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Meet AmberEarth Kennedy


Today we’d like to introduce you to Amber Earth Kennedy.
 

Hi Amber, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I learned macramé from my mother and grandmother when I was young. I spent a lot of time making bracelets and smaller projects. Once I began my career in social work with youth who had experienced trauma, I found that I needed a coping skill to decompress from the difficult work, so I began to macramé again. Around this time, I met Meghan (now my wife & fellow artist). She encouraged me to create an Etsy and convinced me that what I was creating was art and could be sold. In February of 2018, our business was born. It was then branded at Earthly Designs due to my middle name being Earth. We operated on a small scale via Etsy as both myself and Meghan were working as social workers and attending Western Michigan University to obtain our Master’s of Social Work. In 2021, a couple of local shops in Kalamazoo expressed interest in partnering with us to sell our creations which encouraged us to try our hand at in-person markets. Meanwhile, Meghan had been learning to macramé as well and flourishing as an artist. I then decided to rebrand our business as Knot Ur Mothers Macramé as I was no longer the only artist behind the curtain (and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity for such great wordplay!) We have found our niche by focusing on what really matters to us; nature, the planet, connectedness, spirituality, and color! These core values led to us seeking sustainable materials to decrease our environmental impact, using crystals in our pieces to bring others cleansing & healing, and taking inspiration from nature. We believe that these values have contributed to our success and have helped us to stand out amongst other macramé artists. Our products are made from 100% recycled cotton cord and use ethically sourced crystals. 

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?
Our journey has not been easy as we have faced numerous obstacles. Being queer artists, we have felt the weight of discrimination at times and have lost business due to our orientation. For example, we have a sign that we use at markets that states that we are a queer, female-owned business. There have been occasions that we have watched customers make unsavory faces and walk out of our tent after reading our sign. Although this has been difficult, we have also experienced immense support from our community, and with this encouragement, we still proudly display our sign at every market. Another challenge we have faced has been that of finding balance. I love the art of macramé, but it has been difficult to remain financially stable as an artist. In 2021, I left my job to focus on my last year of graduate schooling and macramé. During this time, it has been a continuous ebb and flow of financial security which has led to me questioning what my future as an artist would look like. Meghan and I plan to begin the process of having a child at the end of this year, so financial stability is crucial. Large retailers have compounded this struggle by creating macramé items with cheap materials and by machine at a fraction of what we price our items at. We have struggled to acknowledge the value of our art and not succumb to underpricing in order to compete with lesser-quality look-alikes. Along with the financial struggles, I am also learning to find balance in terms of my time. I tend to overextend myself when it comes to macramé as I have such a passion for the art and making others happy. I have had to learn how to set boundaries in order to ensure our well-being. After our first year of in-person markets, it became painfully obvious that it is not humanly possible to vend 6 in-person markets in the same month (lesson learned!) and that I needed to create clear boundaries for customers when it comes to processing times. Although we have had these struggles, we have found growth through them, both as small-business owners and personally as humans. 

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?
As previously stated, we use our core values of sustainability, ethically sourced materials, and our love for nature to guide our business. We are proud to report that we ship 100% plastic-free, and we recycle, compost, or reuse all of our scrap materials (the birds love using them to make nests!). Furthermore, we also have a deep passion for human rights and have participated in charity events by donating auction items to raise money for those in need as well as campaigns in which we donate a portion of our proceeds to charity (NOVA Ukraine, The Trevor Project, Planned Parenthood, & Rooted). We believe that the needs of people and our planet far supersede profit. 

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Our success is in direct correlation to upholding our values, even in the face of adversity, along with the community that we have been surrounded by. The last few years have been difficult times for everyone, some more than others. Although we were uneasy and nervous about being a small business during a pandemic and economic instability, we continued to find that our community came together. We acknowledge that we wouldn’t be anywhere without the amazing support from other artists, customers, and every person who believes in our work. We will maintain our pride as a queer-owned business and continue to grow as a sustainable, ethical, eco-friendly business, ready to take on whatever life may bring our way. 

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