Meet Tanya Philbin-Chin. She is a ceramic artist and owner of Zinnia-Designs, based out of Needham, Massachusetts. Tanya makes custom designed dishes and tiles for weddings, engagements, newborn baby footprints and so much more. In addition to running her business, Tanya is also a wife and mother of two. Her son has ADHD and is on the autism spectrum and her lifestyle as an entrepreneur allows her the flexibility she needs to be there for her son. Read to the end of this post to see Tanya’s advice to other creatives thinking about starting a business and also to take advantage of a special offer on Tanya’s beautiful products!
A Mother’s Work: Tanya Philbin-Chin | Artist/Owner Zinnia Designs
I first met Tanya at a local charity event in Needham several years ago. Since we are both artists and entrepreneurs, the topic of our businesses is never far from our minds. We hit it off right away. I always love chatting with other artists who are also entrepreneurs. Even before I saw Tanya’s beautiful ceramic creations, I knew I liked her. She was just as motivated and passionate about her business as I was.
Soon after that night, we met up again at Tanya’s studio. It was so fun to see where all the magic happens –from the kiln and the clay right down to the ribbons and the packaging materials! It is always so interesting to take a peek behind the scenes to see how someone’s business operates!
Recently I visited Tanya again to have my son’s handprints done on a tile. It was such a treat to watch Tanya work. She is a natural with kids and her work is impeccable. My son has his tile now proudly displayed on his bedroom wall.
It is an honor to feature Tanya in my A Mother’s Work series.
Tell me the story of how Zinnia Designs began.
I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art in 1998, with a BFA in Ceramics, but the “real world” came calling soon after and I began working full time as a Marketing Manager in 1999. I was really missing my artistic endeavors so in 2004, I decided to start getting my hands dirty in clay again. I began by making tiles with impressions of my close friend’s new babies. Then in 2008, a co-worker introduced me to Etsy and I opened a shop selling ceramic trinket dishes. I continued with my full-time job and growing my ceramics business until I had my first baby in 2009.
I decided my family and ceramics were now my main focus and didn’t go back to my marketing position. With the help of local family to watch my son, I was able to continue to grow my ceramic business locally doing impressions of baby’s hands and feet in clay along with worldwide Etsy sales of my custom ceramics. Baby #2 arrived 3 years later and again being able to be there for my kids while working from home was perfect for me and my family. I took a little time off, but when you work from home it can be difficult to “take time off”. Today the kids are in school 5 days a week, but it’s important for me to be home and available at 3pm when my son gets dropped off. He has ADHD and is on the Autism Spectrum, so I want to be able to help him with his homework right when he gets off the bus before his ADHD medication wears off. Also having the afternoon available for appointments is convenient, too.
When you were little, was there something specific you wanted to be when you grew up?
We laugh that I wanted to be a hairdresser for a long time. It actually makes sense because hair styling is a 3 dimensional art.
What is your favorite part about being your own boss?
I love that I can make my own hours! I can be involved in events at my kids’ school. And we all know kids get sick, so usually it’s easy for me to take care of them by adjusting my studio work schedule. It also allows me to workout 3 mornings a week.
What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family at the same time?
It’s a big challenge to juggle it all! As a mom we have lots of “ balls in the air” and it’s tough when one of those balls bonks you on the head so to speak. One moment I’m making sure we get a refill for my son’s medicine and next I’m emailing a new local business to discuss a partnership all the while I’m thinking about how I should really be working on my Etsy listings! So that leads to the “mom guilt”…it’s easier now that they are older, but when they were little I’d feel guilty being down in my studio and when I was with them I felt guilty I wasn’t in my studio getting work done.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to other creatives who are thinking of opening their own business?
Beyond the basics (target market, pricing, marketing, accounting…) you have to create a weekly schedule for yourself or you will just get sidetracked and nothing will get done. I do love that I can multi-task household jobs (like laundry) while working in my studio and I’ve been known to pick weeds from the lawn while watching my kiln during the last phase of firing. In your schedule be sure to include time for you- I work out 3 days a week 8-9am and my husband puts our daughter on the bus before starting his day.
Yes, use the code CARA2019 to take 15% off your Etsy order!
Cara Soulia is a Boston Family Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images of families in a unique and artistic way. See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session for your family.