Minneapolis Illustrator, Invitation Designer, + DIYer Blog


Art, Inspiration, and Life. Sharing all the inspires me to create.

Posts tagged DIY
Monday Muse: Mercedes Austin

I’m really jazzed about this week’s Monday Muse - Mercedes Austin, Founder and Owner of Mercury Mosaics. Not Familiar with Mercury Mosaics? I’m sure you are, you just might not know it. Mercury Mosaics is a hand made ceramic tile company based in Minneapolis. Been to the Bachelor Farmer Cafe ? You’ve seen Mercury Mosaics. Follow Morgan of Construction 2 Style? Her kitchen backsplash is Mercury Mosaics. Stayed at (or dream of staying at!) Eichler Palms in Palm Springs? Yep. Mercury Mosaics. I could go on. They create art with tile. Truly. And Mercedes is the woman in charge. That’s what I love about my Monday Muse series. I continue to be amazed at the number of women owned/founded businesses that are kicking ass and doing cool things here in MN! Just reading her bio on LinkedIn makes you want to join the team: “Mercedes Austin is the CEO and Chief Mover/Shaker of Mercury Mosaics, a hand-made Minnesota based mosaic tile company. The shop started as a one-woman show and is now thirty humans and two canines strong, telling stories through hand-crafted tile, bringing joy and beauty to spaces all over the world.” I mean who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Create art? Dogs are welcome! Make spaces beautiful? Chief Mover/Shaker? Sounds like a fun time to me. So let’s get to know Mercedes more and see how she grew her company to the 30 strong it is today.

Let's start at the beginning - did you always want to be an artist and is that what you went to school for?

I’ve been an artist all my life, it’s all I know. I did go to some school for it. Did I set out to turn being an artist into an entrepreneur having this deep care of manufacturing? No, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

How did you get started in Tile?

I started in tile when a local mom & pop hired me for pay in tile – taking on a role paid for barter to learn the trade.

And when did you know it was time to venture out on your own? 

I knew it was time to venture out on my own when my ideas to improve their business were not able to come to life – it was time to forge my own path and get some skin in the game. I needed to show myself what it would be like to create something and take a risk in this vision I had for handmade tile. This was 17 years ago. :0)

Your space in NE Mpls is what dreams are made of and I'm sure it's taken blood, sweat, and tears to get here - how did you navigate your growth and know when to add to your team to build what you have today?

This is a very big question! Yes, blood sweat and tears, for sure. To keep it simple, you need to “start where you are”. I cannot emphasize this enough. You navigate growth by having really simple metrics to measure your performance over time and manage by statistics. If I sell $100 in tile per week and to hire a new person I need to sell $200 in tile per week, this is my goal. I work toward it, sustain it (put in some sweat and extra hours while I’m one person) and as I have that consistent $200 in tile per week, I hire the next person. This is put very simply, but I do best with simple. You can stay really busy with little to no results if you do not focus your efforts. I don’t spend time on Facebook and mindlessly surfing the web. *wink – the world is filled with distractions. With each new goal, you work toward it. For example, the goal I’m working toward now: phasing out of day-to-day sales and starting a second factory. You’re always working toward the next goal. The actual answer to this question could be a book.

What has been the biggest hurdle you've had to overcome and how did you do it?

Overcoming myself and the barriers I used to impose on what I could accomplish. I’ve invested my time in self-improvement, education & physical well-being, aggressively, over the last 15 years. Each year I reflect on the next thing I can do to get out of my own way and build this into a better company that will employ and take care of its people and its clients, impacting what is possible with great design accomplished in handmade tile and mosaic patterns.

What's your favorite project to date and why?

I have too many favorites, it’s true. My current favorite is a project I gifted myself and our studio-recently. In getting our space, I committed to investing in personalizing the space with our tile. Recently we commissioned Adam Turman to illustrate a great quote in the backdrop: “Make Something Together” – it’s significant because, indeed, with everything we do at Mercury Mosaics – we’re making something together. We’re bringing back products made with passion, integrity & the care of craftspeople in the US.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Invest in your imagination and keep dreaming, there are no limits.

