Mercedes here! In honor of our new Design Studio nearing the finish line, I wanted to share a big reason how our small but mighty Mercury Mosaics got to where it is today. And it’s no surprise that the story revolves around a supportive circle of driven, humble and fierce female founders of Minnesota. Continue reading to see how our stories fit together into one vintage industrial design studio focused on elevating creativity and bringing soulful character to the workplace.
Early Years of Mercedes' Story
Early in my career, it was tough to break into the local community. There were many deep-rooted professionals in the verticals I was aiming to establish myself in. I attempted to rent a spot in the city’s premier art building and got feedback they already had enough mosaic artists. It was pretty isolating. I am not a stranger to remaining humble and not stopping, fixating on barriers, or throwing myself a pity party. I was raised by an artist with steadfast conviction and learned to use setbacks as fuel to propel forward. I remained committed to my vision of bringing color to people’s everyday lives. I hadn’t articulated how I would do this, but I always had this idea that people’s walls were like my coloring book and my crayons were tile, I had some great crayons to choose from.
Mercedes Austin of Mercury Mosaics 2014.
Turning Dreams into Plans
If you reflect and take a few steps back, the setbacks are part of what made this whole thing great. In this case, I would have never leaped to grow nationally if I was able to blossom in my local circles. I decided not to dwell on what I thought it should look like, but stayed humble, hungry and kept my nose to the grind. In my early career, I was transitioning from being a chemical dependent stereotype of an artist to a creative professional who’s able to turn ‘her can'ts into cans and dreams into plans’. Needless to say, I had absolutely zero time for drama and this was a matter of survival, even more so, it was a mission to build something from my imagination, not allowing the constraints of my past, nor my lack of resources to be the reason why I couldn’t bring this thing to fruition.
By focusing on National growth in the early days, over local community building, it ended up making me credible. I wish I could have articulated this then, but it is what ended up happening. Sometimes the work must speak for itself and there is no marketing or PR strategy that can change that. I was willing to put in the work and build something, fail multiple times along the way which is what landed me into the circles of some of the fiercest and humble female founders I’ve encountered.
Meeting Morgan at Construction2Style
Morgan Molitor was my bridge to the local scene. She opened the door to learning there are women that lift other women up. In fact, the more successful people were in this circle, the more plentiful my connections got. No one had it all figured out and that was the point. Through this professional relationship that turned into a friendship I was able to show up as I am, be vulnerable, assure people I did not have everything figured out and ultimately be in community with so many other creative entrepreneurs while exchanging knowledge and resources. Because of this, ironically, I had a larger capacity to give back to my local community and with intention, with my team and in a way that would build on the original dream, but so much bigger.
Morgan's Design Studio Direction
If you haven’t seen it, it’s here and in a lot of places, Morgan’s kitchen was our break out project that so many people adopted and still do to this day, over 5 years later. When I started dreaming up this Design Studio, it was essentially back to the beginning of my journey where my current resources were not lined up to pull this off, but there was a vision and a willingness to work harder, smarter and outside the box. It was Morgan that stepped forward to support and guide the willingness and to share her resources and her relationships in order to lift another brand up. The philosophy remains that if Mercury Mosaics does better, c2s does better and we draw off of that. We use the synergy from our collaborations for projects, causes and people that we care for. That is what being in community is all about.
Mercury Mosaics Design Studio Rendering by Dohmicile.
Brianne of Timber & Tulip
Discovering Timber & Tulip has a few layers of magic, because Brianne is a delight. Some wild facts about meeting her and discovering T&T.
1. I attended Art Attack at Northrup King Building in 2016, adopted one of her tables for a lease I hadn’t even signed yet as a commitment to the conference room I knew Mercury needed to have to take planning and meetings to the next level.
2. The lease worked out and we were thrilled with the new sunlit tile studio in the Thorp Building. Her conference table led the charge to the new HQ.
3. When expanding within the Thorp Building, we ventured down the hall for our creative offices and design studio. I had to kick it off with a new T&T table to commemorate the milestone and she came through with a gorgeous, custom design that did not disappoint!
