Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

Seller Handbook

Creative Origins: Micha González

Learn how this Mexico City-based seller followed her gut and built an ethical, sustainable jewelry business when she was 45.

By Mary Kinney Mar 25, 2020
Photos by Donna Irene

Editor's note: On March 25, 2020, we spoke with the Mexico City-based seller about where her business was headed. After a year like no other, she spoke with Senior Editor Katy Svehaug to share how she—and her shop—are navigating the pandemic. You can jump to their recent interview here.

Micha González comes from an artistic family. Her father, grandparents, and great-grandparents were all photographers, and her mother was a stained glass artist. Growing up, she helped in her mother’s workshop and spent hours in dark rooms in Veracruz, Mexico.

Now a successful jeweler based in Mexico City, Micha found her medium later in life. She studied architecture and history before moving to a glassblowing school in Barcelona. While she was a student, her university went on strike. Not knowing when the strike would be over—she was told it could be a few days or a few years—Micha enrolled in a jewelry workshop as a back-up plan. She enjoyed it, but her school’s strike ended not long after, and she finished her schooling as a glassblower, moved back to Veracruz, and made glass installations for art galleries. “Twenty years later, I never would have imagined I would become a jeweler,” says Micha.

After moving to Mexico City in 2011, Micha worked a job on weekdays to pay rent, and worked at a gallery on the weekends to feed her creative side. She started taking jewelry classes and creating her own designs at night. At first, the transition was mostly practical: Glassblowing requires a lot of equipment and space, and jewelry-making is much simpler by comparison. But as she continued, she became proud of her pieces. One day in 2015, while working at the gallery, she was wearing a ring she had recently made. The gallery owner complimented Micha on her ring, and when Micha told her she made it, the owner offered to sell her rings at the gallery. “It was the way I found out that people like what I do,” Micha says.

The silver Hypatia ring is hand forged by Micha using onyx and 14ct gold sourced from recycled materials. Photo by Micha González.

That same year, her mother passed away and Micha fell ill with pneumonia, and it motivated Micha to focus on her art. "I was like okay, I need to finally start doing what I really want to do: I'm 45, and this is the moment to try this," says Micha. So she took the leap toward metalsmithing jewelry, left her well-paying job, and opened her Etsy shop.

A process influenced by history

Micha uses the same jewelry-making technique as ancient Romans did: Hand-forging, using sheets of metal, wire, and heat. “Maybe 90% of the production is totally by hand,” Micha says. She only uses molds for some of her designs to keep up with demand, but the slow process of making hand-forged jewelry is therapeutic for her. The methodical nature of sawing, bending, and filing the metal feels almost like meditation for Micha.

The process lends itself to Micha’s simple, quality designs made for everyday wear. Her design philosophy considers "sophistication and elegance, simplicity and function, and finding where they all meet.” When designing her jewelry, she doesn’t use sketches. "I go straight to the material,” Micha says. "For me, it's easier to cut and saw than to write and draw. I don't know why I'm always against the way things are supposed to be,” she laughs.

On Instagram, Micha balances a mix of lifestyle and studio shots with high contrast product close-ups that catch the eye.

Inspiration and design

Micha draws inspiration from the materials themselves: She looks at the stones and the sheets of metal and considers the shapes they might take. A book about antique rings acts as her computer mouse pad, and Micha thumbs through it and marvels at the beauty of these rings from long ago. Some of the rings are ornate, but some of them have a simplicity that Micha emulates in her designs.

She also looks to her customers when designing new pieces. "The way that people wear my jewelry helps me see how I'm developing as an artist,” Micha says. One customer has been buying her jewelry since the beginning and had become a friend of Micha's. “When she comes wearing a ring I made three years ago, I see how much I've changed. It gives me a sense of how I can keep going,” says Micha. She’ll build on her previous designs — changing the stone shape or other details so her pieces evolve over time.

Sourcing and sustainability

Micha has seen how unethical mining can affect a community. A few years ago, companies came to mine land not far from where she grew up in Veracruz. The mining methods contaminated water and air in the area, and folks living in nearby towns were forced to leave their homes to make space for the mining. The excavation of stones can be equally unethical, often requiring explosives and using child labor to unearth precious stones.