Rapid Fire:

  • Early Riser or Burn the midnight oil: Burn the midnight oil

  • Coffee or Tea: Coffee

  • Three words to describe you: Dreamer + Dedicated + Creative

  • Go to restaurant: French Meadow

  • Favorite way to unwind/relax: get into Pjs and recline & read

Thanks again Mercedes! You can check out all the great tile designs Mercedes and her team create at www.mercurymosaics.com

Monday Muse: Morgan Molitor

Meet Morgan Molitor. This week’s Monday Muse. She’s the style half of Construction 2 Style, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a tool box. Morgan is a girl after my own heart. She’s passionate about all things design, but isn’t afraid to dig in and do it herself. She’s a true DIYer along with her husband Jamie. In addition to tackling home improvement projects, she writes for a number of publications, holds workshops on how to get started with blogging, social media, etc, just recently launched e-courses to help grow your business, speaks on panels are various conferences and networking events, the list goes on and on. Morgan LOVES to be busy and truly loves meeting new people and helping them. She’s also a big proponent of community of competition (which I LOVE). So with out further adieu, let’s meet Morgan!

What did you want to be when you grew up and why? What did you end up going to school for?

Hairdresser, art teacher, fashion designer, coffee shop & boutique owner, server, business owner, and ultimately got my degree in fashion merchandising and marketing. To be honest, even when I got my degrees, I wasn't quite sure what my path would be. I just knew I thrived on creativity. Eventually my goal was to set displays for home magazines.

Can you share with us your journey to construction2style. I understand that isn’t the career path you originally had set out for yourself?

Although I never set displays for home magazines I spent years working the corporate gig creating planograms and setting displays for big box retailers such as Target and Walmart and fashion trade shows such as FAME and MAGIC.

I went to school in Long Beach, CA and after working in the fashion district for a handful of years, my dad died unexpectedly and I decided it was time to be closer to family. So I packed my bags and moved to the largest city in my hometown state, Minneapolis. I'm originally from a very small town up north called, Roseau. Quickly after I moved home to MN, I hit up the dance floor at the Wild Onion on Grand and met my man, Jamie. Fast forward to him buying his first investment property, while we were dating, and me telling him we should start this thing called a blog. And at that moment construction2style was born. Hardly knowing Jamie at the time I was blown away by his talents and wanted to document it all for him. Slowly but surely as he updated the house, I would document what he was doing which in turn led to DIY tutorials. Never would have I thought in a million years it would eventually lead us to the life we're living right now!

When you began blogging, how long before you knew you could make it a business? What steps did you take to get it off the ground and generate income for you?

Yet, again, I had no idea what I was doing when we started c2s. ha! I built the website on my own after a full year of watching how-to build a website YouTube videos. And had no idea that you could actually make a business from blogging until we got our first inquiry from a brand asking if they could do a sponsored post. Jamie went to school for carpentry so he knew he always wanted to be in the home improvement field. But what he probably didn't expect to be his career path was creating DIY content nonstop. He always envisioned that he'd be this big builder rolling the the good 'ol boys. But I put a kink in that plan. ha!

c2s started off as a DIY home improvement blog that eventually led into a full design + build interior residential remodeling company. People started reaching out to see if we could make a table for them or re-do their fireplace or finish their basement. So after we got married Jamie took the leap, got his contractors license, quit his job and dove in. I kept working my full time merchandising job and then once our blog was up and running I was so fascinated by this whole blog and social media thing that I made a career shift to a digital marketing agency and ran their social media department. I worked there up until our second son, Beckam, was born. I realized I just couldn't do it all...run two full time jobs, be a mom of two, and a present wife. Something had to give. So in 2017, I took the leap to be full time right alongside Jamie at c2s.

What advice would you give to someone starting in the blogging/influencer space?