4. Last, but not least, it’s a full circle moment. I was able to take possession of a lease in the very building I always had my heart set on and there ended up being plenty of room for another mosaic artist. I have a space for mosaic art in studio 310, which used to be Brianne’s original spot for Timber & Tulip. Small world. In this spot I make mosaics and show off my team's sustainable-mosaic artwork for a handful of local events, it’s a slice of heaven.
Brianne is after my heart, ultimately, because she started in corporate and realized how meaningful the trades are. If you asked her in college to ‘write a list of the top 100 professions you could see yourself pursuing in your life’, designing furniture would have been nowhere on it. CFO, Business Consultant, Lawyer….much more likely candidates.
It wasn’t until almost 10 years into her finance/accounting career, that she tapped into what you could call her ‘creative spark’. She had worked hard and navigated her way into a good, well-paying corporate job with endless opportunities if she played her cards right. Problem was, she was burnt out….like ‘pile of cinders’ level burnt out.
I truly respect Brianne because she didn’t choose the easy route for a career, she has led from her heart, she has trusted her passion and here she is today, building something with splinters, integrity, passion and grit.
Custom Table by Timber & Tulip
Mural by Peyton Scott Russel
Amber of Regalwood Cabinets
Meeting Amber Ellingson of Regalwood Cabinets was an adventure! We had never met and here I was arriving to her space to talk about a project with a grand vision that I was looking to barter. She shared her story, the history of Regalwood Cabinets which started as Al’s Cabinets, and the fight she had to bring a multi-layered, scarred operation into modern times, into financial wellness and operating toward a future. Immediately she was my hero, because she had 19 opportunities to quit and she leaned in and rolled her sleeves up at every corner. Her fire is what great companies are built from. She did this while raising two beautiful, strong, healthy young women. Her husband has a different career, this gig is all hers and she has not tried to be everything to everyone and is comfortable in her own skin. For whatever reason, she decided to trust me as a partner implicitly from the beginning and from this, we’ve created a strong friendship and our materials have brought each of our spaces to life.
Amber Ellingson of Regalwood Cabinets
Photography by Lindsay Mcoien
Today Regalwood Cabinets is 40 team members strong creating some of the industry’s most beautiful cabinetry. The meticulousness of the process to design, fabricate and deliver their work was an impressive process. I have a lot of respect for not only what Amber has built, but what she has sustained in a very tough industry. Pictured below is Regalwood's beautiful cabinetry in our new Design Studio.
Cabinetry by Regalwood Cabinets
Sarah of Manomin Resawn Timbers
Meeting Sarah Londerville was made possible, if you asked me, from that period of time where my nose was to the grind. She started Manomin Reswan Timbers around the same time that I started Mercury Mosaics, so we had that mutual admiration of what it is to start, sustain and adapt a growing, thriving manufacturing company and all the scars and bruises along the way. She has family roots in the trades, didn’t start working in the trades, but ultimately because of her commitment to being near family, she established Manomin as a way to be close to family and explore her passion for restoration.
Her dad was a welder and would scrap metal on the side. They were always reclaiming metals, but she didn’t think about how they were actually reusing this material. Then she noticed how reclaimed wood looked unique and different compared to new wood, so she started working with Douglas Fir coming out of old factories and warehouses. She loves the history of the material—to her, she’s selling a piece of Americana.
Somehow along the way my tile hustle caught her eye and we’d brush shoulders at various business circles. She had this post-it she kept on her desk to remind her to one day meet me. It said “Mercedes” on it and her co-workers thought she had goals of getting a swanky Mercedes Benz. Nope. She was determined to meet this dusty-Red Wing boot-wearing maker who is relentless about bringing color to people’s walls. We share a kinship and drive to bring character and soul to spaces and we love reclaiming and repurposing materials. Throughout my design studio, you’ll see reclaimed timber grounding the space and now you know who reclaimed it, kiln-dried it, de-nailed it and planed it for me: Sarah at Manomin Reswan Timbers – a female founder powerhouse whose Midwest Made.
Reclaimed wood by Manomin Reswan Timbers