Meet the Maker: Zelma Rose

This is part of an ongoing Maker Mentors guest blog series that features interviews with established makers.  Join the updates or recommend a maker for the blog.

What does your business do? Zelma Rose is known for our wanderlust inspired goods in prints and patterns that evoke our deep love of nature.  Entirely handcrafted from my original needlework patterns, each Zelma Rose design is made to order in our mountainside studio right here in Fairfax, California.

When did you start your business? 2010.

What kind of work were you doing before you started your business? Before I started Zelma Rose I was a psychologist in private practice.  Being a Fine Artist was my first profession and I had originally gone to art school, but while artist in residence at UCSF Mt. Zion Cancer Center I became deeply interested in psychology.  I took a 6 year hiatus from making art and went to grad school, sat for my licensing exams, and became a psychologist.  I loved my job, but ultimately felt something was missing.  When I became pregnant with my daughter I started making art again and immediately knew there was no turning back.  I officially closed my practice in 2010 and started to work on Zelma Rose.


What was the biggest challenge in getting started? At the time it felt like everything!  I was pregnant and about to have a baby with no steady job!  I was able to get a few teaching gigs right after I closed my practice and that helped keep me motivated.  Once my daughter was born I was short on time and had to really get good at making the most of every second.  As a full time stay at home mom and full time maker I still struggle with time.  If I can get 50% of my to do list accomplished for the business then it has been a great week.  It’s all about seeing it as a juggle instead of a balance.

What product are you most proud of? I’m really excited about my newest designs from the Reyes Collection.  I love to weave and creating the special combination of knots and weaves for these pieces was so much fun.  Also, getting to play around with dye and collaborate with other local makers has been a really great part of these designs.  I’m also currently in production on a new collection of fine metal necklaces that I’m really excited about.  The process has taken almost all year and has been a collaboration with some amazing local metal smiths.  I can’t wait until they are ready to be released for sale!

What marketing tactics have been most successful for you? I’m a big fan of meeting my customers in person.  Nothing really replaces that.  By teaching and doing shows I get to meet face to face with my customers, which is so much fun and also really inspiring.  Word of mouth is contagious and my customers are really passionate about my work.  Instagram has been great as of late.  I love communicating through a visual medium and the ability to be tagged by others of have my customers tag their friends is an added bonus.  Plus it’s pretty and fun!

Who are three creatives that inspire you? My daughter is my greatest artistic inspiration.  She is so creative and free in her expression.  I try to hold that with me everyday in the studio.  To be unafraid and dive into a new idea without worrying about the result.  Children are so free to experiment and that’s where art is at it’s richest form.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Marc Jacobs.

What does a typical day look like for you? My day starts at about 4 am when I get up early and do a little administrative work.  A lot of my emails are answered between the hours of 4-6 am when the house is quiet.  I then take a break from work to be mommy and get my daughter ready and out the door for school.  Then it’s time for yoga and then I’m in the studio working on production or photography for 4 hours or so.  I pick my daughter up from school and it’s back to mommy time until after dinner when I tackle any remaining must do’s on my list along with things like website maintenance and getting things ready to ship the next morning.  I work full day around whatever my daughter’s schedule might bring.  It can be total insanity, but nothing makes me happier.  And yoga saves the day every time!

What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your business? Everyone runs at their own pace.  I spent the first few years running my business trying to keep up with what I thought I was supposed to be doing, which kind of negates the whole point of running your own business!  While this past year has been one of great transition, with lots of behind the scenes production etc., I finally feel like I am running at a pace that meets my needs.  I really enjoy being a totally present mom.  That’s my top priority.  Zelma Rose always comes second and I’ve worked very hard to create a business and livelihood that allows for that.  Understanding that success has many many definitions early on would have kept me more directed.

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