Write, write, write, write and then write some more! Creating content regularly is key. Which can also be very time consuming! But if you're not creating content regularly, as in 3-4 posts per week, your page-views will never increase which means you'll never be able to pitch brands and make an actually money-making business out of it.

But also, don't give up! Page-views take awhile to reach the goal you need to be at, but if you're creating content on a regular basis, you'll get there. It just won't happen overnight. Nothing happens overnight. All good things take time, right?

You’ve had a ton of success with your business - can you share something that didn’t go well or failed and what did you learn from it?

Ohhh you are so kind. There have been a lot of mistakes in our business, for sure. And we've learned a ton over the years. We're still learning every day with every new project and client we face. And I'm always thinking up these crazy new ideas and not all of them work out. But that's ok, at least I tried. The thing I tell myself though when embarking on a new idea is that I have to commit to it for at least 1 full year before I can say, ok, you can be done now. Otherwise, how do you know it really didn't work?

I honestly can't think of any failures because even when things haven't worked out, we've learned so hard and fast from it and it's just made our business better, which is a win in my eyes! But if I had to think of a constant learning experience it would be - cash flow. Running your own business and being financially independent is stressful and cashflow is a constant juggle. For a long time we didn't know our worth and we danced around money with clients. We cringed at having the estimate conversation and explaining to them why what is what. And then if there was something in the project that was out of scope, we'd just do it and not charge them. Because it wasn't worth the time or energy to explain why it was out of scope to our clients and why it's costing x amount. Now because we've learned that we are worth more than that, and are confident in that, we just say it like it is and also don't even explain things. They can take it or leave it. We're not going to sit and convince them why they should have this or that and/or work with us. We're not a non-profit and we're done working for free.

How did you know when it was time to grow your team? Did you plan for it? What was the hiring process like? Do you plan to keep growing?

We never knew that we'd one day have a team, still scares us half to death at times. We have two full time employees and both of them found us through Instagram and asked if we were hiring. They started part time, maybe working 10 hours a week and quickly moved to full time. Each time we just made the jump and figured it out financially as we went. And we all have worked harder and smarter together and doubled our companies profits within the first year they went full time. Best decision we ever made! And we can't wait to keep growing our team. If you asked Jordan what our hiring process was like she'd say... Well, Morgan was 2 hours late to the interview because she was getting her lashes done and it was her first time so had no idea that it took so long and couldn't open her eyes to text me. And... within 5 meetings of meeting her I asked if she could help me setup an event that day. She was hired after that! The hiring process with Topher was pretty similar. So I guess you could say, we don't have a process. I can tell if I like a person within the first 5 minutes of meeting them. And I don't care what your background is, as long as you're a good, genuine person, thrive on creativity and working your ass off, and want to be here- we want that kind of person on our team. Because we can train the rest.

What would you tell your younger self?

Know your worth. No-one needs to know or be convinced of your why but you. Read more books early on. Avoid people who don't fill your cup. Don't stress over the small things, because it's all small thing- learn fast and move on! You'll be terrified of public speaking in college and will avoid it at all costs- knock it off and practice more of it! Do everything that scares the crap out of you. Spend more time with your parents because soon you'll loose your dad way too young.

Rapid Fire Questions:

  • Early bird or night owl: Both, I don't sleep.

  • Control freak or go with flow Go with the flow 100%

  • 3 Instagram accounts that give you life @beginninginthemiddle, @standtoserve, @ashleyklemieux

  • City slicker or country lover ....Bah, that's hard. If it weren't for family I'd totally be a city slicker. I grew up small town and now married a man who will never leave the country. So the country is where home is.

  • Favorite room to design/style Bathrooms!

  • Go to paint color Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore

Thanks Morgan for sharing your journey and being a part of the Monday Muse series. You can find Morgan on their blog, instagram, and pinterest.

