Interview with a good woman: Michelle Organ from The Shop

By Megan Alexander

Interview with a good woman: Michelle Organ from The Shop

Tell us about the creation of The Shop?

The Shop was started just over 5 years ago as a response to the lack of creative, hands on community workspaces in this city. After a few changes and lessons learned, the studio is now a fully equipped ceramics and craft studio, offering memberships, day passes and workshops. I also run my own ceramics practice out of the studio, as well.

Did you face any unique challenges as a woman starting a business?

More than I want to admit! Dealing with male landlords, building superintendents, accountants, hardware store employees - they all had their challenges. As a woman who has always looked younger, it's been difficult getting people to take me seriously. But I just try to stand my ground with confidence.

How do you maintain a work/life balance as a business owner?

This is such a battle for me. I work a lot, focusing time both on The Shop and my ceramics line, Mima, which means long hours in the studio. Finding time to step away from the business, both physically and mentally is really important but, to be honest, so hard to do! I notice when I get run-down, the creative part that I usually enjoy becomes a struggle. So I try to get some personal time in most days (a quick morning workout or a slower walk to work, some dedicated online/bookstore browsing for inspiration, a drink/dinner out with friends.)

What’s the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?

Trust your gut.

Do you have a self-care practice?

This, I think, is completely intertwined with having a healthy work/life balance. A good morning workout, a nice long shower, down time on my couch, giving myself time to clean my apartment and do laundry - little things that keep me sane and feeling healthy and strong (both physically and mentally.)

How do you deal with/manage stress?

Always tricky - sometimes I'm good with it, sometimes the stress gets the best of me. Running a business solo means there isn't someone there to vent to when things go crazy. So it's finding those people outside of the business that will be there with open ears. Also remember that some good deep breaths or a breath of fresh air usually helps. Or else just close up shop for the night and turn on something mindless on TV. 

How do you deal with periods of procrastination or lack of inspiration?

Working in a shared studio, I'm always learning and getting inspiration from the people around me. The internet, libraries and fashion magazines are also big sources of inspiration for me. But, I do know that when I get tired/stressed/rundown, the creative aspect of my job can be a challenge.

What inspires you to keep going?

To see where the business and city takes me. I work hard to make sure my little studio space in the city is a welcoming open space where people, including myself, feel comfortable and inspired to continue to create and learn.

What is your favourite book/movie/music to feed your soul?

There is an old movie called Indian Summer that I watch at least every winter and usually a few times in the summer. It is about a group of adults returning to their summer camp they went to as kids. It always takes me back to my summers as a kid at camp and makes me smile and laugh and just relax.