Interview: Michelle Hartney

Michelle Hartney, independent designer and new mom, exhibits a fresh look on many of your most common objects. Through her sense of humor, and her way of looking at the world with a smart perspective, she has become a prevalent designer in the Chicago area. Her charms exude a very direct message, often playful, and other times serious, evoking an understanding between the wearer and the designer’s intention. Michelle currently lives in Chicago with her husband and her new baby.


ET: First off, congrats on the baby! Can we expect your designs to take on a more maternal theme now?

MH: Thank you so much! You know, I really don’t think that there’s going to be a change in my designs. My life has been so busy right now, and I’m trying to keep my work and personal life separate.

ET: A lot of your charms come from your personal inspirations and interests, such as your love of running. What are some other sources of inspiration for you?

MH: One of my biggest sellers is my Bukowski necklace, which is inspired by the bluebird poem by Charles Bukowski. I’d love to work more with poetry and create charms that are inspired by poems. I have another charm that is inspired by my favorite poem of all time by T.S. Elliot, ‘J.Alfred Prufrock.’ I want to do a lot of charms based off that poem. I’m also definitely inspired by nature, and the Great Lakes are a big part of my life, Lake Michigan especially.

ET: When Emerging Thoughts launched in 2006, we were carrying your clothing line, Strong Girl. How would you say your style has evolved since then?

MH: I used to be more into reconstructing shirts and recycling rings. Now, I’m really not doing that much at all. I’m doing more conceptual stuff, working with ideas and taking it from there.

ET: We are both closet Real Housewives fans. Which necklace do you think Phaedra would wear?

MH: I think that my stuff isn’t fancy enough for Phaedra, or excessive enough. I think she would sort of look at it and roll her eyes. I don’t think she would wear any of my things! She’s quite entertaining.

ET: Do you have a personal favorite out of your charms, and are there any ideas you have in the works for your jewelry?

MH: I think definitely my favorite is the Bukowski, just because I love that poem so much. I sell that particular charm with a copy of the poem, and i love it when someone reads the poem and it hits them. I think about the first time i read that poem, and how it meant so much to me, so i love being able to share that with other people. I like that they have a visual to go along with it, something that they can wear that represents the words.

ET: I’ve noticed a theme in a lot of your necklaces, that some of the charms deal with struggling, such as ‘Domestic Drudge’ and ‘Marriage Takes Work’. How does that relate to you being a modern woman, and how do you feel about that concept in your work?

MH: This is all kind of tying together with with the Real Housewives things now that I think about it! My mom stayed home with us four kids, and I have so much respect for her. I don’t know how she did it. I think that part of me has not wanted to do that, I’ve always wanted to have a career as well. I think the charms, like ‘Domestic Drudgery’, represent how i hate housework and cooking, so that was sort of my expression of feelings concerning that. For the longest time I didn't want to get married, because I thought marriage ties you down. And then I met my husband, and totally turned my views around on that. That's where a lot of those charm ideas came from. I guess now that I’m a mom, things are definitely changing. I guess my work will too!

ET: Why do you think its important to support independent designers?

MH: I feel like with all the mass produced goods that are out there now, people don’t appreciate hand made things. People have lost touch with what it means to be made with care. You know, someone creates the idea and finishes it with their own two hands. I feel like now more than ever it is so important to support independent designers so we don’t lose that. The majority is going to be massed produced items, but its so important to not lose touch with hand made things!

ET: Well it was really nice talking with you and I’m glad you’re representing independent designers out there!

MH: No problem. Thank you so much!

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