NAME MissySue Hanson
LOCATION St. Clair, Missouri
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND High School Diploma, Photography Internship, Art Institute
COMPANY Belles & Ghosts®
Tell me a little bit about your company & how you got started on this career path. For me, my company is emotionally-driven, the embodiment of having an adventurous spirit. It’s a way for me to spread infectious inspiration and to stress the importance of loving and embracing everyday life. I started as a photographer in high school, becoming enamored in film photography. As happens, life took over, years passed; and though I never stopped taking pictures, I found myself a mother working as an Assembly Line Lead in a factory trying to make ends meet. Through the years, I had developed my artistic career on the side, taking graphic design courses but never had the courage to actually leap into the unknown. After a tragic event in my life in 2012, I realized life was very short and if I was to ever follow my dreams, it was now or never. And so, my company was born.
Is there a story behind your company name? I get asked this a lot, possibly because my company name is quite strange. My company name is a mix of embracing the ghosts of our pasts, honoring our mistakes and moving forward toward the beauty of a new future. And I really like ghosts or anything that sounds spooky!
Where do you find your inspiration? How has it changed over the years, if at all? I find my inspiration from distinct, emotive photography, words/literature and from nature, the changing of seasons (Fall is my favorite) and from camp scout-type imagery. Sometimes, I feel on overload with inspiration, so much so that my head starts to spin! My style and inspiration has changed drastically over the years, mostly from an effort to truly “find myself”. The evolution I’ve gone through boggles my mind and I finally feel like I’m at a point where I can truly define my niche.
You are a photographer, artist, Etsy shop owner & mother – things must get pretty hectic! Take me through your typical work day. Oh, boy. My day starts at 4am, so many years of working in a factory groomed me as an early riser. The first thing I do is check my Etsy and regular emails because communication with my customers is extremely important to me, so I always give those things top priority. Then I usually make a few Etsy treasuries since I belong to quite a few teams and love to curate. During the school year, it would be time to get my son moving (which can be quite hard as he’s moving into the teen years!). After dropping my son off at school, that’s when I conquer my orders for the day – getting them packed, etc. When orders are done, I sketch new designs or brainstorm for new products. Then it’s time for attention to my actual shop, blog and social media. I’ve tried to make a very conscious effort to be more present in my social media accounts lately, so throughout the day I make posts to my Instagram, blog and tumblr as much as I can. If I have any time left (which doesn’t happen often!) I try to stay on top of the business details, filing papers, keeping organized. But I’m going to be brutally honest here, my left brain just doesn’t work – so business details can be very hard for me to keep up with and understand! I work almost 24 hours a day. Even at my son’s football practice, I can be seen on my phone, answering a convo or talking to one of my local printers. I absolutely treasure every moment of it.
How has having worked in a factory setting prepared or benefited you for the work you do now? In a lot of ways it taught me perseverance, dedication and paying attention to detail in a split second because quite literally that’s all you have on an assembly line. It taught me the importance of accountability and gave me a sort of pride to know that customers would receive products that I had worked hard to put together. In other ways, it opened my eyes to a world of physically and emotionally challenging hard work and made me realize that blue-collar workers are some of the best people in the world.
Although busy, your days sound incredibly rewarding. What has been the most fulfilling part of your work & entrepreneurship? One of the most fulfilling parts of my work is knowing I touch people’s lives in a very real way, stirring emotion or providing inspiration through what I dream up. The second most fulfilling part is hearing my son describe what I do for a living to his friends and knowing that every day I succeed in making my dreams a reality, in essence, I’m also making his come true. My hope is that by my example he sees that, without a doubt, it is possible to do what you love, no matter what it is.
What has been the biggest challenge since you decided to follow your dream? How did you overcome it? My biggest challenge was finding my style or niche. I used to drive myself crazy with trying to put myself inside a box and stay within certain guidelines. I overcame it by making a very conscious effort to do the opposite. Now, I don’t really concern myself with trying to stay on a certain narrow course with my art, design and photography, which has alleviated a great deal of stress from my life!
Tell me about the Etsy pop-up shop at West Elm, St. Louis earlier this year. Your work seems like it’d be a perfect fit for their aesthetic. How did you become involved? I really couldn’t tell you how I got so lucky! I believe west elm might have seen me first through Etsy Wholesale, a new program dedicated entirely to developing wholesale relationships. Being involved was an incredible honor and I met some amazing fellow (& local) Etsy artists! Every event I’m invited to with west elm really fuels my desire to take my designing to other levels as well, such as collaborations and designing lines exclusively for certain brands.
One of my favorite parts of your shop are the constellation prints. What inspired you to create these celestial beauties? Are you an avid star watcher? Well, this story is my favorite. I have a bit of a fascination with stars and Greek mythology, and my constellation series started with my “Big Dipper” design which has very special meaning to me because, for me – the Big and Little Dippers represent my son and I. In the mythology, those two constellations are a son and a mother. I have a tattoo that represents it, as I am the “mother bear”! If you get a chance, you should Google the mythology of Major and Minor Ursa, it’s a very interesting story!
What is your dream for the future of Belles & Ghosts? Oh, goodness, so many dreams. I have so many plans for the future! Soon you’ll be seeing my new Wall Banners up in the shop, new stamp designs are in the works and I’m also planning for handbags, apparel and scout-type accessories. I plan on rounding out the brand and really defining my collection into an all-encompassing inspirational destination for unique goods. Personally, I’ll be pursuing more commercial photography projects and also looking into the world of collaboration and designing for other companies/brands.
Morning or night? Morning, definitely.
Spirit animal? My mom would say a monkey, I would say a bear or a wolf!
Item you can’t leave home without? My phone and my camera.
What would people be most surprised to know about you? I absolutely love spooky, scary and creepy stuff. When I was little, I went through a phase where I made my mom picnic with me at cemeteries. You can’t get any more weird!
Best advice you’ve ever received? “Believing is seeing.” I can’t express how very true this is.