5 Burning Questions With Melissa Joy Manning

I'm starting a new chapter in my own handmade jewelry business this year and thought a great way to get myself inspired would be to reach out to some of my favorite fellow jewelry designers with some burning questions. These are people I've admired for many years and may even have had the privilege to meet (sometimes side-by-side at a craft fair!). First up is Melissa Joy Manning, one of the first "real" jewelry designers I met early on in building my own business. Back then, her line had drilled and spiked freshwater pearls, but since then she has evolved into a global design sensation. Her beautiful organic-inspired jewelry takes surprising stones and elements (sometimes even bone and fossils) into the realm of fine jewelry. Melissa only uses recycled metals and builds her business always with sustainability and green practices in mind. Just last year, Melissa opened her first retail location in Berkeley, CA and it's an amazing treasure trove of found objects and, of course, beautiful jewelry.

Here are the questions and her answers, plus pics of jewelry pieces she created in a collaboration with Anthropologie.  Thank you, Melissa, for your time!

Q: Melissa, I have watched you grow your business from those days selling jewelry at a booth at the Union Street Festival to now a CDFA member (congrats!). Looking back, what was that first moment where you thought to yourself, "maybe I can turn my craft into a business"?
After about a year in business I was feeling extremely frustrated.  Feeling sorry for myself, I sat in front of the TV, crying, and watching a show I had heard of, but never seen, Just Shoot Me.  Suddenly, I noticed that a guest model was wearing one of my necklaces!  Seeing this energized me to keep moving forward with my business.  Another challenging year went by, and I found myself, again, questioning my decision to pursue my craft.  Having never again watched Just Shoot Me (I wasn’t an avid TV watcher), I sat down in front of the TV to decompress and found, to my absolute surprise, the re-run of the exact same episode.  And, of course, there was my necklace again!  Taking this weird coincidence as a sign, I’ve never looked back or questioned myself since.

Q: I recently visited your beautiful shop in Berkeley. It's filled with amazing curios from nature and your travels. What factored into your decision to open a retail shop?
I love making jewelry but sometimes find it limiting to express myself in small scale.  I wanted to create a space that would allow me to pursue other areas of design, namely sculpture and interior design.  Opening a store not only allowed me to develop the brand into more than a tangible object, it also empowered me to think beyond jewelry and express other areas of my creativity.

Q: Please share a moment when you said "yes" that made a big difference in your business?
It’s scary to open a space and ask people to come in and appreciate your vision and support your work.  But since opening our Berkeley store, I’ve opened a gateway to expand how I think and design.  It’s really helped me take the company, and my creativity, to another level.

Q: Please share a moment when you said "no" that made a big difference in your business?
Learning to let go of every decision in running my business is an ongoing challenge.  It’s difficult to allow others to problem solve when it’s your name on the door.  And it’s especially hard to say no when people (customers, vendors, even employees) come to me directly and ask me for help.  However, allowing other members of my organization to determine solutions empowers them and our organization.

Q: On those days when you feel less than inspired (if you have them!), what do you do to reenergize?
Exercising really helps me focus.   It’s easy (for me!) to forget this and get bogged down in the office.  However, taking my lunches in a spin or yoga class remind me while schools build in recess.  Moving my body allows me to stop my mind.  I come back to the office so much more energized.

Thank you again, Melissa, for taking the time to answer my questions. Someday I hope to be worthy of being carried in your store.

Stay tuned for even more designer interviews coming up!