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Made in Iowa: Friends who've got it {made}

Business has grown into full-time endeavor

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Tiffany Ralston, 35, and Rachael Roewe, 34, both of Iowa City, have been friends since high school. They’ve also long shared an appreciation for a good garage sale find.

“We’ve been finding things and making them our own for a long time,” Roewe said. Those things just happen to be an elective array of necklaces, bracelets and earrings that have garnered quite a following in the local market.

{made} community, the name they’ve given their jewelry line, officially started in the holiday season of 2010 in a local pop up maker market in downtown Iowa City. While Roewe works as a stylist on the side and Ralston and her husband own some investment properties, the two friends and co-founders of {made} community have grown the business into a full-time endeavor.

“It started off as fun, but now we’re able to do it for real,” said Roewe. “We’ve been able to give back to our community and to support flexible work arrangements for our growing team and that feels really good.”

Q: What makes {made} unique?

Roewe: Our little of this, little of that small batch philosophy. We don’t make our styles in the hundreds or thousands. Everything is limited edition, by the season working with the things we’ve found over the years, a mix of new and vintage materials that come together in this serendipitous creative process.

Ralston: Our jewelry fits our lifestyle: layers well, lightweight, feels good and has great design. Behind the scenes, we give back to organizations that grow and give fresh food to others. Our workplace culture focuses on the importance of working, but the importance of having time to live well too.

Q. If you had only three words to describe what you do what would they be?

Roewe: Hunt. Create. Share.

Ralston: loving, learning, sharing

Q. Where do you find your inspiration?

Roewe: For me, it’s the texture. How things feel when you put them on. I love looking at the beads, stones and gems and thinking about how they might combine together.

Ralston: Usually from the way light falls onto objects at various times of the day....light is magic, how it illuminates an ordinary item depending on the hour and brings it to life. Colors are fascinating; looking at paint samples in the hardware store is fun for me. A natural stone is comprised of so many colors. The art of pulling out the undertones that you do not see at first glance is a code I like to unlock when I’m designing.

Q. What’s the best part about being a crafty/creative person?

Roewe: I used to work in finance in New York City. I could never really get my hands in on the work. There are so few forms of instant gratification that are as rewarding as making. When you use your hands and put things together, and then you step back and say at the end of the day, I made this. It’s a nice luxury to get to work in the tangible.

Ralston: Perhaps creative minds are wired to see possibilities where others usually see the mundane. Honestly, I believe we all have a kernel of creativity within us, but we have been conditioned keep it quiet. I like that my mind sees something and goes 100 different directions with ideas, then comes back to a few to try out. Maybe that’s the trick, allowing yourself to try things out.

Q. Do you remember the first craft project you ever tried?

Roewe: I’d have to ask my mom, but I’m 99 percent sure that Crayola was involved somehow. But I’ve always liked cutting and combining shapes.

Ralston: The first? I can’t remember one in particular, but growing up we were constantly doing art projects. There was always something drying, paint brushes in the sink or supplies on the kitchen table. It’s a part of me. It’s being passed along, my three kids love it too.

Q. When you become rich and famous for your work, then what will you do?

Roewe: Part of me hopes that never happens. But the other part wants {made} to continue to grow in a way that is big enough to keep sharing but feels small enough to allow real life to happen alongside it in a meaningful way.

Ralston: It would feel good to devote more time to helping others as a family. It’s important for our kids to see various facets of how the world operates and the importance of giving and receiving. I will most definitely still create. Why stop doing something that is enjoyable? We just might have two homes, a tiny house in Iowa City and a tiny house on the beach.

FIND IT

Ogle it: Revival, 117 E. College St., Iowa City, or Bark & Bloom, Newbo City Market, Cedar Rapids

Google it: www.madecommunity.com

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