Taj Halloween 2018: TV Characters

This will the be the 5th Annual Taj Halloween Party and the theme this year is TV Characters. As I’ve stated before, I LOVE Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday and I’m super excited for this year’s theme. I started planning in August. Seriously. Save the dates went out and then I got to work on the invitations. With this year’s theme being TV Characters, I wanted to do something tv related (obviously!). After a few brainstorming sessions, I landed on designing a mock up of a TV Guide cover. I wanted to highlight the array of characters one could chose from. And while I couldn’t fit everything I wanted onto the cover, I did enjoy drawing all the images.

As usual, once I started creating, the ideas kept coming. I didn’t want to clutter the cover with all the details of the party, so I created a table of contents. This allowed me to convey the theme in more detail and provide specifics on time, etc.

While trying to figure out how to put it all together in a fun way, I had the idea to use actual TV Guides. I took to Instagram to crowd source after a few unsuccessful searches on Ebay. IG didn’t pan out either, but after a few rabbit hole trips on the internet, I found a site that then linked me back to a bunch of ebay sellers who weren’t selling collector issues. Side note: why couldn’t I find them as easily just searching on ebay the first time???? Anywho, I ended up getting the 22 copies I needed. All various years dating back the 80’s. They’re pretty great! I attached my cover over the cover of the old TV Guide, and then attached the contents page inside over the original contents. I will share photos of the actual invitation and details of the party later this month. Stay tuned.

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Muse Monday - Tiff Style

Today’s Muse Monday is dedicated to my friend Tiff.  50+ days ago, she suffered an extremely severe stroke. It was on that same day that we had just started talking about meeting up in person. Weird, right? You see, I’ve known Tiff since High School. But, we didn’t reconnect until a few years ago. We started following each other on twitter and facebook, commenting on each other’s post regularly. She is the most inspiring person I know, even if we haven’t “seen” each other since high school. She greets every day with a positive attitude, sees the good in all things, and has this great I’m going to kick ass today and nothing is going to slow me down attitude! Oh, and did I mention she loves heels, fashion and all things fabulous? A girl after my own heart.


I read her CaringBridge page everyday and continue to be amazed at the progress she has made. Even her doctors are impressed with how dedicated she is to recovering from this debilitating stroke. She has a long recovery road ahead of her, but I know she will fight all the obstacles that are in her way. I’d been waiting to make her a card as I wanted inspiration to guide me through the process. Today,inspiration struck. It’s simple and to the point, but I know she will like (I used her favorite color-pink!).  Take some time today to send positive thoughts to Tiff. She could really use them!

Card Materials:

Paper: Stampers Select White (Papertrey Ink)

Stamps: Watercolor wonder, Mini Blooms (both Papertrey Ink)

Ink: Pink Grapefruit (VersaMagic), Pink Petunia (VersaMagic), Galaxy Gold (Brilliance), Lilac Posies (Memento), Pixie Dust (VersaMagic), Orchid (Colorbox)

Muse Monday - Mom's Birthday Card

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My mom has been my most loyal reader since day one. Whenever I post a new update, she’s one of the first to like it (she hasn’t quite figured out how to comment yet, baby steps) . She’s my biggest supporter and believer in me and it’s her birthday today- Happy Birthday Mom!! I love you and hope you have a wonderful day! XOXO

Now, onto the details. The inspiration for today’s card is one of my favorite pins to my card inspiration board. I love the color combination and the sparkle this dress has. Trying to find the same effect for a card was difficult until I stumbled upon this paper and knew it was what I was looking for. I’ve been wanting to use this inspiration for quite some time and I’m really excited by how it turned out. 

Don’t you just love how the copper embossing powder shines? It really makes the card. Reminds me of shiny, new pennies. 

Card Materials:

Paper: Vintage Cream (PTI), Peacock (PaperSource), Carousel (October Afternoon)

Ink: VersaMark

Stamps: Sentiment Signs (PTI)

Other: Mat Stack 4 die (PTI), Copper Embossing Powder (Zing!), Glitter Ribbon (American Crafts)