While I enjoy sharing the struggles and triumphs of my own life, I thought it might do everyone well to start exploring the lives of others who are also striving to manifest their dreams. I’ve decided to entitle this interview series “Creative Masters” because all of these individuals have mastered the art of forging their own paths and are a great inspiration to me (and hopefully you too). They listen to their inner selves and are willing their unique visions of grandeur into reality. I’ve had the extraordinary privilege of coming across so many talented creative professionals in the past few years and I’m so excited to be sharing with you how they came to be the amazing pathfinders they are today.
Atlanta is so pleasantly filled to the brim with extraordinary people who make it their life goal to enhance your visual living experience. Jeanée Ledoux, of Finely Crafted, is exactly one of those people. She and I met through the blogosphere and I was immediately enchanted by all the colorful and charming goods her store has to offer. After finally meeting her in person, I knew I had to do this wonder woman justice by sharing her awesome story on T&B. Jeanee is one of those girls you’d love to have in your friend group because even upon first meeting (an impromptu one at that) she is so lovely and easygoing. Not to mention she obviously could decorate your house at the drop of a hat. Jeanée opened Finely Crafted less than a year ago (seriously) and is already making her mark among the ranks of the awesome. If you don’t have a chance to check out Finely Crafted at Paris On Ponce, do not fret. Finely Crafted is officially going online in September of this year!.. Just in time to make our holiday season that much merrier.
Describe Finely Crafted in three sentences.
Finely Crafted is a cheerful destination for home decor, gifts, and personal accessories inspired by modernism and mid-century kitsch. My boutique supports independent artists and small companies who pour their hearts into their creations, many of which are handmade. The Finely Crafted blog delivers store updates and artist info, but it’s also a source for DIY projects and a community that celebrates the craft movement and modern design.
It’s a delightfully curated store for sure! Tell me more about your background and how it led you to this.
I’ve been hot and heavy with the craft movement since 1999, when I took my first job as an editorial assistant at Storey Books in North Adams, Mass. We published DIY books on cooking, gardening, sewing, etc., and I’d spend lunch breaks poring over projects and dreaming of writing my own craft book one day. In 2005, after several years of thrifty decorating projects in a few apartments, I wrote “Abode a la Mode: 44 Projects for Hip Home Decor,” published by Sterling. “ReadyMade” magazine was new, and book publishers seemed to be scrambling to find young makers with a fresh point of view on crafts. That same year, my sister Suzanne and I founded Honeydoux jewelry, which featured vintage buttons and stones. We got into several boutiques and sold directly at craft markets, which gave me some merchandising practice. In 2009 I designed the projects for the DVD “Re-Construct: Eco-Friendly Crafts Made Easy,” co-hosted by Garth Johnson of Extreme Craft and produced by Eyekiss Films. All my crafting seemed to hover around hobby status, financially speaking, so I took a break in 2011. I stayed involved in the handmade community by volunteering at craft shows, like ICE, and supporting makers I admire. I began thinking of myself as a craft cheerleader rather than a crafter, but I knew I wouldn’t be content on the sidelines for long. Last summer I felt drawn toward retail, so I made an “If I had a store” Pinterest page. I made a casual inquiry at Paris on Ponce and showed my page to one of the owners, and I had a signed contract for my own mini-boutique just a few days later!
Wow. You’ve had quite a journey! What gave you the courage to make the leap to begin Finely Crafted?
I’ve never been afraid of starting businesses — Finely Crafted is my third! Renting booth space at Paris on Ponce is a low-risk way to dip my toe into the retail pond and see whether I like it. I do need to give myself lots of pep talks, though, to feel confident about designing the store. I’m not an artist and have very little merchandising experience, so I can spiral into heart-wrenching “who am I to do this . . . ?” thoughts. Having a space that hundreds of people judge every week makes me feel quite vulnerable! I’ve always been a fast learner and hard worker, though, so in the end I trust that I’ll scrape together enough know-how and style to be successful.
I know how you feel about being vulnerable. But your love for the work of the artists you represent obviously shines through. Who’s your current fave among the Finely Crafted artists and why?
