How Carissa Notto Found Her Voice By Opening Her Heart to a New Medium
Introducing, Carissa Notto, the owner and nostalgic artist, designer, and storyteller behind the highly successful polymer jewelry line, Picking Posies Design. However, despite the established brand name that has been holding its own over the years on social media it wasn't until recently that Carissa truly found her voice, and establish a connection with the medium that would make her heart sing. For many, the pandemic has forced soul searching and rediscovery, however for some entrepreneurs, like Carissa, it's provided so much more.
As a consumer, it can be easy to make assumptions about the story and positioning of a brand, however, if you look closely, you might find inconsistencies, or feel an overall sense of disconnect. That is, until one day the vibe of the businesses just starts to feel different, look different, and even sound different. The social media pages begin to have a flow, a website is born, there's a new aesthetic that pulls you in. All compiled with a consistent product line that makes sense while a smiling, lighthearted owner begins peaking through with a humble smile. You can suddenly feel their pride.
They've had their "Brand Breakthru",
Picking Posies Design, hit its "breakthru" moment in early 2020, and we asked Carissa to give us a bit more insight on the how, when and why, the stars suddenly seemed to align.
Read on for our interview with the designer herself.
H&F: Please describe your career/education prior to starting your business.
Carissa: I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in apparel design, but started my first year pursuing a degree in psychology. I absolutely love the way the human brain thinks, but after one semester I knew I needed to change majors. I went to the University of Minnesota and graduated with a degree in Apparel Design and Retail Merchandising. What I’ve grown to learn about myself is that I LOVE the psychology behind why we like or love certain things, why we make choices, and how things have the ability to make us FEEL! I no longer work in the apparel field, but I do work full time as a designer in addition to Picking Posies Design. I have loved the ability to creatively express myself and truly believe that making something by hand is a real form of therapy.
●H&F: Do you have any specific education, training, or credentials that prepared you for this business?
Carissa: I self-taught myself everything about clay in the beginning! I do have a background in color and product design so that’s definitely helped me, but everything I have learned I have pursued by reading resources such as The Blue Bottle Tree, watching the Polymer Clay Tutor, and eventually a few months before launching my brand joining the 31 Suns Patreon to make sure my quality was the best it could be.
H&F: Tell us about how you have redefined yourself. Describe your project, business, brand and/or platform.
Carissa: Picking Posies Design is a brand built by taking nostalgic memories and turning them into wearable art that when worn it makes women feel their absolute best and in turn makes NEW memories! When I began Picking Posies Design I didn’t know that polymer clay would be the medium I would use – I spent months searching for a way to take my mom’s work of art and combine it with my own medium. My mom is the best gardener I know – I grew up gardening with her and watching her on weekends tending to her garden – flowers have always had such a special meaning to me. During the Spring of 2020, my mom and I started collecting wildflowers from across their home and flowers from her own garden and I began pressing them into clay. Every single flower design I make is made from a flower that has been collected by my mom and I or has a special memory associated with it – like my husband surprised me with the bouquet, I strive to make a product with meaning and love!
H&F: When/how did you get that brand breakthru to REDEFINE your business?
Carissa: For such a long time I pushed art away – even though I literally design on a daily basis! I think a lot of us do that as we get older – we are tired at the end of the day, we watch Netflix instead of reading or trying a new hobby, our weekends are full of chores, etc. and we fall into the same rut over and over. But I’ve learned if you don’t just jump in and try something (yes, sometimes I have to push away the tiredness even!) you won’t accomplish anything! January of 2020 was especially dark for me – we all go through seasons of hard – but even before the pandemic began I felt like my whole world was crumbling. I truly believe that we don’t talk about relationships enough in our society and how hard they can be – especially marriage. I don’t think what my husband and I went through together was a mistake – sometimes God chooses extremely hard and trying life events to draw you closer to his word and open your heart.
To get through the pain, I turned to God’s word and art – the two things I had distanced myself from because of the above excuses. Both became therapy for me and once I started I couldn’t stop experimenting and trying new things. I will never ever forget the moment I used blooms from my mom’s garden, pressed them into my clay, and saw the result in my hand.
If you ever check out my work, the Rounded Arch with Pressed Alyssum will never go away – it’s the first pair I ever saw and just knew I had to release into the world.
H&F: Tell us something unique about your brand, what makes you different?
Carissa: I am not just an artist or a jewelry designer – I see myself as a storyteller. I want to make art that has purpose and meaning behind it – whether it’s my own stories or the stories I help my customers create.
H&F: Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Carissa: While nature is a huge source of inspiration, I draw the most inspiration from memories. Some of my favorite pieces have been created out of flowers I remember picking as a child – like the Mini Modern Circle with Clover – my dad and I grew up searching for four-leaf clovers! I’ve started to take some of my textile design knowledge and use that in my designs as well – I recently tried taking yellow roses (because my dad always gave them to me on Valentine’s day) and boiled them down into a dye to use in my clay.
H&F: Do you have any partners behind the scenes or do you manage everything yourself?
Carissa: I make everything myself, but I have HUGE support from my parents, husband, and friends. My husband has been my rock as I launched this – he makes dinner, cleans, grocery shops when I can’t on top of helping me problem solve every single day! I couldn’t do any of this without all of them!
H&F: What has been the hardest part about redefining this business?
○ I have two answers to this…the first was finding my voice. I think when we start out we want to have our voice established right away. I know if you look at my social media it may look like I found my voice right away – but it took me such a long time. I started Picking Posies Design back in 2018 making gold foil wall art, wood signs, and iron ons for baby onesies! I had NO idea what I wanted to do or who I was. It wasn’t until I stopped being afraid of trying and failing that I found what story I wanted to tell.
○ The second absolute hardest part has been how much there has been to learn just starting out – things like how to make your own website, keeping up with social media, balancing a full-time job, sourcing materials, testing quality, and figuring out taxes! Sometimes it’s really overwhelming how many unforeseen obstacles pop up – but there are so many amazing resources out there like the ones I listed above – AND I’ve found that whenever I do solve something it’s an extremely rewarding feeling!
H&F: How has the pandemic impacted your business? What changes have you had to make?
Carissa: I know this is a different type of answer, but the pandemic actually helped me with my business. Being in quarantine forced me to be home and dedicate my free time to growing and learning. I’ve started to enjoy where I am instead of always rushing to the next thing.
H&F: What is your long-term vision for your brand?
Carissa: I have so many ideas for this! Long term I want to be able to offer more customs – I would love to be able to take memories others have and turn it into something that can last forever! I also have been looking into expanding into new mediums, but you’re the first to hear that.
H&F: What encouraging advice would you offer someone unsure about starting their own venture, or going through a re-brand of their existing business?
Carissa: JUMP IN! Seriously, there’s no better way to figure out who you are and what you enjoy until you just begin. It’s going to take a lot of learning, a lot of trial and error, but in the end, you’ll just know when you’ve found what makes your heart sing.