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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mustard Seed Sessions: LAUREN of INSTEAD OF ASHES

Up next in my interview series is Lauren, the founder of Instead of Ashes! First, let's start with her beautiful tag line: "Bringing beauty to the world through paper". How awesome is that?

Here's the thing about Lauren: you can feel her heart in everything she does. The way she describes parts of her life, her instagram feed, her thoughtful emails, and of course, her beautiful handmade items. In the short time I've gotten to know her, I can tell that she puts her heart into everything she does and has a kind and gentle spirit. I definitely encourage you to check out her shop, or get to know her through her instagram feed or facebook page.

Now, on to the interview! (Make sure you get to the bottom as there's an exciting giveaway waiting for you!)

MSC: What's a day in your life like?

IOA: Right now, a day in my life looks different than it ever has at other points in my life. My husband Seth and I got married about 4 months ago, and moved 6 1/2 hours away from Atlanta, GA to Durham, NC so that he could attend Duke for Law School. Since then, I have been setting up our first home, exploring the Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill area. We had the blessing to have a summer where I did not have to immediately find a job, so I had some more time to dream, plan, and create for Instead of Ashes.

Generally, I will start by checking my business email, especially if I am working on a custom project for anyone. I have not advertised much for custom projects, it mostly started with friends asking me to make something. If someone asks, and I have the time, I will take on a custom job though. After that, I will check stats for my shop and see how the traffic has been doing. If it is early in the week, I may set up advertisements via HootSuite. Orders usually get shipped out on Tuesdays and Fridays. But other than those few things, every day is pretty different. I will focus on different products for a while, and then move on to another.

Some days, I will work on creating new products, like the prints that I just listed in the shop, or the bunting that is coming soon! I may restock items that sell well- usually the card sets. That means printing, folding, and packaging, sometimes accompanied by Netflix or an Anthropologie playlist on Spotify. Recently I have been working a bit more on stocking up holiday items like Christmas cards and gift tags. I am hoping to attend a craft fair or two before Christmas this year, so I want to get a head start on having product ready.

All that to say, each day really is different!

What prompted you to start your shop?

I started a different Etsy shop in college, Laurkon Designs. I made "Printables" which, if you don't know, is basically just a design file that you download and print on your own. It was great to have during college, because I would make a design, and I just had to email the file to the buyer. Since then, Etsy has actually made selling digital items even easier, giving the buyer the ability to immediately download from Etsy.

It was fun, but I started to want to make actual, touchable, physical things. I don't remember exactly what drew me to paper goods then, but I have always loved making cards. I have no idea how many handmade cards I have made over my lifetime. Whenever a cousin or family friend was having a birthday, my Mom would be in my room at some point asking me to make a card to send them (very often the night before!). When I was little, I would play dollhouse, or would create a little world with Playmobil and Littlest Pet Shop bunnies with my sisters and friends that we affectionately called "Bunnyville". Among the little pieces of our world, there was a desk with a computer on it. If someone else hadn't beaten me to it, I would have this computer in my house, and my bunny would have the job of a Hallmark Card Maker. I thought that would be the perfect job then... and I'm doing something very similar now!

I had the idea for the shop for a long time before opening it. I wanted to write Bible verses and quotes in beautiful and fun lettering,  and put it on cards and prints. Then, I started spending some time in Isaiah 61. Then I saw it mentioned on Instagram, in my devotional, and at church. That is one of the ways I have discovered that God speaks to me. Through repetition. Through different people and places, but repeating the same thing. The phrase "beauty instead of ashes" stuck out to me for a while. Then one night, after a girls gathering at church where, surprise surprise, someone had read Isaiah 61, I walked back to the car with a friend of mine and told her my idea for my new Etsy shop. She was the very first person I shared this idea with and I couldn't have picked a better person- she was so encouraging and thought it was an amazing idea. So I went for it.

Is your business/shop your full time job? If not, what else do you do? If yes, how long were you doing it before it became full time?

Instead of Ashes is not my full time job, but I hope it can be someday! I work as a Design Assistant at Design Lines in Raleigh, NC.

What would you tell your 20-year old self? 

Well, I am currently 24, so my 20 year old self was only a few years ago. I would encourage myself to do more of what I love and not just what I think I am supposed to do.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever gotten?

I'm not sure if this exactly counts, but in the early days of my sophomore year of college, I saw a pretty picture on Pinterest. It was simple and aesthetically pleasing. It said "Do what you love." I was starting to embrace the fact then that I wanted to do something with my life that I enjoyed, and was beneficial to society, while also maybe paying my bills! That would be a great plan. While this might not exactly qualify as the "best advice I've ever gotten", it was definitely a launching point for my creative identity.

What's the hardest part about pursuing a "non-traditional" career? The best part?

Right now, I find the hardest part being that it has to be accompanied by another job. Don't get me wrong, I am excited to have an Interior Design job using the degree that I worked hard for and do enjoy, but balancing that while creating this non traditional job as a side project that I want to get bigger  is hard because it takes a lot of time.

The best part is getting to make whatever I want!

What inspires you?

I think I am inspired by places I like to be. I love how Anthropologie smells delightful and just has a beautiful eclectic atmosphere. A recent discovery I have made is the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. There are a few different garden styles represented here- it's a lovely place to walk around and relax in. I also dream of getting to go back to London and Edinburgh- the architecture, the streets, the weather, the shops, the colors, the sounds, the museums, the people, the tea :) I feel the adventure rushing over me just thinking about it.

I am also inspired by people and their love. I love being around people who truly love others and want to brighten their day, see them succeed, and see them grow. I love being in the homes of families who truly love each other, and who really welcome you to be a part of it. I am so inspired by people who so extravagantly love other people.

Thank you so much, Lauren, for your beautiful answers! Not only has Lauren been kind enough to grace us with her words, but she's also put together a fun giveaway! Head over to instagram and follow the instructions on the giveaway post (it's super simple to enter). You'll be entered to win the three beautiful items you see in the photo above!

Keep your eyes on her shop for more of her beautiful work!

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