Milk & Honey – a definite cure for Christmas gift woes
Started in October 2011, Milk & Honey owes its success to the renowned website Etsy and to founder Sarah Parker who is based in Richmond, VA. The concept behind the name keeps with the theme of simple loveliness that runs through the collections. Milk, being something you “need” and honey being something of a treat. The products? Useful home pieces with a little extra spark of personality to put a smile on your face. There’s even a bespoke option, keeping Parker working her dream job around the clock.
Where did you study and what did you get from the experience?
I studied at Virginia Commonwealth University. When I started, I was a dance and photography major, but I abandoned that degree as I didn’t think it was possible to make it in the art world unless you lived in a major city. I turned my studies to Biology and Psychology, which I also enjoyed. Then, when I was nearly through my science degree, I began Milk & Honey.
Are the designs your own or are there multiple designers? Do any designs come from outside of the brand?
I am the only designer. The ideas tend to come to me in traffic for some reason, so I always keep a pad and pen in the car. I’m constantly jotting down ideas or drawing a quick sketch at red lights.
Which of your current designs is your favourite?
My always and forever favourite will be the Let Them Eat Cake etched glass cake stand. It was the piece that launched the entire company, really.
How would you describe the style of your own home? Does it reflect in your products?
I think my style absolutely comes through in my products. If I had to put a name to it, perhaps “attainable luxe”.
What are a few of your likes and dislikes in terms of design and style aesthetic?
I like things to be pretty, but not too pretty. I like things to be beautiful in a Wabi-Sabi sort of way. The imperfections are what makes them perfect. My greatest dislike is clutter, though I am guilty of it myself.
Please tell us about the creative process that went into your current collection. What techniques were used?
All sorts! I hand-stamp all the silver, which consists of steel letter stamps and a large hammer to indent them into the metal. I also sew nearly every day.
How would you describe your personality, and is this reflected in your work?
I seek pleasure whether it’s in food, wine, music or important things like love and friendship. I think this is definitely reflected in my work because nearly every item I make is created for the purpose of taking an ordinary item and making it more pleasurable to use.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
The moment I realized that this was my career. At first it was just this fantastic hobby, a way to make a little extra while I was finishing school. When it took off and I realized that I was going to spend every day of my life doing what I love, that was an amazing feeling.
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I would love to spend even one afternoon working with Martha Stewart. She amazes me.
A lot of your work is restored or modified vintages pieces, where do you pick up all these high-quality bits and bobs?
I have an insatiable appetite for antique shops. I cannot even drive past one without stopping in to see if they have any silver or other treasures. Once the shop got busier and I needed much higher quantities, I became a regular at estate sales and auctions.
How did you first get into furniture restoration? What was the process behind this?
It came from being a broke young wife, actually. After a while it occurred to me that the style I was drawn to wasn’t as out of reach as I thought. I read everything I could find about restoration, from how to properly tie coils to the best type of jute webbing. Then I just went for it. By the time I was done, a $5 thrift store find looked as regal as anything I coveted from the catalogs.
Have you any plans for the future? When can we expect your next collection and where do you hope to be in five years?
I am excited to think of the future of Milk & Honey and what it might hold. I do hope to collaborate at some point, and I would also like to expand the number of retail locations that carry my products. I would love to do some more lines of products, especially knitted items and possibly even clothing.
Do you have a team working with you to help manage the brand?
No, it is just me. I talk things over with my husband a lot, because he studied business and always gives me great advice. But for the most part I just go with my instincts and stay truthful to who I am.
How do you feel Etsy has helped your business
I would not have a business if it weren’t for Etsy. That’s the honest truth. Sure I could have packed up my wares and gone from boutique to boutique trying to sell, but in the end I just would not have been able to reach the number of people I have without the platform of Etsy. However, I don’t expect Etsy to do it for me. It is an excellent environment to sell my line in, but the rest is up to me.
What is your advice for others wanting to go down the home business retail path?
Don’t do it because you think it is easy. I love what I do, which is why I don’t mind working over 60 hours a week, but it is hard work. There is so much more to it than just creating things and listing them. You need to be a voracious learner. Read everything you can about marketing, search engine optimization, business, accounting… The list is never ending. That means registering your business name, paying business taxes, working a full workday every day. If it’s what you’re meant to do, it will come pretty naturally and be an enjoyable career.
For more information about Milk & Honey, click here.