Monica Johnson’s friend Jennifer used to visit her house regularly. “She saw me creating paintings one at a time, and stacking them in a corner; creating more and stacking them in a corner. And one day she asked me, what are you planning to do with all these paintings Monica? And I said, well I really don’t know… I just enjoy creating them. That’s when she told me about Etsy. Then every time I saw her she asked me, did you open a shop yet? My answer was always no. Until one day I thought I would give it a try… and I have been there ever since [and that’s a long time – MonicaJ started on Etsy in 2007 – JG]. I am very thankful that she convinced me to try – I have loved having my own shop, talking with wonderful customers and meeting so many awesome Etsy artists.”
Now making her home in Oklahoma, Monica considers herself lucky to be have been born into a family of makers and artists. “It was my mother who had the time and patience to teach us everything she knew about art, crochet, sewing, painting, cooking, gardening etc. I grew up in the country and loved it. We were very involved in 4-H and always had lots of projects to take to the fair every year.”
She is a compulsive maker. “My dreams are filled with crochet patterns, and many times I wake up and sketch new designs and patterns. I am an obsessive creator and a collector of supplies. The list of quirky goes on… lol.”
But it’s this kind of simple passion that can be problematic too. “For me, my passion is creating and only creating. So everything about having my own business was a challenge. But I kept working at it, learning something new everyday and looking up answers to all my many questions.” And so her business has come about bit by bit, gradually piecing things together over the last eight years.
It’s the rocks themselves that are her key inspiration. She searches out and collects them wherever her travels take her, choosing them for their colour and smoothness, and occasionally going to great lengths to find exactly the right one.
With their immense variety of sizes, shapes, textures and colours, each rock has its own distinctive personality. It is this that inspires each unique lace design, along with her ever-growing collection of vintage crochet patterns. But it’s mostly the stones. “I usually have a picture in my mind as to what I want the lace stone to look like and then work on the piece until it matches my vision. Each creation is its own unique challenge, because each stone is unique.” The quality of finish for each piece is important to her too, and she spends just as much time working to make the lace fit properly, and to make the back of the stone look as interesting as the front.
With their simple, muted background colours and gentle lighting providing contrast to the rich textures of her crochet, it is her photos of the work that make MonicaJ stand out in the sea of Etsy. “Photos and descriptions are so important. I started out with lots of ideas about backgrounds for photos which ended up to be way too busy looking. It helped a lot to simplify. It is important to have your eye go directly to the item you are trying to sell and not immediately to your background. If you are trying to show detail, the macro setting is very important.”
“As far as styling, I am very into blending colors, most of the time keeping with families of colors or complimentary colors. And since my items have a big nature vibe I sometimes use pieces of nature for props. The descriptions are so important as well; I try to write what I would like to know about the piece, and include as many details as possible. I always include measurements.”
Monica finds it important to diversify her offerings too. She completely understands the desire to make things (she knows this from first hand experience..!), so she also offers a comprehensive guide of tips and techniques so others can make their own beautiful crocheted rocks. And while the lace stones are a focal point for her business, she admits they can be out of the reach of some people’s pockets, and so offers a range of notecards featuring beautiful photos of the stones.
After many years of effort, it’s all coming together for her. Her fantastic work has been featured several times in Better Homes and Gardens, in Belle Armoire Jewelry Magazine, and online at Interweave Crochet Magazine, Crochet Rising and the Etsy blog.
Monica’s best piece of advice? “To take one day at a time.”
You can find Monica’s Etsy shop over at MonicaJ.