Sometimes working with family can prove to be difficult, but Liz and Christine Jonas, a mother-daughter jewelry making duo, defy this stigma. Their relationship has grown stronger and deeper through their creative work, and now they successfully run Jonas Studio. For this reason, they are our special Mother’s Day Confidant(s) Embodied.
Darling Magazine: Tell us a bit about why you both started making jewelry and opened Jonas Studio?
Liz: About 10 years ago I was a working artist (sculpting and painting), while being a full-time mom. Due to the kids schedules I was often away from the studio so I needed to find an art form I could take on the road with me…to the kid’s games and traveling, times when I was out of my studio.
Christine: She doesn’t sit still well. She always has to be doing something with her hands. Growing up, she was always making art or sewing or knitting or crocheting.
Liz: Right, so I had to find a new outlet that could be taken on the road. The sculptures I was making had beads incorporated, so I took some wire, cord and some beads and starting making hand-made jewelry. It started out as a hobby, but soon I was getting requests from people to purchase my jewelry. It quickly turned into an independent business. I did it on my own for the first eight or so years, then Christine came onboard.
Christine: All through high school and college I would help out when I was home, making necklaces to get some extra money. Once I graduated college, I moved to New York City for a job, but didn’t like the work environment there. Every time I called home my mom would try to convince me to move back to California to work with her. So finally I did! And I love it!
DM: What is the dynamic like while working? Is it different than when you’re at home?
Liz: Our dynamic is that of close friends and collaborators. We bounce ideas back and forth, we ask for each other’s opinions on design, and we generally think along the same lines when it comes to work and creating. Because we are mother and daughter, we have a refreshing candor with each other that we might not have with a regular coworker. That level of honesty makes our designs better, but it can also bring some tension because we aren’t afraid to say if the other person is bugging us. It can be hard separating work from personal life, but over the past year we’ve found a pretty good balance with each other.
Because we are mother and daughter, we have a refreshing candor with each other that we might not have with a regular coworker.
Christine: The thing that makes our dynamic the strongest is the fact that we genuinely like being around each other and spending time together. We end up doing everything together throughout the day: running errands, grabbing lunch, working out, so work fits itself into our non-work lives, and our personal, non-work relationship fits itself into our work. We really live and love our job, doing it in the car or while watching TV after dinner, so it just naturally fits into our life.
DM: What are both of your roles within Jonas Studio?
Christine: I do all the digital and computer work: be it the blog, web design, look-book photography and social media, stuff like that.
Then we both do the production work. With designing, one of us will come up with a new technique, and then the other will further develop it in a new necklace. Since each piece is basically a one-of-a-kind, it allows us to constantly evolve and add new details to pieces. We really learn from one another and constantly inspire new design ideas by what we see the other doing.
Liz: We co-design all our pieces and hand-make every piece of jewelry we sell. I do most of the buying and all the ‘business’ work associated with Jonas Studio: taxes, bills, all the not so exciting stuff.
DM: How are you inspired to create your jewelry?
Liz: My husband is in the tile and stone industry and he is constantly traveling to source new products around the world—and I always tag along on his trips. Since January I have been to China, Nepal, Hong Kong, Stockholm, Moscow and London. On these adventures I often find unique pieces in local flea markets and antique shops wherever we are. The design inspiration will typically come from the pendant or beads we are working with for that particular necklace. From the pendant we decide what colors we want to work with, and then piece together all the other details like the beads, necklace length, what materials to use and what style we are aiming for.
Christine: The bead-buying is really inspiring. Seeing all our raw supplies and all the potential each bead holds is really exciting for us. We start creating pieces in our head before we even get the supplies into the studio. We are also magazine and Pinterest addicts! Stacks of magazines are strewn about the house and studio. Photos are a huge inspiration! We love how they inspire us.
Liz: Our inspiration really comes from our experiences and what surrounds us in our home and studio.
DM: Has building your company together made your relationship stronger?
Liz: We were able to build Jonas Studio because we had a strong relationship to begin with. We are very likeminded and create well together. It’s such a blessing to be able to work with my daughter as a friend and coworker. It has really allowed our relationship to grow from parent and child to creative partners.
Christine: I’ve been away for the past 5 years, so this is the first time we are spending every day together in this new, mature relationship. It’s wonderful. Getting to work day in and day out with my mom is amazing. I have tons of friends who are baffled by it and tell me endlessly that they could never work with their mom. I, too, feel so blessed that we are able to have this working relationship, which makes our personal bond that much stronger. I am so inspired by her, so to learn from her and work with her has helped me grow as an artist and as a woman.
DM: What suggestions do you have for readers wanting to start a business with their mother, or family in general?
Liz: Starting a business with family or friends can be tricky. Business by nature brings a lot of extra stress, and when it is a personal relationship it can be hard to handle the issues that arise. I think honestly evaluating your compatibility with someone is the best place to start. Christine and I have a really easy going relationship and great communication, so spending a lot of time together is not a problem. We do have disagreements, but we talk it out and generally come to a mutual understanding. Also having specific tasks that each of us is responsible for really helps keep us on task and do our part in making the company better. Discussing details up front when starting any business can make it run more smoothly- especially true when stating a business with a family member.
Christine: Before starting a business together, really asses your relationship and what the business is. Be honest about what your relationship is like. If you fight often and disagree on things most of the time, a business relationship would be very difficult. If you are both inspired by similar things, passionate about the potential business, then go ahead and try it. It can be very tough, especially when having to separate your business relationship with your personal relationship. We still learn how to do it day by day. Sometimes I have to say, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about business right now.” Open and honest communication is huge, as well as separation. Take some time apart and do things without each other, it makes both your personal and work relationships stronger if you can be independent too… though my mom and I struggle with that part.
Follow Jonas Studio on Facebook and Instagram @jonas_studio.
Images via Tesfanesh Jonas and Christine Jonas