Name: Peggy Muddles
Business: The Vexed Muddler, science inspired jewelry
Industry: Clothing & Accessories
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Reason for starting: By day I work at a genome centre, where I study the evolution of pathogenic bacteria in human and plant hosts, but I’ve always needed a creative outlet outside of work hours. When I started playing with ceramics a few years ago, it was natural for me to combine my interest and knowledge of microbiology with my newfound passion. I began hand-sculpting my own microbiology-themed clay stamps, and soon branched out into anatomy, entomology, and other biological designs. Originally I was only making these for myself and my lab mates, but since opening up my Etsy store, I’ve created custom pieces for doctors, chemists, and biologists of all descriptions. I started my shop as creative therapy and a way to challenge myself outside of scientific circles.
My favourites of these custom designs have become part of my standard offerings, and I usually have a new design or two in the works at any given time. I always enjoy a design challenge, particularly when it means I get to learn about organisms or biological structures I haven’t previously encountered. Currently, all of my designs can be made as necklaces, earrings, or bracelets, but I plan to add brooches and magnets to my offerings over the coming months.
How do you define success? Success is seeing a graduate student from another country proudly wearing my designs at a conference. It’s the exchange of creative and scientific ideas between people from entirely different fields, and making someone’s vision come to life. It’s crafting a particularly challenging design and seeing it come out of the kiln, better than I ever dreamed. It’s the joyful tweet or email from a stranger who just opened a gift from a colleague to find one of my designs inside. Success, in short, is that utter bliss of sharing something I love with other people who love it just as much as I do.
Biggest Success: My greatest successes thus far have all involved the creation of unusually detailed or otherwise challenging custom designs. Recently, I conducted a giveaway in which graduate students in any field of biology were asked to submit the story of how they ended up in their field of study for a chance to win a custom piece designed just for them. Each of the three winners came up with their own design concept, and I worked with them to make their idea come to life. One of the resulting pieces ended up becoming one of my most popular designs so far.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? The biggest challenge for me as a small business owner with a full-time job is simply finding enough hours in the day to maintain my business. I won’t claim the challenge has been overcome, but I manage it by devoting 1-3 hours each weekday evening and one full day each weekend to running my business. Luckily I have a very understanding spouse!
Who is your most important role model? For inspiration and mentoring, I have always looked to fellow science artist and Etsy seller Michele Banks. Relentlessly positive, always supportive of her fellow artists, and a great shoulder, Ms. Banks never fails to share cool science, promote other artists, and make time for others. Her excitement about the intersection of art and science is infectious, and she’s been deeply involved in a number of online and meatspace projects promoting science communication.
Edited by The Story Exchange