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  • Writer's pictureBrit Victoria

Art as a tool for self care and education

Michelle Lopez turns creative outlet into business, vehicle of spreading awareness

The Dalles, OR — For many, art may seem like an inaccessible industry. Many have historically either felt they aren’t creative enough to be an artist or that they don’t know enough about art to talk about it.

Michelle Lopez doesn’t consider herself an artist, but has found working with wire to create jewelry therapeutic — and her followers seem to think her creations are pretty worthwhile.

“I honestly have never seen myself as an artistic type and still don’t,” Michelle admits. “Even though my rings come out beautifully, I still am very hard on myself (thinking about) how I can make things better. It makes me happy that people love my work.”

Michelle started working with wire only just over a month ago, but the hobby quickly morphed from new artform to coping mechanism to business.

“I struggle with anxiety and depression,” Michelle explains. “Keeping my hands busy and finding a hobby had been a goal of mine these past few months. I really loved the detailed work that goes into making each ring and I also get a sense of happiness completing each one. Since the pandemic started, I wanted to start a business but I didn’t know what I truly wanted to do.

I didn’t just want to do something because everyone else was doing it. I wanted to find something that made me happy and also didn’t feel like work. Then I realized how much I enjoyed making rings.”

Michelle’s business is called Michelle Tingz and can be found on Facebook and Instagram. She says her designs are greatly inspired by her sisters.

“(I’m inspired by) the sisterhood we have,” Michelle explains. “They truly love crystals and gems and I think of them when I make my rings. They are my rock.”

Though Michelle Tingz is still a burgeoning business, she says she’s surprised by how much it’s evolved in a short time.

“It’s been about a month and I can’t believe how much has changed since I first started,” she explains. “I’ve gotten better at my ring making skills, also creating new items, and (I’m excited by) just the fact that I’ve gotten to know so many new people. I definitely love to connect with my followers and other small businesses. So I’m more than happy to continue to know and support other small businesses. I’ve felt a sense of community ever since I started and that’s wonderful!”

While Michelle has found great passion in her jewelry making, she splits her time between her new business and her beautiful young family.

“My typical day includes devoting my time to my three children,” Michelle explains. “I’m currently a stay-at-home mom. The first half of my day is making sure my kids' needs are met and the second half is usually later when my husband comes home from work. Then I’m able to do any local deliveries and go to the post office to mail out packages. I usually start working on my orders late at night when my children are asleep. I struggle with insomnia so I’m usually up pretty late working.”

While Michelle acknowledges that caring for three children does make time management a challenge, her attempts to balance family and business “definitely teaches me to be more graceful with myself.”

Michelle’s children — most specifically her son — have also inspired how she runs her business.

This April, Michelle is hosting a giveaway through her business to bring awareness to autism.

“Over a month ago, my son was diagnosed with autism. The biggest struggle as a parent has been how uninformed people are about autism,” Michelle says. “People give you backhanded comments and compliments.”

In her giveaway, Michelle partnered with Oregon-based small businesses Safety Looks Cute on You (operated by Michelle’s sister Susana) and Lovely Arrangements.

The winner of the giveaway not only won the gift of further education about autism and how to respect and love people on the spectrum, but an autism awareness-themed keychain, a custom ring made by Michelle and a box of one dozen chocolate covered strawberries.

“My giveaway’s sole purpose (was) to spread awareness,” Michelle explains. “It’s not about wearing blue one day of the month. It’s about teaching people that the information they’ve been fed by the media or society is wrong. I want to make this world a better place for my son and every autistic person. They should not have to change who they are to make others feel comfortable. People need to change how they interact and perceive autistic people.”

While the winner was announced on April 17, ending the giveaway, Michelle’s work to spread awareness has not ended.

“Even I am still learning a lot of information from the autistic community,” she says. “There is a lot of misinformation about autism and I definitely want to take part in changing that (and in) teaching people to get informed and stop using labels that are harmful. My son is autistic. He’s not damaged or broken. He is just himself and that is wonderful.”

Aside from encouraging folx to learn more about autism, Michelle also encourages anyone interested in starting their own business to “stop doubting yourself and go for it.”

“Self doubt played a big deal in the reason it took me so long to start a business,” Michelle explains. “So just let go and do it. I’ve definitely felt a change in myself (since I started Michelle Tingz). I feel more grounded in my work. I’ve also been able to step out of my comfort zone and speak to new people. I feel like Michelle. I feel like me.”

Michelle would also like to show appreciation for those who’ve supported her business thus far.

“Honestly, feeling the excitement my customers are going to get when they open their package makes me super excited,” Michelle says “Seeing customers share their rings on Instagram just seriously reminds me how much I love making others feel happy. I definitely feel that there is a big variety of small businesses who do jewelry but I didn’t really know any locally who specialize in gem wired rings. It feels good when customers tell me that they are happy I sell rings that are affordable and also custom made. I tell customers that I make each ring with love and care because I truly do. I remember every customer who has bought a ring since I started this business.”

Michelle’s rings can be found on Instagram at @michelle.tingz and on Facebook at Michelle Tingz.

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