I’m crazy about Leah Duncan! Her wall art and home decor (I carry prints, tea towels, and pillows) are inspired by diverse genres — from impressionism to Scandinavian folk art — but the patterns and colors are always distinctly her. There’s a joyful, dynamic movement to her drawings. For example, the paddle cactus on her tea towel looks like it’s dancing. Her oh-so-50s colors are some of my personal favorites, like sea foam, peachy pink, and goldenrod. Leah and I are collaborating on limited-edition prints that will be sold by Finely Crafted only, beginning this fall. I’m so excited and grateful that an established artist I admire is willing to take a risk on a retail rookie!
I can’t wait to see them! I doubt anyone could call you a rookie of any kind with the life experience you’ve had and the collaboration sounds perfect. The craft and DIY movement is very hip right now. How do you set yourself apart from others like you, yet still remain relevant?
Finely Crafted is unique because I curate the products through the lens of my personal taste, which has been shaped by living in a quirky, midcentury ranch since 2005. If I wouldn’t put an item in my home or give it to a loved one, I wouldn’t buy it for the store! My “atomic” style occupies a small niche beneath the large umbrella of “indie crafts.” I think my shop appeals both to customers who are fans of the handmade movement and to those who normally don’t think much about who made a product or where it came from, but they love modern design and kitsch.
When you say “atomic”, all I can think of are the ice cream sandwiches. But it makes total sense to me how perfectly descriptive the word is for your aesthetic. Since your store is physically local, I have to ask – what do you love most about living in Atlanta?
Relationships! Atlanta is my adopted hometown — I moved here from Opelousas, Louisiana, to attend Oglethorpe University in 1995. Many of my friends are crafty entrepreneurs like me, and we commiserate often over lunch and TV dates. In many ways, this big, spread-out city feels like a small town. I love that, unlike in New York and San Fran, you can become a big fish in Atlanta fairly quickly if you’re persistent and passionate. For example, I’ve watched my friends Shannon Mulkey and Christy Petterson, the mavens of the Indie Craft Experience, rise to national stardom since 2005.
And where do you find your personal inspiration?
What did people do *before* blogs and Pinterest to find visual inspiration?! Some of my favorite sources are Design Sponge, Bloesem Living, Kelly Golightly, and Oh So Lovely Vintage.
So if you weren’t running Finely Crafted, what do you think you would you be doing?
That’s a tough one, because I feel I’ve finally made the perfect job for myself. I get to use my creativity to curate and decorate the store, and my communication skills to blog and work with artists. I think if I hadn’t opened the shop last October, I’d be more dedicated to making my blog profitable, and I’d be trying to freelance for my favorite magazines, like “Atomic Ranch” and “Dwell.”
Here’s another tough one. In a perfect world, where would you see yourself in three years?
Yay, I’m unusually prepared to answer this question, because I just finished a class that helped me clarify my goals! I’m working on my first collaborations with artists for exclusive products, and I’d like those relationships to expand. I’d love for half my inventory to be made for and available from Finely Crafted only! I’d also like to uncover my inner artist and design my own line of products. I hope to master social media marketing and get regular coverage from my favorite blogs and magazines by then. As my husband is fond of pointing out, I spend a ton of time on my business, but it’s not very profitable yet. I want life to feel abundant so that I can travel and hire helpers with ease. And if we’re really talking perfect world here, I want a modern home with amazing views in southern California!
Last but not least, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone who is trying to make a career out of their creativity?
If turning your creativity into a career has a lot of juice for you, then find strategies for dealing with your fears and frigging dive in. As part of the class I mentioned above, I wrote specifics on what success looks like for me, which celebrities I’d like to be my mentors, and so on. Since creating that vision, I’ve been watching with amazement as the synchronicities roll in. For example, two of my three potential mentors are going to be visiting Atlanta this summer! I’ll have a chance to meet designer Emily Henderson this weekend at the Atlanta Gift Show. My point is, I feel like working with your passion and stating your intentions clearly turns the universe into a friendly helper.