I am not sure how exactly I first found out about Tina’s Tiaras but I do know that when I first saw her work on Facebook and was hooked! Then, I was lucky enough to meet this great lady, Tina Kelsey, at Ohio Made at Ohio Historical Village this fall. I was so excited to get to finally meet the woman who made these amazing tiaras that I was beside myself! We had a somewhat lengthy conversation (didn’t want to take away from her sales at the show) and she not only told me about herself but about A.L.P.A.C.A.(Athens Local Professional Arts and Craftsmen Association). Of course, I was totally doubly psyched as Athens is my (and my mom’s) alma mater!! Soooooo, it only seemed natural that I should ask her to be interviewed!
The lovely Miss Tina has worn tiaras for years! As she puts it:
I kept one around the house to wear when I did housework or other things I didn’t like.(what a great idea!!!) It made me feel special and it all went a lot faster. I started wearing mine on long car trips, to parties, and camping. Soon my girlfriends all joined in. We meet once a month for Diva Days and wear tiaras all day. Making my own came about when someone bought one and I said “It’s just beads and wire girls, we can do this ourselves.” Those first ones were a little sad, but they just get better and better.
Tina has always done something to make money on the side. As a child, she made jewelry out of colored wire she begged from the phone company and her mother sold it at her work….quite the little entrepreneur! In high school, she made purses out of old jeans lined in patchwork. She started out selling them out of her locker at school, but then got a contract to sell them at the new “jeans” store that opened! In addition , she has dabbled in herbs, sewing, and painting.
However, the whole tiara business is so different than anything she tried in the past because she can make them out of just about anything and put them together anywhere. While suffering from mono lying on her back for 2 weeks, she discovered that she could make tiaras while lying down. They speak to me in a way that nothing else ever has. I think about them all the time. They meet my need to make something beautiful and also keep me inspired as materials and designs keep evolving. I am just as anxious as my customers to see what I come up with next.
Tina considers her art as ‘Wearable Expressions’ because they can make you think, make you smile or cheer up the world. I like knowing that I bring pleasure to so many others who see or wear my pieces. And, believe me, they do just that…I can speak from experience as I am now the proud owner of one of her tiaras!
Inspiration comes from everything around her. She finally got a chicken coop and chickens this spring and loves to carry them around the yard. That lead to incorporating feathers into some of her designs. When making custom pieces, she likes to know about the people she makes them for. When I know about their lives, I am better able to make something that I know they will be an expression of who they are.
Last month, she found a box of old rhinestone jewelry that had belonged to her partner’s mother. At first, she put them aside to give to a friend who incorporates found objects into glass pieces, but then she had a vision of them sparkling on a tiara. They turned out so amazingly beautiful that she’s not sure she ever wants to sell them! Even when I make my little tiaras, I can’t help think about all the little girls who will be wearing them. They keep my designs true and sturdy (children can be rough on their head gear)
When she first started making tiaras and selling them, everyone told her that she had to make other things as she would never be able to sell enough tiaras to make it worth her while. So, she listened to them and made some other beaded things that she hated! So much for friends’ advice!!!! Now she has been making just tiaras for 5 years and selling thousands of them! As she states: I think I am successful because I am so passionate about them. I also think that I have been able to market to my customer base: children under 10 and women over 40. My prices range from $10 to $200. I will confess that I sell many more $10 ones than $200, but it seems to even out.
Not only does she sell her gorgeous tiaras, she is a true believer in giving back to her community. She donates tiaras to the chemo lounges of hospitals, and every raffle or fund raiser she hears about…she even donated the tiara for the Athens High School Homecoming Queen! She was so touched that they wanted one of hers over a rhinestone one(and they had a limited budget) that she donated one.
I am very grateful that I have a side business that is so successful and also feeds my creative spirit. The more I give, the more I get.
Tina’s ‘real’ job is a preschool intervention specialist…a sometimes loud and very busy job that has her “on” all day. She has to think on her feet, knowing and documenting what 16 children are doing at any one time. Although she loves her job, it leaves her exhausted so she likes to come home to calm and quiet. As she puts it:
With five cats, 2 dogs, 6 chickens and 2 tortoises, that isn’t always easy. My little house is surrounded by large pines on 25 acres with caves and waterfalls in my back yard. I have to bring everything in and out via sled in the winter, but I love it here. This piece of land feeds my soul and when I drive over the hill and see my house, I still get a thrill every time and my whole body relaxes. I try to make a tiara every day as making something beautiful calms and centers me. There is a winery just down the road and that helps too. My kinda lady!!!
Tina’s Tiaras can be purchased through her website: www.tinastiaras.com, and Starbrick in Nelsonville Ohio and The Painted Cupboard in Cincinnati. But her favorite place to sell has to be street fairsL vending at Comfest for 7 years, Nelsonville Music Festival, Yellow Springs Street Festival, and locally Athen’s twice a month Art Markets as part of the Athens Farmers Market, and the annual A.L.P.A.C.A (Athens Local Professional Arts and Craftsmen Association.)Holiday Shoppe (the second weekend in December).
In addition to her tiara business, she is president of A.L.P.A.C.A. and ‘pretty proud of what we have accomplished’. Their Holiday Shoppe (held this year on December 13-14 at the Athens Community Center) has over 40 quality artists selling everything from jewelry, ceramics, fine woodwork, glass, fibre art to hand carved gourds. They also offer education for their artists as well as fund grants for local art teachers so that they can purchase supplies for their classes.
ALPACA (http://www.alpacaartsgroup.org/) was started in 2006 by a group of artists that felt the need to meet in order to share ideas and learn from each other. After several years, vending opportunities and educational grants were added. There were 14 members the first years, but now we have over 70 with more people joining every month.
We offer several venues for our members to vend: Art Markets are the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month April – December (outside) and weekly during the winter months in the mall. We set up Saturday mornings with the Athens Farmers Market which is a great partnership for us. We also host a Holiday Shoppe the second weekend in December at the Community Center. This has become a really great place where we showcase some of the finest artists and craftsmen in our area. Athens is special in that many artists moved here in the 70’s and remained. Young people move here for the alternative lifestyles we are famous for giving us a large bank of high quality work: woodworkers, potters, painters, fiber artists, jewelers..we have it all.
The group also provides education for members by addressing the needs of members. The recent Social Media workshop was a hit and workshops on legal matters, photographing artists’ work, booth displays and more social media (“some of us are old and need more help than others”). One of the best aspects of the group is that they network ideas, new shows, bad shows, good shows, where to get the best prices on supplies and give each other leads on exhibits and galleries. Seasoned members mentor new folks who are just getting started. It really is like family. If someone is sick, we check in on them. If someone can’t pay their yearly dues, we take care of that. This year, we plan to have quarterly potlucks so that all the members can get together on a regular basis to socialize and catch up..
But Tina thinks that one of the best thingsthey do is give grant money (up to $500 each) to local schools.
In this area of Ohio schools are really strapped and many of the proposals we fund are for basics like paper and paint. It is a big deal for us to be able to provide children with basic art supplies. We hope to do even more in the future.
Obviously, this creative lady has lots going on! I’m so happy that we finally met and even happier that she agreed to be featured here. I am looking forward to attending the Holiday Shoppe this year and, hopefully, continuing a friendship with this fun loving lady!