It’s easy to assume every creative person sees themselves as such and has been that way since they first opened their eyes and viewed the world. While the case for some, it is not for Lenneke Nielsen. She may have started her own jewellery business, Cheeky Little Monkeys Jewellery, but she doesn’t quite see herself as a creative type just yet.
She notes her history has to do with that, saying, “Having come from a background in engineering, I never really saw myself as creative. Even now I still struggle to give myself that label, and yet here I am running a creative business and designing and creating unique jewellery!”
Being that Lenneke left her day job not too long ago, she’s still finding her footing in the creative scene. However, from the look of her miniature designs, it’s not going to take long. We talked about where she got her love of minis, future plans and of course, a lot more.
Kendra: Do you balance your time creating jewelry and accessories with another creative endeavor?
Lenneke Nielsen: Until the end of last year I was balancing a lot. Part-time work (as a luxury travel designer) with parenting two primary school aged kids and my little jewellery business. It was a tough balance! So much so that I decided to give away the work to focus on my family and trying to grow and further my own business. In terms of creative endeavours, however, the jewellery and accessories making is it (other than perhaps trying to do creative things with and for the kids).
Kendra: What geared you towards designing jewelry based on miniature treats?
Lenneke Nielsen: I’ve always loved miniatures, ever since I was little. Dollhouses, model train sets. My favourite toy for years was a mini supermarket filled with miniature cans and boxes of well-known food brands.
When I started, I was merely looking for a hobby to stop me plonking in front of the TV after I put the kids to bed. I’ve always liked unusual, or fun, earrings but struggled to find styles that I liked. So I thought I’d try making them myself. One of my favourite pairs of earrings was a milk jug and sugar pot set that I’d bought at a market years ago. I started looking online for miniature teapots and mugs and other things like that. In the process, I stumbled across a lady who made gorgeous foods and drinks for dollhouses.
I couldn’t get over how adorable these little Tim Tams, Milos, and Cheezels were and how much they reminded me of my little supermarket, so I simply had to try turning them into earrings! When the lady moved her business in a different direction and stopped making the miniature foods, I took up the challenge to trying to design and make them myself and just found it fun coming up with lots of new designs and iconic foods.
Kendra: You have Etsy, but are there any craft fairs in Brisbane you frequent as a seller?
Lenneke Nielsen: I have yet to sell regularly at markets or fairs. I had planned to do more of that last year but life got in the way! This year I’m signing up for several events. The Finders Keepers markets, as well as school fairs and other seasonal markets.
Kendra: What is the creative scene like in Brisbane? Are many people out there into the DIY style?
Lenneke Nielsen: Other than what I put on my ears, I’m fairly conservative and “stock standard!” That said, since starting the business I have noticed how many people do like handmade or unique items. The fairs and markets around town seem to be increasing in size and popularity and boutiques stocking handcrafted items seem to be on the rise. Brisbane is still not where Melbourne or Sydney are but it’s catching up quickly!
Kendra: Where do you hope to be in five years with Cheeky Little Monkeys Jewellery?
Lenneke Nielsen: I’d love to have my products in numerous stores, both physical and online. I also hope to expand my range from primarily miniature food and drink to include other lines such as books, games and other pop culture items. And I’d like to have some ranges that focus on specifically U.S. customers and also Asian customers.
Being an Australian, I currently focus on things that are iconic to Aussies. However, I can see an opportunity to learn more about what’s iconic elsewhere and start to create those. On a more practical front, as I’m currently working partly in my garage and partly from a workspace in our house, within 5 years I aim to have a dedicated studio and workshop to create my jewellery and accessories.
Kendra: Scaling that down, what’s on your plate for the next few months?
Lenneke Nielsen: Having quit my day job to focus on my little business, the coming year’s packed with ideas and possibilities. Everything I’ve wanted to do but have struggled to find the time for are now on the cards. This includes introducing many new styles, doing more markets and craft fairs, building up my stock base (so that I’m less reactive to sales), and organizing photo shoots to refresh the marketing for all of my products.
On the more boring business side, well let’s just say I have a lot of learning to do! Even things like social media marketing and strategies are a bit of a mystery to me. So I’m reading and learning as much as I can.
Kendra: When you’re working on a tiny piece what big songs are playing in the background to push you along?
Lenneke Nielsen: Haha, well here I’m going to be showing my age. When it comes to music I’m pretty old school. I love anything from the 90s, particularly hip-hop and R&B, but then I also love a bit of rock. You should see my music collection, I have everything from Queen to The Jackson 5, Pearl Jam to Rick Astley! Mostly I love my music to be like my jewellery – fun and guaranteed to put a smile on your face!
“Superstition” – Stevie Wonder (all time favourite!)
“Holiday” – Naughty by Nature
“No Diggity” – Blackstreet
“Mr. Brightside” – The Killers
“Cake by the Ocean” – DNCE …Just to debunk what I said about everything being old school!