By Bethanie Hestermann
Sarah Miller’s medium is concrete, but her hand-dyed, hand-poured pieces are neither hard nor cold as the medium would suggest. She lovingly creates home décor items, like planters/containers, candles, oval trays, zig-zag soap dishes, and other treasures in unique designs + soft colors. (Crystal skull planter? Yep. Mini propagation station? Yep.)
Sarah’s nieces and nephews are her inspiration + the meaning behind her super-cute shop name—Awkward Auntie! She says learning to accept everything as perfect in its own way is an important part of being a creative, and while creating + making may not be a fix-all, it helps more often than not. Get to know this talented, awkward auntie in today’s Q&A!
Tell us about Awkward Auntie! How did you come up with the name?
I initially started this as a blog, so when I created the name, I wanted to speak to my role as an auntie (my favorite role ever!) and at the same time own my awkwardness. When I decided to start making home decor instead of blog, the name just stuck!
What inspired you to start using cement as your medium?
When I moved into my apartment here in Austin, I decided I needed to have some items in my new home that were unique and made by me. I had already brought pieces from my last place that I’d made my own—like my coffee table and my TV stand—but I wanted something small and different. I thought about how my dad used to have tons of plants in our home growing up, so I thought I’d create planters of my own and give growing plants a try. I decided on a whim to buy a silicone mold and figured if I liked what I made, I could make it again and give it to friends as gifts. From my first cement pour, I fell in love with the process.
Favorite song(s) for boosting creativity?
I am big on confidence-boosting songs and artists right now, so I’m listening to a lot of Lizzo, Beyonce, Erykah Badu, and Tierra Whack. I will just say I make sure I listen to Beyonce’s “Black Parade” daily.
What is your favorite product to make?
Right now, I am having the best time making pieces with crystal accents. I think my new crystal skulls are my favorite at the moment. (My favorite always changes, though!)
What’s the most difficult?
They’re really all difficult. Cement is a strange medium that can be frustrating. Sometimes I will pull a piece from the mold and get cracks or holes and sometimes I will get a smooth finish. I’ve been learning to accept everything as perfect in its own way, even if it’s not by my standards. True art defines itself.
Who are some makers that inspire you?
Lucky for me, Austin is filled with amazing women makers. Here are some of my favorites: Nina Berenato, Sierra at New Origin Shop, Emily at The Good Hippie, Shatia at Tee and Clay, and Coelina at See Phillips.
What is the best part about what you create?
I just love the response it’s gotten from people. My favorite thing is to get photos from people of my products—sometimes they even style my pieces in a way I never thought of (like using my zig zag soap dishes as paint brush holders). There’s nothing like seeing your piece in someone’s home; it’s very intimate and makes me feel wonderful.
Your packaging is so cute! Can you tell us about the little touches you put on your products before sending out?
I’m so glad you asked! Any excuse I have to brag about my designer, I’ll happily take! Lisa Marie over at Fleetwood Studio (fleetwood.studio) designed my packaging and “swag” based on some of my favorite pieces. She really made it so that my first impression is a soft one, which I love, because concrete is such a tough, rough, hard material.
How do you get inspired/motivated?
When I say being an auntie is my favorite role, I mean it. I work for these little ones. They inspire me to be my best, and I really want to make them proud.
How does creativity bring goodness to your life?
It’s really wild once you start paying attention to the things that make you happy. It took me a while to figure out that creating things with my hands makes me happy. And when I have down days, they are instantly made better when or if I take the time to pour. It’s not a fix-all, but it helps more often than not.
Have you ever thought about throwing in the towel? What stopped you?
I have never thought about throwing in the towel. I’ll tell you why: My support system would not even let me think about it. They’re too busy hyping me up and giving me the confidence I need to keep going. They’re like, “We don’t give up. We adapt. We pivot. We try new things.” Without my mentors, family, friends, and fellow makers/business owners, I probably would’ve given up a long time ago.
What would you love to see more of in the creative community?
I want to see as much attention going to women and POC businesses as possible. I want us to start doing things we never thought possible. I want us to ask for help and receive help. I want us to grow by any means necessary.
Follow along with Sarah (@awkwardauntie) on Instagram!