Interview with Hearth & Hammer
Was it uncomfortable when we asked for photos of your space in a lived-in/ working state?
You know, it wasn’t super uncomfortable because you came to me at the perfect time. I’ve been struggling with this idea of perfectionism and ‘curation’ for awhile now. Having to update our Instagram account for the business can seem so false at times, so I’m really trying to show more of what it’s actually like to own a business and have a candle studio in your house. I am naturally a messier person so my work space is naturally messier and I’m just starting to be more accepting of that. I think it all stems from believing in yourself, honestly. I know I can run our business and it doesn’t matter if there is wax dripped all over the floor. That has nothing to do with the business aspect of our business.
What do you dislike the most about your space?
The ‘space,’ and by that I mean the square footage. There’s only so much I can fit into our 120 - 200 sq. foot home studio, and it means I have to be really clever sometimes. I often find myself dreaming of a new space, but then I have to remind myself to try and be in the present and be thankful for what I have which is an everyday practice.
What is your favorite thing about your space?
I love that my brother painted the walls white. I love that the door I use as my work table has been in three different homes with me. I love that my best friend was there the day our wax melter arrived and that my husband and I installed the shelves. It hasn’t functioned as our studio for long, but it already has a lot of memories attached to it and it really was a community effort. I’ve always wanted ‘a room of my own’ and I never had a skill that required it. I definitely relish the nights I can close the studio door and just be in my own space.
Are you naturally good at what you do or did you have to learn a lot about it?
That’s a super interesting question. I’ve always wondered about ‘natural ability’ versus ‘learned ability’ and a lot of what I practiced at before making candles informed our products. For instance, I’ve been writing stories since I learned how in first grade so I’m a great lover of language and so naming the candles is always a lot of fun for me — that part comes very naturally to me. The scents usually dream themselves up through the reading of the text, and I have a lot of fun mixing together different fragrance and essential oil blends to reach the aroma I’m aiming at. As for the actual process of making candles, it has been a learning game for sure. Candle making is an art I’m extremely fond of because it’s incredibly gratifying to be able to create a batch of something for me. I feel like every month I learn something new to make our candles even better than they were the month before. I’m constantly looking into new ingredients and practices to really elevate the quality of our candles, or make the process smoother. So I would say I’m always trying to learn as much as I can about candle making.
What are non-negotiable aspects to make what you do work?
I could say something simple like wax, jars, fragrances, etc. but truly at the end of the day it comes down to my own (and my husband’s) interest in the business. I am in the privileged position to not have to hate what I’m doing, which is a big reason why we started Hearth & Hammer, and so if any point we find that it’s making life unenjoyable instead of adding to our joy for it, then we will know it’s time to stop. I certainly hope that day never comes, but I also don’t want to be so foolish as to place such a large stake of my identity in Hearth & Hammer that if it ceases to exist, so do I.
What do you think is a misconception about owning your own business?
I think people often perceive owning your own business the way it is portrayed on Instagram (and we definitely add to this image). You wake up, you brew your pour over coffee and then you ‘hustle hard,’ but it’s not as hard as working for ‘the man.’ And I guess I would say, it’s just different. There’s a lot of hours that are never posted about. I don’t post about staying up until 2am in the morning pouring candles or the day I nearly had a panic attack because our shipment of jars were going to be late and I promised an order would be shipped a certain day. There’s a lot more riding on you when you own a business, rather than when you work for someone else’s company and you are never truly off the clock. It’s not something you go home and stop thinking about, it’s always on your mind and you’re always thinking about how you can make it better. I hear things get easier and more stable after 5 years, but I can’t say because we aren’t that far yet. It’s easy to romanticize what someone else is doing, I find myself doing that a lot, but the reality of the situation is nobody spends time posting about all the mistakes they made because they’re afraid that other people are making far less mistakes than they are. I can say I make a lot of mistakes, all the time, and I am incredibly impatient and have a never-ending ‘drive’ or ‘panic’ to always be dreaming up new things and I’m yet to tell you if that’s beneficial or just maddening, or perhaps a bit of both.
Are you comfortable sharing your products (or talents) with others? (In person, online, in a store etc.)
In the beginning, I was really terrible about talking about our candles at craft fairs. I am not a good sales person by nature. I don’t want to ever force anything on someone that they are not genuinely interested in. It’s really my husband that is the people person and always strikes up a conversation about how our candles are based on books and made from natural soy wax and talks about our eco practices. I’ve started to learn from him and try to copy what he’s saying, but I still remember how nervous and awkward I felt at our very first market. I just didn’t even know what I should have been saying, because I’m always the person at a craft fair hoping nobody talks to me, and then feeling obligated to buy something once they do and I never want to make someone feel that way. Now that I’ve been on the other side of it though, I know it’s not like that at all. The person always HOPES you will buy their product, of course, but they also don’t mind telling you about it and hearing your feedback, that can be just a valuable. Also it’s boring to stand somewhere for six hours and not talk to anyone.
Has it been more or less comfortable (or difficult) to start a business with your spouse?
Oh boy, what a good question. I am so very thankful that Andy decided to delve into this process with me. I could never do it without him. It is his labels and designs which give all of my ideas life, and they are always better than I could even imagine. I am also very thankful to have someone in the trenches with me, who understands what I go through on a daily basis and who is rooting for Hearth & Hammer as much as I am. It also doesn’t hurt that he doesn’t care when I talk about our candles constantly. I would say what is difficult is his schedule or the ability to find the time after his busy 9-5 job to get all of our design needs done and my ability to be patient and understanding in the interim. I get very excited and dreamy and would launch ten products at once if I could — I’m always coming up with some new scheme, but Andy is the level-headed one that sits there and says, “Okay, I like that idea. Now how can we make it better?” I will say the work / life balance can be difficult, especially during the holiday season but there isn’t anyone else I could imagine doing it with. Andy’s patience is unprecedented, especially with me when I’m in a frenzy of motion.
Why do you think people have such a difficult time showing their messy sides/selves?
I think we feel it speaks to our true nature. That by showing people we are messy, we are showing there is something flawed in ourselves and we so desperately want to be UNflawed and UNmessy. We want to be put together and have everything figured out. I have spent my entire life being messy. My mother used to laugh about my room being so messy and ask me to clean it, but she also let me paint my walls red and glue magazine clippings to them and I will always be so thankful to her for that. There is a freedom in being messy, in being able to a make a mess that I think has always been really important to me. If I spend all my time worrying about the mess I am making, I am not concentrating on the task at hand.
I think we are all also so very concerned about what other people think. I can’t remember which comedian said it, but she was talking about how most people are actually cowards when you come face to face with them. People will heckle you on stage but when you call them out about it, they instantly retract what they said. I think about that a lot in life. No one is ever going to tell you they hate something about you, they are going to say it behind your back. There is a certain freedom in that. If you decide you don’t care what other people have to say and you don’t search out what they have to say, sometimes you never even have to hear it. Likewise, while we are all so concerned about what other people think of us, they are sitting there concerned about what the person next to them is thinking about THEM, meaning we are all just sitting around thinking about ourselves. I think about that a lot when I leave the house looking like a mess. Everybody’s too concerned with themselves to even care that I have a hole in my t-shirt, and why should I care anyways?