Nearly 2 years ago, Eighth Generation was honored to call famed Acoma Pueblo artist Michelle Lowden the very first Inspired Natives Project Collaborator. Since then, we've been working with Michelle to adapt her intricate, hand-painted earring designs for application to products like the beautiful throw blankets and phone cases pictured below.
Butterfly Throw Blanket (100% Cotton) by Michelle Lowden (Acoma) - $68
Rainstorm at Sunset wood phone case by Michelle Lowden (Acoma) - $39
Although we treat the practice of applying ancestral art to products with reverence - and we've gotten really good at it - it can be hard to do the original artwork justice. Just take a look at these stunning hand-painted earrings that Michelle recently created!
Hand-painted "Bucket of Gold" earrings by Michelle Lowden (Acoma) - $110
As an Inspired Natives Project collaborator, Lowden is now able to offer a greater range of products and maintain an inventory that allows her to meet demand for her work. This also frees up more time to spend on marketing and business development. The latest iteration of her Milo Creations website, which she created with assistance from Louie, is a prime example of capacity building that occurs through the project.
Lowden also says Louie challenged her skills, pushing her to learn Adobe Illustrator. After learning this software, she now has the ability to design pieces digitally, offering her an alternative to hand-painting each piece. “Before I wanted make my jewelry affordable but the amount of detail and time I put into each piece left me under-selling myself. Eighth Generation helped that by pursuing the idea of mass-producing earrings. Giving customers the option of affordable mass-produced jewelry and original hand-painted jewelry helped me to expand to a larger market…I never imagined my work to reach the levels Eighth Generation has offered.”
Michelle's "Sunset's Reflection" painting in the Nativo Lodge, Albuquerque, NM (credit: New Mexico Travel Blog)
As Lowden’s sales and skills increase, so does public awareness of her brand. She reports an increase in her customer base due to Eighth Generation’s broad media reach. “I have had people mention they saw the ‘Transformation’ throw blanket and phone cases through the Eighth Generation website, and later purchase jewelry from me.” In addition to her handmade jewelry, she now offers phone cases, tapestry-style blankets, and greeting cards – and soon, a wool blanket, as part of Eighth Generation’s new role as the only Native-owned company to offer wool blankets. Check it out!
The "Autumn Reflection" 100% wool blanket by Michelle Lowden (Acoma) - Launches January 2016.
But perhaps the most significant impact on Lowden’s work with the Inspired Natives Project has been on her service to those around her. “After watching the level of time and commitment Louie puts into projects and workshops, I knew I wanted to do the same and give back to my community.” As Eighth Generation has helped Lowden lighten her production workload, she now has more opportunities to spend time doing service projects, like designing a public mural for a local nonprofit organization.
Lowden is appreciative of the work Eighth Generation has done for her as an artist and remains enthusiastic about the mission behind the Project. “I had been at a crossroads of where I wanted to take my business, and the concept of ‘support[ing] Inspired Natives, not Native-inspired’ was something I felt had to get involved in.”
Michelle Lowden’s gorgeous wool blankets will be available for sale in January 2016.