Liza Michelle Rifkin
Hi, nice to meet you! Tell us about yourself and what you create.
Hi! I’m Liza Michelle from Cleveland, OH. I am the CEO and chief designer behind Liza Michelle Jewelry, a handmade jewelry company focusing on eco-friendly designs inspired by nature. I have a BFA in Jewelry/metals from the Cleveland Institute of Art and have worked professionally in the field for almost ten years now.
What was your AHA moment?
I have had several throughout my career and hope to have more, though the life changing AHA moment happened to me shortly after college. I was in Tennessee at a residency that provided room and board in exchange for studio work. I needed spare funds (lets be real….beer money) and decided to make jewelry to supplement my income. Up until that time I hadn’t considered a career in what I then called commercial jewelry, instead focusing more on studio art. It was the freedom and empowerment of making a concrete living off my work and the excitement of building a business that led me just 2.5 years later to start LMJ.
Where do you draw your energy and inspiration from?
I grew up digging in the dirt and exploring western New York where I grew up, obsessed with collecting little bits of natural detritus that has most influenced my studio practice. To this day I find such peace and inspiration going for hikes with my partner and pup. This is where my fascination with using natural elements in my work comes from, and is why being an eco-conscious company is so important to me.
What are you go-to’s as far as podcasts, books or blogs?
I am all about podcasts in my studio, as I work mostly alone throughout the week. I love Lore, a fascinating podcast about the intersection of mythology and history. Radiolab and The American Life are also on steady rotation. When I’m looking for business related information my go to’s are Creative Pep Talk and Being Boss.
What is the most challenging part of running your business?
I would say balance. I am a studio trained artist, so my first inclination is to create and work in the studio. Shifting my focus to being a business owner has really taught me self-discipline in knowing when to create and when to work on the business itself. A lot of creatives go into business thinking it’s going to be 24/7 creating, when in reality the act of making is only 15% of the whole. The rest of the time is spent building and working on the business. I have enjoyed figuring out how to make building my infrastructure a creative endeavor to satisfy that need.
What is your favorite part of running your business?
I would have to say working with clients! I have slowly built up the custom side of my offerings over the last two years and it has led to some of my favorite pieces. I love working collaboratively with clients to make their jewelry dreams come true. It’s a very different process than creating alone in my studio. I love the challenge of designing a piece based on what my clients tell me is important to them.
What is the best advice that has been given to you?
If you can’t or don’t know how to do something to the standard you do your best work, hire it out. You can’t be expected to do everything, nor should you, so trust your tribe and delegate!
What is your favorite thing about the handmade community?
I absolutely love how supportive it is. If ever I am in need, or have the desire to collaborate, my community is there. I love working with new creatives to pool our talents to make sure everyone is mutually successful. Most of my close friends are creative entrepreneurs and we are definitely a special breed that speak and move in our own language. There’s something very empowering about understanding someone on a subconscious level.
Who are some people you admire or look up to in this community?
There are too many to name! I really admire Meyghan Hill of Wh(Ore)Haus Studios for breaking down the barriers of what a welder/sculptor looks like and how they market for themselves. I find her work and her message very empowering.
If you could work on that one dream project, what would it be?
I would love love love to open a high end handmade brick and mortar retail shop that champions craftsmanship and innovative design.
Find Liza online: