Ok y'all, it’s time for the next installment of our favorite blog series: Meet the Maker. Speaking of favorites, this time, we’re catching up with one of my favorite makers—Sarah Miller, the owner of Awkward Auntie. She makes cement-based house décor like planters, candle holders, trays, and more. She turns cement into some really beautiful pieces and you can check out some of her stuff in our store.
First off, how’ve you been doing in 2020—both personally and professionally?
It’s been a year, huh? I think 2020 has been a year of growth for me, whether I wanted to grow or not. I feel like so many things have been packed into one year—it’s been exhausting, to be honest. I’ve had some ups and downs relationship-wise and had to deal with some family medical issues we never saw coming. But I also got to quarantine with my best friend and her family and spend an extended amount of time with my family in NH (in the spring, I was feeling like I wouldn’t get to see them in 2020 at all!).
Professionally, this year has been a whirlwind, too. It’s been my most successful year by far. June was an especially crazy month due to all of the support for black businesses and makers. What’s been most interesting this year is figuring out how to march forward. I think black creators, makers and business makers have had to figure out how to rectify the fact that business is good due to the reaction of bad things happening in our community. This was hard for me to come to terms with, but I learned to use the opportunity to keep pushing forward and not let the guilt paralyze me.
As your brand name suggests, you’re an actual Aunt of 7, and an honorary Aunt of several children. What are some of the benefits of being an Auntie? Does it make its way into your work at all?
Oh definitely. I call both my nieces and nephews and my pieces my boos. Being an auntie is the greatest because you can have fun with the little ones, spoil them, teach them to say hilarious things and then leave them with their parents and have alone time. If anything, from being an auntie I’ve learned that it’s not my time for children yet but it is my time to do something I’m passionate about.
You’ve said that you split your time between being in Texas and New England. Are you still traveling between the two locations in 2020 and what has that experience been like?
I’m traveling a little bit. It’s been a strange year. Usually I avoid the Texas heat and spend the summer months in New Hampshire with my family, but this year travel has been so risky and so uncertain. I decided to go home in mid-August because of a medical issue with one of my parents and stayed for about two months. (Truth be told, one of the main reasons I came back to Texas was to vote in the election.) I’m heading back for Thanksgiving, and I will finish out the year there so I can quarantine for enough time to see my little boos and spend time in a state that’s actually doing a decent job of handling the pandemic. What’s been the weirdest part of traveling this year is the way people treat you when you come from a COVID hotspot. I have to be very aware and very understanding of the fact that even though I feel like I’ve been cautious here, people may not want to see me simply because I’m coming from Texas. It’s been wild!
So in 2018, you chose to only use cement as your medium. What other mediums have you dabbled in and why did you ultimately go with cement?
Before I started using cement, I was big into buying old furniture and repainting it when I lived in a huge house with my friends. Then I moved into a one-bedroom apartment. Turns out that’s kind of a difficult hobby to keep up in an apartment on the top floor! I went with cement because it’s fun and kind of harsh. I wanted a challenge, and I wanted to make something I liked, and so I love the way that such a rough material can be so pretty.
I feel like we have a similar aesthetic (one of the many reasons we picked you for the shop!). How do you go about choosing the color and shape for a piece?
I basically have my core colors set, which is great, but what’s fun is figuring out how to make them unique. So I constantly experiment with designs within the colors—ombre, swirls, color-blocking—and test test test until I find something I’m happy with. I’m a bit tied down for now when it comes to shape, I have to buy multi-use silicone molds to pour the cement into. They’re not super cheap, so I really have to think for a while before I purchase them. When I see something online that I can’t stop thinking about a week later, I know I have to get it.
Do you have a favorite thing to make or a favorite piece in your collection?
I am absolutely loving my zig zag soap dishes. It’s been so fun to test colors and designs on an already fabulous style. I also LOVE my new textured planters.
Is there any aspect of your work that you think goes overlooked?
I think most one-woman businesses can relate to feeling overwhelmed at being EVERYTHING at one time. It’s a lot of work. Cement is also a cool, but unforgiving medium. One simple mistake or change in process can mess up the entire piece. I’ve learned to find beauty in the imperfections, but not everyone feels the same way.
Do you prefer music while you work or other background noise like TV/Movies? Do you have a favorite album, song, show, or movie to work to?
I usually have a TV show or movie on, especially when I’m sanding and sealing my pieces. I go through phases: For a while I was watching Marvel movies and now I am watching lots and lots of The British Baking Show. When it comes to music, Beyoncé and Lizzo have never let me down. (Though, lately I’ve been jamming out to some Yacht Rock and loving every minute of it!)
Do you have any favorite makers?
Gosh -- so many!
- Nina Berenato
- Magic Meadow Skincare
- Flowers & Moondust
- Solid Soaps
- Fern Valley Botanics
- Mindful Witch ATX
- YOU (New Origin Shop)
What do you love most about Awkward Auntie? What’s your vision for the business 5 years from now?
I love being able to make things that I love and that others love just as much. I remember a couple of years ago saying to myself, “Well I like this, and my mom likes this, and my best friends like this, but does anyone else?” And getting a resounding YES means so much to me because I work so hard to make loveable pieces. I don’t know what 5 years from now looks like, I just hope I’m still doing this—from a house or studio preferably.
You can see more from Sarah and Awkward Auntie on Instagram
See the full line of products: awkwardauntie.com