For an artist who calls her jewelry making business “Cynical Redhead,” artist Michelle Berry is anything but. She has every right to be a cynic, with a Master’s degree in counseling (including a 2 year stint in a residential drug rehabilitation facility) and her early jobs in Human Services, which, she says, were “incredibly difficult and stressful,” but she emerged from those days unscathed. The main thing that has traveled with her from those early days is the “cynical” title, a humorous description of herself penned on an early job application. “I honestly don’t consider myself to be cynical,” she says, “But I do like to prepare for the worst whenever possible.”
*Note: to purchase any of the lovely items shown in this article, simply click the item’s picture and you’ll be whisked to Michelle’s Etsy shop
When it comes to her business, however, she’s experienced far more best case scenarios than worst. Berry runs Cynical Redhead Jewelry completely online through the simplicity of Etsy.com, where she sells elegant jewelry forged from metals and words of inspiration and comfort. She, like many self-employed people, took a leap of faith to see if her dream job could pay off as well as the “day job.” She was rewarded with a wonderful response after her first public show and though she says she works slightly longer hours for slightly less money, she has no regrets about making the leap.
Much of Berry’s work is comprised of custom jobs for people, as well as a rotating showcase of jewelry, guitar picks, cufflinks, and more, many of them stamped with her favorite author quotes, such as Hemingway’s famous line, “There is no friend as loyal as a book,” or the humorous, “I like big books and I cannot lie.”
“We all use the words of authors, musicians and other people we admire to help us get through the rougher times in life,” Berry says. “I think having something right there on your wrist or neck that can be read or used as a reminder is a comfort. Especially when it’s been given to you by someone else.”
Recently she was asked to commission a necklace for a girl who had lost her best friend. “I was a bit nervous because it was such an important piece for her. I received an email after that made me cry. The people who take the time to write to me and let me know how much something means to them make the hammering, long hours, constant shoulder pain, broken nails and bleeding fingers all more than worth it.”
Despite the amount of work that goes into running a labor-intensive, creative business such as hers, Berry is in that rare category of people who loves what she does, saying that juggling the art and business sides of things has always come naturally to her. Her artistic inclinations go back to as young as four years old, when she sought art supplies, flowers, photos, and found objects to make things to give to people. “I understand the necessity of making both things that I love and things that others will love enough to buy. Every artist or crafter would love to be able to make only the things they feel like making at the moment, all of the time, but you have to sacrifice your own personal wants occasionally to run a business.”
Berry’s preferred metals are aluminum, copper and brass primarily, though she is most fond of “the rustic, earthy look of silver.” When she first began working with metals she was instantly struck by “the way it changed color when the light hit it or when the person wearing it moves. I kind of fell in love with it for that aspect.”
Berry takes inspiration from artists of all kinds, though she is an especially avid reader and her work is peppered with quotes from the likes of Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac and even Charles Bukowski. She loves to visit the shops and studios of other artists, as well as draw from TV, movie and music influences. She finds the background noise of a good Netflix documentary especially soothing while working. “Creative people have a special kind of energy and enthusiasm that I find especially motivating and inspiring,” she says.
Of course, running a small business often means working long hours, and relying upon caffeine to keep an artist going, so it was important to find out how Berry takes her coffee. “I’m not at all a discriminating coffee drinker. I will drink pretty much anything that’s put in front of me with caffeine in it, but my favorite is coconut mocha with cream and sugar; basically the most fattening and bad for you coffee you can make. That’s what I’ll love the very most.”
We’re proud to announce that Cynical Redhead is now carrying Sweatpants & Coffee themed bracelets! Go get yours today.