated camera to take photos. hehe.. but then I read the information about Miseducated, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss, hoho! That’s right! I know my boyfriend really doesn’t mind my crazy works. It’s really important for us to be who we are or else we will lose our own personalities and the ability to imagine and create new things! 😀

Knot Your Own Fortune Coins Necklace

Hi, my name is Amanda Yu, I am the owner and designer of ”Exotic Flavour” the colorful, playful and creative jewelry design. I am grateful that I had been invited by Miseducated to prepare this DIY story for you. I hope you will like it. I will show you how to make this Fortune Coins Pink Necklace.

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Instructions

1. The material is very simple, prepare a Pink cotton cord (length: 155cm and thick: 3mm) and Sex piece of the round wood ornament with a hole in the middle.
2. Put on one wood ornament and make a knot. This is a part of the clasp.
3. Coil two small circles, hold tight with your left thump.
4. Round the third circle between the first two circles, pull the cord generally.
5. Put another wood ornament and repeat (3.) and (4.) until you have five patterns.
6. In the end of the cord I made an oriental cross knot and tight it nicely.
7. If you think it is complicated, you can make any knots you like. Just make sure the little circle is not too big for the wood ornament – other part of the clasp. (1)
8. The Fortune Coins Pink Necklace is now finished.

I hope you find this is inspiring. You can combine with different materials or perhaps develop another construction from this basic oriental knot. Here are two other creation I made earlier based on the same techniques.

How to Create the Perfect Polymer Macarons

I believe many girls love macarons. Tell me who can resist the delicious and cute looking French macaron?

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Besides the edible macaron, macaron accessories are also very popular in Japan and all around the world. There are may ways to make macaron accessories for yourself or for your little Blythe. The simplest way is to use air dry clay or polymer clay. In this tutorial, I choose to use air dry clay because I don’t like to use polymer clay that has to be cured in the oven.

macaron diy

You Need

Acrylic paint (any colour you prefer)
Clay cutter and measurement spoon (size is up to you)
9-pin
Embedded crystals (any colour you prefer)
Vaseline Petroleum Jelly or hand lotion
Air dry clay (you can use polymer clay which needed heat up in oven to cure)

Steps

1. Apply the Vaseline (or hand lotion) on the tools and surface that will contact with the clay. This step is important to avoid the clay stick at the tools or surface.
2. Apply the Vaseline on the surface and your hands too.
3. Cut this amount of clay (enough to make two macarons).
4. Put a little red acrylic paint on top of the clay (I chose red because I want to make a pink macaron).
5. Twist and rub the clay until the colours mixed evenly with the clay.
6. Then put the measurement spoon on top of the clay.
7. Press down so to get a shape alike the shape of the measurement spoon
8. Please see if it looks like the photograph above.
9 Then use any flat surface to press it down until it looks like this.
10. Repeat the step 6 to 9 for the bottom piece. Some embedded crystals are put on top of the top piece.
11. As shown in this picture.
12. Cut this amount of clay.
13. Put a little bit dark brown acrylic paint on top of the clay (to add some colour to the filling) then twist and rub the clay until the colour mixed evenly with the clay.
14. Then use any flat surface to press it down until it looks like this.
15. Sandwich the white clay in between the top and bottom pieces of pink macaron.
16. If you want to make accessories with it, you have to add a 9-pin. Enter the 9-pin from the side.
17. Set aside the clay macaron for two days for completely air dry.

Tips

1. I recommend you to trim your nails first before handling the clay, because clay tends to stick to long nails.
2. Make sure all the tools and surface are dust free to avoid any dust twisted or rubbed into the clay.
3. In case the clay become dry, add a few drop of water to get back the flexible feeling.

Mise en Snap: Psych-Out! a 70s Visual Trip

Take a trip down psychedelic, vintage lane in “Psych Out” a trippy dippy film from the 70s.

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flower patch

giftshop

ashbury x haight

oracle

on sale

paper roses

makeup

A dark, thick liner paired with a bright, rainbow hue and nude, shimmery lips has always been my makeup regimen. Add glitter and you’re ready for a party.

flower smile

Cheer up a friend and give them a thoughtful gift. Strapped for ideas or cash? Try a single flower, sketch or candy bracelet and channel the love-passing, pay-it-forward smiles of flower children and candy ravers everywhere.

staircase

This was so rad, everyone was lounging around while some girls started pulling glittering beads all up and over the staircase. It created glimmering prisms in the hands of everyone as they grabbed more strands to pull and hang. The completion created a spiderweb of starlight.

flyer

van

lamp

curtain

doorway to dishes

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god is alive and well in a sugar cube

“God is alive and well in a sugar cube” (a reference to LSD as it is injected into sugar cubes)

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party trip

Don’t ever take drugs in an uncomfortable setting. Especially LSD.

oh, jack

Jack Nicholson, aka Stoney, plays a too-cool hippy and blows off his lovely, tripping Alice.

This movie is absolutely fun and visually stimulating for those who adore the drug and hippy culture of the 60s. It proves a point however as a propaganda film that drugs can be very dangerous when taken in unsafe circumstances and you’ll also watch lovely people deteriorate as they do not follow this guideline.

Cute as a Button Earrings You Can Make

Most of us have seen button stud earrings, and maybe even the cluster button earrings. Either way, here’s a new twist on the popular trend. I call them Swivel Stacked Button Earrings. They are extremely easy to make, and can be done using all kinds of variations, colors, and different kinds of beads.

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What you’ll need

Flat Headpins (preferably the long ones)
Buttons in assorted colors and sizes (you could also experiment with different shapes for unique looks)
Various beads (small ones are used to keep buttons on headpin, while others can be used for decorative purposes)
French Hook Earrings
Wire Trimmers
Needle Nose Pliers

Step 1

Since most buttons have too large of a whole, you’ll need to first put a small bead on the headpin to keep buttons from sliding off.

Step 2

Take your buttons and put them on in any order you want. You can vary from size or colors depending on the look you want. At this point, you can also add various beads if you choose.

Step 3

Once you’ve got your earrings looking the way you want, it’s time to attach the headpin to a French hook earring. Assuming you have quite a bit of length left on your headpin, this is where you can trim off any excess. Be sure to leave enough length to make a loop to attach your earring hook. Now you will use your needle nose pliers to loop the excess of the pin (like a jump ring) so the earring hook is attached. Make sure you close your loop tight enough so they don’t slip off your earrings.

If all went well, you should now have a funky pair of dangling earrings!