We had the good fortune of connecting with Heather Mullins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Heather, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Après Ski Jewelry was started by me, a curious artist-builder-skier. In addition to Après Ski I have run my own art, design and furniture business called Relevant ReUse for the past ten years with a mission of keeping materials out of the waste stream while still creating functional objects. I design and build custom furniture, accessories, children’s play features, and environments out of reused and recycled materials. Through this process, I found that small scraps and off-cuts of interesting raw material are actually quite beautiful and can make great jewelry. After a few years, I realized it would be much easier to sell a small wearable object that a larger furniture or site specific piece. The jewelry has a better profit margin and has been fairly easy to market to small mountain shops and people because everyone loves a good story with a product. I love that I get to blend my passions in life; the outdoors, the environment, art, design and entrepreneurship. Ultimately my goal is to save objects from going into the waste stream and to inspire others to look more closely at materials and what their second life could be before throwing them away.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I think my work is unique because every single piece I make is one of a kind. For a long time as an artist and designer I have truly let my process guide me to my final outcomes. I have called this many things but my favorite is “upside down design”. I start building something and the design comes whereas most come up with a design and then make it. This is where I am a formally trained artist but my final work comes out more as design. I also stand by using the qualities of materials for what they are. Many artists manipulate their materials to make them look like something else, there is nothing wrong with this but I like my materials to stay as they are and show their history. For the skis, I do cut them up and sand them but I never paint or alter their colors, I let their scratches and wear show. Each and every ski tells a story while at the same time becoming a beautiful, wearable object. It’s been a long and exciting road and I must say I never thought I would have a thriving jewelry business, I’m by no means a jeweler but I do have a good idea that happens to exist in jewelry & accessories. I went to art school in Montana and Chicago where I had wonderful professors and peers and then worked as a manager of a student wood & metal shop where I taught thousands of students to use tools safely and build awesome projects and I had amazing mentors there. I’ve spent lots of time traveling, teaching and working in places like Kenya. I still teach college classes and independent woodworking classes, mostly with a mission to empower women. Through all of these experiences I’ve learned tons about being resourceful, building things, managing and working with people and I’ve gotten to where I am. I’d say one of my biggest challenges has been managing all parts of my business from making products to selling them, doing finances, ordering supplies, keeping up with social media and marketing, etc. In many ways I love what I have learned from doing ALL of this but sometimes it makes me feel a little crazy. I have learned tons of lessons along the way, I don’t even know where to begin with that…..probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not give up when I hear no for an answer. For every person or store who isn’t interested in my products, there will be someone who is wholeheartedly interested.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If we’re talking non-Covid times, I would spend a day in the city with breakfast at City 0′ City, a walk around the DAM and Clifford Stills museum with a sunset walk in City Park and dinner and beers at Vine Street Pub. I’m originally from Evergreen so also truly a mountain girl. I would spend a day or two driving up to the mountains, through my favorite parts of Evergreen, up Squaw Pass to Mount Evans and then up I-70 to Loveland Pass, skiing at Abasin if it’s winter. On the way home we could stop at Beau Jo’s and walk around Idaho Springs. Back to Denver with a beer at Ratio in Rino on the way home and finally a night cap at the Thin Man. We could spend another day driving down 285 all the way to Salida (where I got married) then through Buena Vista and Leadville for an awesome days adventure. Then we’d spend a day biking around the city neighborhoods and on the Cherry Creek Path down to REI and that area and west to explore the neighborhoods there.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Powder 7 Ski Shop in Golden, CO has supplied me with hundreds of skis to make my products that would otherwise end up thrown away. They have also consistently promoted my business to the community. My husband and parents have been my sounding board and pseudo business advisory board and without fail listen to my challenges and successes.
Apres Ski Jewelry photos 1-7, Autumn Twilight Photography photo 8