“When I started with jewelry and metalsmithing, I wondered, how can I be ethical if I use materials that comes from all of this?” Micha says. Torn about how to continue her craft, she researched alternatives. A fellow jeweler friend told her about sustainable, recycled metals, and she found suppliers of fair trade stones who collect the stones by hand.

On trusting intuition

Micha’s road to becoming a successful jeweler is winding, but she has no regrets about her past choices, and doesn’t consider anything a mistake. Her understanding of history, architecture, and blown glass installations helped inform her jewelry making. "It's not only a thing I want to sell, it's a thing I want you to wear and feel comfortable in. That means something to me,” she says. Jewelry making is her art form. From her art installation days, Micha still calls her jewelry “pieces,” like they were going in an exhibit. "All of the things I have learned before and did before, are still present," she says.

Through all the twists and turns of her creative journey, she has found success. "I'm not afraid of changing, or making mistakes. If I want to change something, I get straight to it,” she pauses. "I trust myself." She was able to seize an opportunity and buy a lease of land this past year, and her work is being sold in three shops across Mexico City as well as the San Antonio Museum of Art. Almost every day, Micha marvels at how far she’s come.

“Every time I sit at my workbench, I reflect and wonder if anyone needs a piece of jewelry in the middle of this chaotic and full-of-confusion world," says Micha. "Does anyone need a ring, a charm? Then I answer aloud to myself, 'Art is important, beautiful things are important, beautiful moments are important, and trying to make beautiful things that enrich someone else’s life is important.'”

Catching up with Micha, one year later

Since your interview last year, things have changed dramatically around the world. In addition to the changes in daily life, you shared that you've been fighting a Covid-19 diagnosis since October. I'm so glad to hear you’re starting to feel better. How are you doing now, and where have you been finding support?

Sitting down at my workbench to create continues to be my lifeline. There’s a lot of loneliness that accompanies the battle with coronavirus. My son has been a great support, and my reason to stay strong.

I'm better now, but have some long-term symptoms that mean I can’t work as intensely as before. I’m having to take care of my body and myself first, which is something I probably knew for years I should be doing. Getting sick made me put it into practice.

What has your creative business meant for you during this period of uncertainty?

My business has continued to grow over the last year, and that success is affirming of the bet I made to follow this path, without having to depend on an external source of income. But it’s also been hard to see my colleagues and friends struggling—losing jobs, getting sick from stress. I decided to spend a portion of what I’m earning on products purchased directly from people in my network, to help support their businesses too.

I’ve also been able to see firsthand how important my designs can be to people, even in the midst of a catastrophe. As the pandemic progressed, I started receiving many orders for custom pieces with engraved messages—messages of love, of hope, of strength.

It can be so difficult to stay creative and motivated when the world around you feels like it’s falling apart. What has your relationship to designing and making been like over the last year?

Creativity gives meaning to my life, it’s been my way of saving myself since I was a child. Growing up with a difficult family life, I would imagine a world for myself as a means of survival. This last year has been a kind of survival, too, and creativity is once again how I seek refuge.

With the pandemic, the exterior noise of Mexico City faded and it was easier for me to concentrate on my work. There was no need to go out, fewer distractions. This time has also made me realize I must go live in the countryside, there’s a comforting silence there that allows me to create without stopping.

As you’re preparing new pieces and photographs for spring, what are you looking forward to in the coming months, both as an artist and in life, generally?

I’m working to get my physical health back to 100% so that I can continue to sit at the workbench. The doctors estimate it will take me six more months to fully recover. Since my process is quite physical, my work as an artist really depends on getting to that point.

My mind is full of new designs and ideas, but I’m having to be patient with myself in order to materialize them. Ultimately, I’m very happy: I’m still alive, creative, and have a new perspective towards my body and life as a whole.

To explore Micha's designs, visit her shop. Photography by Donna Irene

How does creativity help you stay grounded during challenging times? Let us know in the comments.

Author

Mary Kinney from CarawayAndSage

Mary Kinney is a writer, teaching artist, and professional tired person living in Ridgewood, Queens. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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