Happy Friday, friends! I hope you’ve had a lovely week – we’re almost to spring! I have a little interview today that I think you’re gonna love. Joining me on the blog today is my friend Michelle Graham of Birch Paper and Home. I met Michelle through Matthew Mead. We were both featured in his Upcycled Style Magazine and also were right next to each other at the Vintage Bazaar. Michelle is so creative and can uncover beauty in the most unlikely spaces. I was so surprised to learn about her full background in this interview. So grab your coffee or tea and join us for Creativity Over Coffee!!!!!
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your creative journey?
Michelle: As a child, I always loved nature. I spent hours exploring the woods around my house and building elaborate forts. I’m talking fully furnished and decorated with furniture made from vines and fallen trees and little clay pots filled with flowers. Yet, I always considered myself more of an academic than a creative.
I loved science and was a great student, so I studied biology in college and went on to get a Master’s degree in Public Health. I worked as a biochemist in the pharmaceutical industry, a medical correspondent for Reuters, a child health policy analyst in the nonprofit sector, and finally as the director of violence prevention research at a children’s hospital. I even helped write the Surgeon General’s Report on Youth Violence and received a $250K government grant for my violence prevention research! And then I had kids…and discovered that I loved being a mom more than anything else I had ever done.
My children inspired me to focus my strengths on family and home. So I set out to create a nurturing and happy home for them…and I loved it! Soon friends and family began commenting on the transformation of my home and my self. I had new energy and passion. A side of me that had remained hidden for so long was finally being seen and nurtured.
It took a lot of encouragement, but I finally began a small business selling stationery I printed on an old printing press picked up on an antiquing adventure. Soon, I added refinished and painted furniture and other vintage home décor to my line and a new career was born! Ten years later, I still have my wholesale stationery line and am blessed to be calling Birch Paper and Home my full-time business!
How did you come up with the name for your business? Birch Paper and Home. I love it.
Michelle: I always thought birch trees were the prettiest ones in the forest. The ones that stand out and capture your eye. When I set up at an antique show or co-op, I want my booth to stand out like a birch in that forest of vintage vendors.
When do you feel most creative or happy?
Michelle: I love being around other creative women! I used to host a bi-weekly “think and drink” night with fellow creative business owners and it was truly inspiring! I would love to start that again!
Is there one project that you really love and you’re really proud of that you’ve done?
Michelle: Honestly, I’m most happy that I have found a way to be here for my kids. I drive them to and from school every day. We have dinner together almost every night. I go to their games and school presentations. And when they are sick, I am by their side.
Who or What inspires you?
Michelle: Anything that needs a little love! I have a talent for seeing the potential in most everything! I’ll come home from a junking adventure and my husband will say, “why did you buy THAT?” A little elbow grease later, and he says, “Wow. I LOVE that! Can we keep it?”
Do you ever get in a funk? If so, how do you get out of it?
Michelle: Messes stress me out. Which is funny, because most people who know me have seen that my studio can get VERY messy! You can’t see the floor kind of messy. I tend to create a disaster whenever I am preparing for a show because I have too many projects going at the same time.
What is your favorite color?
Is there any color you don’t LOVE?
Michelle: I’m not a huge fan of pink. That said, my iPhone is rose gold.
How do you balance it all?
Michelle: When I decided to give up my “big girl” job and embrace my creative business, I made a deal with myself. I would always put family first. No matter what. I am so blessed to have a “job” that nurtures my soul, but it comes at a cost. Let’s face it; I don’t make the money I used to. But I give my family something much better—my time and energy. Life may not always be perfectly balanced in the literal sense, but family is always first. And it helps that I am an insanely productive person☺
I know you do a lot of shows. What advice would you give to people who’d like to do vintage or antique shows?
Michelle: I like to think of shows as an opportunity to set up a mini store. Showcase your unique style. Create vignettes and displays that draw customers into your booth. Bring goods at a variety of price points. Try to include some “experiential” elements—something to touch, smell, or taste. Most of all–have a great time! We are all naturally drawn to people who are happy!
What is your favorite medium to work with and why? I know you do a lot with paper and furniture.
Michelle: Old paper!!! I LOVE old books and paper! There’s just something about the texture of text pressed into old paper.
What advice would you give to someone who is interested becoming more creative or following in your footsteps?
Michelle: Try something new! I never considered myself creative or artistic because I can barely draw a stick figure. But give me a truck full of random flea market finds and I will arrange them into a cohesive display that highlights the beauty of each and every piece!
Growing up I was a huge follower of INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO. At the end of the program, they would ask the interviewee these questions:
- What is your favorite word? Happy!!!!
- What is your least favorite word? Hmmm. The F-word when used in everyday conversation.
- What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? My husband. (okay, he told me to say that). Nature. Nothing is more beautiful than God’s own creation.
- What is your favorite curse word? Nothing sounds more unnatural coming out of my mouth than a curse word. In moments, that call for cussing, you’ll hear me say “nuggets” or “poopy-sticks.” My kids made that one up. Don’t ask…
- What sound or noise do you love? My children laughing, especially together! They both have infectious laughs!
- What sound or noise do you hate? My dogs barking incessantly to get me out of bed in the morning. I have a cavachon and a Newfie and I am NOT a morning person. I really need my coffee…
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Architect.
- What profession would you not like to do? Banker or accountant. Yuck.
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Welcome home. You did a good job.
A huge thank you to Michelle for sitting and chatting with us today. Isn’t she inspiring? I also love how she commits to putting family first. I try to do this as well.
Be sure to follow along with her:
If you’d like to read more of this series, click here.
*The photos in this post are by Michelle Graham, Birch Paper and Home.