To Top

Conversations with Julie Mills

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Mills. 

Hi Julie, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
When I was young, I could always be found outdoors. I loved nature, building things, swinging from rafters, riding my bike, and living in my imagination. I loved to draw, doodle, and color. I also loved to read and I would write my own short stories, illustrate them, staple the pages together and adore my mom’s laughter while she read them. My sophomore year of high school I was finally able to take an art class. It was this single class and the amazing art teacher I was blessed with, that set my world in motion. I was introduced to endless art mediums, famous artists and their fascinating histories, visual masterpieces and visited Art Museums both here in the States and in Europe. 

I graduated from Central Michigan University (Fire Up Chips!) with my BFA in Art and Printmaking concentration in 2001. I went on to Northern Michigan University to get my teaching certification to be an Art teacher. Back in those days, there wasn’t a teacher shortage like there is now. I packed up and moved, once again, to the Milwaukee area to live with friends and was hired as a …waitress. Although I wasn’t teaching like I had hoped, my Milwaukee years were a blast! 

Fast forward to today, I have a loving, supportive husband and three amazing kids! When my kids napped, I would create. When my kids went to bed early, I would stay up late and create. Creating pieces of art and exploring crafts was just part of my DNA. I needed to create to feel like myself. 

I’ve taught my kids to appreciate art, creativity, and nature. I’ve also taught them to keep their eyes on the ground so on our walks we find many treasures. I found a way to preserve these treasures with resin! I followed Facebook groups & learned what tools and supplies I would need from endless hours of YouTube videos. I dove in head first and have been swimming in this new creative outlet ever since! 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Hindsight is always 20/20, right? When I began working with resin, I made mistakes and messes! I was easy on myself though, working with a new medium always comes with challenges. The first objects I made with resin were coasters. The base of the coaster was wood and I poured the beautiful resin colors over the top. Once the coasters cured, I saw lots of pooled resin that dripped off while the resin self-leveled. The drip designs were just as beautiful, all swirly on top of my plastic bin lids. I learned how to take that run-off resin and made beautiful pendant necklaces with it to save on waste. 

I try to be planet conscientious so I work with silicone cups and stir sticks. Resin will not stick to silicone. When the small amount of resin is cured it peels right off. I found ways to clean and re-use my resin tools. I branched out by pouring resin into molds and incorporated dried leaves, ferns, and flowers into my deigns. 

I was beginning to get an inventory together to sell at our local farmers’ market and craft shows. I had many customer requests coming in for wall hangings and pendants with certain colors they would like to see match an outfit or design aesthetic. Bringing these pieces together for my customers brought me such joy and encouragement. I started my Facebook business page so my followers could see my creations. About a year after launching my new small business I created an Etsy site and found a local store to carry my work! 

I still feel as though I need to put more time and focus into production, sales, and advertising for my business. Like many other small business owners, I often feel conflicted about growth. I have to learn that business struggles will always be present because I choose to put my family first. Their needs are more important. 

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
My body of work consists of wearable art, wall art, charcuterie boards, coasters, and river tables. I work on commission for larger and personal pieces like my river tables and cutting signs with a CNC machine. My father, Ed helps me prep larger pieces with his vast knowledge of woodworking, tools, and machines. I’m so very thankful for my dad and his role in my small business. When I’m working with wood-making earrings and pendants, I like to choose woods rich in varying color and grain. I enjoy making patterns with these beautiful shades and sanding them to a silky-smooth finish. 

When I work with resin I mix in mica powders, paints, or alcohol inks and pour the colors over wood or into a silicone mold. I use clear resin to preserve ferns, flowers, and other natural elements for pendants and earrings. 

I’m enjoying my newest art medium, polymer clay because it requires much less prepping and finishing. Some of my polymer pieces are finished with UV resin for a beautiful shine. 

Each piece I create, regardless of the medium I’m working with, is unique. No two pieces are the same, truly handmade. 

What do you think about happiness?
My family makes me happy. This is a family business and I create because I love my family. I’m so blessed to be able to make an income doing what I love. 

Contact Info:

Image Credits

Laura Bailey

Suggest a Story: VoyageMichigan is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in Local Stories