Michelle Erickson Brings Her Art to Life and to People with Mishka Marie
Sweet, sincere, and just the right amount of silly, Michelle Erickson’s card and print line Mishka Marie is an adorable contrast to the cookie-cutter greeting cards you’ll find at most drugstores. Whereas that card you got for your coworker/friend/sister likely went the way of the junk drawer, Michelle’s unique watercolor and ink illustrations of animals, plants, and boobs would make anyone excited to put them on display,
Just as she takes joy in inspiring others with her art, Michelle draws major inspiration from her community. And though she’s ever thankful for the friends and peers who have helped pave her path forward, Michelle no longer waits for permission from anyone to throw her energy into her passion: creating art and evolving Mishka Marie.
When did you start your company?
I’ve always drawn and made art, but in 2014 I finally started making it for other people and decided I needed an official name and a website for my endeavors.
Why did you start this company?
It was a natural progression of wanting to continue making art. I didn’t feel like fine art was the path for me, and I wanted to explore options that allowed me to keep drawing while making my work accessible to more people.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m originally from Oregon but moved to Brooklyn about four years ago. I work as a copywriter during the day, and usually end up drawing in the evenings while hanging out with my boyfriend and our cat, Gladys.
What was one challenge you overcame during the early days of your company/work?
For me, the biggest challenge was just giving myself permission to put energy into my passion. I don’t think I’ve completely overcome it, but I’m working on it
Was there anyone who helped pave the way for your business or career?
So many people! Honestly, every single friend that has encouraged me or person who has purchased a piece of my work—they continuously help pave the way for me to move forward.
Why is it important for established women to put time into helping the next generation of women who are looking to shake up industries and even start their own companies?
Fostering a community of strong women artists and entrepreneurs benefits everyone involved. And, sometimes you may not even realize the positive impact you’re having on someone. Years ago, Holly Stalder (a designer and shop owner in Portland, Oregon) really helped me gain confidence as an artist, even if she didn’t realize it at the time. I had always looked up to her as a creative force, and I was so nervous to finally approach her. But, she ended up being one of the first stores to carry my cards and prints, and continued supporting me through group art shows, commissions and collaborations. It meant so much to me, and at the same time, I was able to contribute to a larger ecosystem of creativity and community.
What’s something most people might not assume about you at first glance?
I really love horror movies!
When do you feel most beautiful and/or confident?
When I’m doing something I’m passionate about.
When and where are you happiest?
When I’m with the ones I love.
If you could give your younger self advice, what would you tell her?
Own your value. Don’t ever wait for someone or something to define it for you. Your value is always there, from the very start. Anything you gain later is just experience or knowledge, but not worth.
What is your motto?
What did success mean to you when you first started your company? How has your definition of success changed since then?
When I first started, it was simply selling an item I created. My scale of success has continued to change since then, but I try to keep the feeling I got from my initial achievements as a guide for what success means to me. It can be so easy to compare yourself to others and have goals that aren’t even aligned with what truly makes you happy.
Can you share what happened when you finally felt like you were on the other side of the struggle?
I actually I don’t think the struggle is ever over, it just takes different forms. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The struggle can inspire and motivate and keep you fighting for what’s important to you. My art and how I want to present Mishka Marie to the world is ever-evolving and that poses new challenges as I go along. But I try to remember that these are my favorite types of challenges.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
I would try not to let indecision keep me from progressing—remind myself that there is no wrong move or choice when you’re doing what you love.
What are your favorite ways to practice self-care?
Napping and saying no to things.
What’s the most fulfilling part of your job?
That’s a tough one. I think there are a lot pluses to spending time drawing and using your imagination. One thing that never gets old, though, is seeing how the things I make bring joy or inspiration or laughter to complete strangers.