Heather Ziegler and her hubby, Mike Renner have one of the rocking-est stores in the Short North District. These Columbus natives have filled a niche in the Columbus retail market that is all things rock’n’roll. Several years ago, I was turned on to Heather’s guitar pick jewelry at a local festival (don’t remember which one…senior moment, I guess!). I remember thinking how cool it would be to get some of the Beatles earrings for my BFF but never did:(
Well, I may not have purchased those earrings but I did get some pretty neat Beatles items at the store during this interview for my guy, a Beatles officianado and amazing guitarist. OK, enough about that…on to learning more about Heather!
What the Rock?! is the name of her brick and mortar business as well as her Etsy.com shop. She has been on Etsy since 2007 , her online business of the same name since 2005 and her store in the Short North Garden District since October 2006. The store is fun to visit as it is pretty eclectic in nature. The main emphasis of their product line is rock’n’roll (duh??) but they also carry a pretty full line of Day of the Dead items and believe it or not, a lot of fun baby items for those little rockers in the house including rock’n’roll lullaby CD’s. She and Mike believe in supporting local artists and also carry a number of artists who sell on consignment. Of course, Ohio garb is also featured with a rock twist as seen with the headphone t-shirt (made in Ohio by Carmacazzi tees)
Heather was born and raised in Columbus. Interests in music, art and writing began in high school and have continued since then. She was in a band and played a little guitar in high school when she started making jewelry for friends. Tradewinds and Byzantium (now long gone) were her fav stores in Columbus for beads and such (don’t we all miss those unique stores?) While in college (majoring in English at OSU), she studied creative writing and photography but continued to make jewelry. In 1994, she started dating Mike, left OSU before graduating and eventually made the cross country road trip/move to San Francisco with him and their friend Paul. Her jewelry was on consignment in a couple of boutiques on Cortland Ave and one on Castro St. which was her first venture into making money from her creations (mostly beaded necklaces and bracelets made on tiger tail wire).
In 1998, they moved to Santa Cruz where she got a job at a bead store called Bead It, and learned a lot about beading like pearl knotting and stringing, wire wrapped loops, and a bit of bead weaving. She also became knowledgeable about gemstone selecting and jewelry repairs, as all employees were trained to do contract repair work for customers. While there, she got to practice her techniques, learned about different tools, and experimented with design. Employees also made earrings and had consignment pieces in the shop. Eventually, she taught some basic bead skills classes and did some lapidary work. At that time, a friend showed Mike and Heather how to construct a basic ring which led to them making each other’s wedding rings. Since moving back to Columbus, she has also taken a basic metal working class at the Cultural Arts Center and hopes to take more classes soon.
When asked to categorize her work, she stated that she likes to make interesting pieces that are fun to wear and affordable for most people. Incorporating upcycled materials or natural materials into her designs is something she strives for. making the same thing over and over doesn’t interest her so she mixes things up frequently. Although she tries to get away from making jewelry to do some painting, photography and sewing, jewelry always calls to her.
“I am inspired by nature, mostly trees, leaves, flowers and animals. Being out in nature and being quiet. Reading books. Also, listening to music— rock, punk, and soul music, mostly stuff before the year 2000, and most of it from the 60’s-70’s, inspires me. That and going to art shows and museums and such. I am always inspired when I go to the Ohio Craft Museum or local art shows”
She has a few pieces of advice for anyone wanting to make jewelry:
1) Cuticle scissors are great for making details when cutting up credit cards for pendants and a regular nail file works great to sand down the edges of plastic and wood alike. 2) Covering things in glue makes them much stronger. 3) Stretch your silk before using it by hanging it with a small jug of water attached to it–just string it through the handle and then tie in a knot and hang, so it won’t stretch after you are wearing it, making the knots not as close to the beads. 4) Using a mix of salt and oil as a scrub will get all the glue and stuff off your hands after crafting.
In addition to selling her jewelry at her own store, her wares are available at Wholly Craft in Clintonville, in Pipeline in Santa Cruz, some earrings at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the Columbus Craft Museum here in Columbus and also at Urban Handmade in Yellow Springs.
She also vends at a variety of local events. Most recently she was at Ohio Handmade at the Ohio Historical Society. She also hopes to vend at the upcoming Food Truck and Cart Festival in August at the Columbus Commons, and Independents’ Day in September. Recently her Ohio stud earrings and cufflinks were featured in the newest issue of Columbus Monthly, as part of their Local Love/Ohio Pride.
As Heather says: “I am kind of always looking for things to make jewelry with. Unusual things. ..I’ll have a vision in my head or on paper, but sometimes the actual design comes out a lot different than I thought it would.. .. if I see someone making similar stuff, as sometimes happens when you try to keep up with trends, I try to change up my design a bit so that it won’t be exactly the same as theirs. I am a messy worker, and my craft stuff is kind of all over the house, as I like to make stuff in a room where the stereo, TV, etc. is instead of my studio room where the supplies are. I have them in boxes and trays so they are mobile because when it’s nice out I like to work outside. And I swear one day, my stuff will be organized. That is the hardest thing for me: to be organized and stay that way. Sometimes it takes me forever to find things because of this.”
Jewelry is not Heather’s only passion though. She loves cats but within the last year got Sparky (he’s adorable!) and has become a canine convert. Wearing and working in her pj’s is also one of her favorite things! She prefers old things to new and loves to be a frugal gourmet and gardener. On top of all that, she has studied quite a bit about herbs (has a certificate in herbs from East/West Herbal College), natural remedies and household products. She now makes all of her own house cleaners, scrubs and tinctures. Of course that led to another conversation about Chinese and alternative medicines…a topic for another time!
Heather and Mike are both involved in their business community’s resurgence. Although they are technically located in the Short North, their little corner of that area is called the Garden District (named after the Garden Theater across from their store). Now that the theater has reopened, a number of business owners have joined forces to clean up/spruce up the neighborhood and add lighting. For more info about that project, check out: https://www.facebook.com/ShortNorthGardenDistrict
When asked what the future holds for What the Rock?!, Heather says that she and Mike would eventually like to expand the store by having more clothes and an upstairs and downstairs…that most likely will mean moving to another building but they are committed to staying in the Short North for the long haul. I definitely want to keep tabs on these young entrepreneurs as their business grows!
You can also catch Heather and Mike at the Yellow Springs Street Fair in October , Independents’ Day and Craftin’ Outlaws in the fall and Comfest next summer. This weekend look for them at the Food Truck Festival at the Columbus Commons.
And, just in, check out this feature!!!!: http://www.examiner.com/list/yellow-springs-street-fair/what-the-rock
What the Rock?!