Maker Profile: Theresa Cowan, Owner and Designer of Mineralogy
How did you start doing jewelry design?
I started just unconventionally in art school. It was for a project in one of my accessories classes, and I was working with a lot of fiber and textiles, so I was basically making smaller versions of installations I was working on--fabric, wire, and gemstones woven together. After that, I decided to start pursuing it more after some stores had interest in my work. I then realized that metalsmithing was something that I really needed to take on just to be able grow the kind of things I was creating, and to make things that I had no context of how they were created. So that was really something that was eye-opening to go from wrapping wire to using fire to pretty much make whatever you like.
What’s your background?
Fine arts. I have a BFA, it was interdisciplinary, so we were able to really study whatever we wanted. I mostly studied painting and drawing, and mostly wanted to go into fashion illustration, then I realized that it is an obsolete field in a way. I tried to find a rep when I graduated, and there is very limited work out there. It is nice now to see on Instagram the illustrators who are getting their work out in a different way--they don’t have to be represented by an agency. That is inspiring and it makes me miss [fashion illustration] and makes me wish that Instagram existed back then as a vehicle to getting work out there.
What inspires your work?
Just my materials, pretty much. I like really basic shapes and compositions, but I really am attracted to the textures and the colors of the minerals. Sometimes things work completely on their own, just because it is so interesting in the way nature left it that it doesn’t require a lot of metal or design to go along with it. Then for the fine jewelry, just really different combinations of stones together as far as color, or things that look a bit less ordinary, and might be a bit too eclectic or too different for some people, but I have found a little niche of people who like the same things I do.
What brought you to Chicago?
Art school. I lived in Wisconsin, then spent a summer on a ranch in Montana as a wrangler riding horses as a last hurrah before coming to the city. It was awesome. I was in Whitefish, so pretty close to Canada, right next to Glacier National Park. I really thought I should do something in nature with horses before I got wrapped up in the city. Once you get here, you think that you’ll leave, but you never do because of the art and relationships are so much more than you can get in a smaller city. I feel like in a city of 50,000 people, people just don’t appreciate art and they don’t understand design--it just doesn’t have a place in everybody’s life there. Here, it is just nice to know that you have a different market and artists. We’re all able to do things for each other, and help each other to promote and collaborate which is pretty inspiring.
If you weren’t here, where would you be?
I’d hope California. [My husband and I] just went to San Diego. It was so interesting to see the different foliage and plants and different style and textures. We stayed at this little Airbnb. It was so awesome. This guy had a canyon in his backyard. He had three porches, and there were birds that just came in while you were sitting there. There were things everywhere to look at, and it was just all nature.
How do you spend your free time/how do you take time for yourself?
I’m still learning how to do that. I work seven days a week, but I take half days on Mondays and Tuesdays when I’m closed. I come in and use the time to work on stuff when I don’t have customers. But I like to read, be outside, and just spend time with family and friends. I definitely need to make self care more of a priority. Even just, like, taking a class. It takes dedication to say, “I’m going to give up three hours a week to do something that I would like to do but don’t need to do.” It is easy to go back to normal work.
Why do you think it’s important for creative women to come together and collaborate?
I feel like there is really no point in doing your work if you are just an individual, like if there is no way to get your work out there to other people and just to be there to support each other. When you are creating content for multiple people, I think artists are sometimes our biggest market or support. Especially in an industry where there is so much competition, it is valuable to be transparent and giving. If your vision is different, nobody is going to be able to create what you do, and that is where we should all be cheering for each other.
What is your advice for young creatives?
Surround yourself with people who believe in you and find a mentor. Keep pushing through all the parts you don’t think will work. Just because what you like isn’t a trend or isn’t something that everybody likes, it’s okay. You’ll find your market, and people say that you’re supposed to understand your market, but I think that if you put yourself out there, people will find you. It might take longer, and slow growth is a part of that, but there is no point in making stuff just to follow trends, and it won’t be for everybody. I think that you can’t create work for everybody. It is nice to know that not everybody likes what you do, because you know that you are making more of a statement about being yourself. Just like in life, you can’t get along with everybody, and same with art, too.
How would you describe your style/aesthetic?
Comfortable. T-shirts and jeans and shift dresses. Anything that I won’t be sad if it gets destroyed when I’m working.
How do you stay inspired?
Being at work a lot actually helps me stay inspired. I don’t want to be out of it for too long. But also, just taking a trip, assessing the visual things around you which is nice to have a break from what you currently look at.
Get up, go straight to my coffee, just kind of review my emails to give me a preview of what the day will be like, check my to-do list, listen to music.
Doing nothing sometimes. Finding space to not have your phone with you or not have the T.V. on, and just make space around you to relax. And wine.
Favorite woman run brands/businesses?
Elizabeth Suzann. I’m obsessed with her. I would love to just spend a day following her around and picking her brain. To see her growth in two years and to really maintain her humility and humbleness and drive to make it a business that gives back and supports the local community. One woman has created all these jobs for people while maintaining her standards. I think it is easy to take growth steps too quickly, and it is easier to send it to a manufacturer and outsource to keep your head above water and keep people happy by turning a product over fast. So it is really empowering to see that she is supportive of all females and body types, while really making it about you.
Your star sign?
Scorpio, and I married a Scorpio, which apparently, you’re not supposed to do.
Cactus, eucalyptus, peonies.
Savory or sweet?
Sweet. Key Lime pie. Whatever key lime pie is, that is what I am.
Pizza or taco?
Tacos. My husband and I make really good tacos.
Coffee or tea?
Saturday or Sunday?
Movie or book?